Before & After: A Rundown Bodega in Chicago Is Reimagined Into a Vibrant Live/Work Space

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Moss Design redevelops a deserted corner store into Logan Certified—a furniture and art gallery, showroom, apartment, and office space—for a newly expanded architecture and design studio.

Inspired by the spirit of repurposing urban spaces in the era of tear-downs, Matt Nardella—who runs the Chicago–based architecture and design studio of moss Design with his wife, Laura Cripe—took an old, abandoned bodega in an urban Chicago neighborhood and completely transformed it into a vibrant, contemporary live/work space. 

The 6,000-square-foot complex, which they call Logan Certified, has been arranged into four distinct areas around a courtyard that they inserted into the center of the structure. The space is now home to the duo's newly expanded architecture and design studio, a showroom, a furniture and art gallery, as well as their personal apartment and a rental apartment on the second level—which is a totally new addition. 

The firm acted as their own architect, developer, and general contractor on the adaptive reuse project, and Logan Certified represents the first real-estate endeavor for the company. Scroll ahead for a peek at the stylish property with insightful commentary from Nardella's on their work.  

The Exterior Before:

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"The exterior of the building is a mixture of old and new," Nardella explains. "The front portion was constructed in 1910, and was clad in metal panels that had accumulated layers of paint and rust, which were not salvageable. We removed the panels and painted the exposed cinder blocks black. The loft addition is clad in black aluminum composite panels, while the rear portion of the building—built in 1950—retains its original Chicago common brick."

"The exterior of the building is a mixture of old and new," Nardella explains. "The front portion was constructed in 1910, and was clad in metal panels that had accumulated layers of paint and rust, which were not salvageable. We removed the panels and painted the exposed cinder blocks black. The loft addition is clad in black aluminum composite panels, while the rear portion of the building—built in 1950—retains its original Chicago common brick."

Nardella states: "To update the building envelope for maximum efficiency, we installed a radiant heat system beneath the newly poured concrete floors, replaced windows throughout the entire building, and replaced the old installation with spray foam. We preserved as much of the existing building shell as possible, while adding modern materials and energy efficient elements."

Nardella states: "To update the building envelope for maximum efficiency, we installed a radiant heat system beneath the newly poured concrete floors, replaced windows throughout the entire building, and replaced the old installation with spray foam. We preserved as much of the existing building shell as possible, while adding modern materials and energy efficient elements."

The structure spans two city lots (50’ x 125’), and the building footprint runs from the street to the alley.

The structure spans two city lots (50’ x 125’), and the building footprint runs from the street to the alley.

The Exterior After:

The exterior is now a stunning mix of old and new. 

The exterior is now a stunning mix of old and new. 

Although much needed to be updated, the original signage was kept and repurposed. 

Although much needed to be updated, the original signage was kept and repurposed. 

The Courtyard Before:

 "We created a courtyard by carving out a portion of the building," Nardella says. "The studio and the showroom share the courtyard, and the large windows bring in plenty of natural light and warmth during the winter. To reinforce the nature-in-the-city feel, we installed cedar siding, as well as a custom wood-burning pizza oven, which is perfect for entertaining. The base of the oven is constructed from bricks that were salvaged during demolition." 

 "We created a courtyard by carving out a portion of the building," Nardella says. "The studio and the showroom share the courtyard, and the large windows bring in plenty of natural light and warmth during the winter. To reinforce the nature-in-the-city feel, we installed cedar siding, as well as a custom wood-burning pizza oven, which is perfect for entertaining. The base of the oven is constructed from bricks that were salvaged during demolition." 

The Courtyard After:

The transformation is virtually unrecognizable. 

The transformation is virtually unrecognizable. 

The base of the pizza oven is constructed from bricks that were salvaged during the demolition.

The base of the pizza oven is constructed from bricks that were salvaged during the demolition.

Cedar siding elevates the look of the center courtyard, which is a perfect spot for entertaining. 

Cedar siding elevates the look of the center courtyard, which is a perfect spot for entertaining. 

Another angle of the courtyard. 

Another angle of the courtyard. 

Nardella and Cripe's Apartment Before:

This is the space that would become the residence.

This is the space that would become the residence.

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The Apartment After: 

The home features an open plan, and the kitchen, dining area, and living room all share the same space. Thanks to the insertion of the center courtyard, this unit feels bright and airy.

The home features an open plan, and the kitchen, dining area, and living room all share the same space. Thanks to the insertion of the center courtyard, this unit feels bright and airy.

Custom woodwork was created for the various spaces, including the kitchen cabinets, a wall-mounted wooden storage compartment for wine, and the sliding wooden doors that open into the master bedroom and bathroom.

Custom woodwork was created for the various spaces, including the kitchen cabinets, a wall-mounted wooden storage compartment for wine, and the sliding wooden doors that open into the master bedroom and bathroom.

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Two sculptural wooden chairs face a wood-burning stove.

Two sculptural wooden chairs face a wood-burning stove.

 A long sofa in the center faces a coffee table topped with a slab of elm that was specifically designed for the space.

 A long sofa in the center faces a coffee table topped with a slab of elm that was specifically designed for the space.

A peek at the den-like nook with a sofa in the corner.

A peek at the den-like nook with a sofa in the corner.

Sliding wooden doors open into the master bedroom and bath. 

Sliding wooden doors open into the master bedroom and bath. 

The bedroom features custom cabinetry for ample storage. 

The bedroom features custom cabinetry for ample storage. 

A look at the en-suite bathroom.

A look at the en-suite bathroom.

The New Office:

The firm's office is located on the ground floor of the complex. 

The firm's office is located on the ground floor of the complex. 


The New Addition on the Second Floor:

The one-bedroom loft apartment has a private deck (also clad in cedar), which allows for ample natural light. Customized cabinets optimize kitchen space, and a custom ladder leads to the loft that overlooks the open living space. The reclaimed wood floors are a mix of oak, walnut, and other hardwoods, and have been restored and repurposed from local Illinois barns to provide sustainable and durable flooring.

The one-bedroom loft apartment has a private deck (also clad in cedar), which allows for ample natural light. Customized cabinets optimize kitchen space, and a custom ladder leads to the loft that overlooks the open living space. The reclaimed wood floors are a mix of oak, walnut, and other hardwoods, and have been restored and repurposed from local Illinois barns to provide sustainable and durable flooring.

"The removal of the roof—which was necessary to create the courtyard—served a dual purpose. Due to the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) limits of the site, the square footage that was removed allowed space for a loft apartment to be constructed, creating a second-floor addition just above the leased commercial space," Nardella explains. "This is the only added structure to the original building. " 

The sloped roof on the loft addition serves as the foundation for solar panels. The south-facing slope was determined by the optimum solar angel around the solstice when the sun is strongest, giving Logan Certified its unique shape and silhouette.

The sloped roof on the loft addition serves as the foundation for solar panels. The south-facing slope was determined by the optimum solar angel around the solstice when the sun is strongest, giving Logan Certified its unique shape and silhouette.

The Floor Plans:

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Project Credits: 

Architect of record: moss Design
Builder/General Contractor: moss Build
Structural Engineer: Rockey Structures
Landscape Design: moss Design
Interior Design: moss Design
Lighting Design: moss Design
Cabinetry Design/Installation: Fricano Custom Cabinetry
Solar Panels: Earth, Wind, and Solar