These Owners Have Figured Out the Perfect Blend of Fun and Function in This Small Chicago Condo

published Apr 6, 2023

These Owners Have Figured Out the Perfect Blend of Fun and Function in This Small Chicago Condo

published Apr 6, 2023
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Name: Shelby and Collin, cats (Rook and Bishop)
Location: Andersonville — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 700 square feet
Years lived in: 7 years, owned

When Shelby was making the transition from renting with roommates to owning a condo, she knew that she wanted to put down roots in the Andersonville neighborhood. After she toured the 700-square-foot Swedish neighborhood nook, she loved it so much that she wrote the previous owner a handwritten letter. “I was like, ‘I’m … begging you to let me live here.’” The letter worked. Now, she and Collin reside in their small-but-mighty space, curating a sort of maximalist museum dedicated to the relationships that keep them afloat.

Credit: Layne Dixon

Almost every item in their home has meaning, whether it be portraits of their cats made by a friend or a vintage fan that Shelby picked up at a local store down the street. The sunroom acts as both a place for plants to bloom and Shelby to meet with therapy clients, and their bedroom is host to a mural painted by a close pal. If homes are haunted, Shelby and Collin’s apartment is filled with echoes of laughter, seat indentations from dinner parties past, and, quite possibly, a small Swedish child (the building was once a boarding school in the 1800s).

Credit: Layne Dixon

On top of Shelby’s effervescent warmth and Collin’s easy likability, their home is designed for plopping down and getting cozy. Velvet couches and a shag carpet offer ample space for catching up, and the study room/coffee corner provide a well-lit view of the living room and kitchen. Shelby and Collin aren’t afraid to shake things up — they’re often reorganizing to make room for more sentimental pieces and unique new furniture finds. But no matter how often the space changes, the thesis of their condo remains the same: Get comfy, get weird, and make yourself at home.

Credit: Layne Dixon

Apartment Therapy Survey

My style: I’ve joked before that my style is “gay Victorian” or “1970s academic bisexual.” Really, I like a mix of different styles and I feel like mine could be described as eclectic maximalist. Color is really important to me, and I like darker and earthy tones.

Credit: Layne Dixon

Inspiration: After I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, I wanted my space to feel like that. The museum had a lot of plants and personal touches. I’m also inspired by the work of my friends and the Space Age/Art Nouveau resurgence of the ’70s. My grandma would also take me shopping at thrift stores and garage sales all throughout my childhood and I remember her always rearranging her home, which I now do myself.

Credit: Layne Dixon

For me, home feels best when I’m surrounded by things that I love or that I can connect to a memory. There’s a mirror in our living room from Facebook Marketplace that my partner agreed to go get with me when we first started dating. I have a ton of paintings and crafts done by friends all throughout our place. I have a bean pot that used to be my grandma’s on the bookshelf. Most of our tea towels are souvenirs from vacations. For me, I want things to both be useful/functional and also connect me to a person or a memory. I think this can help when it comes to decluttering.

Credit: Layne Dixon

Favorite element: I love the cat wall we have created for our cats, Rook and Bishop. We didn’t have a lot of room for a cat tree, so we used an awkward wall in our living room to mount some cat hammocks, steps, and beds. They absolutely love having their own space and often sleep in their hammocks while we’re on the couch, if they aren’t snuggled up with us. We noticed that they also started feeling more confident in the space when we gave them a place of their own.


Credit: Layne Dixon


  • Lamp — IKEA
  • Couch & Chairs — West Elm
  • Pillow Covers — IKEA & Amazon
  • Cat Wall — Amazon & Etsy
  • Fireplace Tools / Screen — Andersonville Antiques
  • Pull-Down TV Mount — Amazon
  • Black Cabinets — Mercantile M
  • Baskets — Thrifted
  • Books — Thrifted
  • Candlesticks — Yearly Neighborhood Yard Sale
  • Cigar Frog — Andersonville Antiques
  • Art — Mercantile M & Howard Brown & Friends/Family
  • Curtains — IKEA
Credit: Layne Dixon


  • Built-ins — Inspired Closets (Ask for Lorinna!)
  • Chairs — Brown Elephant
  • Table — Target
  • Cabinet — IKEA
  • Rower — WaterRower
  • Hanging Plant — CB2
  • Rug — Esty
  • Curtains — IKEA
  • Chess Set — Etsy
  • Art — Brown Elephant
Credit: Layne Dixon


  • Shelves — Target
  • Hanging Basket — Etsy
  • Candle Warmer — Amazon
  • Art — Andersonville Antiques, Etsy, Mercantile M
  • Rug — Ruggable
Credit: Layne Dixon


  • Bed – Get Laid Beds
  • Art — Goodwill & Brown Elephant & Friends/Family
  • Bedding — Amazon / Etsy
  • Pillow Covers — Etsy
Credit: Layne Dixon


  • Table — Amazon
  • Shelf — Urban Outfitters
  • Chair — IKEA
  • Curtains — IKEA
  • Decor — Thirfted
  • Books — Semicolon & Women and Children First
  • Plants — Q Ideas & Hester & The Tipsy Gardener
Credit: Layne Dixon


Credit: Layne Dixon


  • ArtStudioByOlesya
  • RshPets
  • DuzyDesigns
  • MohiniCreationsJPR
  • MarksVintageShoppe
  • MyArtscraftsMA
  • KanthaNtapestryart
  • LeatherOCityUSA
  • JaneDoesVintage
  • EnsemblesOfThePast
  • GaloriousFabrics
  • LampStore
Credit: Layne Dixon


  • Kitchen Overhead — Crate and Barrel Kids, Etsy Fabric
  • Kitchen Sconce — Mitzi
  • Candle Warmer — Amazon
  • Coffee Table Light — Amazon
  • Living Room Corner Light — IKEA
  • Candles — Amazon
  • Study Wall Light — Amazon, Etsy Fabric
  • Study Table Light — Amazon
  • Study Overhead Light — Mitzi
  • Sunroom Lamp — SCOUT
  • Bedroom Sconces — Urban Outfitters

Thanks, Shelby and Collin!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

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