Thousands of shotgun flat commercial buildings dot the City of Chicago. These substantial brick buildings were designed and built for the multitude of European immigrants arriving in Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century. The flat's design is based on an urban, European building model that provides apartments above commercial storefronts, allowing trades people to house their businesses and extended family within one building along commercial thoroughfares. The term "shotgun" refers to the long, narrow building footprint and interior layout where rooms are stacked upon rooms running front to back. Now, one hundred years later as the need for practical and sustainable considerations have become more demanding, the reuse of existing buildings is developing into a moral and economic necessity. For a designer in Chicago, the shotgun flat provides the perfect motivation to create a modern and relaxing home by taking lifestyle cues from the past.

Tom Marquardt, Principal and Founder of marquardt+ (m+), purchased the Chicago shotgun flat in the transitioning, historic neighborhood of Logan Square to house the m+ studio, provide an affordable rental property for close friends, and create a home for himself. The third floor flat was earmarked to become Tom's private retreat. The design challenge faced by m+ was to maintain the sense of procession, proportion, and verticality of the original space with minimal intervention, while transforming the flat into a soft, modern, simple, and efficient design cohesive with the surroundings. Tom and the m+ design team sought to physically and visually emphasize the flow and depth of the space through layered vistas and extended viewpoints. The solution was to create the civilized separation of personal and professional life in line with the building's original intent.

The original six-panel oak entry door and transom were relocated to the 2nd floor landing. The move allowed the 3rd floor flat to gain the space from the public foyer and staircase, as well as the light from the existing ridge skylight. The space was lined with an unframed glass railing wall bisected by a freestanding fireplace. The redesign utilized the original hardwood floors along with the window locations and openings. To bring in additional light and air from the east the bedroom and pantry windows were expanded vertically. The bathroom was enlarged toward the dining area and hallway. A translucent textured glass wall was inserted to open the bath space and bring in additional natural light. The bathroom became a self-contained wet space with a trough drain and solid surface material sliding door. A custom mirror faced millwork waterproof cabinet runs the width of the opposite wall. The ceiling is tinted plaster to resist water damage and soften the space. The bathroom floor and wall tile wrap the outside of the bathroom to define the room as a box, separating the front and rear areas of the flat.

The interruption created by the bathroom box is further exaggerated by (2) suspended drywall ceiling planes running from the front to the back of the flat. The planes define and hold the kitchen, dining, and living room seating areas more intimately without losing the affect of the high ceilings above. All door and closet openings were raised to nine feet, and the wall shared by the kitchen and rear bedroom was eliminated. When bedroom privacy is required, large custom millwork barn doors can be rolled across the openings on a continuous steel rail running lengthwise across the space. Installed in each bedroom are custom built-in millwork beds with full-depth, rolling storage drawers and built-in leather padded headboards with matching surrounds. Both bedroom closets have custom pin mounted full height mirror surfaced doors for full closet access and expansion of light and space.

The kitchen includes custom designed stainless steel, freestanding counters and island with an integrated sink and stovetop. Contract panel furniture overhead storage units with task lighting, lateral file cabinets and commercial wire shelving supplement the walk-in pantry storage. A custom steel stand holds the wall oven and dishwasher while a high efficiency front-load washer and dryer rest under the counter. The windows at the rear act as a service pass through with custom stainless steel removable ledges for dinner and drinks on the rear porch with views of the private garden below.

A restricted palette of color and materials were selected to maintain a quiet, relaxing atmosphere and provide a shifting, warm, neutral backdrop to Tom's art collection and furniture. Soft grey, beige, taupe, and white paint, lacquer, leather, steel, glass, and solid surface material coordinate with the natural tones of the original hardwood floors. Hardware, fixtures, and lighting were selected to maintain a modern yet timeless restraint. The result is a sophisticated, clean, yet informal enclave for relaxation, comfort, and entertainment that reconsiders what is best about a space and provides a way of living by looking forward through the past.