Kelly and Michael’s Light and Bright Abode

published Apr 27, 2012
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Name: Kelly and Michael
Location: Hyde Park, Chicago, IL
Size: 1,480 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; rented

The last word that one probably wants to use in reference to one’s home is “clinical,” but according to Kelly, that’s what the space felt like when she and her husband Michael moved into their university-provided housing three years ago. Anyone else may have felt daunted by the linoleum flooring and austere white walls, but in the face of these challenges, Kelly and Michael have managed to create a serene and stylish home brimming with personality.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Instead of focusing on the potential drawbacks of the apartment, Kelly and Michael saw all the possibilities offered by its ample space, large windows, and the relatively open flow between rooms. They’ve made the most of the abundant sunlight (and the stunning views of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan), keeping the rooms light and airy.

Above all, their home is an exercise in balance. In the bedroom, Kelly and Michael have kept the furnishings limited, but what’s there is cozy, chic, and inviting. Mid-century style runs throughout the space, but these vintage aspects are tempered by the addition of more contemporary furnishings. And Kelly’s ability to tastefully parcel out color means that the apartment maintains a nice visual balance between neutral and invigorating. To my mind, the office offers the clearest example of their combinatory prowess. A red-orange rug offers a shot of vibrant color and lush texture while the clean lines of the furniture keep the space feeling orderly, making for the perfect blend of comfort and efficiency.

Such a careful distribution of elements makes the apartment feel sophisticated and simple, while still being full of character. With some coffee, conversation, and Red House Painters on the stereo, I felt thoroughly comfortable in Kelly and Michael’s home, and I can attest that no trace of that clinical feeling remains. By embracing its best features, Kelly and Michael have created an inviting home that strikes a remarkable balance between interest and ease.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style/ Inspiration: (Kelly) The ranch house I grew up in in northern Indiana. My late mother was self-taught in mid-century modern design; my favorite pieces in our home were once hers. I’ve tried to imitate what I loved about our old house: the natural light, a big library, plants, and a good stereo.

Favorite Element: All the windows, crown moulding (though it has been painted over many, many times), built-in bookshelves, and large rooms.

Biggest Challenge: The cruddy-looking tile flooring; but because we’ve been able to mask it (or distract from it), most friends don’t even notice it right away.

What Friends Say: “Great view,” and “Is this really university housing?”

Biggest Embarrassment: Our building is old, so the problems are pretty standard — the walls crack and paint chips off the moulding on a regular basis, but it’s not that bad, so we don’t complain!

Proudest DIY: The dresser in the bedroom — wanting a White Attic-like dresser, we bought this off Craiglist for a steal, and then sanded it, painted the top and sides and stained the front of the drawers. For any real DIY-er, this is less impressive, but painting several rooms and hanging IKEA shelving in the kitchen made us feel pretty proud of ourselves, too.

Biggest Indulgence: Rugs and reupholstering several items, both of which we did over a period of years because of the cost. However, we highly recommend the people who did the reupholstering: Slipcover Plus, a family-run business in Oak Park. They are reasonably priced, will pick up and return your piece of furniture for a flat fee, and can make custom slip covers or completely reupholster just about anything.

Best Advice: Don’t push all your furniture up against the walls; repeat “themes” throughout rooms so there’s some uniformity but each space still has its own look and feel; and always hang art a little higher than you think you should. All good advice from my dear friend Bethany Adams!

Dream Sources: Blu Dot, Scout Chicago, Unison Home, NYC Craigslist.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Sofa: Macy’s
    • Coffee table: Craigslist
    • Throw blanket: Missoni for Target
    • Pillows (on couch and armchairs): custom covers sewn by our dry cleaner using IKEA and gifted fabric
    • Tall white floor lamp: IKEA, rewired when it broke with a new shade from A Lamp and Fixture Chicago
    • Draperies: West Elm
    • Small wool rug: Crate & Barrel, via Craigslist
    • Large sisal rug: Crate & Barrel
    • Pair of armchairs: family hand-me-down, reupholstered with fabric from Fishman’s
    • Side table: Knoll knockoff, via Craigslist
    • Arc lamp: CB2
    • White cube table: Crate & Barrel
    • TV cabinet: CB2, via Craigslist
    • Yellow lamp: thrift store
    • Rocker: Eames re-issue, via Craigslist, with IKEA sheepskin
    • Cocktail table between the bookshelves: family hand-me-down
    • Bookshelf/console behind couch: Craigslist (then sanded and stained)


    • Dining table and chairs: IKEA
    • Rug: Overstock
    • Pendant lamp: CB2
    • China hutch/cabinet: family hand-me-down
    • China: Russel Wright “American Modern,” inherited



    • Bed: IKEA
    • Bed linens: West Elm and Crate & Barrel
    • Bedside tables: Lane, via Craigslist
    • Grey lamps: IKEA
    • Draperies: IKEA
    • Green jute rug: Crate & Barrel outlet
    • Side chair: Randolph Street Market, reupholstered with leather from Fishman’s
    • Dresser: Craigslist, then painted and stained
    • Round mirror: IKEA
    • Small wood-base lamp: thrift store, rewired by A Lamp and Fixture
    • Striped runner: Crate & Barrel


    • Daybed: Craigslist, slipcovered with fabric from Fishman’s Chicago; with IKEA pillows
    • Footstool: thrift store, with new legs from Ace Hardware online
    • Wall sconce: George Nelson bubble lamp, via YLighting
    • Mark Rothko lithograph: MoMA Design Store
    • Bookshelves: IKEA
    • Desk: West Elm, with CB2 lamp
    • Desk chair: Randolph Street Market, reupholstered with leather from Fishman’s
    • Orange rug: Crate & Barrel
    • Black and white rug: bought from a friend

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Kelly and Michael!

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