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A look into Eli’s eccentric and colorful artist community in Logan Square

How one homeowner turned a two-flat into an artist commune

After years of renting in Chicago neighborhoods located on the city’s north, west and south sides, first-time homeowner Eli purchased a place that he could do with as he pleased. Now, after many coats of paint and a few roommates later, Eli’s self-described artist commune is a fun and colorful space with an inviting, in not eccentric, atmosphere and a constantly changing collection of young creatives.

Who lives here?

Homeowner Eli, who splits his time between working in the South Loop, working on the house and learning to play upright jazz bass, and his ever-rotating cast of six (or so) roommates.

What are the details of the house?

It’s a 3,500-square-foot, former two-flat spanning four floors with two kitchens, two baths and a myriad of living spaces and bedrooms.

How long have you lived here?

I’ve owned this place for two years now and lived in it for one-and-a-half. The unit on the first floor was occupied when I bought the place and I wasn’t looking to force anyone out so I lived in the second-floor unit until they eventually moved away of their own accord. I then merged the two flats into the arrangement we have today.

How did you find this place?

I was looking to buy for a while and I looked at several places in different neighborhoods. I was seriously looking at places in the Ukrainian Village but everything was a bit more than I was looking to spend. Eventually I found this place online and bought it with the help of a local broker.

Where did you live before?

I first moved to Chicago ten years ago to study at the University of Chicago so I was living in Hyde Park. Since then I’ve lived in Andersonville, Lakeview and in the Ukrainian Village. Right now I commute to the Loop for work but other than that it usually takes a lot to get me east of the highway. The West Side is the best side.

What do you like best about Logan Square?

The people. Logan Square has a balance of people that I haven’t really found in other neighborhoods in the city. We have a wonderful relationship with our neighbors and I’ve really felt welcome living here. You also have space to do what you want but you’re still in the city.

Do you entertain frequently in your home or is it your private retreat?

We’ve had a few parties here. It’s a great house for parties. We actually just had a pretty large one and we’re planning on having a fire in the backyard in the next few days. We always make a point of letting our neighbors know ahead of time if we’re planning on hosting something. They’re great and they’re always all for it. I think it’s entertaining for them to be honest, they usually bring their chairs out in their backyard and party right alongside us.

What are some of the changes you’ve made to your place?

We’ve obviously made a lot of changes. We’ve opened rooms up and split others up. I finished the attic so that I could have my room up there. Everywhere else we’ve done lots of painting and much, much more. There’s a never-ending list of house projects and the house is constantly evolving.

Do you have a specific design goal for the house then?

No. Everyone contributes and many people are involved in creating the look and feel of the house. For anything superficial like painting or decorating I let my roommates do what they want whenever they want to do it. The other day a few of them got together and repainted the back stairs with an amazing rainbow pattern. They did casually mention it beforehand, something along the lines of, "Oh, we’re going to paint the back stairs tomorrow and it’s going to look great!" but they definitely don’t need my permission for those sorts of projects. If someone has a larger project in mind, we talk about it and work it out. If anything, the house is a practice in maximalism. If you want to do something, go for it and if someone doesn’t like it, maybe they’ll change it later themselves.

How do you maintain order with so many roommates moving in and out?

We have a house charter document that we all wrote and agreed upon together. New roommates have to agree to that document before moving in. It details conflict resolution and the house decision making process among other things. Important decisions need a unanimous vote in order to proceed. It works because there are so few of us. If we were much larger, I don’t think it would be as successful.

What do you like most about your place?

Being able to do what I want with it, free rein. This house is like the house you always wanted when you were a kid. My room is one of my favorite spaces in the house and it wasn’t even a room when I moved in! I wanted a rooftop hatch in my room so I just went for it. The freedom is amazing.

What thing do you like least about it?

It is an older house so it constantly requires attention. When some of the bigger appliances go down it’s really a headache for me. It’s not horrible though and I do enjoy a lot of the little fixes. Plus, if the house wasn’t older, I don’t think we’d take the same liberties with it.

Will you be staying?

I am going to be here for another few years no matter what and even when I decide to move on, I don’t see myself selling the place. If I decide to stay on and start a family, I think this would be a great place to do that but my ultimate goal is to develop a sustainable communal setup that could last for many years to come.

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