Matt & Betsy's Color-Inspired Coach House

Matt & Betsy's Color-Inspired Coach House

Julia Brenner
May 30, 2012

Name: Matt, Betsy, and Inge (18 months) Siber
Location: Wicker Park, Chicago
Size: 2,100 square feet
Years lived in: 6 years, owned

I visited Matt and Betsy on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon, which couldn't have been in starker contrast to the vibrant mix of warmth and color that greeted me the moment I walked into their home. A home filled with jazz on the stereo, beautiful art, handcrafted furniture, and lots of smiles. I found the playful beauty of their space endlessly interesting, and I think you will too.

Much of Matt and Betsy's home is handmade, including furniture, such as the stunning multi-colored paneled cabinet in their living room, designed and built by Matt. It was funny touring their home, because so many of my "Oooh, that's great, where is that from?" type questions were met with a casual, "Oh, I made it". The beautiful quilt on their bed? Betsy. The modern wood coffee table? Matt. Fabulous jewelry case in their bedroom? Betsy. Living room lamp? Matt. It was inspiring to see how well-crafted DIY can work to create a home that is the ultimate in personal expression.

Along with being amazing DIYers, Matt and Betsy are both working artists, and their home clearly reflects their professional life as well. Betsy is a jewelry designer and owner of Foxglove Accessories, Matt is a professional photographer as well as adjunct faculty at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College, and Inge is a professional adorable toddler and spot-on imitator of animal sounds (she does a very convincing tiger growl!).

They've designed their coach house, which spans three floors, to serve as both a home and home studio. They have work spaces carved into the corner of their bedroom, a home office, as well as their entire basement, which they had completely renovated by Eighty-Eight, Inc so that it would provide a bright and efficient studio space.

Work, play, inspiration, and openness are all key elements of Matt and Betsy's coach house, and to me it translates as the type of home that feels stylish but welcoming, curated rather than cluttered. I intended to stay for an hour. I was there over three. It was just that fun.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Midcentury modern circus. We love clean simple lines but can't resist loud colors.

Inspiration: When Matt makes furniture for the house, he likes to put his own spin on things he sees in Metropolis and modern furniture stores. His latest project is inspired by a credenza we saw and loved at Post 27. I tend to like more of a collaged, kitschy look and can't resist junk shops and thrift stores. I'm also a huge fan of Pinterest.

Favorite Element: When we first walked into the open house 6 years ago, we were both blown away by the curved staircase. The outside of the building is basically a brick cube, so this organic-feeling element just inside the front door is a nice surprise. My favorite item that we have added to the mix ourselves is the color-blocked cabinets Matt built earlier this year.

Biggest Challenge: Keeping clutter down. We both work out of the house and have tons of supplies for our various creative jobs and hobbies, so it's an effort to keep our living and relaxing areas free of supplies. It is currently a few days before the AT shoot, and we have a spiral binding machine at one end of the dining room table, half-finished curtains at the other, a stack of bristol board and colored electrical tape piled up at the top of the basement stairs and all of Inge's various balls, cars and baby dolls strewn around the living room to top it off.

What Friends Say: "It looks like a kid lives here" and "Really, you made that?" We know that not everybody wants to live in a handmade kaleidoscope of a house, but it suits us well.

Biggest Embarrassment: We will always consider our house a work in progress, so there are many items that are just placeholders until we're able to afford or find the time to make a replacement. I tend to get fixated on hating something just before we replace it, and the current victim is our living room ceiling fan. I'm guessing we'll have a new fan early this summer.

Proudest DIY: Matt's is our suite of handmade furniture in the living and dining areas (cabinets, dining table, coffee table, corner lamp and plant stand), and mine is a tie between Inge's nursery and my Foxglove Accessories studio in the basement.

Biggest Indulgence: Matt purchased our green couch on sale at a fancy furniture store in River North (The Ambiente Collection, now closed) the year before we met. I'm the thriftier one, so I doubt I would have supported the purchase before we were together. Although I did splurge on our original orange fiberglass Eames rocking chair, currently living in Inge's nursery, after a good holiday sales season.

Best Advice: If this is your first home (or just your first grown-up home), don't try to completely furnish and decorate it all at once. Get a few inexpensive stand-ins that you can live with (basic IKEA goods work well for us) and wait to find quality items that you love one at a time.

Dream Sources: Hive Modern, Design Within Reach, and an endless credit at our local frame shop, Foundre , would be fantastic as well. We have the fortunate problem of having tons of unframed art from our fellow artist friends.

Resources of Note:



    • Swimming pool photograph: Jenny Odell
    • Colorful cabinets: custom made by Matt
    • Curvy coffee table: custom made by Matt
    • Corner lamp: custom made by Matt
    • Diptych above mantle and sculptures (above TV and on mantle): Matt Siber
    • Corner chair: IKEA
    • Blue-green plaid chair: 60's vintage Swedfurn from Matt's grandfather


    • Black and white diptych (on green wall): Bob Thall
    • Table: custom made by Matt
    • Vase: designed by Alvar Aalot
    • Blue chairs: estate sale
    • Photo series above kitchen: Matt Siber
    • Pendant light: CB2
    • Tall folding chairs: IKEA


    • Blue paint: Glidden "Refreshing Pool"


    • Bicycle rack: custom made by Matt
    • Mobile: handmade by Matt from color darkroom filters
    • Wood sculpture at top of staircase: Robert Wayner


    • Dark blue paint: Glidden "Waterloo"; Off-white paint: Glidden "Cotton Fluff"
    • Bed: Modernica from Hive Modern
    • Nightstands: CB2
    • Quilt: handmade by Betsy
    • Betsy's lamp: IKEA
    • Matt's lamp: handmade in 7th grade shop class
    • Matt's clock/charger: Areaware
    • Diptych above bed: Matt Siber
    • Wood chair: Knoll from Midwestern Art and Antiques
    • Jewelry holder: handmade by Betsy
    • Sewing table: IKEA
    • Sewing chair: CB2 from our alley
    • Sewing shelves and pin board: our alley, painted


    • Crib and dresser set: Netto
    • Rocking chair: vintage Eames from Green in Saugerties, NY
    • Sheepskin and Shoe holder: IKEA
    • Fabric banners and paint chip mobile: handmade by Betsy
    • Art wall (a selection): Prints and paintings by Betsy and various artists. Betsy says she's "Happy to share specifics upon request!"


    • Amazing renovation by: Eighty-Eight, Inc
    • Trucks prints: Yellow Lion
    • Postage stamp garlands: 16 Sparrows
    • Pin boards: handmade by Betsy and Matt

    Thanks, Sibers!

    (Images: Matt & Betsy Siber: 1-4, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 24, 26, 27; Julia Brenner: 5-9, 12, 15, 18, 20-23, 25, 28, 29-32)

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