Marta and Mike’s Play of Light and Art in a Bright Chicago Loft

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)

Name: Marta Sasinowska and Mike Nourse
Location: Pilsen neighborhood — Chicago, Ilinois
Size: 1,500 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years; Rented

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Marta and Mike like to call their apartment “the tree house,” because of the lofted spaces, the hammock, and the light streaming in through different corners as if through the branches of trees. In fact, their home is surrounded by songbird-filled trees outside and is full of plants inside, adding to the magical feeling of living in the sky.

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The floor plan (Image credit: Kristan Lieb)
(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)

The colors and toys that are scattered throughout the apartment add to this dreamy feeling. Marta and Mike are both artists in their own ways, and both have created or decorated many of the pieces they own. For example, Marta likes to hand-paint the pots that house her many plants, while Mike made the desk upstairs out of old doors and filing cabinets.

Pilsen, their Chicago neighborhood, is full of art and artists, and Mike and Marta’s home is filled with art made by many of their friends. They have trouble editing down the pieces made by people they love—and why should they? With their burgeoning art collection and their love of travel and thrifting, Mike and Marta have infinite inspiration—and materials—for their decor.

(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Curated, eclectic, inviting

Inspiration: Nature, travel and art. We travel a lot and always subconsciously keep our eyes peeled for things that we’d like to take home that remind us of great memories we’ve shared, people we’ve met and places we’ve explored. We like to surround ourselves with things that tell stories. They are always more meaningful to us and make us feel at home.

We’re also mildly obsessed with using Airbnb when we travel. That entire process is extremely inspiring—anything from browsing and looking for the right place for us, finding what we resonate with the most, and finally getting there and seeing it in person. Living in a brand-new place for some time, furnished and decorated by a complete stranger, can open your eyes on certain ideas and solutions you can implement later on in your own apartment.

Favorite Element: If I was to use one word to describe our place, it’d be bright! It was the very first thing that attracted me to it and it still makes me smile every time I see the light playing in our space. We always joke that we live in a tree house; there are windows everywhere and our view is filled with beautiful green trees full of singing birds from our courtyard. We also love surrounding ourselves with plants that luckily are thriving in our light-filled space.

Biggest Challenge: Openness of our loft is something that we fell in love with from the start but it also ended up being our biggest challenge. There’s only one door in our space and it’s the bathroom door, which means there’s really not much privacy for our overnight guests. We always have to improvise every time someone visits: setting up folding screens, air mattresses, etc. We don’t mind it and love having people over. It usually ends up being one big slumber party.

Another challenge is keeping our space minimal. I find clean and minimal style extremely beautiful but when it comes to my home, I struggle with getting rid of things that have sentimental value to me. I wish I could keep everything white and bare, but I’ve learned to accept it’s just not my personality. I love color, pattern, texture. I love variety. A lot of our friends are artists and makers and we own so many pieces created by them and every single one tells a story and is important to us. It’s just an endless struggle to edit things down.

What Friends Say: “Let me know if you need a house sitter.”

Biggest Embarrassment: Our kitchen is hard to use for more than one person at a time. One of our friends described it perfectly when she said it’s too tight for her hips. Even though it’s not perfect, we’ve come to love our kitchen despite its limiting layout.

Proudest DIY: Handmade pots for the majority of our plants.

Biggest Indulgence: Plants. Every time I bring a new plant home I say, “okay, this was really the last one. There’s no room for more.” Guess what—it never is the last one and I will always find room for more. We seem to have a similar problem with art pieces. At some point, we completely ran out of wall space. That was when we started our mini wall; we promised ourselves to get only mini pieces that will fit on that wall. Let’s just say that we might have to start another mini wall soon 😉

Best Advice: Look for different ways to use things in your home. Go beyond the obvious. Our place is full of those random surprises. We’ve found that window shelves filled with plants can make great natural blinds, vintage ironing boards can make fun shelves, an old sewing machine table can be a stylish entertainment cabinet, a beat-up wooden Coke box is perfect to hold magazines or small succulents. Your place, just like you, should have a unique personality.

Dream Sources: Restoration Hardware is definitely one of our dream sources. There are a lot of gorgeous pieces there we’d love to own that would fit perfectly in our space. But nothing ever beats an awesome flea market, where you actually have to do some work to find the right thing. The journey to get a perfect item is always more rewarding.


(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)


  • Mirror: IKEA
  • Suitcases: antique store
  • White vase: flea market
  • Yellow shelves: Salvation Army (restored)
  • Round blue vase: Anthropologie
  • Chalkboard: flea market with chalk type by Marta
  • Yellow chest: vintage shop in Milwaukee
  • Weekender bag: Maven Collection
  • Wooden piece: by Hilesh Patel
  • Glass globe terrarium: by Heather Crosby
  • Painting: by Nat Soti
  • Cat drawing: by Natalia Kowaleczko
(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)


  • Sofa: Craigslist
  • Chair: from a friend
  • TV cabinet: antique store at Saugatuck, MI
  • Table: Randolph Street Market
  • Rug: World Market
  • Pillows: Target, West Elm, Restoration Hardware
  • Woven basket: West Elm
  • Chest: flea market
  • Blanket: Restoration Hardware
  • Coasters: vintage tile shop
  • Pot on the windowsill: by Marta
  • Cat pot: Anthropologie
  • Lamp: World Market
  • Cigar box guitar: Rose Instruments
  • Curtains: World Market
  • Hammock: New Orleans street market
  • Art pieces: by Marta, Mike, and friends
(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)


  • Chairs: Craigslist
  • Table: Salvation Army
  • Tablecloth: Janeczka, Poland
  • Centerpiece: World Market
  • Red cabinet: IKEA
  • Plants: Sprouts
  • Planters: by Marta, Anthropologie, vintage
  • Mini wall art: purchased while traveling, made by friends
  • Small hanging planter: by Marta
  • Vintage ironing boards shelves: flea market
  • Curtains: IKEA
(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)


  • Shelves: IKEA
  • Ceramic cups: made by Marta and various friends
  • Hanging fruit basket: World Market
  • Cutting board: Renogade
  • Wooden tray: World Market
  • Kettle: vintage
(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)


  • Sheets: Pop & Scott sheets hand-painted by The Vallentine Project
  • White blanket: vintage
  • Bed: IKEA
  • Left lamp: Target
  • Right lamp: vintage/IKEA
  • Bedside table illustration: by Peta Niehaus
  • Wall illustration: by Asia Rusztowicz
  • Angel painting: gift from Poland
  • Ceramic pillows above the bed: by Marta and Mike’s friend Amanda Gentry
  • Cabinet: flea market
  • Plants: Home Depot
(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)


  • Desk: made by Mike out of old doors and two vintage filing cabinets
  • Chest: from a friend
  • Sofa: Craigslist
  • Pillows: Target
  • Plants: Home Depot
  • Poster: by Lola Migas
  • Cigar boxes speakers: by Chris Holmes
  • Large hanging paper napkin lamp: by Asia Rusztowicz

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Thanks, Marta & Mike!