Arts & Culture » Space

Living large in a DIY studio loft in Lincoln Square

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Sharing a one-room apartment might be tough for some, but Ellenkate Finley and Tim Speicher make it look easy. “When we first started dating, we were both living in studios three blocks away from each other," Speicher says. "We called it the shittiest $1,200 apartment in Chicago.” After listing Finley’s apartment on Airbnb, the couple ended up sharing Speicher’s studio. “If we could live in a 330-square-foot studio and be fine, we could probably live just about anywhere,” he says. Three months later, they moved into their current place, a 900-square-foot loft in Lincoln Square.

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Speicher and Finley both work in theater arts, and they’ve used their set-design skills to maximize the space on a budget. Using a (nearly scale) model made of Legos, they planned out the rental to include renovations that could be easily removed. “All of my construction expertise is based in the theater, where things don’t have to last that long,” Speicher says. In order to loft their bed, the couple made a structure out of cedar paneling. They also built an entertainment center with reclaimed pallets, then treated the wood with a vinegar and steel wool solution to simulate a weathered look.

Street-art images on the windows—the spacey Astronaut/Cosmonaut by Victor Ash and an anonymous stencil from Bristol, England, of a pair of donkeys wearing headphones—provide privacy while allowing diffused light to fill the room. The pieces look like art prints, but they’re DIY as well; Speicher enlarged the images and had them printed and installed by Chicago Events Graphics. The “rocktopus” mounted above their bed is a stock image manipulated in Photoshop and printed on canvas.

Their favorite feature is a partly obscured nook beneath the lofted bed, a cozy fortlike area they've dubbed "the hidey hole" that's outfitted with blankets, pillows, and a few small lamps. “It’s great in an open space to have a place where one of us can go to take a phone call or do some work,” Finley says. “It’s a playful expression, because we’re kids at heart,” Speicher adds. “We’re adults, but that doesn’t mean we need to act like adults all the time.”

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