Photography by Alan Shortall
Styling by Diane Ewing
After moving into his Logan Square loft in 2003, architect Wayne F. Tjaden felt a little squeezed. Storage was a problem. And, he thought, wouldn’t it be great to have an actual guest room? “I looked around the building and found an empty space on the floor below my apartment,” he says. The small but high-ceilinged area had been used as a laundry room and a women’s restroom in the building’s previous incarnations.
Tjaden bought the room, as well as air rights in the upper part of the adjoining corridor, and set about creating a guest room/storage closet. The living area encompasses about 450 square feet; the space from the hallway became a squat storage closet accessed through the sleeping loft.
But plans change. Doug Birkenheuer, a photographer and longtime friend of Tjaden’s, saw design plans for the apartment and was instantly smitten. “The whole idea of a small, manageable space with all those modern, beautiful lines was very appealing,” he says. Prompted by his friend’s enthusiasm, Tjaden decided he didn’t need a guest suite after all. He added a pint-sized dishwasher and refrigerator to transform the place into a self-sufficient apartment (but kept most of the new storage space for himself). Tjaden’s custom-designed cabinetry, bedroom furniture, and an ingeniously minimal staircase give the apartment the snug, sleek feel of a well-built boat. Birkenheuer has lived there for nearly two years now.
To give an illusion of depth in quarters that could have felt claustrophobic, Tjaden fiddled with the room’s angles. The stainless steel countertop bends around the corner of the kitchen and gently veers off toward the opposite wall. A wall separating the bathroom and living area follows the same angle, as do the cutout in the floor of the loft bedroom, the floor of the shower, and the work surface of the custom-made desk.
“There aren’t hard lines separating spaces,” Tjaden says. “The angles give a sense of things opening and changing and a dynamism that makes a very small space interesting to be in. It ends up being modest but not boxy.”
Uncluttered expanses of white wall and a large window keep the apartment airy and light. Spare as it is, the place feels warmly inviting. The lofted bedroom, queen-size headboard, kitchen counter, and staircase all seem to float, tricking the eye into seeing additional space behind and beneath them. “There’s always something happening in here, and you’re never really sure where one thing ends and another begins,” Tjaden says. “That ambiguity makes it seem larger.”
Birkenheuer, who solves his own storage problem by stashing most of his photography equipment in a separate studio, couldn’t be happier. “I have the same aesthetic tendencies as Wayne, to keep things minimal, so I run a pretty tight ship,” he says. “I’ve lived in small spaces a lot, and I’ve made them work for me-but living here is a real treat.”
About our sources: We try to provide as much information as possible about the products and professionals involved in designing the homes we show in our pages. Items not included here are probably not available for sale; they might be antiques or part of an owner’s personal collection. When an item or product line is widely available, we may not list a specific store for it. If you have a question about our sources, please write to us at email@example.com.
- Wayne F. Tjaden, 773-489-1019
- Modular sofa, by Lind, Domicile Furniture, 670 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-404-8440
- Rug, Ikea, 1800 E. McConnor Pkwy., Schaumburg, 847-969-9700
- Photographic artwork, Doug Birkenheuer
- Cork table/stool, Barneys New York, 25 E. Oak St., 312-587-1700
- Stone wheel sculpture, Zen dark brown rectangular tray, natural clay bottles, Luminaire, 301 W. Superior St., 312-664-9582
- Stainless steel bottles, Ligne Roset, 56 E. Walton St., 312-867-1207
- Painting, Sandra Sunnyo Lee at Andrew Bae Gallery, 300 W. Superior St., 312-335-8601
- Stair treads, Function Design Company, 2508 W. Chicago Ave., 773-394-8525
- Refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, Abt Electronics and Appliances, 1200 N. Milwaukee Ave., Glenview, 847-967-8830
- Sink, by Kindred, Max Gerber, 2293 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-342-7600
- Cabinets, Function Design Company
- Stainless steel countertops, Avenue Metal Manufacturing Company, 1640 W. Ogden Ave., 312-243-3483
- Stainless steel bottle vase, Thé à Deux tea set, trolley tray, white and stainless steel bowls, medium white vase, Ligne Roset
- Headboard and desk, Function Design Company
- Carpet, Home Carpet One, 3071 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-935-9314
- Bed frame and bedspread, Ikea
- Oil lamps, white vase, Ligne Roset
- Boxit pencil set, candle, Domino wooden boxes with amber glass lids, Luminaire
- Painting, Sandra Sunnyo Lee at Andrew Bae Gallery
- Lavatory, toilet, shower, faucets, Max Gerber
- Vanity, Function Design Company
- Frosted glass tile, Granite and Marble Resources, 115 Merchandise Mart, 312-670-4400
- Towels, Arrelle Fine Linens, 445 N. Wells St., 312-321-3696
- Black resin tray and bath products, Luminaire.