For the visionary owners of VAM Studio, home is where the art is | Space | Chicago Reader

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For the visionary owners of VAM Studio, home is where the art is

Tour the whimsical Logan Square apartment of Vincent Martell and Jordan Phelps.

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Step inside the Logan Square apartment of Vincent Martell and Jordan Phelps, and the first thing you're likely to notice is a dramatic canopy of white string cascading over the dining­-room table. A sculptural bouquet adorns the geometric glass-topped table, and a neon sign that says vam in white block letters is mounted on the wall. Nearby, two giant plush teddy bears preside over the living room.

A string installation VAM created for an event called Fantasty - MORGAN JOHNSON
  • Morgan Johnson
  • A string installation VAM created for an event called Fantasty

For the young couple, such whimsical scene setting isn't confined to the home: it's an extension of their work. Martell, 26, is cofounder and creative director, and Phelps, 27, artistic director, of VAM, a creative studio that provides funding and promotion for Chicago's underground artists, via parties, videos, and other thoughtfully curated events and experiences. Though they have a goal to eventually run VAM out of a separate building, their apartment currently doubles as their studio—and the evidence is everywhere.

"The strings installation was one that we did for an event [called Fantasty] and involved 46,000 feet of string on six different palettes," says Phelps, who spent an entire week painstakingly cutting and tying lengths of string. The seven-foot teddy bears, meanwhile, are part of an upcoming "Salvador Dali-esque, Alice in Wonderland- inspired" dinner and dance party.

VAM cofounder Jordan Phelps, artistic director Vincent Martell, and a teddy bear that is part of an upcoming dinner and dance party - MORGAN JOHNSON
  • Morgan Johnson
  • VAM cofounder Jordan Phelps, artistic director Vincent Martell, and a teddy bear that is part of an upcoming dinner and dance party

"It's all about creating interactive art that our audiences can touch," Martell says.

"Touch, play in, smell, hear," Phelps adds. (The two often complete or continue each other's sentences.)

"So it's nice to have that in your home because you're constantly stimulated," Martell says. "If you're bored or having a bad day, you can sit on the teddy bear or you play in the strings with the cat."

Master bedroom with a canopy of white string over the bed - MORGAN JOHNSON
  • Morgan Johnson
  • Master bedroom with a canopy of white string over the bed

The two, who met while studying at Roosevelt University, moved into their Logan Square apartment four years ago and slowly developed a shared aesthetic, merging Martell's modern sensibility with Phelps's taste for antiques and penchant for plants. (Having grown up in verdant northwest Washington, he likes to have lots of greenery around him.) The result is a playful, experimental interior­design style that borrows from surrealism (a framed fake Dali print made by an artist friend), found art (a carousel horse salvaged from an alleyway), and film noir (the rosy-tan color of the walls and black accents struck them as very Casablanca).

Martell says he'll often sit in the lap of the teddy bear when he's stressed. - MORGAN JOHNSON
  • Morgan Johnson
  • Martell says he'll often sit in the lap of the teddy bear when he's stressed.

"This apartment is 115 years old and, when we moved in, it wasn't the prettiest place," Phelps says. "But you have to have a vision and you have to be willing to get your hands dirty to put your mark on a place."

Their mark is particularly felt in the "Zen room" off the kitchen, a meditative lounge that brings together objects from different cultures: Buddha statues, assorted talismans, polished stones. "People sometimes go in there and they're like, 'What are you trying to represent here?' " Phelps says with a laugh. "But it's a mishmash of things, and we're aware of that."

Polished stones and other objects in the "Zen room" - MORGAN JOHNSON
  • Morgan Johnson
  • Polished stones and other objects in the "Zen room"

In the sunlit master bedroom in the rear of the space, a bed similarly canopied with white string serves as another stunning focal point. Phelps installed LED bulbs in the frame that can be set to different colors. "I think it's my favorite place," Martell says.

Their art-directed apartment is proof that high concept and cozy can peacefully coexist.   v

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