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A West Loop Timber Loft Grows into a Fabulous Family Home

The owners of this loft show off their love for hip hop, Star Wars, and Chicago history

Photos: Barry Brecheisen

When Ray and Monique bought the top floor corner unit of a renovated factory building in the West Loop it was exactly what they wanted but they knew that down the road they'd eventually expand. Now, thirteen years later, their home has grown alongside their family and features a home movie theater, massive deck and a set of rooms for their two-year-old son, Jackson. This isn't the first time that the couple have opened their space up to the media. Fans of the hit TV series Chicago Fire may recognize the loft from the show's first season.

Who lives here?

Monique, Ray, their two-year-old son, Jackson, and their great dane, Lando.

What are the specs?

Two original units combined give us a total of 4,000 square feet alongside an 1,800-square-foot deck. Four bedrooms, four baths, a home office, playroom for Jackson, and a home theater.

How long have you lived here?

Ray bought the corner unit thirteen years ago though he was originally considering a larger unit on the second floor. While the inspection was taking place downstairs, we decided to kill some time and take a peek at this place as it was also for sale. We immediately fell in love with the deck and the hot tub and pulled out of the first sale to buy this one instead. The owners downstairs were, considerably, a bit peeved at the time but we later became friends.

And you recently combined the original unit with the unit next door?

Since we first moved in, Ray has always said that he would buy the neighboring unit. It finally came up for sale about two years ago right when we were pregnant with Jackson and we jumped on it. It had been a rather dingy rental unit for many, many years so we took it down to the studs and built it back up as a new master suite with rooms for Jackson and a home theater.

So how did you go about combining and renovating the two units?

We tried working with a few architects and designers but never found a great fit. Then, in the middle of it, Jackson was born so Ray decided to step away from his business to finish contracting the renovations himself while also taking care of our newborn son. Construction was completed in 2014 and we still have a few projects to finish, including finally installing the door to our master suite, but it’s been nice to have a year or so of quiet around here after so many major changes in our home.

The Master Bedroom features a large print of a 20th century photo of the building.

We heard this building had history?

The building was originally built in 1914 an, was at one point, an undergarment factory before it was eventually converted into condos. When we were renovating, we visited the Chicago History Museum and found lots of old photos of the original factory in the archives. The wall behind our bed features an enlargement of an image taken during a building fire drill, showing the factory employees evacuating via an old fire stair on Sangamon Street. We had a few other historical prints made into acoustic panels in the theater including one image of the building just across the street (now demolished) where Ray's parents first met.

A Star Wars themed bedroom for Jackson.

And, from more recent history, why might readers recognize your home?

Our unit was used as Kelly Severide and Leslie Shay's shared apartment during the first season of Chicago Fire. The crew was originally going to use it for just a few scenes but ended up filming here for a whole season. They'd come in for days at a time and put us up, on their tab, elsewhere in the city. We got to meet Dick Wolf and Taylor Kinney and Lady Gaga was even here at our apartment once. It was a great experience, we'd do it again in a heartbeat.

So after everything you’ve done, what’s the favorite room?

The reason we first bought this place was the deck and it is definitely still our favorite space in the house. We obviously don’t have much out there at the moment but in the summer we’re always up there using the grill and hanging out in our hot tub. When we entertain friends and family, everyone ends up on the deck by the end of the night.

The movie theater isn’t the favorite room!?

We also love the theater. It’s probably the most used room in our place. In the winter we hang out in here all day with Jackson and Lando, eating candy and watching movies. It's easy to lose track of time in here. Unfortunately, with the a dog and a two-year-old in the house we also have to repaint it quite regularly. The black paint just can’t keep up with Jackson’s fingers and Lando’s giant tail.

Anything you'd do differently?

We messed up the bathroom, we both agree. The shower and the tub were bigger than the measurements in the architect’s drawings but the plumbing was already done so we just had to work with it. Maybe someday we’ll fix it but we’re not looking for any new projects at the moment. I also need a larger laundry room but really anyone with a two-year-old could use a larger laundry room, right?

Jackson's playroom features prints and a model of the Blue Streak at Cedar Point, Ray's favorite amusement park.
Jackson's bathroom with wall art by local Chicago artist, Stef Skills.

·House Calls archives [Curbed Chicago]