The word "vintage" is often thrown around when it comes to describing the interiors in older Chicago building, but this five-room, two-bedroom unit from the 1920s feels strikingly contemporary. Johnny, a leasing agent living in Lakeview, has managed to use the historic character to his advantage while adding a modern flair through decor and paint choices. Cool colors and unique pieces complement the original plaster molding and spacious layout and several chandeliers give the apartment the glamorous feel this homeowner sought to create.
Who lives here?
Johnny, a Chicago transplant and retail leasing agent, with his 11-year-old Doberman, GiGi, and cat named Pie.
What are the specs?
The condo is an 1,800-square-foot two-bedroom on the 6th floor of a historic, Beaux Arts-style condominium building in the Lakeview neighborhood.
How long have you lived here?
I’ve lived in this building for one year now and have been in Chicago for two years. I moved to the city after I was offered my dream job. Chicago is the best, I love it.
Where did you live before?
I’m originally from Texas. I grew up in Dallas, but I came up to Chicago from Atlanta. When I first moved here, I was living in the OneEleven building on Wacker Drive but sleeping on an air mattress while I waited for my place back in the south to sell. OneEleven is a beautiful building but very expensive!
How did you find this place then?
I worked with Laura Meier, a fabulous local real estate broker. She was great and I had a lot of fun during the process. I actually really miss hunting for houses with her!
What do you like about living in this neighborhood?
I’m two blocks from the lake and the park and two blocks from Broadway where there are lots of little restaurants and BYOB places. I’m close to Boystown, which is great for the Pride Parade, and not far from Andersonville, where I love to go rummaging.
The worst thing I can think of is taking the bus, which I have to use to get to work downtown every day. I would really prefer the train. The bus is just too inconsistent for me.
Can you tell us anything about the building’s history?
This building was originally built as a co-op in 1926. At some point, it was converted into apartments and leased individually, but in the ‘70s or ‘80s, when the building’s owner decided to sell, the tenants bought the units out and it became a condo building.
I actually have the original sales brochure that was used to market the units in the co-op in the ‘20s. It reads like a short story, like you’re on a tour through the building, and all of the illustrations are hand drawn. It claims the building is "Chicago’s Most Interesting Co-operative Apartment Building," and references that the "rooms above the average size" and amenities like "the convenient Kohler Electric Sink." According to a price schedule near the end, my unit was originally offered for about $26,000 with a monthly assessment under $150. The whole document is very cool.
What are some of the changes you’ve made to your place?
When I first moved in, the entire apartment was a sunshine yellow color so I immediately fixed that. I’m just not a sunshine yellow kind of guy. I also changed most of the lighting and put some work into the floors and when I say I, I really mean that I hired someone else to paint and work on the floors. Honestly, this project probably represents the least amount of physical work I have put into a place as I have learned that storyboarding and selecting finishes, furniture, and so forth is my strong point and handiwork is not.
It sounds like you may have had a bad experience in the past?
Not bad but in the first place I flipped, I installed all of the marble floor myself. Never again. Honestly, no one else ever noticed the imperfections but I did everyday. I think when you do something yourself you tend to be more critical of it.
Can you tell us a bit about your design inspiration then?
I love the Beaux Arts style of this building and I have always wanted a place dripping in ornamental details but with a modern touch. This is the third place that I’ve redone and I always try to bring a touch of glamour, a bit of cheeky humor and at least a few over-the-top elements to each one.
What thing do you like most about your place?
I adore the original moldings (all plaster!) but my favorite thing is the lighting, which was one of the biggest changes I made after purchasing the place. When I first told my contractor that I wanted to put a chandelier directly over my bed he thought I had lost my mind. I went ahead with it anyways. I think there is something deliciously outrageous about having a dramatic chandelier above your bed and it is definitely a conversation piece!
Do you entertain frequently in your home or is it your private retreat?
I love to entertain! I just had fifteen people over last Friday for a shrimp boil. I made shrimp and steamed mussels and okra. When I was looking for places I insisted that my broker find me a place that would fit my full dining table. She tried to convince me that I didn’t need it, but I do!
Is there anything you don’t like about it?
I am not a huge fan of the master bathroom. It is still all original, which is tasteful, but not particularly functional. It will be my next big project, so stay tuned!
So will you be staying?
I’m not planning on it. I think flipping is an addiction and I love these projects. I still have more work to do but once I finish this place I’ll be moving on!
- House Calls archives [Curbed Chicago]