This Dark and Dramatic Home’s Style Is “Tranquil Library Meets Speakeasy”

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Name: Elizabeth Hernandez and my Great Dane, Shaemus
Location: Ridgeland Historic District — Oak Park, Illinois
Size: 950 square feet
Years lived in:1.5 years, owned

I’ve lived in my home for about one and a half years but renovated it for two years prior to that. Not only did we do a ton of work to it, but I’m lucky to have had my dad help me do most of the work. Because my dad helped me, it saved me loads of money, but it also meant that I would have to accept the process taking so long.

You see, my dad is a PERFECTIONIST. (And so am I, but not to the same extent.) He once took me to the hardware store and showed me samples of crown molding to do the faux wainscoting in the living room. I was ready, and I picked the second or third sample I saw, but he insisted on showing me all 200+ samples that were available because he wanted to make sure I’d be happy and considered all the options. (I ended up going with the second sample I saw, by the way.) So it took two years, but it was worth it. Everything is EXACTLY the way I envisioned it—but better.

I was living in Brazil during the first eight months of the renovation, which meant I wasn’t here to give as much direction as I would have liked. On my way to the airport during one trip back home, I remember clumsily drawing what I wanted the wainscoting in the living room to look like on a dirty napkin. I handed this to my dad and said, “Here. This is what I want.” Only my dad could have taken that silly napkin and made it into one of my favorite elements in my home.

Living in Brazil and the renovation taking two years also meant that I had to pick pieces out from different sources (most of it online) during different phases (and sometimes without even measuring). I was worried that when I finally was able to put everything together in a room, it wouldn’t live up to what I was expecting to see in my mind. Luckily for me, my dad did everything he could to make the pieces fit—I bought a huge chandelier from Restoration Hardware for my tiny dining room. He had to cut open the ceiling, install beams above the existing electrical box as high as he could and hire an electrician to fix the 1919 wiring, but he somehow made it fit! (And only one person to date has hit their head on it so far!) I bought custom-made industrial style Jameson sconces from Etsy and he figured out a way to run wiring through a brick wall and install them exactly where I wanted them even though he had previously begged me to install them on a different wall.

The other factor I had going for me (besides my dad) was that even though I hadn’t really “designed” anything in the past; I knew I needed a really strong vision for what I wanted the finished product to look like. I knew exactly the feeling I wanted to evoke when I walked into my home. I wanted it to feel like you were walking into an old Irish pub slash cool, dark and tranquil library—but a library you’d want to smoke a cigar and drink a whiskey on the rocks in while reading a book or having a really good conversation. I wanted everything to be beautiful, but beautiful second. It needed to serve a purpose first. I wanted the space to feel luxurious but functional, like the space wasn’t trying too hard. A space where guests would feel right at home but would feel like they were exiting the real world and entering a world uniquely mine.

The best compliment I’ve received so far is from my dad. He came over a couple of months ago to install a grow light for my Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree, Petra. I had just made a fresh pot of french press coffee so he came down from the ladder to take his break. I had the windows open, soft Brazilian music going on the Sonos speakers throughout the house, a wood wicker candle going, and my puppy napping on his bed nearby. My dad sat in his favorite leather chair, put his feet up, took a sip of coffee, looked around and let out one big sigh and said, “It’s really just so peaceful here isn’t it?” That made me happy on so many levels!! 1. My dad helped me make my house a home. 2. That’s exactly how I want my guests to feel!! 3. I am a homebody. I like to socialize, but I like to socialize in my home. I want people to come to my home instead of me going out so it’s very important to me to make my home a place where guests feel comfortable and would like to spend time in. 4. Shortly after the renovations were complete and I was finally able to move in, we found out my dad had pancreatic cancer. The fact that over a year later, my dad was in my home, healthy and cancer-free, climbing up on ladders to install lights in my home and feeling peaceful, instills a feeling of gratefulness in me that I could never truly express.

So here we are, I share my home with my forever-puppy Seamus, a 126-pound Great Dane, and my plant babies—Petra, Rhona, Alondra Monsterrat, Pippen, Parker, Blue, Thing 1, Thing 2, It and Fern—and my ever revolving list of guests made up of family and friends.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Dark, tranquil library meets speakeasy

Any advice for creating a home you love?

  • Pay attention to the little details. That’s what makes a room. I spent a week picking out the perfect brass covers for all my outlets and light switches. I ordered a custom, vintage-inspired, wall-mounted soap dispenser all the way from the UK for my bathroom (that seems to be everyone’s favorite thing). I spent three months alone picking out paint colors. To my surprise, these are the things people notice when they come over.
  • Start out with one piece—one piece that you absolutely love. Let it inspire you and build the room around that piece. For me, it was a navy blue Winston Chesterfield leather couch.
  • It’s OK that you don’t acquire everything in your home at once. Take your time, keep looking until you find that one piece that speaks to you. Make sure you love every piece and every decision is thoughtful and intentional.

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