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Nick Fochtman

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House Calls: A Lakewood-Balmoral home that mixes historic and modern

The couple's decor is clean and consistent, making statements with art, objects, and furniture

The exterior of Drew Simmon and Jason Decker’s Lakewood-Balmoral home looks similar to its stately neighbors, complete with a National Register of Historic Places plaque near the front door. But inside, the couple has turned this 112-year-old home into a stylish, minimalist home base.

"You get the look of historical—which we love, it fits the neighborhood—but the inside fits modern living," Decker says.

Before buying the house in 2013, Andrew and Jason lived in a condo in Wicker Park. Drawn to the North Side to be closer to friends, the couple embarked on a year-and-a-half search in Lakewood-Balmoral that eventually lead them to this two-flat, built in 1905 by the Chicago architect W.L. Klewer. It was in rough shape but had good bones.

"When we bought it, I don’t think it had really been updated," Decker says. "It was funny: when they did the construction, behind the plaster walls there was horse hair that I guess had been the insulation."

The couple renovated the space into a single-family home, keeping the original staircase but digging out the basement, redoing the roof, and rebuilding the house with a steel frame. The basement now has a living area, extra bedrooms, and a wine cellar, and upstairs there’s an open-concept kitchen. The idea was to create a home ideal for entertaining ("Drew loves to cook. I’m very good at sitting there with a glass of wine watching him," Decker says) where friends and family could stay over without stepping on each other’s toes—which came in handy while hosting family during the holidays.

"It’s kind of like a bed and breakfast, but we don’t make people pay," Simmon says.

When it comes to decor, the couple prefers to keep it clean and consistent, keeping a monochromatic color palette throughout and instead making statements with art, objects and furniture. Some of these accents include objects collected while traveling, like pieces of the Berlin wall or a didgeridoo from Australia, and a large dining room table made by State Street Salvage out of beams from a decommissioned General Motors plant in Janesville, WI.

Perhaps the biggest accent of the home is the showpiece stone fireplace, a must-have for Simmon, in the living room. Another eye-catching element of the room is a pair of shapely chairs from Crate & Barrel.

"We like the shape (of the chairs); everything in our house is very straight edge and we wanted to bring in some curves," Simmon says of the Crate & Barrel chairs. The pair also shops at Room and Board, Restoration Hardware, and Lightology. "You’ll find people who say they want to go search for every piece because they don’t want (the room) to feel manufactured, but what we have found is it’s just how you mix and match the pieces that creates a whole story and it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in a showroom. It gives it some warmth."

The couple’s taste seems luxe (they take design inspiration from Park Hyatt hotels) but they find ways to be thrifty and creative. The Eames chair in the living room was snagged at a Skokie Room and Board store (Skokie has a lower sales tax rate) on its one-day annual clearance sale, when shoppers line up down the block and claim discounted floor samples by sitting on them. Downstairs, the couple turned a storage closet into a wine cellar using picture rails from IKEA.Simmon, who works in marketing for a global food company, and Decker, a director at an energy company, have busy careers that require lots of travel. The home is minimalist and defined by clean lines, and for the pair—and their Siberian huskies Kelsey and Kingston–that feels warm and homey.

"So it all comes down to having some place we call home that we comfortable in," Simmon says. "This really is our dream home."

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