JoAnn's Creature Comforts

JoAnn's Creature Comforts

Carolyn Purnell
Jul 27, 2012


Name: JoAnn
Location: Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Owned

From the instant that I saw JoAnn's condo in this year's Small Cool Contest, I knew that I wanted to get a closer look. Looking at a handful of photographs, I could tell that her small space was vibrant, light-filled, and downright inspired. What I couldn't tell from those photos was just how thoughtful, deeply personal, and whimsical the space was. Even on a rainy, extremely overcast day, the condo still felt energetic, bright, and as the Small Cool entry promised, like a truly happy home.

I love a home with humor, and JoAnn's has it in spades. From the brass fox knocker on her front door to the tiny mouse peeping at you from the top of the fridge, JoAnn's home is filled with adorable creatures and unexpected touches. The fact that she drew inspiration from the forest is abundantly clear in her verdant color choices, animal-themed accessories, and lush grass-like rug.

While JoAnn's condo has a number of cute elements, it's also very streamlined and chic. With clean-lined furniture, tasteful doses of bold graphic patterns, and touches of mid-century modern, the space strikes a remarkable balance between comfort and sophistication. She has created a lot of visual interest, filling the condo with a number of playful elements while somehow maintaining a fairly minimalist aesthetic. I'd wager that such a delicate balance would be difficult for many of us to strike, but what makes it even more impressive is that JoAnn has managed to do so with only one closet in the condo.

That alone should tell you how well-considered JoAnn's space is. It's no exaggeration to say that she has devised clever ways to make the most of every inch. For instance, by hinging her full-length mirror to the wall, she ingeniously used the half-inch behind the frame as a space to stow her jewelry. As I photographed her home, I also was impressed by the fact that everything she owns has a decorative element, even the items that we tend to think of as purely utilitarian. It seems that JoAnn has made sure that she loves everything in her home, even down to the spice tins and clothing hooks, and this love really shows.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Good simple organic design with a delightful twist. I hope my style continues to evolve, but for the moment, there's a touch of mid-century modern, which has been all the rage.

Inspiration: The forest. Sounds odd, doesn't it? It all started with a tree stump side table that then led to a collection of different critters, in the form of pictures and figurines, scattered throughout the apartment.

Favorite Element: This might sound trivial, but I really love my collection of plants, which add a little life to the apartment. I've enjoyed the process of repotting and repurposing random items (e.g., a wooden box, glass vase, small bowl, and candle votive) into planters.

Biggest Challenge: The apartment came with cherry wood floors and cabinets — very woody. It was wood overload. I had to figure out a way to tone it down yet embrace it at the same time.

What Friends Say: "This apartment is so YOU!"

Biggest Embarrassment: The closet is filled to the brim. Luckily, no one goes in there except me!

Proudest DIY: You might think the stenciled living room wall, but it was just the simple act of swapping out the bathroom light. I'm proud I didn't electrocute myself. The other light fixtures I left to a friend to help change.

Biggest Indulgence: The George Nelson sunburst clock purchased from the MoMA store. What a splurge! I figured the purchase helps support the museum, which makes me feel less guilty about making such a big purchase on a relatively small budget.

Best Advice: Take your time putting your home together, enjoy the process, and be prepared for imperfection. Also, keep an open mind; great inspiration can come from all over, both high and low.

Dream Sources: Hive, Room & Board, Design Within Reach

Resources of Note:


    • Sisal rug: Crate and Barrel
    • Framed succulent photograph: Etsy with West Elm frame
    • Framed papyrus: a souvenir from Egypt (a gift from my brother) with West Elm frame
    • Framed wooden card: Two Framed purchase with West Elm frame
    • Branch coat rack: Online purchase


