Douglas & Matthew’s Modern Apartment

published Oct 15, 2010
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: Douglas McClellan and Matthew Lee
Location: Lakeview — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: 2 months — rented

When Douglas and Matthew were looking for their first apartment together, they knew it had to be amazing. As design fanatics, they wanted a home that had enough architectural appeal without sacrificing size or location. They set off on an exhaustive search going through apartment hunting services, scanning through endless craigslist ads, and strolling up and down the streets of Lakeview looking for “for rent” signs. Finally, their search paid off.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

When Douglas and Matthew first looked at this apartment, with its exposed brick walls, large windows, and unique floor plan, they were almost immediately smitten. Unfortunately, someone else had fallen in love with it first and so it looked like Douglas and Matthew would have to start their search all over again. Crestfallen, they decided they would take a few days to regroup before they started their search again. And then there was a miracle phone call from the landlord. The application that was pending on the apartment was denied so it was available after all!

It’s hard to believe that Douglas and Matthew have only been living in this apartment for two months. In that short time they have put together an unbelievably handsome home. It helps that the bones of this apartment are exquisite. There’s more exposed brick in this apartment than on the outside of some buildings!

It’s also helpful that the couple have a similar design aesthetic. When it came time to combine their homes, it was an easy blend because they both have the same love for modern, clean lines. Still, I’m impressed that, after just two months, there wasn’t a box in sight when I was at their apartment for the photo shoot.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Simplified modern with touches of personality and hopefully, a little surprise and whimsy. Our style is always developing; we don’t believe a home should be stagnant. The fun of having a place of your own is to experiment and continually refine your own aesthetic. Having just moved into the house not even two months ago, we like to think of this as the first version. Hopefully, as time goes on, it will continue to be enhanced.

Inspiration: In a way, our home is quite influenced by our own daily lives. It needs to function for our lifestyle and be home to the activities of our choosing. From having the perfect perch to place keys as soon as you walk in the door to having the right amount of lighting over a reading chair all contribute to influencing our design. Additionally, periodicals and blogs are great sources of inspiration. With Matthew and I involved in design for our occupations, inspiration is constantly around. Also, living in a city, there is inspiration all around!

Favorite Element: Architecturally, the exposed brick, dark hardwood floors, and unique layout, including a step up kitchen and dining area, were all unique selling points on the property. The windows of the living room and dining area are large and the combination of being on the top floor and the building facing south allow ample amounts of light into the apartment as well as give the space an airy, tree house vibe.

As for a furnishing or object, the element that works best is the combination of styles and personalities. There isn’t really one “favorite” piece; it’s more about a harmony between objects.

Biggest Challenge: Both having backgrounds in architecture and design and renting an apartment prove challenging. We view certain aspects of the apartment with a rather critical eye and those aspects are typically ones that a renter simply can’t change. The layout of the kitchen, the size of closets, etc.
Beyond that, any time two people commit to living together, there is always the challenge of creating a cohesive living environment from two different people’s belongings, sometimes with opposite aesthetic. Matthew and I were fortunate that we both enjoy many of the same design styles, so that helped alleviate the problem. To make our belongings work together, we took inventory of what we had prior to moving in and decided what would stay and what would be sold or given away. From then, we were able to work towards an aesthetic goal and purchase needed furniture and accessories which would complement our vision. Aside from that, we believe that, as nearly all apartment dwellers in an urban environment can attest, storage is always a problem. We had to become creative in the ways we stored our belongings, from clothing and books to food and kitchenware.

What Friends Say: We’ve had a great response from our friends. I think what stands out to them is that it maintains a certain look, a reflection of our personalities, while being adaptable and not too fussy. Our friends seem to notice small elements of surprise and whimsy which is always nice to receive feedback on.

Biggest Embarrassment: So far, nothing comes to mind. I suppose I should say “knock on wood” that this continues. However, I’m sure we will attempt a project sometime in the future that goes completely awry. Actually, the more I think, I suppose it can be considered embarrassing when Matthew and I go shopping- for example, spending more than 30 minutes to decide on a fragrance for the living room could be considered embarrassing. But we hold our heads high and own it. (And end up with a good result!)

