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An installation of books that Amanda Love chopped up and affixed to plywood covers a brick wall of her studio. Photo Gallery »
The often-repeated advice to “just go with your instincts” has been known to result in utter chaos in the realm of home design, but for Amanda Love it has worked out beautifully.
Formerly a creative director at an advertising firm, Love has an MFA in book and paper arts and is the owner of LoveLeaf Press, which specializes in elegant handmade books for private clients. (She has a vintage printing press and tools for manual bookbinding in her studio.)
With help from her husband, Brian Fuller, and a dream team of contractors, this creative, well-traveled artist and bookbinder took a dilapidated commercial space in Bucktown and turned it into a single-family home (with an adjacent work studio) that reflects both her artistic sensibilities and her desire to provide a particular kind of urban living experience for her two daughters.
It began with demolition. “We took off the roof, removed all the floor joists, and were left with four brick walls and a hole in the ground,” says builder Chris Carey. Next he and architect Seth Romig got ready to follow the traditional American model of putting a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the ground level and bedrooms upstairs.
About 17 shades of blue paint were layered to create deep variegated color that “looks absolutely magical at night” in the dining room. Love commissioned the handmade tableware from a North Carolina potter. Photo Gallery »
Love was not so sure. “I taught in Italy for a little while and have traveled to many places like Rome, Paris, and Prague, where my friends’ homes had living spaces up and bedrooms down,” she says. “That way, even though they were living in these urban areas, they could still enjoy open air from their upper-level terraces. I wanted that for my girls.”
Carey affectionately dubbed Love’s vision “the upside-down house” and, together with Romig, developed a scenario that allowed the family to have a rooftop yard and an upstairs living area that flowed easily from indoors to out.
There were challenges—and opportunities. “The side of the house that opens to the yard faces south, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors would have resulted in unsustainable heat gain from the sun,” says Romig. So he created an additional living space: a shade deck between the house and the yard that acts as a buffer from the steepest summer sun and is an ideal spot for alfresco dining.
The other focal point of the house became the stairs. “We wanted to create a special experience for people going up to this beautiful living space,” says Romig. They went for a floating-style riserless staircase that allows natural light to pass through it.
At Love’s suggestion, a wall along one side was created with planks cut from the building’s original Douglas fir floor joists; it starts in the ground-level foyer and extends up to the second floor, where its top acts as a railing above the stairwell. The structure is held together with lacquered steel frames that add an industrial touch, while the decades-old wood creates warmth—and a sense of the building’s history, which was important to Love.
“Even though Amanda wanted a modern aesthetic, she is attracted to all things vintage and handcrafted,” says interior designer Rachael Russ, who worked on the project. “Her grandmother was an antiques dealer; she makes books by hand; she’s got a studio full of old printing equipment.” Russ helped Love synthesize her other obsessions—with color, wallpaper, photography, pottery, and other handcrafted things—into decor that feels playful, modern, and personal.
Love being Love, she had plenty of suggestions, including a peacock-blue dining room with a giant apple-green shade on a pendant light over the table, an orange-and-hot-pink master bath, and a dark-as-night master bedroom with a mural on one wall, among other bold choices.
“Amanda has excellent design and fashion sense—I just helped her narrow her choices,” says Russ.
For her part, Love was happy to have an editor on hand. “I don’t want anything extra,” she says. “We could have had a four-story house—we could have kept building up. But why? I don’t need that. I just want to live with things I really love.”
Photography: Tyllie Barbosa
Styling: Kelly McKaig