A Blend of Two Worlds in a Scholarly & Creative Chicago Loft

A Blend of Two Worlds in a Scholarly & Creative Chicago Loft

Aimée Mazzenga
Sep 29, 2017

Name: Olivia Mae Romano and her cats Ruth Bader Ginsburg & Sonia Sotomayor
Location: Pilsen — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, rented

Inspired by her mother's eye for design and skill at finding home decor gems in back alleys, Olivia has made her Pilsen loft an inspiring space. As a little girl, Olivia remembers being driven to school by her mother who would constantly pull off the road to pick up furniture she spotted. Olivia was so embarrassed when she would show up late to school because of her mother's thriftiness. She now says she is the exact same way.

As a corporate paralegal and a Chicago photographer, Olivia's home is filled with things that blend these two parts of her. "My apartment as a whole is filled with things that mesh my creativity and scholarly side," she says. Half of her desk is dedicated toward restaurants and menus she's photographed, and the other half is an homage to law. She likes to fill her place with colorful reminders of the places she's traveled and photographed, as well as things she's accomplished. "It breaks down the barrier of what people assume would be a stuffy, mahogany-ridden lawyer's apartment," she says.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mid-century modern hodgepodge on a student budget

Inspiration: My mom. I remember her driving me to school when I was little. She'd screech on the brakes when a piece of furniture caught her eye in some alley. I would whine for a good two minutes before helping her load up the trunk with whatever treasures she would later refurbish and design our house with. I used to be so embarrassed and complain about rolling up 15 minutes late to school with various furniture legs sticking out of the car, but now I find myself doing the exact same thing.

Favorite Element: I love how the natural light complements the high ceilings. The outdoor spaces create this open, airy flow that I just love coming home to.

Biggest Challenge: The loft space. It's massive, but not tall enough to stand. I didn't want to climb up a ladder to sleep every night so it pretty much became cat play land until my friend Brooke Doyle dreamt up a design. She really transformed the space into a cozy reading nook that I find myself using more and more every day.

What Friends Say: "Don't you want blinds?!" The answer is, "No."

Biggest Embarrassment: The couch. I rescued it from some frat boy's basement years ago, bought a slip cover, and called it a day. It's currently propped up on some old law books that dislodge every time a friend plops on the couch. Endearing, right? I swear I'm going to replace it, but I want to invest in something timeless and long-lasting. Maybe leather, maybe velvet.

Proudest DIY: The slingback chairs in my living room. I found them in an alley and scream-cried at the discovery. I spent a hot July stripping them from this heinous black lacquer paint and staining the wood back to its original color. I eventually want to get professionally-fitted cushions as I'll 100% be keeping the chairs forever.

Biggest Indulgence: The cactus. To date, it's the single most expensive item in my apartment — and I don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed by that.

Best Advice: Shop the alleys and scour the estate sales. So many people do not know the items they have and end up throwing them away or selling them for cheap. Take advantage of it.

Dream Sources: Modern Cooperative and Restoration Hardware. I mostly wish I had a refurbishing budget to enhance the pieces I already have or will find in the future.


Wood shelf — Chicago Rebuilding Exchange
Calendar — Stendig

Arc lamp — World Market
Couch — Rescued
Coffee table — IKEA
Chairs — Found in an alley, cushions from IKEA
Credenza — Found in an alley
Wicker ottomans — IKEA
Rug — RugsUSA
All frames — Framebridge
All plants — Verdant Matter and Spout Home

Round wood table — Estate sale
Wire chairs — Poly & Bark
Lamp - Estate sale

Spice containers — IKEA
Shelving units — Chicago Rebuilding Exchange
All dishware — Estate sales or hand-thrown pottery
Work table — IKEA

Bed frame — IKEA
Moroccan rug — RugsUSA
Nightstand — IKEA
Skull — Estate sale
Hanging lights — IKEA

Desk top — White wood from Chicago Rebuilding Exchange
Desk stands — IKEA
Cowhide — @elrugman
Desk chair — Vintage
Lamp — Target
Large frame — Found in an alley

Rugs — RugsUSA
Head board — IKEA
Pillows — Vintage

Wood shelf — Chicago Rebuilding Exchange
Shower curtain — DIY

All furniture - Target

Thanks, Olivia!

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