Small Space Wins This Square Footage Addict’s Heart

Chicago Tribune
“Sell it to me”: House & Homes
By Tiffany Meyers | November 16, 2009

Author’s Note: If you can’t buy your own deluxe apartment in the sky, you may as well write about them. When I viewed condos on assignment for the Trib, I fell for the “cozy” one.

If there were a detox center for square-footage addicts, I’d admit myself. I lived for years in a Manhattan studio, which housed my entire inventory of family heirlooms—a futon and microwave—only with some doing. So when I moved into my comparatively palatial Chicago apartment, I got hooked on space. “I can fit two couches in my new place,” I told a New York friend, conspiratorially, “and I don’t sleep on either of them.”

But I surprised myself recently. When Realtor David Panozzo, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and I visited three lofts, all in the Southport Corridor and listed under $450,000,I fell under the influence of the first and smallest we saw. True, one property was easy to eliminate. The 1,200-square-foot condo was so angular (imagine a slice of pie, only bigger, and without the fruit filling) that I’d have needed algorithms to address the problem of sofa placement.

But in the next place, a 1,500-square-foot soft loft on Lincoln Avenue, the wide swaths of open space got me momentarily high. The Joffrey could have held rehearsal in the living room alone. And yet, the first condo – a beautifully rehabbed, two-bedroom unit of 1,100 square feet – called me back.

Curmudgeons say the same thing about new construction that single people say about members of the opposite sex: “They just don’t make them like they used to.” But the conversion of 3133 N. Lakewood Ave. pays great attention to detail-solid-core doors, tuck-pointing, Pella windows.

Built in 1920, the factory building, just blocks away from the chic restaurants and shops that have made this neighborhood so appealing in the last past five or so years, once held the Indiana Indestructible Paint Co. Developer The Macon Group preserved some of the original factory features, including the brick shell and wooden beams. Here and there, the beams emerge from the walls, serving to remind us that the past is prologue.

And then on the other hand: The past is prologue schmo-logue. This corner-unit is adorned with the newest jewelry on the market. The kitchen, which overlooks the living room, features 42-inch upper cabinetry, Kohler fixtures and a fat, granite countertop (1.25 inches). The Viking/Bosch appliance package – considered an upgrade, although it’s included in this list price – makes you feel like a gourmand when you stand near it. (Units without the upgrade feature stainless-steel GE Eterna appliances.)

The master bedroom is simple, but it has the exposed brick for which I am a lifelong sucker, a walk-in closet (for which I am a lifelong sucker), and a bathroom with an oversize shower clad in limestone.

Important things are happening under the flooring too. While floor joists are often spaced 16 inches “on center,” 3133’s joists are spaced closer together, at 14 inches. Translation: Rock-solid construction.

Double dry-walled, demising walls – those between you and your neighbor – and an RC channel (a method to deaden sound) provides superior fire- and soundproofing. As features go, the blown-in floor insulation between you and your overhead neighbor probably doesn’t sound as exciting as, say, the full-size, front-load washer/dryer. But the resulting silence is luxury.

One disappointment: The unstained, “rough-sawn cedar trim” around door frames, which seems intended to connect aesthetically to the original factory beams. But I looked at it from across the room and almost got a splinter. The good news: Some other units have traditional painted trim; plus, you can upgrade to stained cedar if you like. Go for it and call the movers.

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