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Journey Man

A self-taught designer turns a loft into a personal haven that’s also a showcase for clever space-saving techniques

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Arthur Mroczek’s love of functional design spans everything from the watch around his wrist to the urban loft he designed for himself. Photo Gallery »

When your job entails flying around the world to market the raucous live events of World Wrestling Entertainment—often traveling to 12 cities in as many days—your time off is precious. It’s important to be able to leave SmackDown! Live at the office, as it were, and come home to a clean, quiet, minimalist haven—which is exactly what Arthur Mroczek’s 1,000-square-foot West Town loft is.

Ironically, it is also his place of work. While based at WWE’s East Coast office four years ago, the Morton Grove native was asked to open a Chicago outpost and he generously offered to save the company rent money by setting up a workspace in what would be his future home. After months of trolling local real-estate ads online from New York, he bought a timber-and-exposed-brick loft sight unseen. It was well located and met his simple qualifications: “not a dump, but something basic—four walls and a ceiling—that I could completely redo the way I wanted it.”

A designphile who obsessively collects mechanical watches and snaps photos of toilets, fixtures, doors, and every other example of form meeting function that catches his eye during his world tours with WWE, Mroczek designed every detail of the space himself. He took advantage of his family’s extensive connections in the construction industry (“You see, I’m Polish,” he says with a laugh) to realize his vision: an urban loft as hip as a boutique hotel and as personal to him as Mom’s pierogi.

He reconfigured certain aspects of the original layout, eliminating a useless lofted “second bedroom” that had basically allowed room for a queen-sized bed, along with the staircase that led up to it. He also ran new electrical and plumbing through the space, which allowed him to move an oddly located washer and dryer to the entry closet and to strategically light areas of his choice. What was once a dark entryway now glows with track lighting; illumination from Bertjan Pot’s Random fiberglass orb (from Design Within Reach) defines the dining area.

One of the simplest updates was painting the entire space white, though it did take his painter seven days and 55 gallons of paint to achieve that. He also limited the loft’s color palette to white and dark brown, in the form of ebony stain on all the wood and one painted accent wall that extends from the kitchen into his bedroom.

To see the meticulous diagrams Mroczek created for his contractor, all while living in New York and visiting the space only monthly to take measurements (a tenant lived there until Mroczek’s company was ready to green-light his transfer), is to mistake him for a professional—though he does admit to some sloppy measuring. “I am so lucky those file cabinets fit under that desk,” he says, referring to the floating shelf that doubles as buffet and home office. The unit houses Mroczek’s laptop and has hidden storage compartments for his keyboard and office supplies, all of which can be stowed away when he has guests. It’s the kind of set-up most people would hire an interior architect to create. Mroczek seems to have been born with that gene, and now moonlights as a designer for friends and business associates.

“I had a solid year to sit around and think about how to maximize this space,” he says. And maximize he did. He gained a few feet in the living room by replacing a trapezoidal bank of walls around the fireplace with a rectangular enclosure that holds all the wires for his flat-screen TV, which hangs over the fireplace. On either side of this structure, he had a carpenter install built-in shelving and storage, including white Ikea cabinets.

Look closely and you’ll see a space-saving trick around every corner. In the entryway, behind the door, there’s stacked shelving for shoes made from maple recycled from a table that Mroczek no longer needed—he had it cut, sanded, stained in ebony, and hung on aluminum shelf-supports purchased at Home Depot. The kitchen has white cabinets from Ikea and custom ebony-stained cabinets from Cabinet World, including two narrow ones stacked alongside the refrigerator: bottom for a stepladder, top for cutting boards.

To conceal the closet in his bedroom, Mroczek opted for a massive curtain purchased at a canvas-supply store instead of traditional doors, saving him inches and gaining him “a nightlight—because the fixture in there shines from behind the curtain and creates a nice glow for the place.”

 

Photograph: Andreas Larsson

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