Name: Hillary Schuster, graphic designer and aspiring wedding stylist, and Michael Kiser, freelance writer, photographer, brand strategist, and founder of Good Beer Hunting
Location: Ravenswood; Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,600 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years; Rented
Curios collected and lovingly composed unify the style of
Hillary and Michael, a Chicago couple who balance home space with work space, and ephemera with plenty of classic, quality pieces. She errs on the
side of pop and color, while he favors dark wood and vintage. They both love
Michigan, great beer and spirits, and creating a contemporary space that feels
simultaneously fresh and timeless.
A deep sense of playful sophistication hums through this apartment, mingling with reminders of history and the natural world. Family antiques and memories live alongside found objects, culled from trips to antique stores, which are
arranged and then rearranged around the apartment, along with fresh flowers and
Hillary and Michael are both creative creatures who delight in adding
to and tweaking their space, even though the overarching shape of it
remains solid. The result is a home that is a continuous opportunity for collaboration, immediately imparting a sense of welcome, play, and polish.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Hillary: I don’t know if I have a defined style. I like all kinds of looks and eras. Vintage and industrial mixed with modern and glam... everything, really. I like white and gold a lot, patterns and textures. I can’t keep stuff minimal — everything is over-styled and very cluttered.
Michael: I love heavy, dark wood. I’m a big guy, so I prefer things that feel unbreakable, and like they’ve been around forever. Even as a teenager, I was out at yard sales and in my grandparent’s attics looking for antique furniture. It’s a bitch to move this stuff, but worth it every time. Over the years, I've also collected a lot of artwork and objects that my friends have made, so my style is heavily reflective of my friends. The walls are always the first thing to go up when I move into a new space.
Hillary: Probably my biggest interior design inspiration is Anthology magazine. I love seeing how other people style their places (especially artists and makers). As lame as it is, I’m on Pinterest a lot. There’s lots of amazing stuff on there if you know who to follow. And, of course, RIP: Domino Magazine (I have all of the issues except 1 and 2, which my ex-landlord threw out).
Michael: I think I pull a lot of inspiration from mens’ retail shops. They way they’re laid out, the way a space gets anchored, and the carefully curated clutter that evokes another time and place. Especially old book shops and libraries. My grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania also made a strong impression on me as a child. My grandmother had an entire room of the house devoted to antique doll houses, taxidermy, and file cabinets full of newspaper clippings that she carefully organized like an early version of Lexis-Nexis. She was sort of famous for it.
Hillary: My favorite things about our apartment is all of the original fixtures and details — the chandelier in the dining room, the built-ins in the kitchen, the molding on the walls and the glass door between our offices.
Michael: I love looking at the dining room table from afar. All the lines from the chairs and table legs make a beautiful pattern. And we decided to keep the dining room a much more minimal space, so it has a very calming effect with the morning light coming through. And Hillary makes the best flower arrangements for the table. It’s always changing.
Hillary: Our biggest design challenge was, and is, combining our aesthetics. Michael favors an older, antique/industrial look and I like more of a bright, mid-century style.
Michael: Finding time to collaborate can be challenging. As a couple, you sort of need to develop a collaborative vision for the space first and then go after the pieces you need to complete it. The living room was the last room we tackled as a team, and it took quite a few days of looking for inspiration, bookmarking, and browsing shops to get an idea of what we were looking to do. We’re hoping to get some time this summer to re-do the kitchen next.
What Friends Say:
Hillary: Friends are always impressed by how “finished” the apartment feels — how it seems very complete and thought-out in terms of design. It was recently featured in Anthology magazine, and when a co-worker saw the spread, she said “is that how your apartment always looks?” I think she was surprised by the curation of it all.
Michael: People love the vignettes all around the house. When you have a lot of stuff, creating little places of focus is critical. Hillary does a great job of mixing things up and introducing new little things all the time.
Hillary: Ugh, our bathroom. We rent and I completely hate the tile that covers the walls. I’ve thought about just replacing it with something better and assuming the landlords won’t care, but it’d be a pretty expensive upgrade that we’d eventually have to leave behind.
Michael: The kitchen. For starters, we need a better lighting set-up. And the pantry has never been fully organized. Plus, with as much beer as I bring home for Good Beer Hunting, it’s sort of always overrun with bottles and glassware. We’re on it.
Hillary: I don’t know that there are any home projects that I’ve impressively MacGyver’ed. I am proud of how I’ve created something special to look at in almost every corner of our apartment.
Michael: The table I took from the library of my undergrad has lived many lives. I’ve used it as a workbench. I’ve put it on casters and floated it for my studio desk. And just when I thought it had reached the end of its usefulness, I sawed off the bottom of the legs and used it for the TV stand. It’s not going to impress a carpenter, but I’m happy I found a way to hold onto it through a simple modification.
Hillary: Fresh flowers. We pretty much always have flowers in our place. I need to start a garden in the backyard to save some money.
Michael: I bought a 7 foot high IKEA cabinet in the basement that does nothing but hold beer that I’m aging. It’s got about 75 bottles at the moment. I throw bottle sharing parties throughout the year to help me thin it out.
Hillary: Focus on the central pieces in a room. Get stuff you really love and build the rest around that. Focus on smaller spaces, groupings, and vignettes — don’t let the whole room overwhelm you.
Michael: Try to look at your space through an outsider’s eyes. It’s easy for things to become invisible, and that’s how a space can get cluttered and lose inspiration. Some of our best decisions happened because we were willing to just clear out a room and start from scratch again.
