Small Cool 2009: James V's Little Big City Home

Little Division #23

Who Lives There: James V and his black pug named Floyd
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Size: 790 square feet

What is your one favorite element in your small, cool home? I love the tremendous natural light that comes into my condo from the 10-foot tall floor to ceiling windows. These windows and the unobstructed 180-degree views of Chicago neighborhoods (from the Medical District, Little Italy, West and South Loop, Wicker Park, and the Loop) make the space feel so much larger than it really is. Coupled with the terrace, I am allowed to take advantage of a seamless indoor/outdoor living space during the warmer months. The cityscape as a backdrop provides an integral component of my design scheme—it gives me a sense of being integrated into the core of one of world’s greatest cities. While being physically removed from the city center, this feeling inspires openness; standing on my terrace and enjoying my morning breakfast makes me feel as if I am already contributing to the hustle and bustle of the city.

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What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in furnishing your small home? As a first time homeowner I did not understand my personal living needs and behaviors and how my home was conducive to them, nor did I really understand my own style. I bought pieces of furniture simply because I liked them and failed to critically think about size, scale, proportion and color. As a result, I had many pieces of furniture and far too little space, (ex. owning a small dining table with four chairs but rarely eating dinner at home).

A close friend who is a designer and artist helped me think about my personal needs, and then drew up floor plans that reflected those needs. Even though I had a decent budget to work with, I ended up picking up many of pieces from second hand or thrift stores and not spending a whole lot (my side tables, coffee table, Room and Board sofa, lamps, Herman Miller chairs, art, kitchen appliances etc.)

I found inspiration from my designer friend, blogs, real estate staging photos, design magazines, architecture books, HGTV, and everyday items and materials. The stripes on the wall were inspired by the packaging of Every Man Jack Tea Tree body wash found at Target. I also used the Pilsen neighborhood and its public art as motivation. When working with small space, creativity is paramount as evidenced by my office space which is an IKEA Liden coffee table, Inreda drawer and Bravad cabinet hack.

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