Dreaming big in small spaces | Space | Chicago Reader

Dreaming big in small spaces 

The network of lofts built by Nathan Minnehan have transformed a modest Rogers Park studio apartment into an imaginative, boat-like getaway.

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Nathan Minnehan, hanging in the kitchen nook

Nathan Minnehan, hanging in the kitchen nook

Andrea Bauer

I left Nathan Minnehan's Rogers Park apartment figuring I'd do some math and book a flight to Costa Rica. Because that's the type of shit you do after spending time with a guy who pulled what may have been a 500-pound meteorite (the jury's still out) from an Argentine river. You make stuff happen, no matter how extraordinary or fantastical it seems.

But let's start from the beginning. Upon entering the apartment, I hear Brazilian songstress Marisa Monte crooning through the speakers. There's a piano. There's a workshop. There's a hammock. There's a telescope. There's a map of Antarctica. There's a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. There's Minnehan dressed as if he just stepped off a ship carved from a tree trunk, because maybe he did.

Having been the first mate on a 100-year-old wooden ship in Rochester, New York, and having spent years in Prague and Argentina as an exchange student helped inspire the design of Minnehan's home. A network of lofts re-create spaces to which he's felt connected, and the nooks and crannies make the apartment feel like a boat. "Too much open space for me is not necessary," he says. "I like to keep things quaint and simple."

While he was living in Prague, some of Minnehan's most profound moments occurred at a kitchen table beneath a bell-shaped 1930s-era glass lamp. "I can't go to Prague to get the feeling that rejuvenates me so much. I needed to build that in my Chicago life," he says. "I brought that. I built this loft just so I could hang it."

The studio is also home to Minnehan's business, WalknTalk, for which he crafts handmade leather journals—a practice he began in Argentina and continues by hawking journals from the back of his bike and online. "I fused this philosophy of 'getting lost to find yourself' with these journals, integrating names that would indicate philosophy of self-creation," he says.

My morning with Minnehan was filled with more life advice than I'd ever received in my 30-whatever years, capped off by some parting words of wisdom: "Create a space that speaks to your vision of who you are, who you want to become, and what your dream is to be in this world."

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