Most people envision having a home where friends and family can gather, and that’s true for Blair Dawson and Bob Adolfson and their Lincoln Park home. In fact, one of the couple’s first gatherings was a big one: In June, they had their wedding at the now-closed Italian restaurant Rose Angelis across the street, and then had the reception in their backyard.
"We got to a point where we had a lot of ideas of where we’re going to get married, and we’re Chicagoans and we wanted to get married in Chicago," Bob says. "Well, there’s nothing more Chicago than this restaurant and this house, so we went with it."
Having their wedding reception at their home sums up the kind of couple Blair and Bob are and the kind of home they are trying to build: They’re resourceful, and place a lot of importance on having their loved ones around.
The couple bought the house after outgrowing a shotgun-style Logan Square craftsman. Blair, an attorney, and Bob, a real estate broker, work from home frequently, and also wanted a big backyard (they have a dog, Raleigh). When Blair saw the listing for a home in Lincoln Park, she wasn’t too impressed. But because of the home’s big yard and prime location, the couple decided to take a look.
I don’t like the idea of opening up a catalogue and picking out all the items at West Elm that are going to fit for the moment. I like the eclectic feel of pieces that I’ve had and just updating.
Walking into the house—a rare Chicago Italianate and one of the first homes built after the Chicago Fire—and seeing the high ceilings and natural light pouring in, the couple fell in love.
Wanting to have their wedding reception at home expedited the timeline for some fixes to the house, which was extensively renovated about 15 years ago by the architect who previously owned the home. It was in good condition, but it had some dated fixtures, lots of carpet, and an overgrown backyard.
The biggest project was the backyard, with the wedding the impetus to get that done first. It was covered in ivy, and an old water feature was basically functioning as a "rat drowning tool," as Blair says. They added new sod, pushed back the fence, and added a chic seating area.
Inside, the couple mostly just ripped out carpet, changed out some knobs and fixtures, and repainted. Another big project was turning the third floor attic space, with tons of natural light, into an office space.
"It’s nice and bright up there," Blair says. "It’s like a little treehouse, kind of."
Some of the house’s more egregiously 80s and 90s features had to go, but the couple warmed up to some of the things they weren’t sure about at first. In the kitchen, for example, there are glossy acrylic cabinets and a textured tin backsplash. It turns out acrylic cabinets are trending ("It was like jelly bangles came back," Blair says), and the backsplash is extremely easy to clean.
While the couple might splurge on a quality purchase for the house, they like to be resourceful by upclycling old items or taking the D.I.Y. approach.
"Most of the furniture in the house, other than in the kitchen and the larger couch in the living room [isn’t new] … I’ll recycle stuff. I’ll repaint it. I might have something from college and I’ll repaint it so it doesn’t look like the cheap IKEA stuff it is, or changing out nobs on dining room furniture. We’ll try to update it in those ways and save a couple bucks," Blair says. "Plus it gives it a more eclectic, fun feel. I don’t like the idea of opening up a catalogue and picking out all the items at West Elm that are going to fit for the moment. I like the eclectic feel of pieces that I’ve had and just updating if I can, rather than starting over."
Blair’s mom has contributed a lot to the house by sewing window treatments and the bright yellow, bird-printed bedspread in the master bedroom. Blair’s mom also made the dress and cake for the wedding.
"My mom is a huge collaborator with me. I’ll come up with what she thinks are totally harebrained ideas for decorating," Blair says. "I’m not much of a sewer but she is. She’s a master seamstress; I’m so lucky. I’ll show her a picture and be like, 'Can you make these?'"
Blair’s mom stays at the house frequently, and that was part of the couple’s goal to make the home as comfortable as possible for their friends and family. The couple hosts an annual chili party that the Lincoln Park space can better accommodate.
Blair’s mom likes to hang out in a loft upstairs that, on one side, overlooks the kitchen through exposed beams, and on the other side, has a view of the backyard. When Bob and Blair got married, the photographer took some shots of the wedding party from there.
"For us, friends and family mean everything, and also we’re such Chicago groupies. To have the wedding here, and then be able to have it in our yard, to have enough room to have a small gathering of our friends and family, it was so perfect," she says. "Just to be able to take a picture of the whole wedding party form that loft, it was so cool. It was pretty awesome to look out in our yard and think, ‘Oh, we just did that there.’ It was a perfect example of what we thought this house would be."