Hillary: I don’t know about specific sources for furniture or art but I would kill to have Emily Henderson help us design our place. She is a total genius. She has a great eye for mixing vintage pieces and she loves color (and gold). Everything she does is amazing.
Michael: Michigan in the 80s and early 90s, when there was a wealth of Eames furniture just laying around in people’s homes, yard sales and re-sale shops. Once the Internet and Ebay exposed the demand for this stuff and made it easy to get, it all just disappeared.
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
• We haven’t painted (except painting the bathroom white).
The color is just what the landlords put up...we like it—the warm color soaks
up light well, I think.
• Shield: Architectural Artifacts
• Pink vase: IKEA
• Couch: Room & Board
• Yellow pillow: Unison
• Gray pillow: IKEA
• Lamp and main rug: West Elm
• Coffee table: Crate & Barrel
• Wood and black matching side chairs: Vintage Bazaar (don’t
• Large bookcase: Pottery Barn
• Table behind couch: Michael’s great-grandfather’s
• Globe: Broadway Antique Market
• Arrows: Fletcher and Fox on Etsy
• Deer over mantle: gift from Uncle in Pennsylvania
• B&W print over mantle: Jason Frohlichstein
• White chair in corner: Eames knock-off from Amazon
• Sheepskin rug in corner: Amazon
• Mobile in corner: Post 27 (don’t remember designer)
• Plants: Gethsemane Gardens
• Media console: old desk from the library at Michael’s
undergrad that he cut the legs off of
• Yellow art: watercolor and wine painting by Michael
• Folding chair: Brimfield
• Prints over TV: Mark Brown (bought at School of Art
Institute of Chicago holiday art sale)
• Suitcase art: by Michael’s undergrad art professor, Jason
• Cat tipi: Loyal Luxe
• Table & chairs: Broadway Antique Market
• Record console & mirror: An Orange Moon
• Bar cart: Vintage Bazaar (again, don’t remember seller)
• Deer: Home Goods
• Large print: a photo by Michael, framed at The Great Frame Up
• Curtains and rods: IKEA
• Wine rack (x2): West Elm
• Yellow vase: West Elm
• Trophy: Vintage Bazaar
• His Hers Ours bar set: Love & Victory
• Print with elephant over radiator: Mark Brown (bought at
School of Art Institute holiday art sale)
• Art in gallery: various artists and ephemera (some prints
+ photos by Michael)
• Service cart (with coffee maker on it): Roost
• Basket (storing linens): Martyn George
• Art over service cart: Jason Bronner
• Purple vase: IKEA
• Giant plant: Gethsemane Gardens
• Other plants: IKEA
• Golf print: taken out of Boring Postcards book, frame from
• Andy Warhol poster: Moderna Museet in Stockholm
• 7-Up crate: Wilmot Mountain flea market in Wisconsin
• Rug: West Elm
• Stool: Patina (now closed)
• White table: Patina (now closed)
• Bed frame: Restoration Hardware
• Brass side table: Broadway Antique Market
• Wooden industrial side-table: Broadway Antique Market
• Table lamp: IKEA
• Curtains and rods: IKEA
• Large armoire: Vintage Bazaar (from Manly Vintage)
• Blue vinyl chair: antique (from closed shop in Grand
• Bird hanger: Mjölk
bedspread, striped sheets, patterned throw and hanging globe light: West Elm
• Rug: antique shop in Northern, MI
• Large art opposite bed: Broadway Antique Market
• Sea print over bed: from Hillary’s childhood home
• White chair: Patina, made from an old DIY tutorial in
• Lard buckets: from Hillary’s paternal grandparents’ house
• Roller skate doorstop: Harry Allen
• Small black drawer on the floor: Scout
• Bag on top of the armoire: Michael’s fathers from the Air
• Clothes rack: Amazon
• Dress form: Yard sale
• Couch: Room & Board
• Rug: West Elm
• Cat and dog pillow: Vintage (don’t remember where)
• B&W pillow: IKEA
• Flat file dresser: Edgewater Antique Mall
• Floor lamp, desk, desk lamp and shelves + white holders:
• Bins at bottom of IKEA shelves: Target
• Chair: real Eames chair (gift from Michael)
• Antelope poster: Debbie Carlos (via Etsy)
• Vu de l'extérieur: Fieldguided
• Pencil poster: Craighton Berman
• Trophies: Target
• Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland poster: from Typeforce
event (designers: Brandt Brinkerhoff, Katherine Walker)
• Postcard holder (over desk): Jayson Home & Garden
• Apron: Winter Session
• Gold pig bookends: CB2
• Desk: Jayson Home & Garden (warehouse sale)
• Stool: Patina (now closed)
• Chair: Etsy
• Deer head: Scout
• Barrister cabinet: Edgewater Antique Mall
• Coil lamp: Craighton Berman
• Orange stool: Edgewater Antique Mall
• Folding table next to chair: Yard sale
• Cowskin rug: Gilt.com
• Rhino poster: by photographer Gregory Miller
• Map poster: March to Moscow by designer Edward Tufte
• Framed turtle poster: Post 27
• Yosemite map: antique shop near Yosemite
• Bathmat: West Elm
• Shower curtain: Target
• Anchor door knocker: Penn-Dutchman Antiques
• Rugby player print in hall: antique store in Traverse
• Berry crates (around apt): antique shop in Sawyer, MI
Thanks, Hillary and Michael!
(Images: Alexis Buryk)
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