Name: Laura Jean and Nina Gorski
Location: Ukrainian Village (Smith Park) — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 3,200-ish sq ft.
Years lived in: Owned 1 year
A red front door has long been known as a symbol of a welcoming sanctuary, and nowhere is that more true than at Laura and Nina’s Ukrainian Village home. From the moment you step inside, you are greeted with the open, honest expression of a couple who fills their home with good vibes, delicious food, and lots of great memories.
Laura and Nina were already living in the neighborhood when they started looking for a home together. Most of the homes were old brick, Chicago-style, multi-family buildings. A couple places they saw caught their attention, having recently been renovated by a local developer, who had turned them into modern gems. This home in particular had originally been two separate units, but the developer took advantage of the existing architecture and was able to completely modernize it: She placed new large windows capturing the street view; lots of walls were taken down; wood and concrete was placed on the floors; and a wet bar for entertaining and new bathrooms were installed. The outside lot was enhanced as well by a number of decks that were added—3 total decks, 1 patio and the back lawn.
The home is big and modern, and exploring it is a treat because of all the unexpected surprises: the letters 'XO' showing up in a different variations, as do those little, vintage green army men toys; Laura's collection of secret artwork by Dr Seuss, Nina's handcrafted bench atop the staircase, and etchings from Nina's grandmother in the master bedroom; there's also a screen printing room and a rooftop game room complete with a deck. Once you start exploring, it's like a never-ending maze of wonders!
Get the look! → Get the Look: Contemporary & Industrial
Inside, you are immediately drawn to the color palette of warm woods, cool concrete, white marble and blues that are reminiscent of the Lake Michigan shoreline on a warm summer day. Intentional or otherwise, it's perfect. The first floor is an ideal party space, and good thing, since Nina and Laura both love hosting big parties (their Halloween party is supposed to be legendary). A foyer in the front has a lovingly restored, large vintage wood table, a wall full of leather-bound classics of fiction and biographies, and a fully stocked bar. Surprises are best kept tucked away, which makes the powder room one of the many wonderful surprises throughout the home, with the best wallpaper of animals partying that you've ever seen.
A few steps take you down to the kitchen and dining room, and during most parties, people are lounging on the stairs like they would on the Spanish Steps in Rome (though if you ask me, the best seat is the pummel horse at the kitchen counter). The ladies saw the dining table on their initial walk through of the home and later learned it would be included in the sale; the wood used to make it came from the demo of the building, and also shows up in other fun places, including the feature wall in the basement. The kitchen opens to the living room, the deck outside and the backyard beyond that. The perspective from the kitchen through to the back yard is made for gazing, especially on a rainy day, which we were lucky to experience.
The stairway lined with photographs leads you up to the second floor, where there is the master bedroom and the guestroom along with a studio space. Up on the third floor there is a stunning pool table in the game room and down below the basement is a cozy den. Each space is full of meaningful objects, photographs and art…so much art. We even found a painting in the service closet in the basement! For having lived in the space for only a year, there are also a lot of memories surrounding the home. For example, one of the guest rooms already has a name: Eric's Room, named after their friend who stays with them a lot! And there may even be a ghost living in the home, which the ladies have decided to call Walter (and who is blamed for any creeks or strange noises).
But Laura and Nina admit that there is still much to do. The bones are all in place, but the details are ever growing. A home is always evolving, and they are keen to wait for that perfect table or chair. You can't do everything at once, they say. What you can do right away, however, is share the space, no matter how complete or in-progress, with the people that mean that most to you. With all the parties and get-togethers that the ladies have already thrown, and that are in the works, it's safe to say that the most important element of the house in already there: the love of good friends and family.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: We're a mix of contemporary and industrial. Simple and clean but with an element of fun.
Favorite Element: The view looking outside from the kitchen.
Biggest Challenge: Exercising restraint in order to buy the right pieces instead of buying to fill empty rooms or walls. We struggled to figure out how to use the top floor in order to make it a space that we use. (Nailed it!)
What Friends Say: "We're coming over. What are we drinking tonight?"
Biggest Embarrassment: Suddenly realizing how much of our furniture comes from Crate & Barrel.
Proudest DIY: Laura doesn't really DIY. Nina DIY's a lot. Maybe our only joint project is the picture wall going up our stairs, which we love and change often.
Biggest Indulgence: Wine. The pool table.
Best Advice: You can't do everything at once. Add elements as you can and prioritize!
Dream Sources: Design Within Reach. State Street Salvage (Kevin Hanley)