amy azzaritointerior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: bladon conner studio

by Amy Azzarito

this peek found its way to us via photographer emily johnston anderson (whose own home was featured in a sneak peek last year!) emily recently joined forces with hinge – a well-curated online store that brings together a collection of artists, furniture designers and antique dealers – so many thanks to emily for bringing us this glimpse into the live/work space of hinge furniture designer bladon conner. bladon has turned this chicago storefront into an amazing space! he obviously put his architecture degree to good use here – he’s been able to pack a lot into this 400 square foot space!  (see the more of bladon’s live/work space in flickr!) {thanks, bladon, emily, & all the folks from hinge!}amy a.

[I think that like for most people, my “style” is really just a collection of things I’ve accrued – not something I think about – but nonetheless cohesive.  I think that is because I’ve had to edit so much and only keep what would fit in 400 square feet.  My living space seems to increasingly become a showroom of my work… some things that never sold and some that I hope to never sell.  So more than anything, it just follows my own aesthetic as a furniture designer – modern but aged, clean yet worn.  The color palette has been a work in progress.  When I moved in, the oringinal 13’ high pressed tin ceiling was already freshly painted an army green shade.  I had a little trouble figuring out what would work with this (white looked awful), and eventually settled on a dull shade of aqua.  Red makes for a good accent so I used that a lot in the kitchen.  In the studio all the walls were white.  That’s good for lighting, but bad for a dirty shop.  So I painted the main back wall a strong blue accent, which works to organize the space and bring the eye past the mess.

image above: There was no storage space when I moved in – except the cabinet beneath the sink – so I had to get creative.   I had a metal storage cabinet leftover from my old workshop and decided to deck it out with Radiohead lyrics and a stencil of the band to serve as my closet.  The little white stool/side table I made out of a shipping palette.  They often use nice hardwoods for the structural supports (this one was maple).]

[image above: The Salvation Army can be such a great resource, but can often let things fall into ruin before they get sold.  I came across a well-built dresser that had been left in the rain, and all the veneer had separated from the body.  I peeled it off with a putty knife, and with some bondo, black paint, and new hardware, it now is one of my favorite pieces.  Above it is one of my lamps printed with graffiti, and a photograph from the same photo shoot in Greenpoint.]

[image above: The old storefront has two raised bay windows for retail display.  When I moved in, they were thick with several layers of peeling vinyl tile.  I pulled it out and rehabbed it to be my studio office.  It’s a cozy and clean little oasis in my dusty shop.]

[image above: The bed is a ’40s era thrift find.  At the foot is a custom console table that I built from steel and reclaimed oak flooring that I blow-torched black.  The painting over the bed is from my good friend (and shop helper) Juan Tauber.]

CLICK HERE for more of Bladon’s studio!

[image above: The 12’ ladder was a lucky find in basement.  It is covered with old paint and has a great natural patina.  I was recently in Williamsburg and fell in love with this white paper mache bird from A&G Merch. ]

[image above: The bathroom was the only place with the original white ceiling.  It’s such a tall, tight space that it has a cathedral like feel.  I painted it a pale green and used blacks, raw steel, and light-toned wood.  An assortment of thrifted trunks and toolboxes work great to house the seemingly unavoidable variety of bathroom products.]

[image above: I found this bench when I was out buying tools at a bizarre liquidation sale.  This was in the finishing room, and was layered with years of epoxy and paint.  In standard fashion, a light sand and coat of paste wax gave it a retail ready finish.]

[image above: The bookshelf, a dumpster find of my dad’s, holds a decade’s worth of sketch books, art and design reference books, and cookbooks.  Also, one of my favorite art pieces is the red Abstract Expressionist piece by Owen McHugh.]

[image above: There’s a local resource called ‘The Rebuilding Exchange where I get a lot of reclaimed lumber and materials.  I found these white cabinets, basic for sure but virtually free, and they plugged right in over the kitchen.  I painted the back wall flat charcoal so that it would recede and make the kitchen feel like a bigger, separate space.  I grouped some of my favorite sentimental art pieces over the backsplash. ]

[The same liquidation sale I mentioned scored me this stainless steel table.  I pulled the stools out of a dumpster and made new seats, covered with vintage herringbone wool.  I made the white fronted wood cabinet out of an old floor joist.]

[image above: Not having a single drawer in the place made it hard to find a convenient spot for silverware, but when I came across this metal box from a hardware store, I had it covered.  It had the added bonus of coming filled with old metal casters.]

[image above: The red stripe shelf is a leftover structural piece from a vintage desk.  It works great for a little storage and display in my kitchen.  The pot rack is one of a few strategic Ikea pieces that make the place more functional. ]

[image above: My three main workbenches were a generous donation from the owner of Scout.  We thought they were too beat up to be made into functional tables then, but now they’ve acquired so much character that I’m often told it’s time to reconsider.]

