Liisa: Ad Agency Life in Chicago (via Barcelona & Puerto Rico)

published Mar 1, 2016
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(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Liisa grew up in Guayama, Puerto Rico, spent a few years in Europe, and now calls a lovely one-bedroom apartment in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago home. Her work in advertising is intense, involving long hours, a busy schedule, and lots of travel, but as she notes, it’s a fun kind of intensity. And after spending an afternoon with her, it’s clear that Liisa greets life’s changes as with an admirable sense of adventure. Here’s life with Liisa…

As any adult who’s had to make a big move knows, it’s not easy on many levels. It’s also a risk. But Liisa views these changes as adventures and embraces the idea of making her home wherever she is rather than feeling married to one place because it’s home. Liisa talked about the moves she’s made in her life so far—Puerto Rico→Santiago→back to Puerto Rico→Barcelona→back to Puerto Rico again→Chicago—with the sort of casualness I use to talk about going for a jog. Actually, I think I get more worked up talking about my jogging, which says a lot about her openness to change (and, er, my lack of jogging prowess). The dynamic career and beautiful apartment she’s created for herself in Chicago are testament to the no risk, no reward lifestyle. It can be really tough to get out of our comfort zones, but Liisa is a great example of someone who shows that the boldest, even scariest moves can be incredibly rewarding.

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Liisa transformed her rental by repainting the dingy yellow walls a crisp white with black trim. (Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • Job: I work in advertising at Leo Burnett, which means long hours and tight deadlines. But it also means lots of late night conversations, after work beers, and silly laughs when your brain is fried. I’ve made the closest friendships through work, so every difficult meeting, idea that has died, and missed weekend have been worth it.
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The incredible natural light and lack of clutter create a sense of calm that extends through Liisa’s home. (Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What brought you to Chicago? After I finished graduate school in Barcelona—where I spent two years earning a masters in advertising and strategy from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona—I had to move back home to Puerto Rico. I knew that I didn’t want to start my professional life there, so I started looking for jobs everywhere—Europe, South America, Asia, you name it. And then I had an interview for Chicago. All I knew about Chicago at the time was that it had horrible winters and it was practically in the middle of nowhere. Before I knew it, I was moving to Chicago and have been here ever since. It’s still in the middle of nowhere (geographically), but I’ve learned to love the city, and today, I wouldn’t be anywhere else.
(Image credit: Liisa Nido)
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • How did you find your apartment? I was looking for an affordable one- bedroom anywhere where the commute to work wouldn’t be a nightmare. I’ve always had a list of must-haves (fireplace, brick wall, character, etc) when looking for an apartment, but never hit any of them within my price range. When I saw the Craigslist posting for this apartment, I had to come see it. The location was great, close to transportation, a bit small, but looked ok. I visited three times before making a decision. By that time I had fallen in love with the apartment. It had a beautiful fireplace, but it was in horrible condition and every friend I took kept asking me, “Are you sure you want to rent this place?” My answer was always, “It has potential!” So I took it, recruited a friend to help me re-paint and update it a little bit, minor things here and there, and after just one coat of paint, you could see the transformation. It was becoming real, it suddenly had more light, and I loved it.
Liisa and her friends at a natural pool near her home in Puerto Rico (Image credit: Liisa Nido)
  • What’s been the biggest adjustment to life in Chicago? Coming from the Caribbean, the winter, of course!
  • What are some tips you have for adjusting to life in a new place after a major move? Say “yes” to every invite those first few months. Also, explore, explore, explore.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What do you like most about your living situation? I love the neighborhood (Lakeview). There are tons of restaurants and shops close by and there are always people walking around. My apartment is super quiet, which surprised me because I’m on the first floor, but I rarely hear my neighbors.
  • What do you wish you could change about it? I would definitely add more closet space. I have one walk-in closet, and I love to shop, so that reality has definitely shifted my hobby from buying things to wear to buying more things for my home!
  • What do friends say? They think it’s cute, cozy, and relaxing. Those who saw it in its original state can’t believe how it turned out. The wonders of a little paint.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What’s a typical night at home? There are no typical nights at home because I work late (and try to not be doing work-related things on the weekends). But a night at home usually involves a glass of wine, I don’t like eating alone, so I’ll usually have someone over and I’ll practice my Italian recipes for them.
  • What’s a favorite Italian meal you like to prepare? A favorite pasta dish of mine is simply pasta prepared with zucchini and aubergine.
Liisa tries to avoid weekend work (Image credit: Julia Brenner)
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What are some of your favorite belongings and the stories behind them? I love my living room wall because it reminds me of where I’ve lived—Chile, Paris, Barcelona…
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • I like the wall decor in my room (I made it). I wake up really early every day, so that was my morning project for a month before going into work…
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • The restored ladder in the living room is another favorite of mine. My old landlord told us to look in the basement of our old apartment building because there was a lot of stuff that other tenants had left behind. I found the ladder and it was full of paint and splinters. It took me about a month to repair it and make it usable, and since fixing it up it has been everything from a towel hanger to a scarf hanger. This Christmas it’s going to be my Christmas tree.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • Please leave any questions for Liisa in the comments.

Thanks, Liisa!