Not many businesses can say they’ve been called one of the best home stores out there by both Architectural Digest and House Beautiful, but South Loop Loft is a rare breed. Founded just nine years ago by owner Beth Berke, the Chicago-based emporium has become a must-shop for designers and collectors in the know. What started as a hobby has blossomed into a full-blown business—and one of the city’s best, especially when it comes to 20th-century masters and eye-catching contemporary art.

We spoke with Berke about her favorite styles, her sourcing secrets (held close to the vest), and the types of pieces that are moving now. See what she had to say, and be sure to shop South Loop Loft’s incredible offerings on Chairish.

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South Loop Loft
Image courtesy of South Loop Loft

South Loop Loft turns nine this year—congratulations! Almost the big 1-0. Tell us a bit about how you launched the business.

Thank you for celebrating with us—Chairish has been a great partner since year one of the business and it’s been exciting watching the platform grow as we grow together. 

Of all the vintage and antique styles you stock, is there one that’s your favorite? If so, why?

It’s hard to choose a favorite because I appreciate different qualities of the different styles I source. I’m always drawn to a curved Italian sectional in a luscious original velvet, and if I had to transport myself into one era to shop for the rest of my days, it would be 1970’s Milan. 

South Loop Loft
Photo: Ian Vecchiotti

How do you manage sourcing? Where do you generally go to find your best pieces (without giving away your secrets, of course)?

Sourcing is a true boots-on-the-ground endeavor for me. I spend a quarter of the year in Europe carefully combing through warehouses, small shops, artists’ studios, and flea markets and antique fairs of all sizes. 

My buying trips to Europe are fast and furious, and each one is its own adventure. Most days require a 6am start, waiting in line and then running through the flea markets for several hours or driving to a warehouse in the countryside. It is a huge effort to put together our collections, but it is incredibly exciting. 

When it comes to finding treasures, I really believe showing up over and over again with a wildly optimistic mindset that today you’re going to find the most incredible chandelier of your career is the best way to approach it. I take a lot of pride in the amount of time I spend sourcing and I also think it sets our collections apart—each item is literally hand picked during months of searching. There are no shortcuts to good curating!

Over the years I’ve developed and nurtured relationships with talented dealers throughout Europe whom I can trust and who are a joy to work with. On each trip, I make it a priority to explore a new region or destination to shop, so I can continue to grow my understanding of the many interesting genres, styles, and materials of different countries and decades. Curiosity is what fuels this craft, after all! 

South Loop Loft
Image courtesy of South Loop Loft

What types of pieces do you see moving right now? What are the patterns in terms of what’s selling at this point?   

We work with such a variety of designers in different cities so I don’t notice a single type of piece that everyone is buying right now. We see a lot of interest in unique statement pieces like large sculptures, interesting room dividers, and consistent sales in our “Classics,” like a pair of Danish leather armchairs, Marco Zanuso upholstered lounge chairs, or a Guillerme et Chambron case piece. We work to really provide interesting pieces for a large range of design genres, from highly collectible 20th-century design to antique garden sculptures, 18th-century tapestries, and anonymous ceramic works. 

Tell us a bit about your art offerings… you have a mix of vintage and new pieces. How do you work with different types of artists?

About five years ago I realized how potent the alchemy of vintage furniture and contemporary art can be, and even more so, how our retail space is an opportunity to present the work of emerging and established artists and makers. I want to be a place where designers can discover something they’ve never seen before, or gain access to furniture or art that otherwise would not be readily available in Chicago or perhaps the U.S. I really enjoy that role and I enjoy the personal relationships with the artists and makers we collaborate with—that has really enriched my life. In the end, it’s about the people, not the product. 

We do not approach our contemporary art programming like a traditional gallery and that’s one reason I think we see such a great engagement from our clients with the artists we work with and the art we offer. We pair art with design in the showroom and I believe that can really bring it to life for people, especially if they are viewing it digitally. 

South Loop Loft
Photo: Ian Vecchiotti

What’s the design scene like in Chicago these days? Where do you see most of your customers coming from? 

Chicago has an amazing design scene that we love being a part of. I find Chicago designers are fueled by a curiosity and appetite for art, learning new makers, and seeing and touching unique pieces. We have an enthusiastic design community whose energy has been a pillar of inspiration for our showroom’s retail experience. Clients are constantly teaching and inspiring us and we love the dynamism of the collaborative spirit. 

We work with clients all over the world and ship weekly to LA, New York, and Texas, and monthly to Dubai and Paris. We’re also curious about doing a pop-up in a second location.

What’s a dream piece you’d love to own yourself?

A Roger Tallon Helicoid Staircase, designed in 1964 for Galerie Lacloche in Paris. I’d love one for my South Loop loft apartment. Fingers crossed! 

Do you see any upcoming trends in terms of what’s next for the design world? What types of pieces do you hope to stock next?  

I continue to see a gravitation towards whimsical elements in the home; amorphic shapes in furniture and sculpture and a focus on design elements, art, and fabrics that continue to bring a sense of nature into the interior. 

South Loop Loft
Beth Berke at South Loop Loft. Photo: Ettakit.

Are there any styles or trends you’d like to see disappear in the design world right now?  

The all-ivory room aesthetic. I appreciate serene minimalism but I also love layered spaces that can surprise you. I think it is important people create thoughtful spaces and environments for themselves and take the time to think about and define their personal style rather than follow an aesthetic that has gone mainstream. 

Who are some of your favorite makers or designers, in terms of your own inspirations? 

This year we are working on special collections by 20th-century female designers like Gae Aulenti, Cini Boeri, and Nanda Vigo. I’ve been collecting some special Aulenti works over the last year, including a few spectacular Jumbo tables (including one in the rare Rosso Alicante pink marble) paired with her lesser-seen Arcata leather sofa and chairs and several Oracolo lamps, which I find to be both delightfully industrial and ethereal.   

I find so much inspiration in 20th-century European design, and of course, I’m inspired by the brilliant designers who layer these pieces into their own homes and client projects.

Lead photo: Ian Vecchiotti


File Under

March 8, 2023

Dennis Sarlo is the executive editor of Chairish and a lover of all things design-related. Prior to joining the team, he served as the executive editor of Dering Hall and was the first site director of Architectural Digest. He was also part of the founding team of travel startup Jetsetter. He lives in New York.