[image above: I work mostly with reclaimed wood so everything seems to have a story.  One pile is old growth pine from a building structure in Lincoln Park – one of very few in the area to survive the Chicago Fire.  Another pile is oak milled from hundred year old barns in Wisconsin Amish country.  Yet another is Catalpa from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago – thought to be from the days of the Columbian Exposition.]

[image above: The orange shelves in my shop are another great Salvation Army find.  I use them to house my power tools and finishes.]

[image above: I work up a variety of finish samples when I get a new batch of wood.  Each set, even of a similar species, has its own unique color and graining due to age and wear. ]

[image above: Architecture school taught me to live out of a Moleskin sketchbook.  I use it for everything from sketching and task lists, to journaling and scrapbooking.  It’s  the best way for me to stay on track and keep organized.]

[image above: I recently got a steel bender and use it to make a variety of bent legs and bases.  Scrap wood pieces from larger jobs make great side tables when put on a set of hairpin legs.]

[image above: The backyard was a big selling point. My dog needed room to run around, and this deep lot had the perfect fenced in space. After much weeding, shaping, and planting, it became a great getaway from the work environment. My sister got me experimenting with edible ornamentals – which with a vegetable box, tomato pots, and some surprise berries (raspberries, mulberries, and cherries), it is quite a productive little produce market too!]

[image above: Jessie was really the incentive for finding this place.  We were commuting between an apartment and a shop space, neither of which had a yard for her.  So this had everything in one spot, and now she’s a happy girl. We leave the front door open most days and she lounges on the stoop and greets neighborhood folk.]

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  • BLADON! In love with your house, I’m totally swooning over here! Congrats buddy. The photography is really beautiful too.

  • Love this place. The bedroom and the bathroom are my favorite!

    May I ask what is in the crates that hold white bottles? (white-filled bottles?)

  • The cupboard in the first picture should read “its” rather than “it’s.” Attention to detail is important!

  • Wow. I am just wowed. The space, the photography, the story behind each piece. Makes me want to pop over to Chicago to say hi and see the studio.

  • My love for the locker in the first picture is sadly diminished by the grammatical error in “it’s.” :(

    Otherwise, everything is super lovely!

  • Beautiful space! The only thing that irks me is the unnecessary apostrophe painted on the door of your cabinet in the first photo. It’s = it is!

  • The cupboard with the clever Radiohead lyric – get the solvent remover out, and erase that apostrophe! How can Bladon sleep next to it?

  • Sorry for the grammatical error everyone! I might have been a little light headed from the spray paint fumes….
    Sunny, the milkcrate is my travelling fireplace — it’s filled with white church candles.

  • I loved that there are so many re-used furniture but was also dissapointed by “it’s” and the fourth word of the accompanying text is also misspelled… I think it’s a pet peeves of many…

  • I seriously don’t know whether I can articulately convey my absolute LOVE of this place! I wouldn’t even change the grammatical error–it just adds to the random graffiti look and charm.

    Awesome job, Bladon!

  • Hi guys – thanks for the grammar notes. I fixed the it’s and its, and think i got the other things. Let me know, if any else jumps out at you!
    Thanks! AmyA

  • Gorgeous!!! I read and reread that first paragraph as you so beautifully put into words an aesthetic that I’d say I subscribe to: “modern but aged, clean but worn.” I loved seeing how that played out in your space.

    P.S. I’m a stickler for grammar, but the beautiful design of this space blinded me to the issue that so many others are raising with “it’s.”

  • Rebecca,
    The ones I remember are Behr paint colors from Home Depot. ‘Gulf Winds’ is the aqua color, and ‘Wrought Iron’ is the charcoal color for the storefront office.

  • I love the colors!
    I am looking for dorm room inspiration. especially pieces that would work when i move into an apartment or a house. The blue and the orange colors are exactly what I am looking for. But I have a question. Where did you get those fantastic blue bowls!

  • Love all the storage solutions, and industrial feel of the whole place! Oh, to have a workshop space like that where I live!

  • So many wonderful touches! Completely changed my expectations of what belongs in a bathroom. If I ever have a space big enough, would love a card catalog in there!

  • My favourite thing: so much of it orphaned furniture! having just completely used up my savings in getting a house, and losing my salary equally between upgrading the white goods and paying the mortgage – your house gives me hope… Perhaps I will even put it up on my facebook status :)

    PS: dearest design sponge, thank you for being you. can i ask you for a favour? my house needs a lick of paint, desperately. I no nothing about painting, should i attempt it myself? Can you give me hints?
    PPS: How easy is sticking wallpaper? on the ceiling?

    • hi neha!

      you can totally paint yourself! the three key points are:

      1. prep your walls: clean with a damp cloth and sand if necessary (ie: uneven plaster)
      2. prime your walls: use an interior primer and you’ll be glad you did when you start painting later ;)
      3. paint in thin coats: use thin coats of paint and paint in a “W” pattern.

      here’s a breakdown: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/how-to-paint-room.htm

      *wallpaper is wayy harder. and on the ceiling- whew! i’m sure it can be done, but it’s definitely tough.

      grace :)

  • Tara —
    At my last studio opening we had a black out and rushed to the nearby stores to by up the all the candles we could find. I gave away as many as I could but still had a lot left, so I stacked them in milk crates and now use them for accent lighting at night. I suppose they don’t read well in daytime, but they really are nice at night!

