Category Archives: house tour

A Final Tour: Saying Goodbye to the City Condo

Rogers Park Chicago Condo

On February 20, 2007, The Mister and I signed the closing documents for our first home together – a modest vintage condo on the far north side of the city. It was the Mister’s big birthday (I won’t say which but it ended in a zero) and we were confident that by purchasing property we were taking our first big step toward financial security. The housing market had been going gangbusters for the first few years of the early 2000’s and this small, rehabbed condo in an up-and-coming neighborhood was what we could comfortably afford. We reasoned that with the strong housing market we’d be able to trade up to a larger condo within a few years.

And then there was a little thing called the recession. Housing values dropped, businesses closed and, well, our best laid plans were thrown off track. The little condo that we thought we’d sell within five years instead became our home for the next ten. While many of the condo units in our building were lost to foreclosure and some other owners went the short-sale route, The Mister and I decided to hang tight. We weren’t willing to sacrifice our credit ratings to be able to move on. And, in some ways, that actually worked to our advantage.

I feel like I should be serenading the condo with “To Sir with Love.” For this little home has certainly taken me from crayons to perfume in terms of design. When we bought the condo ten years ago I was just beginning to invest in my interest in home design. Buying the condo was perfectly timed to coincide with my urge to nest. I also started writing for a design blog soon after we moved in, giving me a platform for documenting decorating the condo.

It took about seven years to finally find the perfect look for the condo. Each of the three rooms went through four or five design iterations along the way. There was the time I lined the walls with fabric “wainscoting” and turned the largest of the three rooms into a formal dining room. Or the period when the bedroom was Tiffany blue and we slept on a captain’s bed that was so tall that it came with steps.

As a longtime renter, it was a refreshing challenge to re-invent the condo every couple of years. I had been accustomed to moving every year or so and thus creating a necessary purge and redesign period. This condo was the first time in my adult life where we were locked into something. Since we couldn’t start over, I redesigned.

And then eventually I got the condo exactly where I wanted it. All of the rooms made sense in form, function and style. From the plumbing pipe shelves to the wood-filled mantel/entertainment center, I couldn’t bring myself to make one more change to the space. That was when we bought the Delbert Meier House. Having a big old house that is an ongoing project took my focus off the condo and allowed us to just live in the space for a couple years.

Well, now, ten years later, we’re finally moving out of the condo completely. My oldest and dearest friend is moving to the city and, in a case of absolute perfect circumstances, is renting our condo. We had long considered moving out of the condo and renting it out, but until my friend expressed interest in being a tenant we never took the notion seriously.

In the weeks leading up to our move, I was worried that I would find it difficult to dismantle the contents of the condo. I was particularly proud of the mantel/TV in the living room and thought that taking it apart might be painful. But, actually, as the first log came out, and as the others started to tumble to the floor, I was already over it. It was a fun design that we got to live with a few years but now it’s time to move on.

So now that we’re finally moving out of the condo, what’s next? When we first bought the house we thought that we might be able to move there full time at some point. In reality, our jobs are keeping us tethered to the city for the foreseeable future. And so we’re renting an apartment in the city and will continue to travel back and forth between city and country.

I’ll have more to share on our new city digs soon. Meanwhile, you can see more photos of the condo on the CONDO TOUR page.

Take a Tour of Our City Apartment on Curbed

NicholasJamesPhoto-House-Calls-9

We spend so much time thinking about and working on This American House that it’s easy to forget how much work we put into our city apartment. Fortunately, little things like a house call on Curbed are there to remind us that that work was not in vain.

We opened up the apartment to Nick Fochtman, a super talented interiors photographer, about a month ago and then played the waiting game until the post went live on Curbed. Nick did an amazing job in making the apartment seem much larger than it actually is. On the day of the photo shoot I left him alone in the apartment to do his work. I took a walk around the neighborhood for about an hour and then returned to find him just finishing up. I had no idea how the apartment would look through his lens. That it looks so incredibly stylish and spacious is quite a delight!

NicholasJamesPhoto-House-Calls-2-thumb

I think the title of the post – How One Couple Rode Out the Recession and Transformed Their Rogers Park Home – perfectly encapsulates the point I was trying to make in my answers to the Q&A. While it has been very tempting over the years to follow the lead of many of our neighbors and let our apartment go into foreclosure, we’re ultimately very happy that we’ve stuck it out. The value of the apartment is still nowhere near what we paid for it in 2007 but we’re still proud to call it home. I’m proud of all the projects I’ve completed that have come together to make the apartment feel comfortable yet handsome. And, most importantly, had we let the apartment go into foreclosure we wouldn’t have been able to get a mortgage for This American House.

One funny thing about this house call is that just one month later the apartment looks totally different. About a week after we had Nick over for the photo shoot I got the itch to redecorate. Such is life with me – our homes are in a constant state of evolution. I’ve rearranged some furniture and started working on a project that is going to transform the mantel into something a little more useful. Stay tuned for more details on those projects soon.

Meanwhile, take a tour of our apartment on Curbed and let us know what you think!

House Tour: Making Progress After 4 Months of Ownership

Tour of Mr. and Mr. Blandings' houseIt seems impossible that we’ve already owned the Dream House for four months and yet the math all adds up. We closed on the house in mid-November, it’s now mid-March – that is indeed four months! In our day-to-day lives it feels like we haven’t made much progress at all. But then every now and then we’re able to step back and really see how the house is coming together. And you know what? It IS coming together!

Continue reading

House Tour: A Tour of the Dream House (As-Is)

house-tour19

Mr Blandings and I spent our Thanksgiving weekend walking around the dream house, cleaning, working on projects, knocking back Bloody Marys and pinching ourselves to prove that it’s not just a dream. If you had been near the house you might have heard, “We bought a house!” being exclaimed every hour or so.

Now Mr. Blandings has gone back to the city for his day job and I’m staying behind at the dream house to work on projects. After spending the weekend together in the house, it feels empty and lonely without Mr. Blandings. One of the intentions behind the dream house was to give us a place to devote to us. We did plenty of that this weekend, which explains the vacuum of good tiding in the wake of the mister’s departure.

This seems like a perfect time to give you a tour of the dream house. I want to show you all what we’re working with and it will remind me of all possibilities (and work) that lie ahead of us.

Continue reading