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By Tate Gunnerson | Photo: by Werner Straube | October 1, 2018
After years on the North Shore, a design-minded power couple relocate to a modern converted warehouse along The 606.
Change is a fact of life in a vibrant metropolis like Chicago. It was just a few decades ago that cargo trains rumbled along the Bloomingdale Line—a section of tracks in Bucktown. Today, the elevated tracks have been transformed into The 606—a celebrated bike path—and many of the original warehouses that ran alongside are long gone. Many of those that remain are being converted into modern single-family dwellings by industrious types, like Mark and Diane Falanga.
The power couple (he’s the CEO of VentureMark, a real estate investment firm, and she owns Space Defined Interior Design) toured a church, a police station and an old fire station before selecting an 8,000-square-foot home in a former warehouse with concrete floors, wooden bow truss arches, skylights and an interior atrium.
“We were looking for an interesting urban conversion,” Diane explains. “We didn’t want suburbs in the city.”
Not that she’s dissing the burbs; the couple raised their two children in a historic Wilmette house (the first ever built in the North Shore community, in 1873), which sported moldings galore, handpainted wallcoverings and a cavernous ballroom lit by crystal chandeliers. But with the kids out on their own, they were ready for something very different. “This was a radical departure,” says Diane. “The bones dictated the design.”
Although the warehouse had already been beautifully converted into commercial office space by architect Jack Berger of Berger Architects, with a sleek white Scavolini kitchen and stone counters, it still felt too austere. “It was gorgeous, but I had to wrap my head around how to make it a home,” says the designer.
To open up the view of the atrium from the living areas, she replaced a long wall that bifurcated the space with a bank of low white lacquered cabinetry. A pair of striking black pendants illuminate the stone countertop, highlighting hints of taupe and brown. New lighting likewise calls attention to the warm tones in the bow truss ceiling. “It has an amber glow that warms up the space tremendously and gives it a less austere, more residential feeling,” she explains.
Only one space seemed totally straightforward—a sunken conversation pit with a granite fireplace, which she furnished with a large-scale sectional sofa from Interior Define that takes up the bulk of the perimeter. Up to 30 people have crowded around the sofa during the couple’s many soirees and designer dinner parties (Diane is the president of the board of directors for Designs For Dignity).
Figuring out how to furnish the rest of the wide-open space, however, was more vexing. But by picturing “glass walls” in her mind’s eye, she was able to make sense of it, creating distinct areas for living, dining and just hanging out. Rugs and artwork help to delineate the “rooms,” which are furnished with sculptural modern furnishings.
A vibrant photograph by Jeremy & Claire Weiss, for example, hangs on the wall next to a quartet of modern swivel chairs on a hide rug next to the couple’s offices, which are encased behind actual glass. And a dramatic triptych art piece by Herbert Migdoll defines the main living space, which is furnished with modern pieces covered in neutral fabrics. “Mark and I have given each other art pieces over the years,” she explains. “The wide walls are just like candy for me.”
The atrium, on the other hand, has only glass walls, but they love it nonetheless. During the summer, the couple spend as much time as they can in the lush private outdoor space, often lounging on the outdoor sectional in front of the concrete fire pit.
When it’s raining, cold or snowing, Diane makes a beeline up to the open second-floor loft. Flooded with natural daylight from the arcade-style skylights directly overhead, “you feel like you’re in a snow globe,” she says. “We use every space, depending on the lighting.”
After so many years out in the burbs, city life looks good on the couple. They are enjoying the neighborhood’s buzzy restaurant scene and many cultural and recreational amenities—especially The 606 path, which runs right outside their front door. “It’s our sidewalk to the world,” Diane explains. “This feels like true urban living at its most exciting and fun level, and we’re loving everything about the experience.”
Bow Truss Warehouse
Jack Berger, Berger Architects
Diane Falanga, Space Defined Interior Design
Light fixture in living area
Planter in family room
Area rug in family room, hides in living area
Sectional and ottoman in family room
All cabinetry and door hardware
Dining table, long sofa, side chairs, coffee tables and swivel chairs in living areas
Room & Board
Dining chairs, coffee table, bookshelf and side tables in living area
Custom table in dining room and custom wine wall in kitchen
Stools at kitchen counter
Table and chairs in kitchen
Floor lamps in living area