Clean architectural elements such as new drywall, a white steel staircase and glass elements juxtapose the more raw feel of the exposed brick walls and ceiling timbers, which come together to create an inspired modern loft. Turner Manasra trusted only high-end retailers—namely Casa Spazio and Jesse Chicago—to deck out her new space.

Olson lounges on a Holland & Sherry silver fox throw, tossed atop her comfy suit-inspired Crate & Barrel sofa. The steel open bookcase filled with labeled boxes and adorned with a trademark mixture of eclectic accessories—an example of genius storage ideas that accommodate her business operations—is pushed against the back wall; on the far wall, a Francine Turk nude hangs next to a Brynn Olson original abstract in black and white on the easel.

Cantrell stands between two particularly meaningful pieces in his space: On the left he installed dark wood-veneered panels that once clad the elevators in his office building. On the right, one of Cantrell’s leisure pursuits involves making artwork through an intricate paper-cutting process; this particular piece pays homage to a cherished and perished cactus that belonged to his partner.

A La Casa

We can’t get enough of our favorite Chicago designers. Luckily, three interiors pros—a decorator, a designer and an architect—agreed to give us the inside scoop on their own recently renovated residences. These three talents share the vision—and elbow grease—that helped them create a space of their own.

Tricia Turner Manasra
Only a particularly creative person would be able to see the potential in a rundown automobile warehouse from the ’20s. But from her initial visit to the former Fiat showroom, interior architect and designer Tricia Turner Manasra knew it would be a labor of love. “It was a mess,” explains Manasra. “The developer’s rep, who showed us the property, said that we were really going to have to use our imaginations. I said, ‘Great! That’s what I do for a living.’” Once Manasra got rolling on the South Side structure, it was quickly transformed into a multilevel loft with all of the luxuries of a contemporary world. Because Manasra had a strong vision and, as her home, it was such a deeply personal project, she elected to take on all of the design work herself—completing the construction in a brief 90 days.

After a preliminary professional enterprise in advertising, Manasra returned to school for a master’s degree in interior architecture because “I realized that I didn’t want to spend my life pushing burgers to 18-to 49-year-olds.” From there, she cut her teeth on luxury hotel design, but then sought out her own business for purposes of project diversity.

The separation of public and private space in the home was most important to her, and she achieved it in part by making a lofted work area on the second level and an open plan kitchen/living area on the main floor. The new floor plan gifted Manasra and her new husband with the “refined loft” feel she had envisioned since day one. “We love our space; it’s who we are as people, it’s how we live and it’s flexible,” she says. “We could even have three bedrooms eventually if we wanted—there’s room to grow here.”

Brynn Olson
Symmetry is a big part of Nate Berkus alum Brynn Olson’s creative philosophy. Yet, for her own home, the interior designer learned that balancing work and personal life has everything to do with how the space is configured—especially when there is a home office involved. Olson saw her recent transition from a more spacious North Side apartment to a high-rise in bustling River North as a “designer’s challenge,” meaning she had to edit more than two-thirds of her furniture as well as incorporate a fully functional workspace. “It was really tough; trying to figure out storage for my clothes and also for project samples and swatches… I used the walls and went up,” Olson explains. “I had to get really creative.”

With a lifetime of training as a fine artist, the self-proclaimed “people person” (with a sociology degree from Vanderbilt) wanted to find a career that allowed her crazy, creative streak to flourish while developing strong relationships. After refining her intrinsic artistic eye and industry know-how at Harrington—followed by five years at Berkus’ local firm—Olson got the entrepreneurial itch. She has since split her time on residential, commercial, styling and consulting projects for the past year, but has a special place in her heart for residential design because “it allows me to make a direct impact on a personal level,” she explains, “and being a part of that for an individual is so special.”

So where does the Alabama native begin when awarded a new contract? “My client is always my No. 1 inspiration,” Olson admits. So when it came to creating her own space, she simply treated herself as such. The result is two clearly comfortable, chic, defined areas—work and play—that seamlessly meld into one cohesive space. After all, says Olson, “I’m a big believer in the idea of ‘how you shape your space will shape your day.’”

Crister Cantrell
Less is more. Famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s mantra was also the underlying initiative for fellow architect Crister Cantrell and his partner’s recent renovation. Fittingly, the building that houses their home is a Mies-designed development in Streeterville. While casually scouring for real estate opportunities, he and his partner, psychologist and assistant professor at Northwestern George J. Greene, came across the “Glass House” apartments. Intrigued by both the prestigious design byline and the fact that the modern international style was the first of its kind, they kept it on their radar until a unit became available.

In contrast, there is nothing minimal about Cantrell’s architectural background. From a hometown as historic as Columbus, Ind., to a curriculum vitae that runs from coast to coast, he returned to the Midwest eight years ago after accepting a position at mega firm Perkins+Will’s Chicago office. Having honed his personal aesthetic both at work and at home, he definitely had some strong opinions. Luckily, the process of working with George on the design was surprisingly smooth. “When we first moved in together, we had almost the exact same furniture, since we have similar taste,” Cantrell laughs. And while the historic building defined some of the couple’s parameters, they strove to make the interiors feel genuine. “We wanted to simplify the layout; there were these turns and niches that tightened up the space so it was a series of boxes,” the architect explains. “For me it was about editing and subtracting… trying to take on more Miesian ideas.”

When the construction schedule wrapped, the couple was pleased to have the midcentury aesthetic that was originally intended but with upgrades for a modern way of life. “I wanted to design the space for the present,” Cantrell says, “but also try to respect that this building wasn’t necessarily built for this era.”