A Cozy English Cottage in Illinois
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Name: Christine and Gabe Bridger, Emelia and Jenson
Location: Evanston, Illinois
Size: 3,000 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years, owned
During long summer walks, the Bridger family would peer into the windows of this 1920s cottage. When it finally became available, they purchased it without even stepping foot inside. The home was not period correct, nor was the space very functional, so they opened up every wall possible without losing the historic charm. During the renovation, the contractor team removed drywall in the kitchen and bathroom to deal with electrical issues. Upon seeing the beautiful brick behind the drywall, they made an “in the moment” decision to keep it (even with the possible heat loss and crumbling). They also used old bed posts for the kitchen island, barn wood as open shelving, and turned a bedroom into a charming sun room. This home was designed to be lived in and loved — it’s charming, cozy, and inviting.
Christine and Gabriel Bridger, both executive creative directors in Chicago, renovate cottages in Western Michigan with the help of their 8-year-old daughter Emelia and 5-year-old son Jenson. Their recent farmhouse renovation has been featured in Cottages & Bungalows magazine throughout all of 2017 and their upcoming barn conversion will be featured in Modern Farmhouse Style magazine. The Bridgers, known as the Cottage Family, have a DIT (Do It Together) philosophy that brings the entire family together as they preserve cottages for other families to enjoy.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: English cottage meets Nantucket
Inspiration: Both Gabe and I pull inspiration from the past and collect new ideas from anything that we fall in love with. Anytime we travel, we snap pictures of homes we find interesting or text each other photos of design elements we come across in salvage shops. We both grew up on farms and were always around antiques, so having a love for the old has been ingrained in us from the beginning. For me, I always dreamed of living in a little cottage from childhood storybooks, and this cottage may be as close as we get.
Favorite Element: We have three spaces that we are most drawn to. The first has to be our two-story fireplace in our family room that we restored out of old field stones. In the fall and winter months, we burn at least one fire a day, so this is our cozy spot to hang out as a family. Then, we’d have to say our huge kitchen island that we designed out of marble and 1800s bed posts. We went big and broke all the rules around how much space was needed between cabinets because we knew this would be where we spent so much time cooking, doing homework, crafting, and entertaining. Our sun room connects to the kitchen and we just adore having a bright and sunny space where we can catch up over coffee in the morning or wine in the evenings. We converted this space out of an unused bedroom. Now we can watch our kids play in the backyard while relaxing inside.
Biggest Challenge: This is easy. When we purchased the home, it had been poorly restored into an ’80s modern disaster. The walls were neon colors and a lot of money had been spent on renovating the kitchen that we ended up tearing down due to unfortunate design choices and for other functional reasons. We spent a lot of time redesigning the space to feel period correct and rehanging original lights and doors found in the basement. We were just lucky that not everything was stripped out or thrown out.
What Friends Say: “Your place is so cozy and charming” or “Let’s open a bottle of wine by the fire.”
Biggest Embarrassment: The basement laundry area is the only part of our home that we didn’t refinish. I usually end our home tours before anyone has a chance to ask what “that door” leads too. We have a second laundry area in our master closet that we primarily use.
Proudest DIY: We reupholster a lot of furniture and most of it has been found on the side of the road. It’s such a good feeling to rescue something that others have given up on.
Biggest Indulgence: Our plaid stair runner that we imported from England. We knew we wanted black and white plaid but no vendors in the U.S. had what we were looking for. In fact, most said that they just retired plaid because no one was ordering it. Now with plaid popping up everywhere, they probably wish they hadn’t. We ended up finding a vendor in England that had lots of wool plaid mainly used in hotels. We spent double our budget but have no regrets!
Best Advice: Know your style, collect inspiration and create mood boards for every room. Prioritize a dream list and make at least one come true for each room or you’ll end up with a boring space that you’re not excited about.
Dream Sources: Pinterest, Houzz, Instagram, Google, salvage shops, friends’ houses
PAINT & COLORS
Restoration Hardware paint
Chairs — Room and Board
Couch and light — Restoration Hardware
Coffee table custom — Etsy
Furniture — All antiques
Light — Restoration Hardware
Range — Bluestar
Stools and lights — Restoration Hardware
Speaker — Sonos PLAY:5
Tile and cedar board — Lowe’s
Bed — Joss & Main
Thanks, Bridger Family!
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