Stephanie & Jason's Vintage Assembly

House Tour

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Name: Stephanie Guerkink and Jason
Location: Albany Park; Chicago, IL
Size: 768 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; rented

I'll admit that the first thing that caught my eye when I saw Stephanie's entry for this year's Small Cool Contest was her covetable card catalog. Ample storage, vintage charm, and a dash of nerdy chic are right up my alley. But now that I've had the chance to visit the home that Stephanie shares with her boyfriend Jason, I've realized that the card catalogs are only the beginning of the treasures they own.

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Each glance around Stephanie and Jason's home is a treasure hunt. Some of my favorite finds include a three-dimensional conquistador, dinosaur-filled planters, cartoon illustrations of parliamentary upheaval, an arrowhead collection, a jolly ceramic toaster, and a verdant hideaway for the litter box. Thanks to their shared love of history (not to mention their dedication to lugging some very heavy wood pieces up several flights of stairs), this couple has created a space that somehow manages to be modern, traditional, and quirky all at once.

Stephanie, who works in marketing and interior design, came up with the palette for their home as part of her final project in design school. The array of colors works perfectly together, yet it also makes the space feel suitable for a variety of moods. The deep, rich hug of the entry gives way to the light, bright, and airy living room. A soothing gray bedroom is a calm, minimal retreat, and the ever-social kitchen has accents of vivid red and invigorating, minty green.

Vintage wood furniture, books, and leather pieces make every room feel warm, and a self-confessed "chair problem" means that there's plenty of seating when friends come to visit. (I, too, share this odd compulsion to buy far too many chairs, and I found myself looking longingly at some of their thrift store scores.) Jason's love of all things mechanical can be seen in the integration of tech elements (like the retro equipment in the fireplace) and the pride of place given to the bikes in the dining room.

A clear love of mid-century modern shines through, but no single era dominates their home. Instead, each room marks an intriguing blend of aesthetic elements and periods that bespeaks a love of history, craft, and quality more than a dedication to a specific style. Patience, love, and a keen eye are the necessary ingredients for beautiful yet attainable design, and Stephanie and Jason have these characteristics in spades.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Looking around our space, I would qualify our style as vintage. The apartment itself is maybe 100 years old, and many of our pieces are around 50 years old. Before we moved in together, neither of us had a lot of furniture. I moved into this apartment after Jason had been here for a year. I remember he had a desk, a couch, a dining room table, and a bike. After I moved in, we sort of went crazy furnishing the space and making a home out of it. We weren’t really thinking about what our style was, but we both gravitated toward vintage pieces. Before we knew it, we had 17 chairs, 6 tables, 4 shelves, 2 cats, and one cozy home.

Inspiration: A lot of inspiration comes from great dead people like Mies Van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, and William Morris, who believed in quality craftsmanship and living simply. Our own family is a source of inspiration. They are a bunch of thrifty, crafty, clever people with great style and abundant skill.

Favorite Element: Initially, it was the fireplace and the kitchen built-ins, but now that we have furnished our space, there are so many elements that make us happy! It is especially lovely in the evening when the lamps are on.

Biggest Challenge: Where to put the litter box! That is always a struggle for apartment-dwelling cat owners. Also, our white laminate countertops seem to invite stains and are a constant source of woe. Whoever thought that finish was a good idea?

What Friends Say: “I love your home!” and usually something about the card catalogs.

Biggest Embarrassment: The floors. They need to be re-finished so badly! Our landlord won’t do it now that our stuff is moved in so, alas, we have to make do and try not to think about it.

Proudest DIY: We haven’t done anything extraordinary in the world of DIY, but we did attempt to make a concealed container for our cats’ litter box (oh the litter box!), dubbed the “cat garden”. We made a garden bed to house our cats’ litter boxes. We built a table top above it where we put our potted plants. It has been quite a success — perhaps too successful, as the cats haven taken over the soil around their box, thus thwarting any real gardening attempts.

Biggest Indulgence: The card catalogs. I bought them right after I finished grad school and had no money to do so, but I just couldn’t resist! We had to hire movers to transport them. According to the men doing the heavy lifting, the catalogs were harder to move than pianos.

Best Advice: When it comes to furnishing your space, be patient. I hate furniture showrooms that spoon-feed living room sets to people. I know it is supposed to make life easier, but everyone has their own preferences and their own style. Don’t be afraid to take your time and figure out what you like and what you need. After all, it’s your money and it’s your home!

Dream Sources: I don’t care too much about where I source my pieces from. I am all about the quality, and I do love a good bargain. I would much rather be a dream source for my children and grandchildren someday. I want them to be able to fight over my stuff long after I am gone.

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Resources of Note:

LIVING ROOM

  • Couch: West Elm (out-of-stock floor model)
  • Pillows: DIY/ Crate and Barrel
  • Cocktail table: Family heirloom (Vintage Lane)
  • Lamps: Vintage Ground
  • Card catalogs: JKM Library
  • Book shelf: IKEA
  • Any of the chairs: Craigslist or thrift store

DINING ROOM

  • Table: Urban Nest (going-out-of-business sale)
  • Chairs: Craigslist (vintage Kroehler)
  • Media cabinet: Thrift store
  • Yellow club chairs: Craigslist (vintage Steelcase)
  • Desk: family heirloom
  • Desk chair: yard sale
  • Green side table: side of the road
  • Plant table: DIY

BEDROOM

  • Bed: IKEA
  • Dressers: IKEA (Drawer pulls from World Market)
  • Side table: Craigslist
  • Shelf: Bought off a friend (Target originally)
  • Curtains: World Market
  • Bedding: JC Penney/ IKEA
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Thanks, Stephanie and Jason!

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(Image credits: Carolyn Purnell)

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Main, Style, Apartment, Chicago

Carolyn is a freelance writer and photographer, as well as a lover of all things colorful and quirky. She grew up in Texas and settled in Chicago by way of L.A., England and Paris. Currently, she is a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.

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