House Tour: Shannon and Emmett‘s From Factory to Family

(Guest Post)

(NYC'ers beware, Janel's fourth post from Chicago might cause heartburn and palpitation while at work due to the excessive space pictured within.)

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Name: Shannon and Emmett
Location: Chicago, IL
Size: 1700 s/f !!

Take a powder-coating factory in Chicago’s River West neighborhood. Subtract the spray paint. Add the following: Ten years, a painter named Emmett, a sculptor named Shannon, hard work, creativity, and some really great vintage furniture. Mix in: A young son, happy neighbors (goodbye toxic fumes), more hard work and lots of art supplies.

Oh yes, and don’t forget the cute dog. What do you get? The result is one of my favorite urban family homes; a true hands-on renovation from raw space to harmonious home and studio.

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The 1700 square foot apartment has exposed brick, heavy timber beams and huge windows along its west wall. The main open space serves as kitchen, dining and living room. The two bedrooms and bathrooms are enclosed areas, as is the 800 square foot work studio. Skylights and repurposed windows set high into the interior walls let natural light into the back rooms.

Being the home of veteran bargain hunters and treasure seekers, it features enviable finds. The butter yellow metal kitchen cabinets and stainless cook top were bought directly from the retired cabinet-maker’s own home in Indiana. Classic twentieth century design pieces and vintage metal furniture comprise most of the furnishings, along with a new, cozy sectional. A small computer workspace and bookshelves cleverly made from salvaged stair treads define one wall. The collections of pottery, quirky toys, found curiosities and artwork made by friends make the space a pleasure to explore.

The couple’s artwork is created in their (always amazingly organized!) studio. Emmett makes smooth, meticulously layered paintings that impress with their scale and beautiful sense of color. He also makes wooden sculptures reminiscent of oversized toy tops. They are carved, painted, lacquered and highly polished. Shannon is a metal sculptor. Among her works are large pieces on which she wields her torch like a brush, carving pretty, delicate forms from nature in the rough metal. They are left untreated, to develop a patina as they age. The circular prints next to the bookshelves are hers, as well. Currently she is designing and fabricating original work for Chicago’s amazing Redmoon Theater.

Summer 2005 brought the unveiling of a new improved roof top deck, complete with furniture designed and made by the family. Soon, they’re beginning work on a second story addition to house a master suite, child’s bedroom, bathroom and laundry. The current bedrooms will become an office and guest apartment. This home is an ever evolving work-in-progress, and with Shannon and Emmett, the journey is always interesting.

- Janel

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.