Joe & Bonnie's Light and Lovely Wicker Park Condo

Joe & Bonnie's Light and Lovely Wicker Park Condo

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Julia Brenner
Feb 13, 2016
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Location: Wicker Park; Chicago, Illinois
Size: 2,000 square feet
Years lived in: 7 years

As a young person living in Chicago, I spent many hours rambling though Wicker Park, an area of the city that used to be synonymous with art and music. The neighborhood, home to historic flats on shady, tree-lined streets, has since been gentrified six ways from Sunday. But when I visited Joe and Bonnie's 19th-century flat, filled with vintage charm and artwork, books and rare finds, I was reminded of the Wicker Park I once traversed for inspiration— a neighborhood with historic roots and an artistic soul.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Many of Wicker Park's historic buildings have succumb to gut renovations that blithely ignore preservation of vintage interiors, but Joe and Bonnie have taken a different route by embracing the classic elegance of their space. While the kitchen has been renovated, the front of the flat retains its late 19th-century character, including bygone elements such as a formal sitting room and library. Bonnie playfully noted that they "have lots of places to sit and drink," and while they will be revising their interior to suit their growing family, they are also being careful to make measured renovations and to preserve their home's historic character.

I lost track of how many times I said "stunning" while touring their space, but Bonnie was quick to point out that designing and renovating their interior has been a seven-year work in progress, and they are just now beginning to tackle their master bedroom (that is why there is only one picture of it). In an era of instant gratification, I find their slow-and-steady approach such a helpful reminder to embrace patience—with some humor and a cocktail tossed in for good measure.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Vintage architecture combined with modern decor. Joe’s work in the fine art auction industry puts us in contact with a lot of 20th-century artwork that we like to mix in with newer purchases from contemporary Chicago artists. We like the way the artwork looks set against the original vintage wainscoting, circa 1898.

Inspiration: Our inspiration comes from a combination of our love for traditional English country homes and mid-century modern design.

Favorite Element: The traditional parlor style layout, which includes a formal sitting room and a more casual library, separated by original vintage pocket doors. When Bonnie first moved in, the fireplace in the formal sitting room had been updated by the prior tenants with brown stone tiles that did not match the style of the building. With the help of Rachael Russ at Russ Interiors, we redesigned the fireplace with marble and built a new mantel that looks more vintage to complete the feel of the room.

Biggest Challenge: Our unit is long and narrow and most of our windows are north facing. We wanted to get more light into the library room, which only has northern exposure. In order to do this, we opened up the bedrooms adjacent to that room. We created a larger wall opening into the second bedroom (now the den) and put in french doors with beveled glass. This allows southern light from that room to flow into the library. While we technically sacrificed a bedroom to do this, we use the den quite a bit. We can always reconvert it into a bedroom if the time comes where we feel we need to use that space differently.

Another issue with the length and narrowness of our place was solved by the creation of a new room (Bonnie’s office) through the addition of sliding doors from the Sliding Door Company. That space behind the kitchen (traditional Chicago back porch style area) was revamped into a separate room where Bonnie, who works from home, can now retreat to in a separate, closed space.

We were assisted in finding solutions to both of these challenges, and many others, by Rachael Russ of Russ Interior Design.

What Friends Say: Given our passion for art, our friends typically comment on our art collection. Most of our works of art have been bought at auction. Many people in our age group are intimidated by the concept of an “auction house,” because they equate them with the million dollar sales of artwork that they hear about on the news. In all honestly, however, there are so many affordable works of both furniture and art that can be found at auction, starting at just a couple of hundred dollars.

Biggest Embarrassment: Our master bedroom and the master bath. We haven’t done anything yet and are in the process of painting and, hopefully, revamping the whole thing! It’s so embarrassing; we hate showing it to anyone except our cat!

Proudest DIY: The buffet table in the dining room was not originally black. Bonnie picked it up years ago at a flea market because she liked the lines. It was covered in a country pastel scene. She painted it black, by hand, and added it to the dining room set.

Another DIY (although I had help!) was the couch in the living room. Purchased it from one of the antique stores along Madison Street in Forest Park and had it repainted and reupholstered. I have attached before and after photos. Some people have told me that they liked it better before. It was pretty cool, but I wanted to update it to get a more modern feel.

Biggest Indulgence: Gertrude Abercrombie painting, bought at auction. Previous to the auction, we had set a limit on what we’d be willing to spend, unfortunately the bidding went to (and above) our limit, but we kept bidding. Looking back, we have no regrets since it is our favorite piece of artwork in the house.

Best Advice: Clean lines. Not too junky.

Dream Sources:

(And speaking of dreams)...Our dream sources for our dream cabin in the woods

  • Furniture by George Nakashima and Wharton Esherick
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Resources of Note:

THROUGHOUT

PAINT & COLORS

  • Living Room: Benjamin Moore Navajo White
  • Nursery: Benjamin Moore Lemon Glow
  • Library: Benjamin Moore Shoreline
  • Den: Benjamin Moore Stone House
  • Kitchen: Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue
  • Dining Room: Benjamin Moore Silver Chain
  • Dining Room wallpaper by Osborne and Little

LIVING ROOM

  • Couch (in formal living room) from antique store on Madison Street in Forest Park (and then reupholstered)
  • Light fixture: Lotus Flower Chandelier from Lightology
  • Coffee table: CB2
  • Tray: West Elm
  • Vintage Brass Ibex from Etsy shop domestikate
  • Yellow chair: gift from friend
  • Lightbox artwork by Chicago based artist: Jeroen Nelemens, purchased at annual Elmhurt Art Museum benefit (but also available at The Mission Projects) The Mission Projects
  • Artwork by Anne Toebbe, purchased from Steven Zevitas Gallery
  • Artwork by Richard Koppe, purchased from Corbett vs Dempsey Corbett Dempsey
  • Artwork by Robert Lostutter. Watercolor, purchased at Clars auction.
  • Claude Bentley painting, purchased at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.
  • Gertrude Abercrombie painting purchased at auction.

LIBRARY

DEN

  • Couch (we don’t like it anymore): Pottery Barn
  • Vintage chest, used as coffee table (family heirloom)
  • TV cabinet: Brocade Home
  • Piano: Alley find
  • Rug (purchased in the markets of Amman, Jordan)
  • Paintings were purchased at auction.

DINING ROOM

  • Ann Toebbe painting purchased from Steven Zevitas Gallery
  • Dining Room Table and chairs: gift from family friend and repainted black
  • Buffet table: Kane County Flea Market and repainted black

KITCHEN

  • Catherineholm of Norway Lotus Bowls from MidCentury Marfa shop on Etsy
  • Catherineholm of Norway Coffee Percolator from EcoVintage Studioshop on Etsy
  • Bonnie + Joe print. Wedding gift from friends, who purchased it at Alexander & Co
  • Photograph of Chicago by Robert Loughbom (Joe’s grandfather)
  • Kitchen table, chairs, and stools: CB2

OFFICE

  • Carl Baratta painting, purchased directly from the artist Carl Baratta
  • Topiaries: “Villandry” topiary from Horchow
  • Light fixture: Cerebo Pendant from Lightology
  • Parsons Desk: West Elm
  • Credenza, Printer Stand, Desk Chair: CB2

NURSERY

BEDROOM

  • Josef Albers “Homage to the Square” print purchased at Rago
  • Green chairs: Kane County Flea Market (originally sourced from Michigan State University)
  • Table (dumpster dive)
  • Westclox Electric Alarm Clock from Betty's Kitchen on Etsy
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Thanks, Bonnie and Joe!

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