Todd and J.R.'s Printer's Row Passages

Todd and J.R.'s Printer's Row Passages

Smith Schwartz
Mar 26, 2010

Name: Todd and J.R.
Location: Printer's Row, Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1400 square feet, 2 BR
Years lived in: 1.5

When Todd was house hunting back in 2008, he came upon this Printer's Row condo that was in desperate need of a designer's eye. The bones of the former warehouse were solid and unique, but the finishes were all contractor cookie-cutter. With a strong DIY spirit, he quickly set to work, replacing beige carpeting with hardwood floors and scrapping the bland bathroom tile and fixtures for carefully laid graphic tile and pedestal sinks. While he'll tell you the loft-style apartment is a work in progress, it's already become a home that's airy and open, yet still personal and warm.

Todd's longtime girlfriend J.R. recently moved in to the apartment, introducing many playful elements into Todd's systematic style. Both avid collectors: Todd loves to scour the web and flea markets for memorabilia related to World War II, while J.R. spends her spare time making shadowboxes and terrariums. Her world consists of tiny, delicate things. One trait that J.R. and Todd share is an unparallelled fastidiousness. Looking around their home, everything has its place. From the tiny monster who lives on top of WWII volumes to the angle of the fan near the window, no detail is too small to be overlooked.

Future plans for the apartment include turning the master bedroom into "a cloud", a floor to ceiling bookcase to house their collections and several kitchen upgrades. With J.R. and Todd at the helm, it's bound to turn up aces.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My/Our style: Mid-Century/Modern/Industrial...just like everyone else:) We both really like clean lines and for the space to feel open and flow from one room to the next. At the same time we like to incorporate found and industrial type objects. We love to collect a variety of old things and like having them out to see and enjoy on a daily basis.

Inspiration: We love black and white films, Chicago architecture, vintage machines of all types, and museum dioramas and displays. We also get a lot of our inspiration online or from the homes of our friends.

Favorite Element: The high cement ceilings, brick wall, large windows and cement columns are great loft elements we love.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge is picking what project to do next on a budget! We've come a long way in a year, but there is still more we'd love to do. Though we have similar design tastes we have different aesthetics: one is a Kubrick-white minimalist while the other, more adventurous in color. So,while we don't always agree on color or which lamp to buy, we try to hold off until a unanimous decision is made.

What Friends Say: "Wow, this is such a great space!" Everyone so far seems to like our place. We like to show them the pictures as it was when we bought it so that they can see what we've done and where we're going. Many of our friends have taste similar to ours so they dig it."

Biggest Embarrassment: The carpet in the bedroom. (To be replaced by hardwood; that's next on the list!) We're also looking at new kitchen countertops.

Proudest DIY: Todd and a friend of his renovated the bathroom in a few days. When we bought the place it was obvious that nothing had been done to it since the mid 90's when it was converted from a warehouse into loftominiums. Everything was beige and boring, the bathroom especially. The space was crowded by a enormous, and hideous, double sink vanity and large medicine cabinet. The floors were a very plan, beige colored, tile. We put down new tile, tore out the sink and medicine cabinet and replaced them with two pedestal sinks and separate mirrors. We added baseboards and painted the walls. Finally, he put up a vintage office door with a WC stencil on the glass to the entrance of the bathroom. The sinks alone made a noticeable difference as far as space. The bathroom isn't completely finished yet, but the few hundreds dollars invested so far have made a huge improvement.

Biggest Indulgence: Professionally installed hardwood floors! Todd DIY's as much as he can and has gotten a lot of help from friends. That has saved us a lot of money. When we bought the loft, the floors were carpeted throughout with a corporate-office-brown carpet. We knew we wanted hardwood floors but has had no experience in installing them. Todd also didn't want to be living in dust and clutter for a month while he attempted to put them in. In the end we decided to have the floors installed by professionals. They delivered the floors and had them installed within a few days. It cost more, but we're glad we took this route.

Best advice: As stated above, when we bought our home it was very dated and boring as could be. The actual space was nice though and we could visualize what it would look like with some color and a little renovation. It would be nice to be able to knock out all of the projects at once and have it exactly as we want it. However, like many people we live on a budget. We can't do everything at once. Aside from paint, Todd hasn't even touched our bedroom yet. Our advice to others would be to make a list of what you want to do and then prioritize it. Be patient. We have a long way to go yet, but we're very happy with what we've done so far. Also, look at the little things you could do to make a change. Todd's first week was spent repainting the walls. That alone made a big difference. Finally, DIY, DIY, DIY!!! Don't be afraid to try things. Todd's learned not to touch plumbing or electricity. Aside from that, give it a shot.

Dream source: We have gotten pretty good at searching out items that we like without going to the resale shops and paying the ridiculously huge mark-up price. We would love to find an old factory or warehouse full of untouched tables, lighting, chairs, etc. In lieu of that, we dream of the architecture and design collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Modern Art; and Scandinavian flea markets.

(Thanks, Todd and J.R.!)

Images: Smith Schwartz

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