A Chicago Condo Is Modernized, But Its Charm Remains

updated Jun 18, 2019

A Chicago Condo Is Modernized, But Its Charm Remains

updated Jun 18, 2019
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Name: Oriane and Christopher Williams and their two Standard Poodles, Atlas and Shaulah
Location: East Lakeview — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,800 square feet
Years lived in: 4 years, owned

Oriane and Chris knew their Lakeview home would need some major renovations, but while they wanted to modernize the space, they didn’t want to change its architectural charm. “We wanted to update the home enough to bring it into this century, but we didn’t want to change it to the point that you lost the charm and character that makes it so special,” says Oriane.

Oriane—whose dad was an architect—masterminded most of the designs and reconfigurations. “The architectural details of the condo and throughout our neighborhood have also been hugely influential. We felt it was really important to remain true to the vintage feel of the home so when making updates we tried to use materials, like marble and subway tile, that were used back in the early 1900s when the house was built. If you look at the back bathroom, which was gut rehabbed in 2017, the updated Kohler faucet is a nod to the 1910 original that was removed when the space was renovated.”

Oriane and Chris put a lot of their own hours into the renovations in order to save money and recruited family for additional help. The kitchen was by far one of the most difficult to tackle, but they nailed it!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Timeless Chicago vintage with European flair.

Inspiration: Oriane’s mother and family are French, so the love for all things gilded, plush, and ornate is a definite result of her influence. Her father, an architect, had a pretty sterile and functional take on home decor. The inspiration for our home is very much a mix of these distinct viewpoints on decor. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to marry the two sometimes polar opposites!

Favorite Element: There are a couple of pieces that are subtle reminders of my father, who passed away a few years back. The architectural blueprint art in the front bedroom was hand drafted (yes! hand drafted!) by my father while he was pursuing his masters in architecture in Versailles, France decades ago.

The Mies Barcelona coffee table and was purchased by my father and mother in 1981. It was the first piece of furniture my parents owned together in their Chicago home.

We also love the common spaces in the condo. We love to entertain and the separate formal dining room and generous front living room give us a lot of space to host friends and family. These rooms are not for just formal entertainment, and get used every day, so we wanted them to be vibrant, cozy, and inviting. We like that these rooms are as luxurious as they are accessible.

Biggest Challenge: Old houses suck to renovate! Nothing is straight. Nothing is even. Everything has to be retrofitted. We’ve learned the hard way that “little projects” can turn into big projects quickly. Replacing “that door hinge” isn’t as easy as “replacing that door hinge.” You’ll probably find yourself at an antique shop on a Sunday afternoon digging through tubs of dusty brass parts for half the day to find a “new” old one that fits “just right”!

What Friends Say: That the condo is warm, comfortable, and timeless. Because it’s been a four-year reno project, they often walk through saying “What’s changed since the last time we were here?” “Vintage” is trendy right now. Not many people consider moving into an old building, but we’ve been able to change the “old house” perceptions of our friends.

Biggest Embarrassment: Some of the best features of the home have required lots of maintenance and don’t look perfect because of their age. We DIYed many of the renovations ourselves, so there are a couple projects that aren’t as well done as we wish they were! And there may be a light switch or two in the house that is wired upside down. We’ll get around to fixing them some day…

Proudest DIY: The built-in bookcases in the dining room made the biggest impact. I had it in my mind from the start that the huge dining room needed built-ins. I was in a state of shock when we were quoted $10K for a wall of custom built-ins. Thank goodness for IKEA hacks! The base cabinets are IKEA kitchen cabinets, with BILLY bookcases stacked on top. We added some trim and molding as well as the grasscloth wallpaper on the back of the cabinets to make them extra fancy. VOILA! Custom cabinets for $1500. Most people think they are original to the home!

Biggest Indulgence: The mirror in the living room. It’s gilded, huge, and perfectly French. The way it reflects the light from the front office brings the living room to life.

Also, the antique rug in the dining room. We purchased the rug a couple of weeks after moving into the condo. The colors in the rug, all-natural vegetable dyes, are spectacular. It’s truly a work of art. It’s over 100 years old, and like many things in the house shows some signs of “love,” but it has so much character and history that it feels exactly right for this space.

Best Advice: Patience is a virtue! If you buy a fixer upper, you have to have a lot of patience (or a lot of money)! Since we didn’t have a lot of the latter, exercising the former has been a real learning experience. A thoughtful, well-traveled home, filled with the objects you love, curate, or have history, are the most authentic reflection of the people that live in them!

Dream Sources: Paris fleaa markets—for goods and inspiration! Jayson Home, Restoration Hardware, CB2, Chicago flea markets (or any resale shop really!).


Living room, entryway and front bedrooms — Glidden, Antique Silver
Doors — Benjamin Moore, Chelsea Grey
Front bathroom — Behr, Cracked Pepper
Dining room — Valspar, Icy Teal
Kitchen, Back bathroom, Back Bedroom — Benjamin Moore, Morning star

Chandelier — Vintage, found at Chicago flea market
Mirror — CB2
Quartz Horse Heads — Vintage, gifted from a friend
Rug — Vintage, purchased in Morocco
Console Table — Room and Board

Couch — Pottery Barn, Carlisle Upholstered Sofa in Ebony Velvet
Armchairs — Pottery Barn
Rug — Crate and Barrel
Coffee Table — Mies Barcelona, Vintage, gifted from Oriane’s father
Pillows — Etsy, CB2, Rejuvenation
Leather Pouf — Purchased during Honeymoon in Morocco
Walnut Campaign Dressers — West Elm
Art Prints (over dressers) — Custom, A Curated Wall Chicago
Art Prints (above couch) — Minted, Artfully walls, Josh Young Design House
Mirror — Anthropologie
Table lamps — One Kings Lane
Task Lamp — Wayfair

Rug — Vintage
Task Lamp — Wayfair
Drapes — Pottery Barn
Desk — Pottery Barn
Chair — CB2

Farmhouse table — Value City furniture
Round back upholstered chairs — Paige Chair, World Market
End Chairs — IKEA
Chandelier — Mia Chandelier, Pottery Barn
Leaner Mirror — Ballard Designs
Antique Persian Rug — Vintage

Crystal champagne bucket — Vintage, wedding gift from a family friend
Artwork — Four Sided, Chicago

Nightstands — West Elm
Table Lamps — One Kings Lane
Dresser — Vintage
Louvre Blueprints — Custom by Oriane’s father
Rug — Vintage
Bed linens — Pottery Barn, West Elm

Bed — Maison Caned Bed, Restoration Hardware
Dresser — Maison Dresser, Restoration Hardware
Nightstands — Pottery Barn
Table lamps — Restoration Hardware Teen
Rug — Crate and Barrel
Leaner Mirror — Ballard Designs
Mirror above dresser — Wayfair
Bed linens — CB2, Target
Marble tray — Pottery Barn
Candle Sticks — CB2

Artwork — Josh Young Design House
Rug — Vintage, purchased in Morocco
Fixtures — Kohler

Thanks, Oriane and Chris!

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