A Dated ’90s-Style Loft Is Stripped Down to a Streamlined Aesthetic

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By Lucy Wang
Simplicity drives the transformation of a cluttered Chicago loft into a clean and calm home.

When Chicago–based architect Mike Shively first saw his future home in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, the loft looked nothing like the serene, minimalist haven he had in mind. "It had the early 1990s trappings of lofts: dated curved glass block walls, reclaimed wood, slate tile, and faux graffiti art," Shively says.

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"Since the kitchen is open to the space, we tried to make it look as clean as possible with slab-faced cabinets flush to the walls, simple tile, and clean appliances," Shively says. The island is inspired by Alvar Alto's designs.

"Since the kitchen is open to the space, we tried to make it look as clean as possible with slab-faced cabinets flush to the walls, simple tile, and clean appliances," Shively says. The island is inspired by Alvar Alto's designs.

Despite the visual clutter, he saw potential in the 1,000-square-foot loft and decided on a minimalist approach. "The project was an exercise in simplification," he explains. "Every decision was about minimizing clutter and tightening the palette."

A backsplash featuring custom matte black ceramic tiles by Waterworks is paired with stainless steel countertops. The timber cabinets, by JRs Custom Cabinets, are made of white oak.

A backsplash featuring custom matte black ceramic tiles by Waterworks is paired with stainless steel countertops. The timber cabinets, by JRs Custom Cabinets, are made of white oak.

Flos lighting hangs over a BluDot dining room table with Hay dining chairs.

Flos lighting hangs over a BluDot dining room table with Hay dining chairs.

To that end, Shively swapped the glass block walls for streamlined walnut-and-glass partitions, and replaced the original red oak floors with wide-plank white oak. Careful attention to detail was key to achieving a simple and streamlined atmosphere; the cabinets match the oak floors, while the walls, trim, and metal elements were painted light shades of white. 

Sliding walnut panels with reeded glass inserts enclose the bedroom area.

Sliding walnut panels with reeded glass inserts enclose the bedroom area.

The bedroom enclosure illuminated at night.

The bedroom enclosure illuminated at night.

The embrace of clean, sharp minimalism not only creates a sense of spaciousness in the open-plan loft, but it also provides the perfect backdrop for displaying Shively's curated designer furnishings.

The light-filled living area includes a Le Corbusier leather chair and a caned lounge chair. A door on the far wall opens up to a balcony space.

The light-filled living area includes a Le Corbusier leather chair and a caned lounge chair. A door on the far wall opens up to a balcony space.

The sectional is from Restoration Hardware, while the rug is by BluDot.

The sectional is from Restoration Hardware, while the rug is by BluDot.

The walls are painted Benjamin Moore Silver Satin. Floating bookshelves help reduce visual clutter.

The walls are painted Benjamin Moore Silver Satin. Floating bookshelves help reduce visual clutter.

"Our goal was to minimize the palette to create a clean and calm space," Shively notes. "Custom details are spread throughout including an oversized mirrored door that reflects natural light into the bathroom, and an integrated kitchen."

A full-length mirror on one side of the 10-foot-tall door brings additional light into the bathroom.

A full-length mirror on one side of the 10-foot-tall door brings additional light into the bathroom.

White ceramic tiles by Waterworks line the bathroom walls. The floors, also by Waterworks, are honed Carrara marble. The sink with an integrated top is by Duravit.

White ceramic tiles by Waterworks line the bathroom walls. The floors, also by Waterworks, are honed Carrara marble. The sink with an integrated top is by Duravit.

A view from the bedroom towards the closet with a glimpse of the entry hall on the far left.

A view from the bedroom towards the closet with a glimpse of the entry hall on the far left.

A tufted leather headboard with deep channels adds textural interest to the bedroom.

A tufted leather headboard with deep channels adds textural interest to the bedroom.

West Loop Loft floor plan

West Loop Loft floor plan

Project Details:

Architect of Record: Mike Shively Architecture / @mikeshivelyarchitecture