Steven Stojak likes things dark. In the span of six months, he has transformed a condo whose previous owner had painted its walls in shades of red, blue, orange, and purple into a glamorously minimalist sanctuary.
His moody but inviting redoubt is now a place where an Anne Rice hero or heroine might find respite from the garish outside world, drawing the curtains, lighting some candles, and collapsing onto a plush divan. There’s even a wrought iron gate across the living room doorway, a relic of a previous owner who was terrified of break-ins—perfect for keeping out angry villagers, should the need arise.
Stojak is a lifelong West Side resident and is thus familiar with the ins and outs of real estate in our booming neighborhood. Born near Logan Square to a police officer, he has witnessed its evolution firsthand. He confided that when he first set up shop at a rental in Logan proper some six and a half years ago, his Christmas stocking was stuffed with pepper spray by wary relatives. It’s hard to believe that the genteel, tree-lined street near the highway that he now calls home might have once raised concern among his loved ones.
Manicured and landscaped, the early 20th century buildings flanking his co-op would be equally at home in Ravenswood or Lincoln Park. He and his roommate Laura Schroader have since moved a mere eight houses down to the unusual 1920s-era co-op buildin they now call home.
“We’ve lived together for seven years,” Stojak said of his decision to continue cohabiting with Schroader. “We really like each other.”
Purchasing the condo was in fact her idea. She had intended to purchase one herself, but instead decided to go to law school. She now rents from Stojak.
Half of the courtyard complex is owned by a single owner and the other, of which his condo is a part, is set up on a system wherein buyers purchase a share of the building itself. This unique arrangement allowed Stojak, who works for a nonprofit healthcare center, to buy his unit during a period where other options might have priced him out.
It wasn’t all good fortune though; he noted that such properties make up less than 5 percent of the market in Chicago. The rarity of this type of real estate made lenders wary: He had to seek three separate mortgages to finance the purchase.
Though Stojak is thrilled with his decision, his father wryly bemoans the “yuppy” fate of Logan, which has in the past decade traded its vibrant but conflicted atmosphere for a more stable but sterile and commercial one.
Stojak’s space, though, is anything but that. Airy and light-filled, with dark wood floors and bright white walls, it is a jewel box displaying the treasures that he and Schroader have accumulated throughout the years.
“It was nice to finally be able to customize things to how I wanted them to look,” he said. “I never thought I would have this much space.”
Getting it to that point took numerous coats of paint, a full kitchen rehab, and hours spent online and at West Elm, among other outlets, selecting the perfect lighting and furniture. The final product reflects a compromise between himself and Schroader.
“I’m the cold, black and gray person,” he said. “She’s more into brown and vintage. Anything brown you see in here is pretty much hers. We think the minimalism works to balance our styles.”
Photos: Richard Pallardy and Kris Donaker
Reflecting on his color choices, Stojak remembered a conversation he had with the previous owner. Describing his plans to eliminate his predecessor’s Tropicana palate, he remembered saying, “You know you basically sold to a goth, right?”
Most of the walls are currently coated in light, neutral shades that complement the darker woods and fabrics of the furniture and the flooring. He’s particularly proud of the black accent wall in his dining room. A dark charcoal color, it is further adorned with wild splashes of gold paint. Stojak joked that the expressionistic strokes, applied with the help of his friends, were a form of catharsis, allowing them to vent some aggression through interior design.
“This place was a kaleidoscope,” he later said, gesturing at his now-austere surroundings. “I clearly have a very different aesthetic.”
After hearing the story of the long farm table at the center of the room, it’s not hard to see why he might have had some pent-up frustration. Ordered from West Elm, the table was supposed to be dark gray. It’s clearly brown. And it showed up that way three separate times. Stojak is still waiting—ever so patiently—for the table he actually ordered.
“I find something that I really love and build a room around that,” he said. He loves to entertain and envisions the formal dining room as a place where large groups can gather for dinners and game nights.
Though the rich palate and crisp modern lines suggest a fair degree of financial indulgence, Stojak won’t turn up his nose at a bargain. The expensive-looking modern chandelier dangling above the dining table was a $60 find at Urban Outfitters. And the one in the kitchen was a floor model from West Elm, marked down substantially. Such cost-cutting balanced out splurges like $50 dimmer switches.
Practical Interior Design
Practicality is an essential component of his aesthetic. An avid gamer, he purchased an Ikea wall cabinet to house his nine gaming systems and more than 100 games. You would never know that such an enormous suite of electronics was lurking inside. And his sleek, black television, mounted on the wall, reads more like a piece of art than an appliance.
“I like the fact that when you walk in you don’t really realize we have a TV. I don’t like it to be the focal point of the room,” Stojak said.
So, too, a modular workout system can be collapsed and tucked behind a credenza in the living room. And an all-in-one washer and dryer squeezes into a hall closet. Stojak is particularly pleased that his new kitchen cabinetry can comfortably house his extensive wine collection, which had previously been on display atop the cupboard, collegiate style.
It’s not all minimalism and adulting, though. Geeky grace notes abound throughout the space. A poster of drag queens Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova emblazoned with the query “You want some f-
“I basically just searched for geometric triangle hipster bullshit curtains [on Amazon],” he
The theme continues into his bedroom, which is decked out in subtly space-themed accoutrements. “I wanted a
Geometric shapes on the rug and the duvet evoke the planets and the accent wall is spritzed with silvery stars. The room also draws on his love for tarot. A small black desk displays his sleek, metallic tarot deck and an array of tarot- and manga-related art. Stojak learned to read tarot at Sideshow Gallery and has since given readings at events like Riot Fest.
Photos: Kris Donaker
Schroader’s room, by contrast, is more spartan, with little in the way of wall decor. Her books and objects are carefully arranged on a simple, mid-century style dresser and bookcase, everything in its place. A crisp white comforter and a simple, linear patterned rug and matching accent pillow elevate the room from monastic to elegant.
For all of its current polish, Stojak claimed that he still has further plans in store for his sophisticated lair. A sconce for plants needs more greenery, dated light fixtures await replacement, and a looming electrical rewiring is on his mind. Still, after his six-month marathon rehab, he’s content to rest on his laurels for a while. He has the whole winter to meditate on these refinements, glass of wine in hand, dimmers lowered, and candles lit, the Lestat of Logan, plotting his next move.
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