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I purchased this 850 square foot, 1 bed / 1 bath condominium, located in “The Coca-Cola Building” in the South Loop in October 2013. I bought it from a bank after it had gone into foreclosure. As you can see from the listing photos below, it was not a particularly attractive unit. However, I was drawn to the character of it.

Exposed brick walls, a concrete barrel ceiling and exposed piping and ducts gave the unit a true loft feel. Additionally, the building itself has an interesting history. Prior to being converted to condos in the early 2000’s, the building served as a Coca-Cola manufacturing plant. Per Wikipedia:

The building was the company’s second office outside of Atlanta and is now the only surviving Coca-Cola plant from before World War II outside of Atlanta. The Coca-Cola Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 22, 1991.

Pretty neat, huh? Building charm aside, the unit itself needed quite a bit of help. Below are photos of the unit when I bought it.

I decided that the only elements that were salvageable were the floors and the kitchen cabinets. Normally I would have replaced the cabinets, but for this project I decided I wanted to try and modify them into something more attractive and modern – both as a cost saving and environmentally-friendly measure. Here is how it turned out:

To achieve the transformation, I completed the following projects: added trim around the edges of the cabinets to create a shaker style, painted all the cabinets with Rustoleum’s Cabinet Transformation, installed new quartz countertops, installed new stainless steel appliances, installed new hanging pendent lights and a new white subway backsplash. I was very happy with the results. I was most nervous about adding the trim pieces to the cabinets, as I had never attempted to do something like that and was worried it might not come out right. Not having to replace the cabinets saved me close to $4,000, so it was definitely worth the risk (and hassle; I am not much of a woodworker…yet). The total amount spent on the kitchen rehab was less than $5,000, which was almost entirely the appliances and new counters. I painted the cabinets and did the trim myself, and the cost to have the subway tile installed was around $500.

My primary goal with the kitchen was to use the existing cabinets and layout to create a kitchen that fits in with the loft-style of the unit. I selected the dark gray for the lower cabinets, and ultimately decided to use it on the ducting as well, to give it a cohesive, industrial feel. I complemented that with a clean white quartz countertop, white upper cabinets and classic subway tile backsplash to ensure the design didn’t skew too masculine. I would describe the aesthetic as “cozy industrial.”

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After photo of the bathroom

Next up was the bathroom, which was a total do-over. The existing bathroom was not only builder-grade all the way, but it was covered in inexplicable square mirrors placed randomly throughout (as can be seen in the lower right corner of the bathroom photo above) and painted a vomit-inducing shade of purple. In line with the industrial fee, the I went with a porcelain “wood-look” plank tile, laid in a herringbone pattern. A floating vanity adds to the modern feel, while the subway in the shower surround ties back to the kitchen, and softens the overall feel of the space. The shower/tub fixtures and faucet are Moen. I believe strongly in spending money on things that people will touch, so I always pay up for quality fixtures.

As soon as I purchased this condo, I knew I wanted to do something dramatic with the fireplace wall. It was the focal point of the room, but it was just a boring wall that was not adding anything. I immediately knew I wanted to do a mantle, but didn’t think that alone would be interesting enough. I settled on doing a stacked-stone veneer (about 1″ think) up the entire length of the wall with a free-floating mantle.

I unfortunately do not have a great “before” photo of the bedroom door, or lack thereof. In Chicago, for a room to be considered a bedroom, it must have two things: a closet and a natural light source. When this unit was built, the builder decided to achieve the natural light qualification by simply not installing a door into the bedroom. To me, this is unacceptable. Every single time you have company over, you have to be sure your bedroom is spotless as guests will be able to see right in! I also hate the idea of building a wall that doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling, which is a very common practice to provide natural light. It just feels so cheap to me.

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View out from inside bedroom

The other tricky part of this project was that there is a step immediately outside of the bedroom. This would make have a traditional, swinging door both hazardous and awkward. I decide to make a custom sliding split barn door to alleviate this problem. My proposed solution is illustrated in this crude drawing.

To build this, I bought the door hardware online and two 28″ wide oak doors. I finished the doors myself and attached them to the sliding hardware. It all went way more smoothly than I would have ever imagined. The last step was to drywall to the ceiling and create a cutout for a window, which I used plexiglass to finish. The finished result is below. The room is now able to be completely closed off from the living area, while still getting natural light. Plus, it adds another point of interest to the space as the barn door is rather striking.

This was a fun project, and I am happy with the way it turned out. Some additional photos of the project are provided below.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great project. Thank you for keeping the exposed brick! Just to point out, and you might already have it with the mechanical ducts, but worth pointing out the requirements for a bedroom to be code compliant is natural light *and* either natural or mechanical ventilation. A closet is pretty much expected by buyers but not actually a code requirement.

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