Mike's Roscoe Village Expansion

Mike's Roscoe Village Expansion

Heather Blaha
Feb 21, 2011

Name: Mike Shively, architect
Location: Roscoe Village — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,200 square feet — 2 bedroom + 2 bath
Years lived in: 2 — owned

By popular demand, we finally have a full House Tour of Mike's Roscoe Village Renovation. His brilliant expansion of space upward (and addition of several sky lights) and renovation of the lower level lets light in from many directions. This is the kind of place that invites you to look around the corner for what's next, one that keeps you moving forward (but not going in circles), that offers surprises but makes perfect sense when you've seen it all.

This is the kind of place where the familiar home-inspired word "flow" could not be more aptly applied in terms of layout, furnishings, and details like the customized wood handrail and the whimsically functional ladder. Mike has a lot to tell us:

"Sometime around the turn of the century (I know from newspapers in the wall) this long timber frame two-flat from the late 1800s was subdivided in half, creating four small one-bedrooms. When I first saw the second floor rear unit with high ceilings and tall Victorian windows on three sides, I could see potential. The building was balloon framed, so I was able to move the 11' ceiling down 18" and create enough headroom in the attic to create my office and bedroom. Downstairs, I opened up the plan into one continuous space for living, dining, and cooking. Around the corner by the front door is a guest room and second bath."

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I like spaces that make you aware that you are in them. I like minimalism, but a house needs craft and detail to feel like home. I planned the spaces to all receive indirect natural light either from north facing windows and skylights or shaded south facing windows. I tried to create as many built-ins as possible. I like there to be a place for everything. Eames, Corbusier, Meier, Loos.

Inspiration: I started with some leftover tile I used as the kitchen backsplash. I loved the chalk grey color, the square edges, and the matte finish. I sent this to my cabinet maker to match the color and used the same color for all the walls. I love how my place is a neutral backdrop for my stuff. Dishes on the shelf become art on a wall. Food on the counter and clothes on the floor never look out of place.

Favorite Element: Having one continuous space. I always find in places I live that I gravitate to one room and end up with a lot of rooms I never go in. I like how here if I'm up in my office or down on the sofa, I'm still in the same room. I really feel like I use the whole place.

Biggest Challenge: Using every inch. When I bought the place it was 700 square feet. I managed to squeak out almost 1,200 square feet of usable space. The new second floor is smaller than the first because of the angle of the roof. I made it as wide as possible by widening spaces to right where I could stand and squeezing all the mechanical systems into the low parts behind the walls. I really drove the guys crazy. Everything had to be planned, even the spacing of the joists to get it all to lay out right.

Biggest Embarrassment: One feature I tried to incorporate was a door for my dog, Schindler, but after the first winter, I had to close it off. I'm determined in my next place to create an insulated dog door.

Proudest DIY: I love having open shelves in the kitchen. People always think you have to have all matching stuff and keep it organized to look good, but it really takes on a life of its own and always looks great.

Biggest Indulgence: From the beginning the shower was a priority. I ran a 1" line to power three heads. There's music, a bench, and a skylight at eye level with a big tree right outside. In the summer it is like taking a shower outside.

Best Advice: Think about how you live, and how you want to live, and design so your space to create that lifestyle. Also, take the time to make things beautiful around you. I love the part of every day when I am home.

Dream Source: I have always loved Thonet chairs, but the good ones are hard to find.

Resources of Note:

    • Gus Modern
    • FLOR
    • Morgante Wilson Architects


    • Benjamin Moore: Champion Cobalt


    • coffee table: Adrian Pearsall
    • chair: Corbusier
    • sofa: Gus Modern
    • Chess set from Cuzco, Peru (Inca vs. the Spanish)


    • chairs: Thonet
    • Table made using IKEA legs


    • faucet: KWC
    • Cabinets designed by Mike and made by an Amish company in Indiana
    • Countertops: "Pietra Cardoso," an Italian soapstone


    • walnut bed: DWR
    • Vintage radio from granddad


    • tile on walls: American Olean
    • tile on floors: Buxy porcelain
    • Barclay sink and Grohe faucet: Community Home Supply
    • toilet: Philippe Stark


    • Eames walnut chair: DWR
    • Fiberglass arm chair: garage sale
    • 1930s desk chair from New Mexico

Thanks, Mike!

Images: Heather Blaha and Mike Shively

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