When Steve and Cher Garrett first rehabbed an industrial building on Lake Street in Chicago’s West Loop, they planned on using it as office and studio space for their graphic design and photography businesses. Once they finished, they realized that the building had another great function—as an event space. Filled with sustainable fixtures and finishes, BizBash called Loft on Lake Chicago’s “Best New Venue” when it opened. Steve and Cher take us back to the beginning.

gb&d: What drew you to this space?

Steve: It wasn’t much to look at initially. It had been a manufacturing building, then was purchased and separated into three units. The developer had done some hard-core work like sandblasting, but the space was still rough when we saw it. It had no windows or doors, a gravel floor, and all the brick inside had been covered over with gray paint. Despite its state, the space had a compelling quality that we both recognized.

A 65-foot skylight provides enough daylight that the energy consumption for lighting is negligible.

A 65-foot skylight provides enough daylight that the energy consumption for lighting is negligible.

gb&d: What was the renovation process like?

Steve: The interior was open, so we didn’t need to do any demolition. The developer put in windows and a skylight, replaced some of the brick, and restored much of the original bow-truss ceiling. Cher and I designed all the interior spaces, and the construction of bathrooms, kitchens, and offices was done by our two sons, Evan and Joel, and me. Cher and our daughter Jessica selected cabinetry, fixtures, paints, and decor. Evan designed and installed all the security systems and digital technologies. It was truly a family affair!

gb&d: What was the impetus for making it sustainable?

Cher: We wanted the building to be true to its origins and began with restoration, using recycled and salvaged materials as much as possible. From there it just made sense that the new materials we brought in be sustainable, such as soy-based paints and stains.

gb&d: How did you begin using it as an event venue?

Cher: When we completed the build-out, visitors would say, “This is a great space; you should have events here.” Even though we had no initial idea of hosting events, the momentum for doing so was strong. And I had experience in corporate events from my career in advertising. Now, we host corporate events, product launches, and photo shoots during the week and private events such as weddings on the weekends.