Location: West Town; Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,800 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Rented
Ashley had quite a project on her hands. She had just finished her residency, and moved out of a three-bedroom apartment that was shared by a total of four roommates. With only a handful of furniture pieces in tow, she went searching for more space, and found a former embroidery factory that had been recently renovated in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.
Now the question was how to create a new home that suited her tastes, and that didn't look like she had just selected everything from a catalog. By looking around for local inspiration, spending lots of time shopping online, and drawing inspiration from her collection of funky artwork, Ashley was able to create in just two short years a modern and chic apartment that perfectly showed off her style.
Once you spend some time in Ashley’s apartment, you realize there is a lot to be discovered. In fact, her apartment is a lot like the unique pieces of artwork that are peppered about everywhere. One piece, titled Candy Doctor, was custom made for her, based on a survey of her likes. From afar it looks like a Rorschach image, but as you get closer you see that it’s made of dozens of stickers placed in a perfectly symmetrical fashion: fruits and plants and pastries, each one symbolic of one of Ashley’s loves, as interpreted by the artist from Flat Vernacular. Her apartment as a whole shares this important characteristic: you get one impression from afar, and another when you get close and study it.
For example, the light at the end of the entry corridor draws you in, but you can’t help but notice the row of colorful shoes all lined up at the front door. These are the most individualized part of Ashley’s uniform, which mainly consists of scrubs and a lab coat. She has to get some color in there any way she can! Two bedrooms are located right off this entry hall, with windows facing into an interior courtyard. The first, the master bedroom, feels luxurious and glamorous. It’s a wonderfully large space with ample room for a tall bed, a large metal dresser, and even a makeup table (a rarity to see in modern apartments these days). Each area is full of artwork, books and magazines, tiny objects of interest, and plants and flowers. The guest bedroom doubles an office, and is painted a most relaxing lavender color.
A guest would typically bypass
these two rooms and head right down the hallway, where they would notice the
many display nooks built right into the fabric of the space. One “cabinet of curiosities,” as I began to
think of them, is dedicated to photographs, while another is dedicated to Ashley’s
unexpectedly acquired collection of owl figures.
It all started with a gift of a delicate white figure made of many tiny
pieces, then a hand-sewn stuffed owl made by her sister, and then they just
started flying in! The collection has
grown to include several other birds acquired on trips abroad; the owl
theme has spread to other places in the apartment, such as the cute owl on her
As you reach the front of the apartment, there is an open plan arrangement in the kitchen, dining room, and living room, with a balcony off the kitchen, perfect for a small herb garden. Glamorous black velvet chairs sit around a distressed-wood table. The dining area is flanked by a large marble fireplace, a grand armoire with cascading flowers atop, an antique opium bench, and industrial stools at the kitchen counter. The living space mixes a deep purple Persian rug with bold magenta pillows and a bright blue sofa, along with the golden accents in the table and on the wall.
Overall, the apartment has the casual charm and relaxed nature of a modern-day traveling caravan. There are soft and inviting textures everywhere: tall ceilings and open space make it feel airy and light; jewel tones abound, but as accents to what is actually a very modern style; and most importantly, it is an intensely personal place, curated from a collection of travels, family history, and gifts.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I’m not really sure what my style is. I buy things I like and then figure out how to fit them all together. I like things that are elegant and beautiful but also easy to live with and comfortable. I try not to take my style or myself too seriously, so I find art and accents that are playful and fun.
Inspiration: I follow several design blogs and am always picking up design magazines. We spent a few years in London when I was a child, and my mother picked up a lot of antiques there, so I grew up in a home that was fairly traditional. I loved that she always had interesting objects around that usually had a good story behind them. My sister, Darcie, has a very playful personality and style and keeps me from being too serious. My friend Manuel Navarro is an interior designer and has a beautiful home with his partner Colt, a friend of mine from Residency. Manuel helped me a lot with the arrangement of the furniture and overall design recommendations. He was the recipient of many late night emails or text messages asking if I should buy this piece of furniture or that one… or this one… or that one… then usually an hour later… or this one.
Favorite Element: I can’t say I have one favorite. I love my Eva Zeisel coffee table. I love the combination of the black velvet chairs with the rustic dining room table. I love my bed.
Biggest Challenge: Since I am renting I have not wanted to spend the time or money to paint or change the light fixtures. I am not a fan of the red accent walls in the living area or of the pendant lights. So far my strategy has been to ignore them, but I don’t think it’s working too well.
