This Artist Bought Her Grandparents’ Condo—Here’s What She Kept (And What She Changed)

published Mar 29, 2019

This Artist Bought Her Grandparents’ Condo—Here’s What She Kept (And What She Changed)

published Mar 29, 2019
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Name: Kim Alpert
Location: Edgewater — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 2,000 square feet
Years lived in: 7 years, owned

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Artist Kim Alpert calls her Chicago condo her memory palace. Her friend says it’s a mix of “Mad Men” and “Pee-wee Herman.” I’d say it’s more post-modern Auntie Mame—comfortably elegant, beautifully unique, and layered in personal history. It’s not unusual to walk in and find artists or musicians working around her dining table, which might be followed by a dance party or a trip to the building’s sauna or a dip in the rooftop pool. And the record player’s always on. More than a home, it’s an experience.

In 2012, after the death of her step-grandmother, Kim made the major life decision of purchasing her step-grandparents’ high-rise condo.The decision was partially driven by a desire to keep the unit in her family, but was also largely based on her love of the space itself—an absolute mid-century gem built in 1968 with soaring views of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline. Kim’s grandparents were the first and only owners of the unit, and she still retains much of the original paperwork (architectural drawings, receipts, floor plans), as well as a deep positive connection to the space—a connection she has worked to integrate into her own lifestyle and aesthetic.

“The condominium was originally purchased brand new by my step-grandparents in 1968 and they lived here through the end of their lives. I have some powerful memories in this home, from my mother and stepfather’s wedding in front of the Harry Bouras painting still adorning my living room wall, to my first Passover dinner.”

When I asked Kim what it was like living in a home with so many memories, she told me that it gives her a sense of peace more than anything, as this was a place of love and possibilities for her as a kid. And while Kim continues to celebrate aspects of the original unit—like the Bouras painting, the gorgeous chandelier, and terrazzo flooring—she feels it is equally important to make the unit her own and has begun thoughtful renovations, such as repainting, renovating the master bath, and eventually updating the kitchen. She has also converted the unit’s second bedroom into her home office, and noted that she feels very grounded when creating in a room she has known so intimately for most of her life.

In a time when the zeitgeist seems to swing between Marie Kondo-ing everything while simultaneously churning through the consumption of disposable stuff, it’s inspiring to see Kim’s thoughtful, yet non-minimalist approach to enjoying life with a lifetime of things while embracing the deep horizon between past, present, and future. Plus, she can pull off a globe bar like nobody’s business.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Folk Futurism [did I just make up a thing?]. I love the mid-century futurism aesthetic with a mix of handmade and organic elements. I deeply live in my home, so function and comfort are just as critical as aesthetics. Almost every element here has some kind of story–which to me is a function. I look at my home as a hive of my memories, a sanctuary of time. From my art collection to my plants, they all come from a specific place and time I recall fondly.

Inspiration: I’m very inspired by cinema and feel like my home emotes that—sort of measures of Wes Anderson or Stanley Kubrick sets. I also love so many little details of so many movements and designers, from Eames to Bauhaus and back again.

Favorite Element: Honestly, more than anything, the view. The ability to look out at the horizon each day has dramatically changed me as a human. I’m able to reflect and recharge in a way that can be rather difficult in a city. It’s heightened my global consciousness and expanded the way I look at time. The quiet peaceful sound of the water can always be heard, like a rhythmic heartbeat of the Earth.

Biggest Challenge: It took a little bit to really feel like this was my home. For maybe the first year, I lived like I was still a renter and didn’t really decorate. After the master bathroom was done I slowly found my footing to really root here.

What Friends Say: Usually they say, “Can I come over and swim?” (lol). Someone said my house is a little Don Draper, a little Pee-wee Herman. I can’t really argue with that. I take a bit of attitude from local people about being “so far north,” but that is a very Chicago thing. It’s pretty much the only big city I’ve been where people complain if they need to travel 20 minutes to get somewhere.

Biggest Embarrassment: When doing the tile work in the master I wasn’t grounded on what I wanted and took out the original floor. I wish I would have kept some of the original tile work. It’s a hard balance to embrace the vintage and modernize.

Proudest DIY: I recovered the cabinetry in the kitchen. I had been living with it for some time and found the original hardware. I polished and put it back on and then added burl wood coverings.

Biggest Indulgence: The condo itself. Indulgence is a good word for it. It isn’t an investment opportunity, it’s an enjoyment opportunity. It makes it easier to take on a lot to be in a building with all these amenities and to have the space to host and bring people together.

Best Advice: It’s yours. A lot of people will have a lot of opinions, but make your place your own.

Dream Sources: I’m not really sure, I feel more like a collector than a designer with my home. Some things are intentional, but for the most part it all came together on its own. I’m excited to see how it continues to evolve.


Vintage Wassily Chairs — Estate sale

Art — Harry Bouras
Apartment Grand Piano — Craigslist (free!)
Couch — IKEA TYLOSAND (discontinued) with covers by Bemz
Oversized Key Chairs— Great Big Stuff
Throw – Pendleton
TV Stand – Outsider artist; Ocklawaha, Florida

Dining Room table and Chairs – Vintage, circa 1960s, inspired by Eero Saarinen’s design for Knoll; from an estate sale
Art — “Death’s Door” by Dean Chamberlain
Chandelier – Vintage, original to the condo unit
Stereo HiFi — Magnavox, vintage

Table — Vintage, circa 1950s
Light fixtures – Lightology

Bed, Lighting, DresserCB2
Mobile – Poketo

Thanks, Kim!

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