Kathryn and Finn's "Designed-Around" Bungalow

Kathryn and Finn's "Designed-Around" Bungalow

Carolyn Purnell
Sep 28, 2012

Name: Kathryn, Finn, Emmeth and Roan
Location: Oak Park, IL
Size: 1,600 sq ft
Years lived in: 9 years; owned

Fixing up a century-old bungalow is not always easy—especially when it seems that the former owners had a love of all that was sickly pink—but Kathryn and her family have managed to "design around" plenty of nooks, crannies, narrow rooms, storage shortages, and low ceilings to create a home that's perfect for their fun-loving family.

The first thing that you see upon entering the home is a curvy, tufted, white-legged sofa that's been reupholstered in a modern, gray, floral fabric. For me, this item immediately captured the family's style: traditional, soothing elements with a funky, fun edge. For example, the family room is home to a playful herringbone rug whose busy-ness is tempered by a wall of soft, flowing curtains and neutral, nature-inspired decorative objects. The office is filled with artwork and bold graphics, but the classic lines of the accents and accessories, the soft color palette, and the natural wood of the desk ground the space, giving it a light, comfortable feel. In short, the whole home strikes an admirable balance between cozy familiarity and buoyant creativity.

In the attic, the master and kids' rooms are laid out in an open, loft-style arrangement, but the clever use of wardrobes and a reading nook on Emmeth's side and a yellow barn door on Roan's side help the spaces feel separated and private. The kids' rooms were recently renovated, and Kathryn gave both of them the chance to decide how their rooms should look and feel. Roan, the inventor of the family, responded that he wanted "circuits, gears, rainbows, and really green," and Emmeth, who loves fairies and fantasy, gave only the mandate, "Purple." With these somewhat difficult guidelines, Kathryn managed to turn both nooks into bright, playful spaces that suit both kids' personalities to a T, while still offering places to read, invent, do homework, and play. (See more of Emmeth's Attic Nook here.)

This is a busy, imaginative family. Kathryn, the education director for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, also blogs and does some freelance design, and Finn, who works full-time, lends his spare time and handyman skills to home renovations and DIY projects. Add two dynamic children (one of whom is home-schooled), and you have a recipe for a full plate. But with all these talents and energies, their home still felt remarkably relaxed. It may have required a lot of work-arounds over the years, but there's no question that this house is now home to a family who, while constantly on-the-go, knows how to appreciate it to the fullest.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Hmmm, eclectic mid-century-ish?

Inspiration: A ridiculous number of blogs, Dwell, House & Home, Room and Board, West Elm

Favorite Element: The gray couch is still a big favorite and the kitchen wallpaper of course.

Biggest Challenge: The narrow rooms (only 10 feet wide) and complete lack of level anywhere.

What Friends Say: "Where did you find this?"

Biggest Embarrassment: Nothing is finished, we get things to the point where they are no longer hideous and just move on to the next big project. There are still a lot of places where we need to finish projects, such as rooms that lack baseboard, drywall holes over the stairs, a former roof leak in the dining room. It's all a work in progress.

Proudest DIY: The barn door and steel bed we upholstered for a new look. And the dining room light.

Biggest Indulgence: The kitchen wallpaper.

Best Advice: Experiment and take risks. It's just furnishings; you can always sell them if they don't work. Paint is cheap and walls aren't always permanent.

Dream Sources: Jayson Home and Garden, DWR, Modernica, estate sales. Most of those pieces simply won't fit in my home though, which makes it easier.

Resources of Note:


    • Paint: Pensive Sky & Gray Sage, Behr
    • Gray chair: Craigslist with Room and Board fabric
    • Gray couch: Brown Elephant thrift with IKEA fabric
    • Magazine table: Room and Board
    • Desks: World Market
    • Stools: Overstock
    • Lamp: cb2
    • Fireplace décor: West Elm
    • Brown sofas: Room and Board
    • Console: Brown Elephant
    • Shelves: The Container Store
    • Side table: Room and Board
    • Side table: Urban Outfitters
    • Décor on console: West Elm, Jayson Home, cb2
    • Lamp: West Elm
    • Chevron Rug: Rugs USA
    • Coffee table: cb2
    • Art over TV: 20x200
    • Art over console and brown sofa: owner painted/ collage of child's preschool paintings
    • Green rug: Flor
    • Décor on desks: West Elm terrarium, Target horse head (painted), HomeGoods lamp
    • Pillows (bird, linen, and fuzzy): West Elm
    • Triangles pillow: cb2
    • Damask throw and & pillow: Target
    • Striped throw: West Elm
    • Dwell Studio bird fabric pillow: Etsy
    • Sheepskin: IKEA
    • Tray: West Elm
    • White Planter: Crate and Barrel


