Experiments in home decorating, DIYing, and vintage furniture collecting.

Finally, a tour of our first real home

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October 30, 2016
I've been meaning to post this for quite some time now, but hadn't made enough progress where I felt like anything was really in a good place to share. This weekend, my husband and I put a few finishing touches on our place, relocated the homeless furniture and décor into a spare bedroom, and suddenly this place felt like a real home instead of a set from a movie about disorganized hoarders.
Our new place is a tall, skinny 3-bed, 3-bath corner townhouse that needed a lot of cosmetic updates (I'll share some of the "before" and "after" photos in a future post...) starting with a complete paint job (ceilings, walls, doors, baseboards, etc.) which we had done before we moved in. We chose it primarily for the location (it's in the neighborhood where we've been renting for a couple of years, three blocks to the L and all that Milwaukee Avenue has to offer) and because it had great bones to become a beautiful home with plenty of space for us to grow in to if we wanted to stay long term.
#1 The street entryway
The above photo is the street entrance - ignore the distressed door, we ordered a new solid wood door that I plan to paint a bright teal to liven up the basic brick façade.
The street entrance to our place is small (about 4' X 5') and didn't fit our beloved couch when we moved in (thanks, Craigslist, for helping take that off our hands / out of our garage). I decided to embrace it and made a few small purchases to make it as functional and beautiful as possible, such as adding the round Target mirror to reflect light back to the door and adding a bright wool kilim rug.
I also added a very narrow "console table" (actually a World Market shelf hung at table height) to the right of the door to collect keys, mail and spare change.
#2 The first floor guest bedroom
If you walk in from the street and turn left inside our house, you'll see a set of doors for laundry and the guest bedroom and bathroom.
When I first looked at this place, the walls were a dark maroon and I hated the thought of a bedroom with slate floors. After the rooms were lightened up with paint, the floors sort of grew on me and I decided to add a huge sisal area rug to make the bedroom feel cozy but still match the natural vibe (and colors) of the slate tile.
My mother-in-law bought this antique bedroom set in the '70s (for $25!!!!) and I love how the dark wood looks with the slate, sisal and blue-gray walls. I decided to add simple plantation shades and modern lighting (a linen drum shade and a sculptural Ikea lamp) and to balance the room.
#3 The foyer / garage entryway
Ok, heading back out of the guest bedroom and back through the street entryway into the foyer...
The foyer right now is pretty empty - it's the same length and slightly more narrow than the guest bedroom, and has a door to the attached garage (which was also a huge selling point for us...) as well as the stairs up to the living / dining / kitchen floor.
Right now, I'm keeping it simple with another vintage kilim and a plant. Imagine a vintage brass coat rack to the right of the door and a really cool wooden light fixture hanging from the ceiling in the center of the foyer. That's about as far as I've gotten for my vision of this space!
#4 The living / dining / kitchen area
Here are the stairs up to the living / dining / kitchen area...
...And a view of the entrance of that staircase to the living/dining space - if you turn left from those stairs, you'll see the kitchen; if you turn right, you'll see the living room.
Turning into the living room with our new couch sized to fit in the building...
The couch works perfectly with a lot of the vintage furniture we already had like my beloved brass tea cart I picked up in D.C., a vintage midcentury surfboard coffee table I bought for $20 in rural North Carolina, and a vintage leather arm chair picked up from a Chicago Goodwill for $5.
Opposite the couch is a fireplace that perplexes me and will eventually undergo a makeover once I decide what to do with it. The chair to the left will eventually be replaced with a leather armchair and ottoman and be set up as a reading nook to balance the off-center fireplace.
 Ok, let's move along to the dining / kitchen area. The table and chandelier were investments that I made specifically to make this little dining space pop, and work with vintage captain's chairs that were hand-me-downs from my husband's father. I added a West Elm dining bench to keep things neat and simple on the sider of the room where the traffic will pass through to the kitchen and stairs to the third floor.

A little closer view of the kitchen. The Bertoia-esque bar stools were purchased with the vision of the renovated version of this kitchen in mind: imagine a basic, modern Scandinavian design with a peninsula attached to the wall on the right-hand side.

 Here's a view of the room standing at the kitchen island facing the dining and living area. (And my husband hard at work at our dining table that often becomes our workspace!)

And to close the tour, here's view of the staircase entry to the third and fourth floors. The upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms are still a work in progress, as is the fourth floor loft (which we're using as a den). I'll post another tour when those projects are complete!
Thanks for reading along, and please let me know if you have any ideas for some of the things perplexing me - the oversized slate-floored foyer, the fireplace, and the kitchen layout - I need all the ideas I can get!
3 comments on "Finally, a tour of our first real home"
  1. Hi there, Colleen, and thank you for this long-awaited tour of your beautiful new home! I have a thing for townhouses and yes, I am unabashedly envious of this gem you found so close to (gasp!) Michigan Avenue. Enjoy it in good health, my sweet friend!

    The thing I love about it more than anything else are all the lovely, big windows that keep the place bright and airy. I've noticed that some open like doors. Do they lead onto an outside porch?

    You have done a smashing job making the house a home and putting your own stamp on it. The dining room chandelier is fabulous, as are the kitchen island stools!

    I rather like the utter simplicity of the granite fireplace but maybe adding some shelves to the side cabinets would make them more practical. Our own fireplace is an old floor-to-ceiling brick (which is a look I love -- remember my admiration of the brick wall in your old place?) but the fire box itself is black metal with a 1980's gold trim that has been a thorn in our side ever since we bought the house. We've always dreamed of replacing it with something modern, yet rustic that would coordinate with the beautiful wood slab that serves as the mantle piece. We're still looking for the right solution.

    One thing I love about our place is the open layout with tall ceilings that make the space look bigger than it actually is. My husband and I are the epitome of the "weekend warriors" and do nearly all of the work on our home ourselves. We've ripped out the wall-to-wall carpeting and replaced it with hard wood floors, laid ceramic floor tile in the kitchen and foyer, built a kitchen island, and completely remodeled two of our three bathrooms. (The third, our master bath, has proven to be the biggest stumbling block since we can't agree on the details. At this point, we need a mediator. :)

    My foyer, like yours, is fairly spacious and because it has a lot of natural light I store a number of house plants there. (I realize that live plants might pose a challenge with your traveling schedule, though.) Because it is the place where we welcome visitors, I like to keep the design somewhat simple and uncluttered (a glass-top console table with a mirror above and a statue of a sitting Buddha below.)

    I look forward to seeing the progress and the personal touches you will put on your home, Colleen. Thank you for sharing them with us going forward.

    1. Sorry, I misread Michigan for Milwaukee! I blame it on two glasses of wine, THE GAME of a century, and my son's frantic texts about it :)

    2. Hi Ivanka, thanks so much for reading and for your thoughts! And LOL to the wine and game of the century, we had a similar night!!!! I love your idea of filling a big foyer with plants - I've got a few that I've managed to keep alive, intentionally hunted for low maintenance ones! Your open layout sounds awesome - and love that you and your husband are DIYers like we are. I cannot believe that you have done all that work!!! Would love to see some before and after photos of that, especially the kitchen island. I feel like doing it yourself makes you appreciate your home so much more. So far, the electrical work is the most DIY work that I've attempted but want to try my hand at tiling and painting the kitchen cabinets. Will take pics and post more soon :) Hope you have a great weekend and thanks again for reading!