What Friends Say: It’s a pretty comfortable place to hang out. They are usually finding a new piece of art work or knickknack to examine.
Biggest Embarrassment: I had plans to build a window seat in the turret area shortly after I moved in — even went so far as to plan it out and buy the materials. That was a year and a half ago. So now I have plywood and upholstering foam stacked in the second bedroom. My friends and family love to ask how the project is going, since it is obviously not going very far, and I get to explain it to any new guests.
Proudest DIY: Well, if I ever finish it then it would be the window seat — see above.
Biggest Indulgence: I had a hard time finding a couch I liked. It was one of the first pieces of furniture I bought, and I wasn’t sure what the rest of the room was going to look like. Eventually I found a couch I liked and a fabric I liked, but of course the couch I wanted did not come in that fabric so I had to special order it. It was my first big purchase and definitely my biggest indulgence.
Best Advice: When I moved in I had almost no furniture, I decided to wait until I found the right pieces rather than try to just fill the space because I needed a couch, or a table, or a lamp. It took a little longer to have the place furnished, but I think it feels more like my home this way.
Dream Sources: Eskayel, Timorous Beasties, Alessi, Tord Boontje, Emery et Cie, Made in Design, Mothology, Flat Vernacular, ibride, The Future Perfect.
Resources of Note:
Sneakers: Onisuka Tiger Ultimate 81s
- ‘Lounge’ Couch: Crate and Barrel
- Wingback Chair: Floor sample model Crate and Barrel
- Lamp: Restoration Hardware
- Eva Zeisel Coffee Table: Design Within Reach
- Sticker Art ‘Candy Doctor’: Commissioned from Flat Vernacular
- Rug: West Elm
- Skull and Crossbones Pillow: The Future Perfect
- Embroidered Pillows: Painted Lady
- Brass Side Table: One King’s Lane
- Paintings by my Grandmother Genevieve Ekar
- ‘Daughters of the Eryewood’ Print: Penny Arcade
- Other Prints: Eskayel
- Flatiron Dining Table: Restoration Hardware
- Dining room chairs: Don’t remember
- Thom Filicia Hemp Rug: One King’s Lane
- French Casement Sideboard and Hutch: Restoration Hardware
- Bar cart: Ikea
- ibride trays: Made in Design
- Letter A: Vintage, Salvage One
- Tin Ceiling Tile: Gift
- Print ‘American Girl in Italy’: Gift
- Print ‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 187, Dancing (Fancy)’: 20x200
- Gold Pig Bank : The Future Perfect
- DVF Vase: One King’s Lane
- Photograph: Taken by my sister
- Oil painting by my Grandmother Genevieve Ekar
- Green foil print ‘Untitled’: Tiny Showcase
- Antique Opium Bench: One King’s Lane
- Bar Stools: Vintage from Salvage One
- Clock: Made by my Grandfather Joseph Ekar
- Painting by my Grandmother Genevieve Ekar
- Frames: Eva Zeisel
- Bed: West Elm
- Park Mirrored Bedside Tables: Pottery Barn
- Kartell Bourgie Table lamps: Design Within Reach
- Glass Desk: Wisteria
- Ceramic Cumulous Stool: Wisteria
- Smaller Mirror: Ikea
- Black Rolling Drawers: Ikea
- Brass Trash Can: Handmade by my Grandfather Joseph Ekar
- Overdyed Purple Rug: Overstock
- Zinc dresser: Restoration Hardware
- Turquoise Vases: One King’s Lane
- Large Mirror: Vintage from Salvage One
- Art work: Eskayel, Tiny Showcase, Etsy, McKittrick Hotel
- Hula Hoop: Walmart
SECOND BEDROOM / OFFICE
- Book cases: Ikea
- Desk: Ikea
- Chair: Ikea
- Arion Lamp: Dwell Studio
- Gloria’s Garden Rug: Anthropologie
- Bedside table: Antique
- Candle: Glassy Baby
- Teacup: Antique
(Images: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)
• HOUSE TOUR ARCHIVE: Check out past house tours here.
• Interested in sharing your home with Apartment Therapy? Contact the editors through our House Tour Submission Form.
• Are you a designer/architect/decorator interested in sharing a residential project with Apartment Therapy readers? Contact the editors through our Professional Submission Form.