    • Abici bicycle: Adeline Adeline
    • Starburst Mirror: Crate and Barrel
    • Arc floor lamp: CB2
    • Console table: CB2
    • Ork Thinking Cap poster
    • Paper lantern: Ikea
    • Stone bird: West Elm
    • John Kostick bronze star
    • Agate bookends: West Elm
    • Wooden doll: from Japan
    • Wooden ship: 3-D puzzle from Taiwan
    • Framed postcards: Penguin book cover postcards from Amazon
    • Sofa: Macy's
    • Red pillows: custom-made from Marimekko fabric
    • Flower pillows:
    • Metallic pillow: West Elm
    • Chevron throw: Jonathan Adler
    • Striped throw: Dwell Studio
    • Grass rug: CB2
    • Coffee table: Urban Outfitters
    • Egg-shaped vase: West Elm
    • Sandstone coasters: Crate and Barrel
    • Cast iron keys: Two Sided
    • Curtains: West Elm
    • Wood stump side table: West Elm
    • Blue planter: Home Depot on wooden stilts from West Elm
    • Malm dresser: Ikea
    • George Nelson sunburst clock: MoMA store
    • Blue lamp: vintage find with Ikea lampshade
    • Wooden owl: 3-D puzzle from the Lincoln Park Zoo gift shop
    • Mask: souvenir from New Orleans
    • Face candle votive (repurposed as a planter): Jonathan Adler
    • Framed picture of hot air balloon: Etsy
    • Colorku: Amazon
    • Chartreuse bench: CB2
    • Tosby sideboard: Ikea
    • Stenciled wall: stencil pattern from Etsy with Ralph Lauren Silver Plated and Behr Seal Gray paint
    • Cardboard deer head: Cardboard Safari
    • Potted crochet cacti: Etsy
    • Upright bookshelf: West Elm
    • Black swing arm lamp: gift from my father
    • Wooden vase: vintage find
    • Trivoli Radio
    • Eames rocking chair
    • Yellow grid pattern pillow: Etsy


    • Magnetic spice jars: Bed, Bath, & Beyond
    • Timers: West Elm
    • Magnetic steel photo frames: CB2
    • Chevron rug: West Elm
    • Framed owl picture: Etsy in a West Elm frame
    • Paper towel holder: Bed, Bath, & Beyond
    • Mustard tea canister: from Japan
    • Wooden hello sign: Oh Dier
    • Penny tiles (backsplash):
    • Kitchen utensil holder/Pitcher: Ikea
    • Porcelain can-shaped containers: West Elm
    • Honey pot:
    • Glass ship in a flask: vintage find
    • Glass soap dispenser: Anthropologie
    • Tea towels: Jonathan Adler
    • Stainless steel soap: MoMA store
    • Porcelain turtle: Jonathan Adler
    • Toast shaped cork coasters: MoMA store
    • Heart-shaped cutting board: Amazon
    • Swing arm lamp: Crate and Barrel
    • Glass pendant lights:
    • Envelope-shaped mail/key holder: Umbra
    • Alessi toaster
    • Barstools: Crate and Barrel


    • Ceiling color: Behr Spa paint
    • George Nelson bubble lamp
    • Horizontal wall cabinets: CB2
    • Table lamp: Ikea
    • Birdhouse: Renegade Craft Fair
    • Coaster: Anthropologie
    • Miniature bell: from Taiwan
    • Framed photo: photograph from Etsy with West Elm frame
    • Elephant print canvas: Urban Outfitters
    • Bedside clock: MoMA store
    • Candles: Dwell Studio and Merz Apothecary
    • Birch tree artwork on canvas: ink drawing by my artist friend Preeti Samraj
    • Duvet/Bedspread: Dwell Studio
    • Heart pillow: custom Jonathan Adler
    • Floating shelf: Umbra
    • Shag rug: Ikea
    • Arrow hangers:
    • Bird wall-mount hook rack: Umbra
    • Bamboo hamper: Container Store
    • Curtains:
    • Mirror: Ikea


    • Wall color: Behr Spa paint
    • Wooden bath mat: CB2
    • Japanese goldfish incense plate: Merz Apothecary
    • Flourish hook: Anthropologie (I hand-painted it in cream)
    • Glass shelf: Ikea
    • Mirror:
    • Clock: West Elm
    • Porcelain ring holder: Anthropologie
    • Peche perfume: Merz Apothecary
    • Chanel perfume bottles: vintage find
    • Whale figurine: vintage find
    • Small vase: Jonathan Adler
    • Blue and white porcelain box: vintage find
    • Framed picture of bird: Etsy with West Elm frame
    • Light above mirror:

Thanks, JoAnn!

(Images: Carolyn Purnell)

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