CHI House Tour: Susannah and Jeff's Hyde Park Home

CHI House Tour: Susannah and Jeff's Hyde Park Home

Janel Laban
May 1, 2008

Name: Susannah, Artist and Interior Decorator (former Structural Engineer) and Jeff, Architect and Jazz Drummer
Location: Hyde Park
Size: 550 sq. foot Vintage Condo - circa 1907
Years lived in:1.5


One of our favorite things happened recently - we got an email from a reader, offering to share their home with the AT community. Susannah and Jeff's southside condo (our first Hyde Park tour!) is warm, unique, filled with artwork , interesting pieces and lots of good karma.

Transplants from South Carolina, the couple seems to have settled into a chilly city by making their small corner of it warm and cozy, summed up wonderfully by Susannah: Two rather tall people with way too many books and a love of dinner parties sharing a tiny space with a Great Dane...


More from Susannah on their place and philosophy: "Because of our respective professions, we'd turn our ˜dream home" into a construction site within a week of purchase so we bought this place because of its potential. The kitchen was practically unusable, the bathroom, scary. We did all of the work on this condo ourselves from design to construction. Small can be beautiful and functional, but it requires a lot of planning. Our furniture comes from a variety of sources: craigslist, garage sales, ebay, thrift and consignment stores. We wait until the right piece comes along - desperation and instant gratification are expensive! We believe that imagination is more important than bank account and try to live below our means."


AT Survey:

My/Our style: Danish modern, mod mixed with Eastern and Moroccan antiques

The Inspiration: Two rather tall people with way too many books and a love of dinner parties sharing a tiny space with a Great Dane.

Favorite Element: The kitchen - we rarely eat out!

Biggest Challenge: We moved from a 2,000 sq ft house in South Carolina to a 550 sq ft condo in the Southside of Chicago and wanted to keep most of our stuff! Turning a former butler's pantry into a useable kitchen.

What Friends Say: "Do my house next!" (Greatest compliment EVER!!)

Biggest Embarrassment: The dog bed is huge! The dog is huge! And he cries if he and the bed are not in the same room with us.

Proudest DIY: Gutting and creating a kitchen from scratch. The kitchen floor was covered in huge, broken, white, ceramic patio tile; we went down to the original hardwood floors, fixed the water damage, sealed any cracks and painted with layer upon layer of porch paint and poly. Unfortunately, nothing from the kitchen except the stove could be salvaged. We took down three unmatched mdf cabinets and ran alder hardwood shelves all the way to the ceiling. The appliances were selected with great care so that every inch of space could be maximized. We filled an old doorway with shelves and a drawer with an added pullout work surface. The tiles, bar-sink, and pre-fab maple cabinet were purchased from Lowe's. We customized the grout to get a deep espresso color.

Biggest Indulgence: Upholstery and curtains. We reupholstered the daybed and the couch in a vintage mustard mohair and added leather trim (it helps to be from the heart of textile manufacturing country!) The underside of the daybed and the pillows match the heavy tapestry curtains, which provide color and amazing insulation in the winter. Susannah made the curtains, complete with leather tiebacks. The daybed and couch were done professionally and made a set out of disparate pieces.

Best advice: If we got it wrong, no big deal! We tried again; it took several tries to get the right living room color, since the light for the room is filtered through the courtyard trees. Since it's not for a client, we can treat our space as a laboratory - an opportunity to learn about our tastes and needs. It's not brain-surgery; no oneâ's going to die. It's just paint, wood and fabric. Oh, and we try to avoid credit cards.

Dream source: Wright Auctions, Chicago



Living Room:

  • All of the artwork in the apartment is by Susannah
  • The antique Turkish lanterns are from a consignment store in South Carolina
  • The Danish couch was actually found in a thrift store ten years ago and reupholstered to match the daybed, which was bought at a yard sale about three years ago
  • The rug is from Marshalls
  • The vintage Lane credenza and vintage Lane desk came from estate sales in South Carolina
  • The Eames/Herman Miller chair came from craigslist
  • All of the wall mounted shelves are either alder or painted birch plywood, custom made for the space by Susannah
  • All of the upholstery and curtain fabric came from a South Carolina textile outlet

    Dining Room:

  • The vintage Danish china cabinet is from ebay
  • The Saarinen tulip table and Saarinen for Burke chairs are from the 60's, found in a thrift store in South Carolina about ten years ago. The chairs are spray-painted a light yellow because the finish had been destroyed by primer and sun damage


  • All of the shelves are painted alder
  • Sink, maple cabinet and cobalt tile from Lowe's
  • Blue rug from Crate and Barrell
  • The clock came from an antique store


  • The bed is from Right On Futon, Chicago
  • The bedding is Ralph Lauren (a ten year old wedding gift!)
  • The vintage Rya rug and 50’s lamps are from craigslist
  • The art deco era, English vanity and antique red Chinese chest are from a South Carolina antiques store
  • The fake Eames lounger was $20 at a thrift store


  • Susannah retiled the bathroom walls and added shelves and mouldings; the existing tile were the color of iced oatmeal cookies

    (Thanks, Susannah and Jeff!)


    Photos by Susannah Olmert

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