Turning a Rental into a Home with Julie & Peter
One of the most common misconceptions about real estate brokers is that they can only help you if you’re looking to buy or sell a home. If you want to rent an apartment, you better be ready to spend days, weeks, sometimes months scourging Craigslist, Domu, and Facebook pages for the right listing with a decent landlord at a fair price. Fear not, reader, because today we’re here to put your mind at ease with one of our many (seriously, many) Olive Well apartment success stories.
Once Upon a Time, Julie and Peter—a Northwestern Hospital resident and a JD-MBA student at Northwestern, respectively—were living busy lives with burgeoning careers. They met and quickly fell in love, often meeting between classes and after shifts at the hospital in the attached Beatrix restaurant. As their love took off, so too did their hectic lives; Julie finished her residency and became a doctor, Peter graduated law school and began studying for the bar exam to fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer. They knew they wanted to move in together, but the place had to be perfect. “We wanted to find a diverse neighborhood,” they explained, “with a mix of local restaurants, independent businesses, and quiet streets that was conveniently located for our work commutes.” The final points were perhaps the most important: a quiet neighborhood offered respite from work, and easy access to the city allowed for a quick commute in the morning and a quick return in the evening. After a series of long walks around the area, Julie and Peter settled on a single square mile radius in West Town. Olive Well broker Tori Gwin—Julie’s high school friend—set them up with an MLS search immediately. Using a real estate professional to find an apartment proved ideal for the couple. We’re often asked how much it costs to hire an agent, and clients are often shocked to find that you don’t pay them a dime; the landlord covers that. All Julie and Peter had to do was focus on their busy schedules, and Tori set to work finding them a dream apartment. Soon enough, the perfect place came on the market.
All Modern Rug, West Elm Coffee Table
The West Town listing “checked all the boxes,” Julie says. “Two bedrooms, lots of sunlight, outdoor spaces, and
parking.” They saw the place immediately, submitted an application, and the rest is history.
To say we were floored when we arrived for Julie and Peter’s photoshoot is an understatement. This is a rental!? It’s unusual to enter a rented space and feel a sense of real personality from the tenants. The couple had transformed this house into a cozy oasis of a home. They explain that it was vital to make their space feel “relaxing as soon as you walk inside.” The warm grey walls, natural wood furniture, and plethora of pleasant plants offers a respite from city life. As Peter works from home, the couple created a dedicated work space to be productive during the day and leave it all behind in the evening. The loft—originally imagined as an extra seating area for guests—was turned into an exercise space during the pandemic, always ready for a quick morning workout or some extra cardio before bed.
Julie and Peter’s Perfect Lazy Sunday
When it’s warm, coffee in the morning on our front balcony with a record spinning in the background; breakfast burritos from Sunrise Cafe, a local diner across the street; catching up on the newest episode of Top Chef (we watched all 17 seasons during quarantine); a few walks around the neighborhood followed by picking up a growler at MWC Brewery; candlelight yoga, cooking dinner and reading.
“We joke that we love our apartment so much it feels like we’re on vacation!” Julie says, although we have our doubts that this is a joke, and we can’t blame her. With the open kitchen perfect for unwinding with a new recipe and a new record spinning out tunes, the vibes at Julie and Peter’s apartment are (as the kids say) immaculate. Their current favorite album to throw on the record player? “More than Ever,” by Blood, Sweat, & Tears, a bargain bin find they snagged for 99¢.
Favorite Restaurant Discoveries Around Town
"Some of our favorite restaurants in the city are Monteverde, Homestead on the Roof, Ada Street and BeofHaus. We’re halfway through a taco tour of local restaurants on Chicago avenue and so far Dona Naty’s Taco is our favorite. We love Metric Coffee and recently learned about Aya Patisserie for amazing pastries. We also love breweries -- our favorite is Midwest Coast Brewery, which is right next door to our wedding venue, The Walden."
Dresser: Vintage, Minted Artwork
Having a team full of plant lovers ourselves, we had to ask Julie and Peter all about their ever-growing jungle. “We’ve had a crash course in plant parenting over the past year!” they explain. Their first plant purchase was a certified disaster. They bought four plants for their deck, used non-draining planters, and quickly discovered that the plants couldn’t tolerate direct sunlight. Nevertheless they persisted on their plant journey, and now the couple makes a new purchase every few months at their favorite shop: Christy Webber Farm & Garden. Of course, now they make sure to ask the experts plenty of questions so they don’t have a repeat of last year. Despite what any good plant parent might tell you, they do have a favorite among the greens. For Julie and Peter, that favorite is a lush elephant ear, gifted to them from Peter’s cousin and propagated from his cousin’s own plant. After all, natural gifts are the gifts that keep on giving, Turkish Rug
and now they have a piece of their extended family right here at home.
So, can you really make a rental your own?
Most of the time, renters are afraid to make changes to their apartments, for fear of losing their security deposit. But Julie and Peter can tell you that so long as you get permission, most landlords are willing to help you make the necessary changes to make your place your own. They recruited the help of Task Rabbit to put floating shelves up in the bathroom and office space, creating more storage as well as a design flourish.
As our tour came to an end, we admit we didn’t want to leave. With the record player going, the view of the city overhead, and the refreshing calm of plant parenthood, we almost asked if we could sublease for a few months. Instead, we opted for one last piece of unique design advice from Julie and Peter: a wine bottle makes for a perfect watering can. Not only does the narrow neck allow for easy pouring into pots, but the green glass blends in with the foliage and looks chic doing so. So, the next time you’re in West Town and looking for a home that feels a million miles away, might we suggest dropping a line to our friends Julie and Peter? Just be sure to have a small token of your appreciation at hand... we hear they’re looking for a new fern.
Go-to coffee order? Black coffee for Peter, coffee with extra soy milk for Julie
A day of hiking or a day on the beach? Hiking! Our last trip was three days backpacking in Olympic National Park.
Favorite Instagram for design inspo? @wesleytaylor
Text by Eric Grant
Photography by Alina Tsvor