One year. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve held the keys to my first ever home. A place, a space, a nook that belongs to me. No more leases, no more landlords, no more restrictions. A property that’s all mine.
Owning had been a dream of mine for years but something that always seemed just out of reach. No matter how much I planned and saved I couldn’t scrap enough together. So when my parents offered to have us move in to save money for a nest egg I eagerly said “yes.”
After six months of saving and house hunting I found a beautiful condo nestled on a quiet street just outside of Chicago proper. It had everything I could dream of: vintage charm, solid bones, ample parking, and was within walking distance of public transit, a playground, beach, shops, cafés and a library. And the best part? A view of the lake! I could envision August running up and down the shore, scurrying off to the beach or running around the park with newfound friends. It was my dream come true.
The unit was just big enough for our little family and just under my budget. The night of the viewing was the night I made an offer. I couldn’t risk it getting away from me. After a fervent prayer and a couple of calls – my offer was pitched and by the next day – accepted.
The building, which August refers to as “the castle,” is a historic landmark built in the roaring 20s. A large collection of units are strung together across three floors and two courtyards along the lakefront. Our block is bookended by a park, complete with playground, and a beach. The listing for my unit described it as “the perfect site for your vacation home.” Except ours would be a 365 day home. Perfect.
Once the keys were mine I jumped into action. I started to measure, plot and plan. First we sanded, caulked and painted. We decided on a neutral cool palette to offset the elaborate moulding and to highlight the tall ceilings. We refreshed the fireplace and upgraded hardware and light fixtures. We completely demolished and rebuilt the kitchen on our own – transforming a crowded, outdated space into a bright, cheery gathering place for cooking and eating. We collected furniture from a variety of places: some vintage, some rehabbed and some fresh from Ikea. Oh IKEA – I do love you.
One of the joys of owning our home is knowing we’ll be here for some time – which means we can customize furniture for our unique layout without fear of having to do it all over again in just a year or two. Knowing that we’re rooting down means busting out all my favorite DIY tricks.
I’ve repainted furniture, like a pair of heavy wooden chairs that I scored for $18 at Salvation Army and then smothered in matte mint paint. I jerry rigged two ball baskets by spray painting them gold, then flipping them over and attaching wooden tops to create bedside tables.
We’ve put up some of David’s smaller paintings and popped family photos into mismatched frames in a hallway. We threw some chalkboard paint onto August’s walls in the shape of mountains and glow in the dark stars onto the ceiling. We also created a painting nook on one side of his bedroom with a wall-mounted paper dispenser so he can create on a whim. I inverted jewelry boxes to display David’s fossil collection and drilled them straight into the wall. We’ve done so so much more as owners than we could ever do as renters. And the most beautiful part? It’s ours, it’s all ours, so we can do even more.
I’d describe the overall feel of our place as hygge meets modern vintage – with a dash of whimsy. Our gray palette is cheered up with bits of bold color. There are many wood pieces we’ve left raw to add a bit of coziness to an otherwise cool-toned space. Many of the accent pieces were foraged from thrift stores, hobby shops and a handful were purchased new from World Market and Target (I’m looking at you animal busts). We’ve filled empty nooks with velvety cushions and lush green plants. We added geometric accents like mirrors and candle holders as well as pops of color in unexpected places.
A splash of paint here, some new hardware there, and we’ve transformed our 1927-built home into our very own. And we’re not done yet! We have some new projects planned for the coming year (wallpapering, refinishing the windows, glazing the tub, adding barnyard doors) and can’t wait to roll up our sleeves to get them started. What an amazing blessing to have this beautiful space that we can call our own.
Happy anniversary to our nest!