Name: Devin Kirk, husband Chad and their son Harry
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,600 square feet
Years lived in: 13 years, owned
While buying a new home and working to renovate it and make it fit your family's needs is tough... I argue that sticking with the home you currently have and trying to see it and transform it into the dream home you want might be just a titch more impressive. At least it feels that way in Devin Kirk's case. Devin is currently the VP of Merchandising for home decor brand Jayson Home, and when he and his husband Chad were about to enter a new chapter of life (become dads!) they considered moving to a new home. As you'll read below in Devin's own words, buying a new house for baby turned out not to be the course their life took.
Nods to growing up
We never intended to be here for very long. When Chad and I bought this apartment in 2005, flipping apartments was all the rage. I was only 26 and had never lived anywhere, not even as a kid, for more than a few years. Forever has always been a really hard idea to wrap my head around. Nevertheless, over the next few years, we settled in and made a home that we really loved. It was pretty but still felt age-appropriate, with the odd poster tacked to the wall and hand-me-downs mixed in with splurges like our baby grand piano. There were only nods to growing up. I loved that we had a formal living room that we barely used—we had arrived! The dining room's mammoth table was perfect for our Thanksgiving dinners with friends, no matter that it sat empty the rest of the year. Most nights, we holed up in the second-bedroom-turned-den watching Netflix and eating takeout. It was perfect.
"We couldn't picture raising a child in this place, with its linen sofas and limited storage."
And so it just seemed to make sense that 10 years later, after finally getting married and beginning the process of adopting a baby, we were looking for a change of scenery, too. We couldn't picture raising a child in this place, with its linen sofas and limited storage. So we stalked new listings, went to open houses and drove slowly down our favorite streets looking for rogue FSBOs (for sale by owner). Over and over, we were disappointed by what was out there and at some point I realized that if we had seen our apartment at one of those Sunday open houses, we would have written an offer on the spot. Sure, we wanted a third bedroom and a balcony, but we would have compromised for the good bones and great light.
A liberating idea
I had a friend in high school named Sara Brown. Sara was the friend you would talk to when you didn't want to write a paper or go in for your afternoon shift at the Gap. You could always go to Sara, explain that you didn't feel like it for whatever reason (or no reason at all!), and Sara—with wisdom beyond her seventeen years—would respond "What if you were sick?" Wow. Well, if I were sick, I would call over to the mall and they would probably tell me to feel better and they'd see me on Saturday. Or I would ask my teacher for an extension on the paper—or just not turn it in at all. Nobody would die. (No one was even actually sick.)
I was far too responsible to ever take Sara's advice, but it always made me feel better to hear it. The message was simple: This isn't a very big deal. And so, as I mulled over my dilemma one day last year, I smiled when I heard Sara's voice in my head, offering a riff on her signature prescription: What if y'all had just moved into this apartment?
"We would use every bit of the place; there was, after all, enough space for making music, binge watching TV, room for Thanksgiving dinners and naps with the dog."
The idea was so liberating. If we moved, we would donate the furniture that had seen better days and start fresh, but keep the family pieces and all the sentimental favorites. We would keep all the art but jumble it up in new combinations. It would also be the perfect time to bring home furniture that I had co-designed at Jayson Home, some years after we had furnished our place the last time. All of our souvenirs from far flung travels would stay, but get a bit more organized. We would use every bit of the place; there was, after all, enough space for making music, binge watching TV, room for Thanksgiving dinners and naps with the dog. There was even room for a new baby if we moved some things around.
Unpacked and unpinned
And so I began giving away old furniture and selling off what I could. I took pictures off the walls and patched up the paint. I brought home the Jayson Home Theodore Sofa, covered in a smart Sunbrella fabric, all at once chic and family friendly. A rug I found in the souks of Marrakesh cozied up the living room. Chad and I had been picking up framed butterflies from Deryolle on our annual trips to Paris over the last few years but I had sort of been saving them for the place I thought we might end up. No more! Unpacked and unpinned, the butterflies took pride of place on the mantel in the living room.
Needing the second bedroom to go back to being an actual bedroom, I transformed the dining room into a multipurpose media room. Equipped with a long skinny library table, it's perfect when we have ten people for dinner (and should work just as well when it's only needed for coloring books). On the other end of the room, the sectional gives us more seating than we ever could have fit in our old den. I found myself so inspired by vintage sectionals in their original snakeskin prints and mod psychedelic fabrics from the '60s and '70s I'd find on buying trips to Palm Beach that I hunted down a black-and-white marbled fabric that would give our space serious style, while camouflaging anything our new life might throw at it—literally. A Lucite console, one of my nostalgic thrift store finds, did not meet our requirements for storage in the entry, but found a new life when slipcovered in linen under the TV (did you know you can remote control through linen?!).
"And with that, our new old home is perfectly imperfectly complete (for now anyway). It's nowhere near what we expected. As it turns out, it's way better."
We remodeled the bathroom and cleaned out the cookbooks in the kitchen. We got the nursery ready, but after a year of being "on the list," there was still no baby. I'm not good at waiting. And so, feeling a bit restless, I decided to tackle a transformation of the foyer, which was still not quite complete. I wanted it to be bold—something geometric, something saturated, a wow moment when you walk through the door. After looking at every wallpaper on the market, I couldn't find one I loved, so I decided I would just paint the iconic tumbling block motif I had in mind myself. What I had no idea of was how long that would actually take. When I completed the entire first season of the "Serial" podcast before finishing the first five rows of blocks on just one wall, I knew I was in for a long project. I spent entire weekends painting perfect diamond shapes over and over but still wasn't getting very far.
On a buying trip with my colleague and Jayson Home partner-in-crime Caroline Scheeler, I was explaining to her that I thought I should cut my losses and call it quits. "Keep going," she said. "It's good for your brain." I wasn't sure what she meant, but Caroline does yoga and sometimes I see her reading books about meditation on the plane so I figured she knew what she was talking about. Turned out it was good for my brain. So desperate for this baby to come a few months prior, I now found myself praying for it to please just wait until I finished the last wall of blocks.
Our baby did wait just a little longer. Harry Thomas Kirk-Idol was born October 11th and came home to his black and white striped room (which he adores) the following week. Granted, he doesn't have a lot to compare it to, but he seems to love his new home—especially all the framed art and ephemera covering the walls, which has led me to decide he will one day have a shop of his own: Prints Harry. And with that, our new old home is perfectly imperfectly complete (for now anyway). It's nowhere near what we expected. As it turns out, it's way better.