This Couple’s 130-Year-Old Chicago Condo Is a Mix of Old Architecture and Modern Additions
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Name: Bridget Johnson and partner Sean
Location: West Town — Chicago, Illinois
Type of home: Condo
Size: 2750 square feet
Years lived in: 6 years, owned
Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: This space is home to myself, my partner Sean and, in a few months, our new baby boy. The building in which our home is located was built in 1889. All of the units were converted to condos in 1989 and have post-modern finishes that reflect that time period. Our space has had many functions in its long history: a lamp factory, a department store, a hardware wholesaler, a creative agency, and a sushi chef’s home kitchen.
Our unit consists of three floors. The main floor houses the living and dining rooms, the kitchen and a guest bedroom, which will soon turn into a nursery. On the top floor is the den and primary suite. On the lower level is an office and entertainment space, including a wet bar, and the laundry room and storage rooms.
We’ve been renovating it, space by space, since 2016. The project is ever-evolving as our needs change and creativity strikes.
You enter our space from a well-traveled intersection on a busy street so people are surprised when they walk through the door. The calm interior is an unexpected juxtaposition to the busy exterior.
We’re a multiracial household with a love for travel. Our home is a reflection of our experiences and worldview. Every piece in our home means something to us. I am a black woman of Caribbean American heritage. My Rastafarian dad is a gifted artist and was always creating when I was a kid. My stepfather is an inspired wood worker. He made our dining room table, bathroom vanities, and the basement bar. Sean’s father is a former construction carpenter and general contractor specializing in restoration and adaptive reuse. We take inspiration from them all.
I always have a project. I dabble in ceramics and woodwork often in the form of picture frames, plant stands, concrete molds, and block print. My work is scattered throughout our home. My partner, Sean, is a skilled home cook. The kitchen is his space to create. He’s been traveling internationally since adolescence and it shows in his cooking.
My partner and I are both from the Midwest so have an appreciation for Midwestern design influences: Brick & Timber, Modernism, Prairie Style. The region has a distinct architectural impact that we are proud of and incorporate in our home.
Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Collected, evolving, modern
What is your favorite room and why? The great room on the main floor. The ceilings are 15-feet tall and, because the living, dining, and kitchen areas are all connected, it’s ideal for entertaining.
This space has seen countless parties. From my best friend’s birthday rager (there was a DJ stationed in the den overlooking the living room and line at the door!) to Friendsgiving to baby showers. Our friends and family know they are always welcome. They also know I live for a tablescape. Elaborate dinner parties are a staple in our home. Sean cooks; I design and host.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? We were recently in Prague and brought home a mug from a shop owned by a friend of a friend. The shop is called Artiseme. We like to display ceramics and spices we find while traveling in the kitchen open shelving.
Any advice for creating a home you love? Go slow. Look for pieces when you travel. There is a thrift store or antique shop in every town. On road trips we bring home bigger pieces like wall art and textiles — landscape paintings are our favorite treasure to hunt. On plane trips, we look for ceramics or serving utensils — a bowl, mug, or serving spoon are easy to pack in a carry-on. Just stuff a sock in it or wrap it in a shirt.
Host the people you love in your home. Having company is a way to show loved ones that you care about them without words. It’s not about creating perfection — it’s about creating memories.
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.
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