Open House: Alley’s Loft
I didn’t know quite what to expect when I arrived at Alley Ballard’s Ravenswood loft building on a sunny May morning. The photos she sent me of her space looked pretty fantastic, and I’d expected the lobby, which consisted of an old concrete stairwell with a steel railing, to be a bit more grand. Then again, when the building was converted in 1983, years before developers were building new soft lofts and loft-like condos, and in those days, space was the primary consideration, not silly amenities.
Alley, a successful real estate agent, first discovered the building seven years ago when she helped her client buy a neighboring unit, a sale that made her feel somehow more jealous than overjoyed. Four years ago, the stars aligned and Alley bought the loft across the hall.
The unit features large east and south facing windows, which flood the space with light. Alley stained the wood floors a dark ebony, giving them both color and shimmer, a perfect contrast with the exposed brick, timber and steel. Furnished with a mix of mid-century classics, comfortable newer pieces and lots of original art, if the apartment were a potato chip, it’d be the one with the Virgin Mary on it.
Alley’s two dogs, Walker and Jacob scamper happily as she leads me through the narrow entry, past the alley kitchen and into the unit’s spacious main living area. Animals are omnipresent. According to Alley, Jacob is “dating” the neighbors dog, so she’s also been spending a great deal of time in the space. And there are many photos of her late father’s quirky Boston Terrier Winnie, which Alley adopted after he passed away. “She met my dad in heaven last year just before Thanksgiving,” says Alley.
For the design-o-phile, design’s not just about looks; it’s how she keeps her family alive. Framed photos take up nearly the entire exposed brick wall in her office, but the tribute’s are everywhere if you know where to look.
Continued . . .
Her grandfather Russell Ballard, a “mover and shaker” once owned her Eames lounge chair, which holds court from the elevated living room area; her father bought the coffee table, a former hog killing bench he found at a flea market, and the office desk belonged to her Aunt Donna.
“When my Aunt Donna got Alzheimer’s I had to air ambulance her to Chicago and I ended up moving many of her things here too,” says Alley. “I ended up with the desk.”
But Alley gives the most credit to her mother Beata, who loved the simplicity and timelessness of designers such as Eames, Knoll and Bertoia.
“She should have been an architect, but she raised me instead,” says Alley. “My mom passed away when I was 27 so her belongings mean everything to me.”
But Alley’s not content to live in the past; she loves building her personal collection with pieces she finds at her favorite shops, which include Scout, Brimfield and the Broadway Antique Mall. And the busy realtor is planning a master suite addition the only way she can – on the roof (the savvy realtor negotiated roof rights). Perhaps most importantly, she’s learned to savor every moment.
“I wake up happy everyday because I have wrap around windows with tree top views, great neighbors and a huge open space that I decorated,” says Alley, perhaps trying to make me as jealous as she felt when she first saw her loft. “And a huge common area back yard that I use everyday with my dogs who love it too.”
Thanks Alley! (But I am jealous).