This historic two-flat provides both the space and the quiet needed for Chris and Dondee, both part-time students with full-time jobs, to study and relax after a hard day’s work. When they’re not studying, an integrated lighting system and plenty of lounge seating allows the two to transform their home for any occasion.
Who lives here?
Chris, a tech specialist/consultant and student, and his roommate, Dondee, a social worker and graduate student.
What are the specs?
Chris: We rent a 1,600-square-foot three-bedroom in West Andersonville with a dining room, parlor, living room, sun porch and access to a fully landscaped backyard included.
Can you tell us anything about the building’s history?
Chris: I believe this house was built as a single-family home in the late 1800s by Charles Rascher, one of the first developers in this area. It was owned and occupied by his business partner, William Sternberg, and his family, while Sternberg worked with Rascher at his map and survey company.
Chris: Eventually the home was split into the two units that we have today. Decorating this place was a bit of a challenge because some aspects of the home are original while others were added during its later conversion to a two-flat. Amazingly, many of the vintage light fixtures survived — they’re transitional fixtures that used both electric and gas — and we still have the original pedestal sink and clawfoot tub as well.
How long have you lived here?
Dondee: I just moved in back in September, so only a couple of months. I used to live in Wicker Park but Chris was looking for a roommate so I moved up here. We were friends before becoming roommates and we’re still getting along now!
Chris: Yes, Dondee is a great roommate! I’ve been here about 3 ½ years but I was previously living in Andersonville so I know this area well. Both Dondee and I are working and in school part-time and we’re both taking classes this summer as well. It’s nice because we’re good influences on one another.
How did you find this place?
Chris: My old roommate Thomas and I were unfortunately forced out of our old place when the building was sold. We really loved that apartment so we were pretty dismayed at the options we looked at on Craigslist and Apartment People. One day we decided to hop on our bikes and cruise around the neighborhood and I spotted this tiny "For Rent" sign on this building. The landladies were outside in the front yard with their two little pugs and I knew right away that I’d get along with anybody who could keep such beautiful gardens. It was perfect and I’m very happy that I could stay in Andersonville because I love living here.
Can you tell us a bit about your design inspiration and vibe?
Chris: I don’t know if I have a style. I just try to make everything as comfortable and relaxed as possible. I like to come here and recharge, so my home is my sanctuary of sorts. Minimal and clean. No clutter is key for me.
Dondee: He’s responsible for the whole vibe and he’s done a great job. I’d have to say that, before I moved here, I wasn’t too concerned with aesthetic and design but Chris has definitely worn off on me. I'm learning.
What are some of the changes you’ve made to your place?
Chris: We haven’t made many drastic changes. The unit was in really good shape. I was initially worried that it would be super outdated because the building is so old but it wasn’t at all. I think we mostly just re-imagined the rooms. Instead of three bedrooms and a dining room we have two bedrooms and a zen room and the bike room. I think my bedroom was the original dining room as it doesn’t have a closet. I use the closet in the bike room instead.
How did you go about furnishing your place?
Chris: A lot of the furniture has been passed down to me from mother and grandmother. My bedroom set was in my father’s family when he was just a kid. The piano was a birthday gift from my parents. Most everything else has been thrifted. I usually find things at the local resale shops. A lot of stuff from Mercantile M, which is right down the street, and the Brown Elephant. I don’t actively seek out things but if I see something I like, I’ll find a way to work it in.
What do you like most about your place?
Dondee: I’d have to say the space. This place is big enough for each of us to have our private peace and quiet. You’re even able to close off many of the rooms so if you really don’t want to be disturbed it’s not a problem. It’s a great place to study which is good for both of us. I also love the lights.
Chris: Yes, the lights. I have a little obsession with lighting, I like to think of it as functional art. We have smart bulbs (Philips Hue LED bulbs) that we can control from our cell phones. You can use them in any regular fixture and they’re just connected via WIFI. They’re a bit more expensive than normal bulbs but totally worth it. We can create light scenes, mimic a sunrise, change the color temperature, and so forth. They even have a candlelight setting. Our music setup is wireless too so we can coordinate lighting and sound. Definitely a plus for parties. My favorite thing is the natural light we get. It’s so perfect for plants that I feel guilty for not having more.
Do you entertain frequently then?
Chris: We do. We haven’t had any parties too recently but we did have a housewarming party when Dondee moved in. We had different light scenes set up in each room and we turned the music way up. This place is great because people can migrate through the various rooms and it never feels too crowded. Luckily our landladies are super cool too so we’ve never had a problem.
What thing do you like least about it?
Chris: There’s little not to like. I think my only wish would be for a working fireplace. The gas in ours has been disabled but I sometimes find myself wistfully sitting near it on a cold winter’s day.
So will you be staying?
Chris: Yes, of course!
- House Calls archives [Curbed Chicago]