A 500-Square-Foot Chicago Apartment Features All Kinds of Rental-Improving Ideas

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Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik

Name: Kelsey Kovalcik and two cats
Location: Logan Square — Chicago, Illinois
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 500 square feet
Years lived in: 3.5 years, renting

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
People are always trying to make a space look bigger, but I love how these colors and wallpapers make the space feel inviting and interesting.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: The apartment building was built in 1912, and the rumor is that John Dillinger had stayed here when it was a hotel. I was originally drawn to the exposed brick, but have learned to love the size and layout, too. I’ve spent the last three years collecting things so that the space can naturally feel cozy, especially in the Chicago winters.

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
I wanted things to be functional and approachable in the space so maintaining the look isn't a burden.

The space sparks a lot of joy at the end of the day when I come home; I’ve taken time to think about the function so that it is naturally easy to keep things tidy. My cats love sitting in the windows and the beams of light that come in in the morning and there is good squirrel watching for them, too.

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
Bedroom - I created this headboard area from tape when I was too scared to make permanent changes.

I grew up in a big house that was always filled with people and things and wasn’t always perfect. That’s the home I have strived for; I wanted people to look and touch and interact with my knick-knacks, cookbooks, and such. Every part of this apartment is me; it holds memories, phases, and hand-me-downs and it’s approachable without being too overwhelming.

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
Entryway: This ceiling is lower than the rest of the apartment, so giving it the 3/4 paint opens it up

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Cabin-y, maximal, and cozy.

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
I only have luck with keeping palms alive.

What is your favorite room and why? The living room, it feels like a welcoming space to me and my friends. The club chairs are perfect to drape your legs over the sides while chit-chatting and pillows and tables can be moved to fit whatever function is happening.

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
It took me a couple years to figure out what chairs to put in this space.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The mirrored door in the living room! I trash picked the door in the summertime knowing I wanted it to be a decorative large mirror. I painted the frame black and used spray paint to get the desired mirror effect.

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
Painting the interior wall gave me the pop of color without making the space seem as small as it is.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Take your time. Every part of my type-A brain told me to make a space I was proud of right away. But tastes change and living in a space for time lets you decide how it should function for you. I like to keep things in a work-in-progress phase; it allows me to move art, books, and things around and cater to how I’m feeling the space should be used for that season or night.

Credit: Kelsey Kovalcik
Living Room - The cabin vibe really shows its true self in this space.