We independently select these products – if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at time of publication.
Name: Jamie, Mikeand Queso
Location: Andersonville neighborhood – Chicago, Illinois
Size: 750 square meters
Type of accommodation: Apartment
Years lived in: 6.5 years, rent
Stay tuned for more content like this
Mike is an academic lecturer and author and Jamie has worked at a local university for the past decade. Their cat, Queso, keeps an eye on the neighborhood birds. They are a family of three who have shared this small but cozy rental in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood for over six years. “Our building was built in the early 1900s and still has many of its original features, including beautiful woodwork, a fireplace with built-in shelves and hardwood floors,” Jamie describes. “It also has batten and plaster walls, which has forced us to be creative with storage, as anchoring something heavy to the walls is challenging.”
“We moved to Andersonville almost seven years ago because we wanted to live in a neighborhood that had quick access to the lakefront as well as abundant walkable amenities,” explains Jamie. “We fell in love with this apartment as soon as we saw it: it’s a corner unit at the back of a U-shaped building, and it has north, south and east-facing windows. That alone would make it a well-lit room, but we have the added bonus of having an apartment that more or less rotates in a circle around a central closet that gives us a solid stream of light from every window at once. It is a magical and rare find – we have never seen another apartment like it. Aside from the structure, what has kept us in this unit for so long are our neighbors. This building is full of long time residents and we have had the opportunity to get to know them well during the time we have lived here. It’s not often, you [have this] and that’s what’s kept us here for so long.”
Apartment therapy study:
Our style: A colorful, bookish nook.
Inspiration: I’m not sure we have a point of inspiration so much as a need to get as much storage and function as possible out of our 750 square feet. We have almost 1,000 books between us, a large collection of baked goods/cookware, enough flatware (most of it inherited) to comfortably serve 15 people multiple courses at a dinner party, and a ton of art supplies. Our goal is to own these items without them leader just as we own these things.
Favorite item: The natural light and the crossing breeze the apartment gets from its large windows and room flow really win the awards for best element. However, the coziness of the fireplace/built-in is a close second!
Biggest challenge: Space is our eternal challenge, especially when it comes to work. Mike works from home full time and Jamie works from home a few times a week, so designing separate workspaces has been a challenge. We’ve tucked a desk for Jamie in the corner of the dining room, and a folding desk allows Mike to set up a workstation in the bedroom. The advantage of a highly visible desk and a desk that needs to be put away every day is that our workplaces are pretty much always clean.
proudest DIY: It’s hard to choose just one! We both really love our coffee counter, which was made with a piece of walnut cut and planed by Jamie’s dad. We also love the butcher block counter we built (more wood/help from Kansas) for the kitchen — it’s a little taller than a regular counter to make it more accessible for Mike, who is 6’8″. Both have made ours a little awkward kitchen far more functional.
Biggest indulgence: Our Joybird couch (a sleeper sofa with a memory foam mattress) was definitely a ton, but it was SO worth it. It’s extremely comfortable for guests and we’ve even used it a few times in the summer when the bedroom gets too hot to sleep in (we don’t have central AC). It was the first brand new piece of furniture we ever bought together and it has held up so well over the years.
Is there anything unique about your home or the way you use it? We often joke that our dining room is more of a creative space than anything else – the space is used for music practice, exercise, reading/projects, work and eating. The anchor of this room is the large storage unit we built. We’re really proud of this DIY – it was made using recycled kitchen cabinets from a friend’s house renovation. The cabinets and drawers store everything from glassware to art objects. It gave our small space some much needed closed storage while also providing some extra shelves for records and books. You might be wondering about our collection of mythical heads… these are homemade Halloween costumes we loved too much to get rid of (Polyphemus and a dragon head). The frames above my desk display a rotating selection of art made by our niece and nephew and by our friends’ children.
What are your favorite products you’ve bought for your home and why? An impossible question! Functionally, we really love our Joybird sofa. And the IVAR shelves in the pantry make us smile every time we see them – they really turned a previously awkward and minimally functional space into a really great pantry for us! And the thing that was bought purely for joy: our haunted house print by Ryan Duggan.
Please describe any useful, inspiring, brilliant or just plain useful tips for maximizing and/or organizing small spaces you have: We go through all our books, cabinets and drawers (seriously, all of them) once every three months and get rid of anything we haven’t used for a while/things we no longer need. We’ve been trying to implement a one-in-one-out policy to keep the books under control – Mike is very good at it, but Jamie has had very mediocre success so far.
Finally, what is your absolute best home secret or interior design tip? Don’t let the internet tell you that you can’t be a maximalist in a small space. If you like stuff, you like stuff, and that’s okay.