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The Cool Factor: A Charcoal Factory Turned Industrial Flat in Chicago (Courtyard Included)

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The Cool Factor: A Charcoal Factory Turned Industrial Flat in Chicago (Courtyard Included)

March 21, 2022

Admired recently: an industrial-meets-verdant space in Chicago, where steel-framed windows and concrete floors mix with original rough-hewn timber beams and lush ivy-covered walls.

The renovation is the project of designer Michael Del Piero for her client, a globetrotting antiques dealer who was intrigued by the building’s unusual look. The space was a former charcoal factory built in the 1890s, but by the time the client entered the picture, it was far more early-1900s manufactory than urban apartment: “It was a raw and rough space with a dirt floor on the lower level and wood plank flooring upstairs that had not been cleaned for 20 to 30 years,” she says.  “There was no bathroom and no kitchen: a true factory setup.”

The client enlisted architect Trish VanderBeke as well as Michael’s firm, Michael Del Piero Good Design, for their “never-too-precious design style,” Michael says. “He knew we would take the raw space and bring it into the now without losing the cool factor.” The homeowner’s ask? “Maintaining the original details and adding necessary living luxuries without losing the vibe.”

Join us for a look at the now-even-cooler end result.

Photography by Janet Mesic-Mackie, courtesy of Michael Del Piero Good Design.

the charcoal factory, as it has come to be known, is in chicago, &#8\2\20;i 9
Above: The Charcoal Factory, as it has come to be known, is in Chicago, “in an industrial area which has recently taken off as the place to be,” Michael says. “Access to the property is through a narrow and dark alleyway, which appears very gritty and urban without anything remotely residential in feel anywhere.” At the end is a large garage door. “As the door opens quite slowly, an amazing European-style courtyard is revealed.  The old charcoal factory is situated at the end of the courtyard, which houses two beautiful old birch trees.”
entering the space. &#8\2\20;the steel and glass windows were made to mimic 10
Above: Entering the space. “The steel and glass windows were made to mimic the originals,” Michael says. “We used double-glazed glass in order to maintain the vintage look.”
inside, in the long and narrow downstairs dining area. &#8\2\20;we decided  11
Above: Inside, in the long and narrow downstairs dining area. “We decided to sandblast the walls and floors, since charcoal and dusty debris filled the space,” Michael says. “This resulted in the most glorious, rough, interesting walls, which could never be re-created by anyone in today’s faux-finish plaster world!”
the original uncovered walls make for a textural backdrop. &#8\2\20;we also 12
Above: The original uncovered walls make for a textural backdrop. “We also added a kitchen, heated poured-concrete flooring, and a small bath on the first floor,” Michael says.
a verdant corner. 13
Above: A verdant corner.
upstairs. iron walkways and catwalks were added throughout—as in here, t 14
Above: Upstairs. Iron walkways and catwalks were added throughout—as in here, to access the new outdoor terrace. “The wooden ceilings and beams are original and the result of power washing,” says Michael.
the project now features a compact kitchen, all in stainless steel. &#8\2\2 15
Above: The project now features a compact kitchen, all in stainless steel. “We sourced the kitchen and bathroom sink from a restaurant supply vendor (not a typical source for a residence!),” Michael says.
the hall leading into the bath is studded with forged, rusted objects the clien 16
Above: The hall leading into the bath is studded with forged, rusted objects the client collected on a trip to Argentina. Just visible in the background: the fireplace with steel surround.
the sleek stainless bathroom sink was also sourced from restaurant supply; & 17
Above: The sleek stainless bathroom sink was also sourced from restaurant supply; “the toilet was sourced from the same suppliers who sell toilets to prisons,” Michael says.
the primary bedroom, with a rope wrapped panel as headboard. 18
Above: The primary bedroom, with a rope-wrapped panel as headboard.
a steel framed glass door leads out to the newly constructed terrace (and affor 19
Above: A steel-framed glass door leads out to the newly constructed terrace (and affords views of the ivy-covered walls, too).
the outdoor lounge space. 20
Above: The outdoor lounge space.

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