Taryn & Sanford's Unflappable Abode

House Tour

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Name: Taryn & Sanford Parker (and their dog Iris and cat Tron)
Location: Logan Square; Chicago, Illinois
Size: 2,000 square feet
Years lived in: 3.5 years; owned

It's almost unimaginable. You buy a house, and a few days before you're slated to move in, some hooligans break in and burn the interior, and you are faced with a gut rehab of what you thought would be a virtually move-in-ready space. This is what happened with Taryn and Sanford, but armed with the required homeowners' insurance, creativity, and patience, they seized the opportunity. Now, 3.5 years later, their home is better than they could have ever imagined.

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During the remodel, while they kept the basic layout of the home the same, they did take the opportunity to have an HVAC system installed, and they joined the basement unit with the first floor. The basement now functions as a practice space and mixing studio for Sanford, who is a record producer.

The main living area is open and filled with gentle, filtered light. Soft colors keep the space bright and comfortable, while plush blankets and a deep velvet sofa invite guests to curl up. Clean lines betray a love of mid-century minimalism, but ultimately, Taryn and Sanford's home is fresh and modern, filled with contemporary artwork and simple, elegant furniture. Taryn says that one of her main decorating impulses is to keep everything clean, uncluttered, and calming (in order to combat the anxieties of daily life), and a variety of natural elements contribute to the home's idyllic, peaceful feeling. Antlers, natural wood kitchen cabinetry, bamboo shades, and ample plants link the outdoors and indoors, making the space feel like a retreat from the urban world.

That said, Taryn and Sanford are no shrinking violets, and their home also showcases a distinct sense of joy and humor. A giant cheeseburger takes pride of place on the dining room bookshelf, and two pieces drawn by Chicago legend Wesley Willis hang above the sofa. (Amazingly, and envy-inducingly, they found these two drawings tucked behind the water heater in an old rental apartment.) Bourbon boxes became shelves, Matryoshka dolls hang out in the bathroom, and splashes of color spice up the neutral backdrop. A scarlet dresser in the bedroom, bright red walls in Sanford's studio, a mustard yellow chair with an emerald elephant pillow, a teal lamp, and other vibrant accents keep the space interesting, ensuring that tranquility and creativity are present in equal measure.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mid-century modern with some industrial touches.

Inspiration: Anything that promotes calm, light, and comfort (admittedly, I’m a bit high-strung) but that is still visually interesting. Basically, the need to have that feeling pretty much influences everything we bring into the space and the way we arrange decorations and furniture. Finding interesting and attractive ways to organize things helps with the calming aspect. We also both have a huge sense of humor, so we try to incorporate that sensibility here and there.

Favorite Element: I love how much sunlight we get and that our house faces east. When the sun is setting, it casts this wonderful glow down the hallway into the living room from the kitchen. During the day, the front of the apartment is so bright and cheerful, and our dog gets to watch the world go by. We also love our view of the park, and watching the train go by out back.

Biggest Challenge: This might go without saying, but having to deal with a complete rebuild after the fire was our biggest challenge! Otherwise, since we couldn’t open up the kitchen by knocking down the wall that separates it from the back room (it used to be a back porch, and that wall is load bearing), it’s been a challenge trying to make that back room useful on a budget while still allowing room for entering and exiting to the back yard and garage. We had intentions of eating and reading back there, but it’s a bit small and can get pretty cold or hot. Hopefully these comfy chairs we just bought will help.

What Friends Say: Cozy, cute, bright, interesting light fixtures.

Biggest Embarrassment: Definitely the “renter’s special” black and white linoleum in the back room. The worst part is that we chose it! We also own the upstairs unit, so while the house was being rebuilt after the fire, we told them to put in the black and white linoleum tiles upstairs in the room off of the kitchen. There’s a reason why so many landlords choose it — it’s the best compromise between affordable and decent. But we also told them to leave our unit bare, so that we could take our time in choosing something and lay it down ourselves. They got it mixed up and put the tile in anyway. So, that’s a project on our list.

Proudest DIY: Our patio (all Sanford’s work), our garden, and our outdoor fire pit. People rave about the fire pit, and I’m almost embarrassed to tell them how easy it was. The prior owners had left behind a poorly constructed patio with loose bricks, so we pulled them up to make that area into our garden. Then we realized we could stack the bricks to build a simple fire pit. We weren’t sure how it would hold up without any mortar, but so far it’s been working perfectly! I’m also really proud of Sanford’s work on the butcher block counter he installed in the kitchen. [Writer's note: Thanks to the Chicago winter, all this hard work was covered in snow and consequently doesn't feature in the photos.]

Biggest Indulgence: Our big comfy couch. It was actually a good price for an “adult” couch (and on sale), but it’s definitely the most money we’ve spent on a piece of furniture.

Best Advice: None of these are original, but I definitely suggest keeping walls and window treatments light in color in tight spaces - gives a sense of openness and takes advantage of natural light. Also, there are so many cool fabric shower curtains out right now that make excellent window treatments, sometimes for a fraction of the cost, since they are much wider than most curtains (and no need to hem in most cases). Finally, even if you’re renting, change out the light fixtures — it makes such a huge difference. Step away from the boob lights!

Dream Sources: DWR and estate sales, if I could muster the time and energy to scour them!

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Resources of Note:

LIVING/DINING ROOM

  • Wall color: Dolphin by Martha Stewart
  • Media console: CB2
  • Sofas: CB2 and Crate and Barrel
  • Floor lamps: CB2 and eBay
  • Vintage lounge chair: eBay
  • Coffee table: West Elm
  • Cowhide rug: Amazon.com
  • Dining table: Metal Fred Designs on Etsy
  • Metal stools and dining chairs: Overstock.com
  • Vintage Danish teak dining chairs: coworker's mom
  • Bar/credenza: Craigslist
  • Pendant lamp: IKEA
  • Vintage silver platter, bowl, and bar accessories: inherited
  • Wood tray: One King's Lane
  • Crystal decanter: One King's Lane
  • CB liquor bottle: vintage shop
  • Antlers: inherited and spray painted
  • Drawings by Wesley Willis: found in old apartment

MASTER BEDROOM

  • Dresser: painted thrift store find
  • Lamp: thrift store
  • Bed frame: IKEA
  • Print by Jane Rovers on Etsy

SECOND BEDROOM (DRESSING ROOM)

  • Rug: West Elm
  • Shelves and mirror: repainted thrift store finds
  • Painting: thrift store find
  • Print by Keiko

KITCHEN AND BREAKFAST ROOM

  • Wall color: Fossil by Martha Stewart
  • Cabinets, countertop, and kitchen island: IKEA
  • Antlers: Resin bought from taxidermist, then painted
  • Vintage Danish teak dining table: coworker's mom
  • Bowl: Cost plus
  • Shells: gifts and collected on vacation
  • Photograph by Peter J. Shulz
  • Terrarium by Bottle and Branch

BATHROOM

  • Wall color: Plumage by Martha Stewart
  • Shelves: repurposed liquor boxes
  • Russian nesting dolls bought in Moscow while on tour

BASEMENT STUDIO

  • Band posters: Sanford played in most of these shows, frames from IKEA
  • Marble top credenza: The Ark thrift
  • 1950s globe: inherited from Taryn's grandparents
  • Masks were bought during Halloween in New Orleans during our 10-year anniversary (we were married there)
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Thanks, Taryn & Sanford!

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(Image credits: Carolyn Purnell; Taryn & Sanford's Unflappable Abode)

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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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