Looking Back Part II: Our Second Home Renovation
Our first home renovation was a great success—but it also wore us out! So the next time we bought a home, we decided to just "frost the cake" before we moved in. Forget knocking down walls or swapping toilets, this time all we wanted to do was wave our magic décor wand.
We used our proceeds from our first home renovation and bought a new construction 3 level, 3 bed 3.5 bath townhouse in Bucktown. It was a blank canvas, a white vanilla box, a basic b*tch, and it backed up to the train...but we loved it. Anything larger than our 800 sqft 2 bed 1 bath was a dream. I was most excited to live in Bucktown and check out the West side of town. For the previous decade I had hugged the lake, moving back and forth from the Gold Coast to Buena Park, Lincoln Park, South Loop and back to the Gold Coast. I couldn't get away from the lakefront as I loved jogging and riding my bike along the bike path, playing beach volleyball, hanging at the beach bars and boating with friends. That was the part that I was most nervous about, but the idea of exploring new restaurants, learning new streets and meeting new people beckoned me. Surprisingly I didn't mind living next to the train and when our friends from out of town came over they actually remarked how "urban and cool it was." I still think they were being nice, but hey, I'll take it!
The question was: where to start? First thing first was to work with the developer to make sure they didn't put their cheap mirrors in the bathrooms and their ugly lights all over the house. We got a credit to swap them and then I got to shopping. I bought most of our mirrors and lights from RH and West Elm but my favorite light that I built the whole main floor around was this one from Jonathan Adler. Then I hired a local designer to help me figure out the rest. I had a basic vision of what I wanted and she was there to say, yes or no to my ideas, offer up suggestions and coordinate install.
It was a whole new world. I loved having ideas presented to me, someone there to let contractors in and a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. In the end we spent about $50,000 adding shelves to the kitchen, installing a tile chevron wall to the living room and a custom tile wall in the powder room, and creating 2 built-ins (one in the bedroom and one in the living room for a bar). We also added wallpaper, gold hardware from Home Depot in the kitchen, a stair runner and all new lights, mirror and wallpaper in a couple spots. For the tile wall, we got inexpensive tile from Floor & Decor, which our contractor cut and arranged in a chevron pattern.
What were some lessons I learned along the way? Don't use a matte wallpaper—ever. We used it in our entryway and all the way up the first staircase. Big mistake. Not only was it expensive to buy and install it showed every single ding, scrape or mark. Putting in a white stair runner was another no-no I won't repeat. We got by and it wasn't too bad, but I really hated being on stain patrol. Constantly asking our friends to take their shoes off was just as annoying to me as it was to them. Next time I'm going to do something like this where you mix several vintage rugs together to create something unique and dog/kid friendly. I'm very excited that Leah Cucina just expanded and opened a show room here in Chicago and is now selling oodles of vintage rugs!
The last thing I will refrain from in my next home is open shelving in the kitchen. Although it looked great, the storage space was marginal, the grease from the stove got all over the items, not to mention dust too, and I was always tinkering with the decor on the shelves. I could never seem to get it just right. If there is one thing I will repeat again and again it's to continue to take chances and have fun. If you mess up you can always redo it! I highly recommend using Pinterest to look for new ideas and inspiration. My next home however I'm going to lean into neutrals and not make such bold color choices. Can't wait to show you the next project but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed this little rundown of house #2! Check out our source list below for places to find some of our favorite fixtures and furniture from our cozy little Bucktown home.
Cabinet Drawer Pulls — Home Depot
Dining Room Vase — CB2
Dining Table — ModShop
End Dining Chairs — ModShop
Leather Dining Chairs — West Elm
Dining Porcupine Mirror — Etsy
TV Cabinet (tip: the movers accidentally broke the legs and we said no problem! And hung it on the wall as a floating piece) — West Elm
Bedroom Chandelier — Restoration Hardware
Sectional — Interior Define
Coffee Table — Jonathan Adler
Rustic Wood Side Table — Target
Kitchen Pendants — West Elm
Kitchen Stools — Etsy
Living Room Ceiling Fan — Lamps Plus