Joe & Brad’s Small Space with Big Style

published Sep 4, 2012
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(Image credit: Jason Loper)

Name: Brad and Joe, plus Lilly (dog) and Olivia (cat)
Location: East Lakeview — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 420 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; Owned

Brad and Joe’s Lakeview apartment is a wonderful lesson in making the most of a small space. This 420 square foot apartment is home to two men, one sizable dog and a cat — and yet it actually feels spacious, clutter-free and comfortable.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Joe and Brad have made great use of every inch of space in their small apartment. The use of plumbing pipe shelves in the living room not only adds a great feature to what could have been a bland room, they also create a desk and a dining table. A dining table?! Yep! The desk portion of the shelving unit pulls out from the wall and, with the insertion of a few leaves, extends to create a table that seats eight.

Looking at the details of their home, it’s clear that Joe and Brad have put thought into every little feature. For instance, the shelving unit extends over the air conditioning unit. To allow for access to the air conditioner, a piece of the shelving has been hinged. When the air conditioner is not in use, the shelf lays flat. When in use, flip the shelf up so the air will flow freely.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Functional, vintage/industrial, modern

Inspiration: Apartment Therapy, Plastolux, Dwell, Curbly, Manhattan Nest, Hommemaker, Room & Board, Novogratz Design, Scout & White Attic in Andersonville

Favorite Element: The modern, yet comfortable and lived-in feel our apartment has. Because it is so small, there is no room to have “formal” or “only-for-entertaining” anything. Everything must be functional and serve a purpose.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge we have is finding space for everything we own. We’re always flipping through magazines, browsing design blogs, or walking through stores and finding new ideas and inspiration we’d like to implement in our condo. It’s a delicate line though; as we accumulate, we also have to consolidate and sometimes part with pieces we’d previously loved.

What Friends Say: “How have you not killed each other yet in your tiny house?!” and “Did you really do that yourself? How long did that take you?”

Biggest Embarrassment: The lack of space we’ve had to do big projects or store supplies. Several times we’ve had to utilize the back parking lot and side alley to sand, stain, cut wood, and paint. On one particular occasion, we even had to move mid-sanding as we were in someone’s assigned parking spot. As a result of our DIY projects, we have also accumulated quite a number of tools. Instead of our main closet holding typical items like coats or cleaning supplies, our closet is filled with tools, sand paper, a hand sander, a tile cutter, paints, tool kits, saws, extra flooring and tiles, etc. Our friends joke that if they ever need to borrow a tool, they will make sure they just come to us instead of going to the hardware store.

Proudest DIY: Our customized pipe shelving unit. We saw an example of one in a ReadyMade magazine, and started brainstorming ideas of how to make something similar and custom for our tiny home. At first it seemed a little above and beyond our scope of DIY, but the dream persisted. We spent months debating our material options, the design, and if we could really pull it off. After several trips to the hardware store and several days of cutting, sanding, and staining wood, we’re proud of what we accomplished. The bookshelf and matching wall unit, helps to cover our AC unit when not in use, and the desk pulls out to a table that seats 8 people when we want to entertain.

Biggest Indulgence: Our laminate floors. Due to a leak from an above condo unit, our carpet was ruined and needed replacing. We decided to explore our options and look for a floor covering beyond carpet. We needed something that was durable, easy to clean, and somewhat hid animal fur, all while maintaining a modern aesthetic. We did a LOT of research, and explored nearly every store in the city that sold flooring. By the end we easily had 35-40 floor samples, and finally settled on something a little less conventional. The result looks amazing and the floors hold up to the traffic of our guests, our animals, and us. While we’ll always be advocates for traditional hardwood floors, we think we did a great job at getting a high quality laminate that fit within our design aesthetic and budget.

Best Advice: Try it yourself. We have so many projects that we’ve done ourselves that initially seemed too big to pull off, but in the end saved us some money and resulted in a personal piece that matches our lifestyle and need for function. Try refinishing the $50 piece of furniture you find at the second-hand store, or try to do the backsplash yourself. You’ll be shocked at your abilities AND will have an even greater sense of accomplishment knowing you did it yourself.

Dream Sources: Refinished vintage furniture.



    • Bathroom Hallway: Behr- Retro Avocado
    • Living Room: Behr- Dark Granite, Silver Drop
    • Kitchen: Behr- Squirrel
    • Bedroom: Glidden- Freedom Blue


    • Mounted Storage Cabinet: CB2
    • Fold-Down Hooks: Ikea, Bjarnum


    • Sofa: Room & Board, Klein Sofa
    • Coffee Table: Ikea, Stockholm
    • Credenza / TV Stand: purchased at charity resale shop; refinished by us
    • Side Table: Urban Outfitters, Audrey Side Table
    • Sling Chair: used knock-off
    • Plastic Side Chair: Cielo Collection Cobolt Side Chair
    • Pendant Lamp: DIY Project
    • Table Lamp: CB2, paramount table lamp
    • Desk Chair: CB2 aluminum chair
    • Floating Shelves: West Elm, Wall-Mounted Bookcase
    • Moose: gift from Joe’s dad



    • Bed: Room & Board, Parsons Bed
    • Curtains: DIY Project



Thanks, Joseph & Brad!

(Images: Jason Loper)

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Re-edited from a post originally published 9.4.12 – JL