Dan Kelleghan is a dreamer—but he’s also a doer. Over the past few years, the born-and-bred Chicago photographer dreamt of a day when he could travel more frequently, and to more remote destinations. That day came, and this year, he’s actually walking the walk—visiting a new country every month. Hot off the tarmac from Asia, we had a chance to catch him in his Pilsen home and studio for some green tea and an apartment tour (as he’s packing his bags for South Africa). Dan and his girlfriend, Katrina Hoernig, a fashion model and interior design student, told us how they snagged such an incredibly unique living set-up, how their interior sensibilities came to be and also divulged some secret spots around the city for affordable decor.
HOW DID YOU FIND SUCH A GEM TO CALL HOME?
DK: I’d been keeping a close eye on the neighborhood for 5 years—it’s a strong artist community down here. The management company, Pod Majersky, owns a bunch of unique studio spaces in Pilsen. I didn’t have enough money to spend on a personal live-work studio until a couple years ago. My roommate moved to L.A., so I just said screw it, found this place and moved in August 2014.
KH: All of Pod’s buildings have similar interesting architectural details and layouts; many of the units were reworked by architecture students and artists, which gives them character.
WHAT DID IT LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU MOVED IN?
KH: It was painted entirely in this Cerulean blue color, and it was filled with stuff. I’d describe it as a bohemian love den.
DK: It was way different; there were 8 people living here, all over the place. It was crazy.
HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT DECORATING?
DK: We started by painting all the walls white. Then we had to decide where the photography studio and living room would be, since it’s flexible. It was tricky because the ceilings are lower in the living room, and the light is better in the evening. I wanted the studio to have the taller ceilings, but the light is better in the morning. So I have to plan around that. Then it was just brainstorming. We brought zero from my last house, but it’s a similar look here: super clean white walls, modern lines…
KH: The design process was pretty informal. I’m drawn to Japanism, a school of thought focused on minimalism. But it’s not the trendy idea of having nothing in order to be hip and cool.
It’s about the fact that there’s a whole purpose behind the things you have. Maybe you have tiny decorative things, but they serve a purpose, even if it’s reminding you of your life’s purpose.
HOW DID YOU APPROACH FURNITURE SELECTION SPECIFICALLY?
DK: I am a super picky person. I have to sleep on stuff for like a month before I pull the trigger. For the sofa, I did my deliberating when I had my old IKEA one, so when I saw the ASHER, it was a great fit. My second buy was the speakers.
KH: Dan is my hardest client. He didn’t have anything in this apartment for like 2 months; he had to hand-pick everything to make sure it was perfect. We had a welcoming party when he moved in, and literally had 2 chairs, the guitar and a bed. Everyone just stood around with their beers like, ‘Yeah, cool space.’ It was hilarious.
DK: Slowly, I got the rest. The table is from IKEA, the chairs and coffee table are from Baxton Studio—our secret modern furniture outlet out west; that credenza I made it with IKEA cabinets, I drilled them all together to form one long piece. I made those side tables by pouring concrete into a bucket and inserting simple tapered wood legs. I don’t really spend a ton on furniture; I’d rather spend money on travel. I am on the hunt for a leather Eames lounge chair though—and those aren’t cheap.
KH: We respect great design, but its not part of our life story at this point to spend thousands of dollars on a lamp.
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE WAY IT TURNED OUT?
KH: Yes, I love it. But it’s never done. It’s always evolving. It’s more fun that way I think; to experiment and curate your space instead of just rushing into buying stuff to fill the room. That way you love your home.