First-Time Homeowners DIYed an Awesome Walk-in Dressing Room
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Aaron and Vincent, both Chicago transplants, recently bought a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in East Garfield Park. “This was actually one of the first places we came across when we started searching for a home. We ended up passing on it because of the cookie-cutter exterior (there are two basically identical houses on the same block) and our assumption that the listing photos were inaccurate or outdated. After several months of searching, everything we looked at needed to be totally rehabbed, was far beyond our budget, or was missing some of our key must-haves (large closet, decent back yard, garage, and close to public transit). We eventually circled back around to this house and to our surprise, the interior was newly remodeled and had quite a bit more space than we’d expected. It was a no brainer, we finally found something that met both our needs,” reports the couple.
Vincent and Aaron explain more about their home: “The first thing we did was paint the entire interior, aside from one wall going up the stairs. We were (surprisingly) able to agree on a white paint and we chose two other dark accent colors that we pulled into the basement, living room, and bedroom. Once we swapped out almost all of the light fixtures as well as the hardware in the restrooms it started to feel more like our home.
Since we were both coming from small apartments, we began collecting furniture during the five months we were home searching, not knowing exactly where things would go or how they would work together. By the time we got the keys we were more or less set on furniture and got to focus on playing around with arranging our collection of art, furniture, plants, and objects. Although our place is fully furnished our collecting hasn’t stopped. Vincent works as the founding Director of LVL3 gallery and Art Director for local non-profit Arts of Life; we end up being surrounded by amazing artwork that we often collect. Half of our garage has become a storage space for unique mid-century modern pieces we’ve come across while thrifting/antiquing that were just too good to pass up.
The backyard and general landscaping are an ongoing project. We put in some raised vegetable beds last year and will add to those this summer, as well as continue to sculpt the yard into something a little less rectangular. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also kind of a blank canvas, which is exciting for us.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Vincent likes weirdly shaped items that sit between unique and kitsch while always being cheap (he gets sucked into every “good deal” he comes across). Aaron is drawn to minimalist farmhouse and yoga studio vibes.
Inspiration: Vincent is inspired by modern design, contemporary art, and a mix of clean and sleek paired with abundance and over stimulation. Aaron prefers open space, lots of light, and plant life (our aesthetics often clash when deciding where to put things/if we need a certain thing at all).
Favorite Element: Vincent loves having a basement. Growing up in L.A., basements were a novelty that he never experienced. Now we have a fully finished basement where we can display our collection of art by many of our closest friends. The basement serves as our main TV/movie hangout space as well as a guest room when we have visitors from out of town. Aaron grew up in the rural Midwest surrounded by basements, so that was less exciting for him. But having space for a garden and almost no existing landscaping was really appealing, as well as good natural light and high ceilings in the bedroom and dressing room.
Biggest Challenge: Leaving the house can get difficult; our area is fairly industrial and we lost a lot of amenities that we had been used to having steps from our front doors. Vincent is socially driven while Aaron is more of a homebody but having people over for brunch or movie nights has been a great way to maintain connections.
Proudest DIY: Painting the entire interior of our house was a much bigger project then we had anticipated but we got through it with few mishaps. I think the thing we are proudest of is that 95 percent of our furniture is secondhand. We found, thrifted, got at auction, or salvaged most things (such good deals!). Each piece now has a memory or an experience attached to it, which helps it feel more personal.
Biggest Indulgence: Vincent is getting over embarrassment at admitting we hired a house cleaner. It seemed silly that two capable adults would need to but we’ve found taking care of a place this size while working full-time was a bit more than we expected and having the extra help to maintain the level of cleanliness that we’re both comfortable with has eased a lot of stress between the two of us. We hadn’t lived together prior to buying a house, and there’s been a lot of figuring out how to live together. Aaron is very pro-cleaner and firmly categorizes the decision as a must.
Best Advice: Take your time to make it your own. Spaces can change, so not every decision you make in putting a room together needs to be the end all be all. We’ve rearranged the artwork, plants, and furniture in our home several times and the change can be refreshing (especially when partners have conflicting opinions on where things should go).
Adams & Son Gardens
PAINT & COLORS
BEHR Flat Winter Way (Basement accent wall)
BEHR Poppy Seed (Living room and bedroom accent walls)
The pair of living room couches was one of our best Craigslist scores. We were expecting to have to reupholster the cushions but to our surprise, they were in great condition and we scored both mid-century modern pieces for $500.
Galvanized container store cubes — Gifted
Royal Blue and Chrome Waiting Room Chair — Salvaged from a closing business
Our dining room table was thrifted for about $70 and came with two leaf extensions and a card/game top—if needed we can seat 14 people. The chairs were collected from various secondhand sources.
Short Benches — HomeGoods
Long Bench — CircaModern warehouse sale
Zinc IKEA Shelving — Found in an alley
Wood End Table – Puerto Rico benefit auction
Vintage Nested Side Tables — Puerto Rico benefit auction
Print in the Dining Room — By Jason Picklman
Photos above the bed housewarming gift by Chicago based artist — Robert Chase Heishman
This was originally the master bedroom, but we preferred that the room at the front end of the house make more room for our growing collection of clothes, to keep the bedroom from getting cluttered. We removed the accordion sliding doors from the built-in closets, added some custom-built clothing racks out of some 2″x 2″ boards and copper piping and added shelving and some basic IKEA dressers for a master his and his walk-in dressing room.
The desk is an IKEA butcher block countertop [discontinued, they don’t do solid wood anymore] that Aaron finished and hand cut several times to fit a few different spaces, on black pipe legs.
LAX Series Console — Thrifted
Vintage Office Chair — Thrifted
Our art collection spills into the bathroom with a combination of thrifted work and gifted work. The first floor bathroom painting is by Soo Shin, gifted to our dog Milo.
Flat Files — From the Art Institute of Chicago, these now house some of our unframed art. We have over 35 pieces of original artwork down here and that collection is growing.
Lucite and Brass Table — Thrifted
Two-piece Sectional — Second-hand bought off of Letgo
Chaise Lounge — As-is section from IKEA
Basement Accent Wall — BEHR Flat Winter Way
Collection of ice cream candles and cake piggy bank collected from various thrift stores.
Thanks, Vincent and Aaron!
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