A Chicago Garden Unit Is Bright and Full of Vintage Finds

updated Sep 6, 2019

A Chicago Garden Unit Is Bright and Full of Vintage Finds

updated Sep 6, 2019
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Name: Courtney Frederick, and her cats Bruce and Pete
Location: Humboldt Park — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,100 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years, renting

Courtney found her apartment by chance five years ago. It was a cold and snowy Chicago night when a friend called her to come check out the apartment. She drove there in the middle of the night, barely making it on time after her car got stuck in the snow. The apartment had been vacant for a year, so the windows were covered with newspaper and the kitchen cabinets were in terrible shape. Because it was empty for so long, the electricity was shut off, so Courtney used her phone’s flashlight to look around. “Have you ever looked at an apartment in the pitch black without heat? It’s not great,” she says. Despite that, Courtney took a chance and moved in, transforming it into a warm and beautiful space she now shares with her two cats, rescued plants, and her favorite possessions.

Upon move in, Courtney had a bit of work to do on the garden unit apartment. She painted the drab walls, fixed the stove, and tried to cover up any blemishes throughout the space. This was quite the accomplishment for someone who was never really a handy person. “I put so much work into this apartment, it feels like mine.” Courtney says.

Despite those issues, Courtney is happy with her decision and doesn’t regret moving in. She loves the layout, the huge living room windows, the cheap price point, and the fact that it’s a small building. “All my neighbors have lived here for 40 years or more,” she says. “It’s the first neighborhood I’ve lived in where my neighbors know my name and we say ‘hi’ on the street.” That community feel is just one thing that makes her apartment feel warm, cozy, and calm — a far cry from the dark and dingy space she saw that cold January night.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Muted. Calm. Vintage Basement.

Inspiration: I feel inspired by finding then reusing old pieces. I rarely buy new. I don’t have many things but each of them has a story about how they got here. The stories are important to me because they fill up the space just as much as my things.

Favorite Element: The fake washed brick paneling in the living room is really a masterpiece. It is hard to miss the gigantic seams that run up to the eleven-foot ceiling, but surprisingly it’s been mistaken for real brick more than once. I really love it. It’s the perfect kind of tacky.

Biggest Challenge: If you look closely (please don’t), you will notice foundation cracks along the ceiling. The ceiling cracks would eventually spider down the walls and I obsessively tried to fix them. Somehow they always came back, just in different spots. So I gave up. I barely notice them anymore.

What Friends Say: “A place for everything. Everything in its place.” Which is true. If something in my house doesn’t have a place, I don’t have it in my house anymore. Unless it’s a plant. I always keep a plant.

Biggest Embarrassment: The kitchen seems the least like me. Nothing seems to match and the light just isn’t quite right.

Proudest DIY: A couple years ago, I taught myself to tile and caulk a shower. Just this week I fixed the furnace. I am always having to touch-up the second-hand things I buy, so I’ve gotten really good at fixin’ stuff.

Biggest Indulgence: Rescue plants. I will always buy the saddest looking plant at the store. I also love buying someone else’s house plants from an estate sale. I bought a mystery cactus recently that was abandoned at a plant shop by some man. They told me to call them if I ever figure out what it is.

Best Advice: Always do a smell check before you bring it home.

Dream Sources: Estate sales, yard sales, church rummage sales — I really love a good sale. An affordable resale shop is my dream. I like to thrift and dig through basements to find things that haven’t been touched in years. If I am not rescuing a plant, I am buying it at Adams and Son, a neighborhood favorite, or at the Garfield Park Conservatory plant sale.


Blue chair — Brass Cactus Vintage
Evil Eye — Gifted
Rug — Village Discount

Bookshelf — Yard sale
Bar ware — Salvation Army
Blue chairs —Estate sale
Coffee table — Amazon
Couch — Value City Furniture
Old sewing table/bar — Rummage sale
Pillows — Estate sales
Plants — Adams and Son; Garfield Park Conservatory
Record player — Target
Record stand — Estate sale
Rug — Grandparent’s basement
Similar brick paneling — Home Depot
Upright accordion — Thrift store

Brass shelving unit — Estate sale
Curtains — Fabric from estate sale
Plants — Adams and Son
Small rug — IKEA
Table — Thrift store
Wooden vegetable holder — Estate sale

Blankets — Estate sales
Cacti — Adams and Son; Garfield Park Conservatory
Chairs — Village Discount Outlet
Dresser and matching mirror — Estate sale
Fig tree — Estate sale
Hanging light — IKEA
Linens — IKEA
Paint color (walls): Glidden Seal Grey
Side table — Built by my dad

Candle — World Market
Plants — Adams and Son
Scale — Estate sale
Shower curtain — Blair
Swan wall piece — Estate sale
Woman and Dog wall piece — Space Oddities

Thanks, Courtney!

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