  • holy god, bladdon- this is INSANELY inspiring!! i am in equal parts love and envy. jesse is one lucky pooch to have such a talented dad. your style is amazing. thanks for sharing it with us!!

  • I am totally in love with the display window office! Sigh.

    And thank goodness somebody asked about the milk crates! What an inspiration.

  • BLADON!!!! We are in LOVE with your space!! You are so talented and have created such beauty out of so little! I am loving the wardrobe, the color (thank you for using color) the bathroom storage and the elevated desk area. It looks like a fun place to lock yourself away from the rest of the world! You are amazeballs!! Take that grammar sticklers!!

  • The devil is in the details as we all know. Give a guy a grammar break! Is that a pink light next to the bed? Love to know where I can find one. Love it and all the rest.

  • When I saw how many people commented on this sneak peak, my first thought was “hmmm…there must be a grammatical error somewhere.” Nothing causes a flurry of comments like a misplaced apostrophe or an incorrect their/there/they’re! :) Love the apartment. It’s (!) industrial and beautiful all at once…my favorite combination.

  • 400SF!? Is that correct? It looks much, much bigger. And freakishly organized. (Maybe a little too organized?)

    What a perfect space though, and beautifully photographed.

  • bladon, your place is … everything. I love so many things about it, the red painting, how all the furniture has a story, all the re-used stuff, your creativity in re-using, colourscheme… you’re amazing. I’m gonna check your website now to see more. Keep it up!

  • Love it. Amazing. I won’t harp on the “it’s” vs “its” issue since it looks like a few other grammar junkies got to it, but I’m sure it’s nothing that a little gray paint can’t cover up. Thanks for the great inspiration. I’ve been trying to redecorate and got some great ideas from this post. Thanks!

  • Yes, the “it’s” is paining me too (as a former grammar instructor and one who’s convinced that our sloppy spelling/punctuation is pointing toward the downfall of humanity), but the place is thoughtful and gorgeous. It’s (it is) love and history and taste, and I am impressed and inspired.

  • This is such an awesome space. As for all the grammar stuff, it looks more like graffiti with the misspelling :)

  • What an unbelievably gorgeous place! I love what you have done with it! Kudos to you, Bladon, for designing such a fantastic place to live. Wish I was Jessie! On a side note, I am saddened by how many people choose to comment on one little error (as if they are perfect). They misspell words even in their comments. So, everyone else: get over yourselves. This is a DESIGN website. Not a “who’s who” of grammar and writing. The downfall of humanity is not because of apostrophes. It can be attributed to many other reasons (such as arrogance). Carlitadee, for being a grammar instructor (which I am not), you used a very long run-on sentence (as your first sentence). And shouldn’t your second sentence been written: “It’s love, history and taste (PERIOD). I am impressed and inspired.” I don’t know. Maybe you were trying to use the Harvard or Oxford comma. But I think you could have written it more clearly. :)

  • Wow, so many kind comments — I really appreciate them all. I’m glad to hear that my little studio apartment has been inspiring! And yes, Paul, it’s true, just a little over 400 square feet (22’x19′ including the bathroom).
    Tiara, my apologies for not responding earlier in the comment string, but those bowls are a thrift find — “Made in Poland” is the only marking. Your best bet is to just keep hitting your local thrift spots. I never come home empty handed :)
    Thanks again everyone. Cheers, bladon

  • This is not how you spell “it’s” in this case. So disappointing when talented people can’t grasp basic grammatical concepts.

  • love this place. all the little touches. the red and the blue in the kitchen. the candles in the milk crates – how can you not love that!? great mood lighting.

    amazing. i’d move in.

  • The industrial quality mixed with thoughtful choices in each detail and element of design is refreshing, like not “designed” but artful!
    Thank you Design Sponge!
    P. S. I would never attempt wall papering a ceiling on my own, time to call on wp hanger for that one

  • Gorgeous! I love the step-up through the glass doors into the office pace with the desk, the aged trunk and drawers in the bathroom, and the aged and lacquered (was it lacquered??) bench seat. Oh! and the gorgeous ‘1845’ tiles in the doorway and the beautiful garden. Great use of space, and an example of how functionality= beauty!

  • Hi Bladon..putting yourself out there and doing what you believe in takes so much courage! I think your work is sexy, inspiring and grounded. Love the atmosphere you have created.

    Love the doogie!

    All the best :)

  • Blandon – I love your aesthetic and all the wonderful reclaimed pieces in your apartment. Also, THANK YOU for listing the Behr Gulf Winds paint color – I love it!

  • I have seen many inspiring living spaces on this and other lifestyle sites but THIS has to be one of my top 3 favorites of all time! What a great live/work space. Kudos!

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