Welcome to another Smart Living Tour! Today, we tour Mark McKnight’s incredible loft, located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga.
An avid trail runner and cyclist, Mark relocated to Chattanooga from Raleigh to become the marketing director for Rock/Creek, an independent Chattanooga-based specialty outdoor retailer. He quickly fell in love with the outdoors-friendly city, and is still here, after 9 years.
Mark is a friendly, laid back guy with great taste in furniture. The attention to detail in Mark’s condo is remarkable. Carefully selected hues and furniture complement each other and characterize this historic Chattanooga property. Originally a 1930’s elementary school, it was converted to open loft-style condominiums several years ago. An elegant mix of mid-century modern and vintage furniture provide the finishing touch that results in a home that truly shines. Add in Mark’s sweet and gentle greyhound, Chase, and you will find it very hard to leave. We caught up with him to hear more about what inspires him.
Name: Mark McKnight and his Greyhound, Chase
Location: Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee
Size: 780 sq feet (plus a little bit of very critical storage in the basement)
Years lived in: 3.5 years
Mark’s Style: Eclectic, classic, modern
Smart Living: Mark's Inspired Loft
Smart Living Survey
Inspiration: The Glass House, and the surrounding grounds and buildings, have been obsessions of mine since college when I first discovered Philip Johnson and his work. Now that he and his partner David Whitney have sadly passed, the house has been opened up to the public under the protection of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. I can’t wait to visit the house.
Favorite Element: I love Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture, so I have always loved his coffee table. That’s another design pilgrimage I have to make some day— his home is now a museum in Queens, NY. The drama of the ebonized wood and the clean lines of the thick glass contrasts with the lighter-colored stone floors and cowhide rug. It catches the morning light and it reflects the weather in the windows. It’s worth all the constant dusting!
Biggest Challenge: A big, open loft reveals everything at once, which can be a bit overwhelming and chaotic. It took at least two years to get to where I am now, with more defined spaces that reveal a bit at a time. I still have more planned as the budget allows, and there are a few elements that I’d like to simplify, like the built-in bookshelves under the bar, which overly complicate the kitchen. I’m a minimalist at heart, but I don’t have the space to be as minimal as I’d prefer. At the same time I love the challenge, and I’m very committed to living in a small space.
What Friends Say: People love the view, which was what originally sold me on the condo. The windows are 20 feet by 8, times two, so you see over 300 square feet of windows as soon as you walk in the door. Most people only see the lights of the city at night, but anyone who follows my Instagram will see a constant stream of beautiful sunrises. The constantly-changing light and weather conditions never get old.
Biggest Embarrassment: Dust! Having a dog around with stone floors and counters everywhere leads to a ton of dust that seems to come back ten minutes after you finish cleaning.
Proudest DIY: I painted everything myself, and I learned a lot from it. The paint job is not perfect but the color is awesome. The only way I could figure out what I wanted was to paint a giant spot on the wall and live with it through the changes in light throughout the day.
Biggest Indulgence: Clearly the candles, which mostly come from Revival, and range from $80-300, but are every bit as important to me as a nice bottle of wine is to some people. I’d rather have a $10 wine and an awesome candle! Also candles at this level burn far longer than something cheap. The average is 80-100 hours, so they last a year or more.
Best Advice: Buy less! Live small! Concentrate on quality over quantity. I love my little home and I can afford to fill it up with pieces that will last a lifetime. If I had some giant house in the suburbs I would have to have knockoffs that would fall apart in a couple years. Because of the size of the space, I have to make constant decisions to pare down and curate. I think hard before I buy something, because something else must go if I bring it into my house.
How did you bring your style into your space?
It took some time. I started with family hand-me-downs and slowly replaced them with modern pieces that reflect my own style. There are still a few major pieces that I need, like a new bed and some monumental storage for the bedroom. I’d love to have an Eames storage unit some day, and the Eames molded plywood room divider will probably be coming soon.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what is the one thing you would absolutely have to have that was not directly related to survival?
Something other than food, water, shelter? I’d want my Kindle, honestly. I can get through about anything with a good book.
After a long day, what is your favorite place or furniture piece to come back to and relax?
I absolutely love my Eames/Saarinen Chair. It’s comfortable and the perfect size for me. I’m very lean (okay, skinny) and most contemporary furniture does not fit me. I can’t sit on most sofas with my back against the sofa and my feet on the floor, so I just love this piece. There’s no sacrifice of style for comfort, either.
- What made you choose Smart Furniture?
You guys are my local modern furniture shop. It’s awesome to have a place right across from my office to see all the design icons I grew up geeking out about.
Now that’s Smart Living. Thanks for the tour, Mark!