Proudest DIY: Managing to install quite a few wall mounted objects and having them not look like they were installed in the dark by a child. Making artwork is also great, however, most of these projects are still in various states of progress.

Biggest Indulgence: Chairs, accessories, and lighting. Basically, surrounding ourselves with objects we love. In terms of chairs, one of our favorites is an early production model of Bertjan Pot’s famous Carbon Chair for Moooi. What’s great about it is the way it speaks of dedicated craftsmanship while employing high-tech techniques and materials. The Carbon chair’s lightness both visually and physically (literally, it weighs somewhere around one or two pounds) is due to its structure. Individual strands of carbon interwoven to create a strong body and intricate aesthetic. As soon as you sit and it and really start to take notice of the details, you can see the hand-craft that is used.

Best Advice: Have a plan of attack. It helps to be organized and go into projects knowing what the desired outcome is. Also, don’t buy something without loving it. I think that’s really important. To me, it’s okay to buy something that you love even if you don’t have a place to put it- if you love it, it will find a place. Otherwise, you’ll either end up wanting to replace it quickly or it will just accumulate into more “junk”.

Dream Sources: This is a tough one, we feel like it’s a dream shopping where we already do…

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:

A combination of some high end furniture and accessories pieces from Luminaire with ubiquitous accompaniments from Ikea and CB2. Additionally, second hand stores for accessories, homemade artwork, and our personal collection of objects complete the home.


    • Sofa: Karlstad with optional metal legs, IKEA
    • Cocktail Table: Walter Knoll, Luminaire
    • Centerpiece on Cocktail Table: Bunch Vase by Naoto Fukasawa for B&B Italia, Luminaire
    • Rug: IKEA
    • Floor Lamps: IKEA
    • Bench: DIY by Douglas in the style of George Nelson’s Nelson Bench
    • C-Table for sofa: CB2
    • Wall Console: A stainless steel and lucite fixture from a retail store
    • Shelves above: IKEA
    • Accessories on shelves: Wooden Dolls by Alexander Girard by Vitra, Luminaire; Matthew’s collection of vinyl toys; Artwork by Matthew.
    • Light Scupture: Love Letter to the Castiglioni Brothers by Molo, Luminaire
    • Eames RAR Rocker by Herman Miller, Luminaire
    • Mirror: IKEA
    • Media Unit: IKEA
    • Vases: Kose Milano, Luminaire


    • Table: Eames Contract Base Table by Herman Miller, Luminaire
    • Chairs: Chair One by Konstantin Grcic for Magis, Luminaire
    • Eames Molded Plastic DSR Chair by Herman Miller, Luminaire
    • Fruit Bowl Centerpiece: IKEA
    • Ceiling Lamp: IKEA
    • Wall Lamps: Sticky Lamp by Droog, Luminaire
    • Trash Can Vinyl Decal: MCA Store


    • Bed: IKEA
    • Bedside Low Tables: Ikea Lack table top hacked with legs from Karlstad Sofa
    • Bedside Table: Eames LTR by Herman Miller, Luminaire
    • Mirror: IKEA
    • Suspended lamps: IKEA sockets with DIY ceiling canopy to conceal cords
    • Shelves: IKEA Lack
    • On Shelves: Small Fold Lamp by Alex Taylor for Established and Sons, Luminiare; personal accessories from a variety of sources.


    • Bed: IKEA
    • Low Side Table: Fixture from retail store
    • Dresser: IKEA Malm
    • Picture Rail: CB2
    • Chair: CB2
    • Lamp: Gatto Piccolo Table Lamp by Achille and Piero Gastiglioni, Luminaire


    • Bath mat: Mat walk bathroom mat by Paolo Ulian for Droog, Luminaire
    • Magazine Strap: Strap by NL Architects for Droog, Luminaire


    • Flying Hooks by Bos & Couvee for Goods, Luminaire
    • Shoe Storage: IKEA
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Douglas and Matthew!

Images: Jason Loper

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