    • Paint: Enamelware, Martha Stewart matched to Behr
    • Wooden desk: World Market
    • Painted desk: built by owners
    • Green chairs: from family
    • White chair: Advanced Interior Designs
    • Yellow lamp: Target
    • Bookshelves: IKEA
    • White organizers: IKEA
    • Bulletin board: thrifted, mod green pod fabric
    • Grey filing drawers: IKEA
    • Trash bin: World Market
    • Rug: IKEA
    • Curtains: Fabric.com
    • Art: Trees—Lisa Congdon; kids' art work, others via Etsy— Anna Tillet Designs, Shirae, School of the Art Institute Sale


    • Paint: Quiet Moments by Benjamin Moore
    • Curtains: IKEA
    • Bed: Craigslist
    • Duvet: IKEA
    • Pillows: IKEA, West Elm, Target
    • Rug: IKEA
    • Dresser: thrifted
    • Side table: World Market
    • Tray: West Elm
    • Pitcher: IKEA
    • Lamp: HomeGoods
    • Tall lamp: IKEA
    • Rectangular planter: Carriage House Flowers
    • Art: Dorothy Parker quotation—Nicole Balch, Eye Chart— FriliChili Design on Etsy


    • Paint: Dill Pickle and Pale Sea Mist by Benjamin Moore
    • Wallpaper: Graham and Brown
    • Curtains: IKEA
    • Blinds: Target
    • Light fixture: made by Finn from directions in Ready Made several years ago
    • Table: World Market
    • Shelves: Overstock
    • Rug: Flor
    • Upholstered bench: World Market
    • White bench: IKEA
    • Chairs: Advanced Interior Designs
    • Art: by owner
    • Lamp: TJ Maxx
    • Rug (used as runner) & tray: West Elm
    • Print: Just Eleanor design

(Designed by Making It Lovely)

    • Paint: Enamelware by Martha Stewart
    • Bed: Room and Board, upholstered in IKEA fabric
    • Wardrobes: IKEA
    • Nightstands: thrifted
    • Gateleg table: from family
    • Chairs: Craigslist
    • Dressers: IKEA
    • Pouf: Etsy
    • Rug: Overstock
    • Bedding: IKEA, West Elm, Target
    • Bench: Craigslist
    • Striped tray: IKEA
    • Small bowl: Anthropologie
    • Owls: HomeGoods
    • Bookshelves: IKEA
    • Reading print: Etsy
    • The End bookend: cb2
    • Plants: IKEA
    • Vase: West Elm
    • Lamps: Crate and Barrel
    • Curtains: IKEA
    • Tray: West Elm
    • Green octagon: cb2
    • Small vases: cb2
    • Barn door hardware: Stanley Doors (door built by owner)


    • Bed: Room and Board
    • Desk: thrifted
    • Brown chair: Room and Board
    • Gray shelving: IKEA
    • Gray bins: The Container Store
    • Bean bag: Land of Nod
    • Rug: West Elm
    • Green chair: from family
    • Gray side table: IKEA
    • White side table: Urban Outfitters
    • Decals: Vinyltastic on Etsy
    • Curtains: Land of Nod, IKEA
    • Duvet: Company Store
    • Quilt and sheets: Land of Nod
    • Chevron pillow: Posh Street Pillows on Etsy
    • Prints: Finny and Zook on Etsy


    • Headboard: thrifted
    • Dresser: thrifted, painted in True Aqua from Behr; handles sprayed in Rustoleum's Grape
    • Desk: IKEA
    • Lamp: Target
    • Magnet board: The Container Store
    • Chair: The Container Store
    • Bedding: Pottery Barn Teen
    • Quilt: Land of Nod
    • Curtains: Needle Shop fabric
    • Fairies: Schleich
    • Hooks and curtain tie-backs: Urban Outfitters
    • Side table: Pottery Barn Teen
    • Fairy Print: Bealoo on Etsy


    • Sofa: IKEA
    • Rug: Crate and Barrel
    • Storage shelves: IKEA
    • Clear bins: The Container Store
    • Swings/ rungs: IKEA
    • Table: cb2
    • Green chair: Craigslist
    • Console: Brown Elephant
    • Craft desk: Land of Nod
    • Craft shelves: The Container Store

Thanks, Kathryn & Finn!

(Images: Carolyn Purnell)

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