Kate sent me a few pictures of her Chicago home, asking sweetly if I’d consider it for an upcoming Living With Kids home tour. The first image I opened showed the most enchanting, inspiration-overloaded studio and playroom space that I didn’t even need to look further. It was a yes, and a big one at that! I just know you’ll be as charmed by this art-filled home that’s as magical to adults as it is to kids.
Q: Please introduce us to the lucky family who lives in this fantastic space!
A: This house is home to me and my lovely, fabulous, generous, husband Ed, who is a serial entrepreneur, and our two darling children, Sadie (4) and Eli (2).
Q: Tell us your home’s story…
A: Our home has a lovely history that starts in 1894. It was part of a very large farmhouse in the middle of an onion farm. Now it is just a few blocks away from the home of the Chicago Cubs. Our neighborhood is filled with families, young professionals, and lots of dogs. This home has an artistic soul…if a home can have a soul! The previous owner is a photographer, so there is a darkroom in the basement. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it’s now a storage room! We moved here a little over two years ago when I was very pregnant with Eli.
We have grand plans for this home. So far, the most dramatic transformation has occurred in the backyard; it’s a lovely urban retreat. Summers in Chicago beckon you to be outside, so it’s wonderful to have a sandbox and yard! For me, the main objective when we were looking for a home was to find a space where I could create and the kids could play at the same time, in the same space. Fortunately, this home is perfect for just that!
Q: What are the challenges in your home, and how have you solved them?
A: Oh boy! When you buy a house that’s this old and hasn’t had any major renovations in the last 50 years, there are a ton of challenges. One of its quirks is that the only shower in the house is on the main floor next to the kitchen! We haven’t resolved this one yet.
Every window and door is a different size, which makes it challenging to get any treatments on the cheap. So for the first six months, we lived with no window coverings on the first floor; passers-by got a nice look inside! Finally, I grew tired of searching for the perfect solution, so I headed to Home Depot and had white roller shades cut for every window. It’s a simple solution for now.
When we are able to really start renovating, I know fun stuff is going to happen. I’m grateful that our plans to renovate before we moved in fell through because it’s exciting to live in the house and dream and make plans and sketch ideas for what we will create someday. A huge challenge will be deciding what awesome designs to choose.
Q: Your favorite DIY…
A: I had a blast making the lighting for the dining room, and it’s probably the project about which most people comment. I discovered some lights that I loved, but could not find where to buy them. One cold day, I used floral wire and linen-like fabric and created my own shades! Then I bought simple pendants, had them installed, and wired the shades to that. Wowza! Unique lighting!
The other room that gets a ton of comments is Eli’s room. Several years ago I saw a home in Cookie magazine (loved it and miss it!) and I tore out the pictures and glued them in my image book where I store all of my inspirations. When we moved into this house, I instantly knew that drawing on the walls somewhere was a must. Plus, I let Sadie, who was two at the time, help me decorate her little brother’s room. It is super easy — get paint pens and go to town!
Also, on a whim, I made a burlap and linen slipcover for the headboard in the master bedroom. Before, it was wooden and too cold. Now, it has great texture and warmth. I have a deep love for burlap, fyi!
Q: How would you describe your decorating philosophy?
A: My decorating philosophy is pretty simple and very much similar to my philosophy for life, which is to have fun and surround myself with pieces that I truly love; the things that make me smile. I try not to take myself or my house too seriously.
I love the mixture of clean lines paired with pieces from my family. The marble table in the front window was my grandmother’s. An end table in our living room along with a dresser in our bedroom were made by my great-grandfather. And I love swings. I think every house should have at least one. I want to put a swing in the living room, but I’m still working on my husband to add that to the house! Stay tuned…
Q: What are your favorite sources for treasures?
A: I always have my eyes and mind on sourcing treasures. A lot of my finds are serendipitous. The two large pieces in the dining room were surprisingly in our basement when we moved in. We came to learn that the first owners of the house owned a grocery store in downtown Chicago, and these pieces were from that store. The one with the glass held herbs and you can still smell them! So cool!
Similarly, the wallpaper in the bathroom was here when we arrived. It’s super quirky. How do I put this…you don’t feel like you’re alone when you take a bath! That will go eventually, but for now, it’s a nice conversation piece.
Last but not least, my hands down favorite source for treasures is Jayson Home and Garden, a furniture/garden/flea market/flower shop store in Chicago. Over time, I’ve collected several pieces from there like our couch, chairs, and coffee table. I’m very grateful to have that respite just a mile away. It provides a shot of inspiration every single time.
Q: Describe a typical day in your home; in what room do you spend the most time?
A: We migrate from the bedrooms to the kitchen, then hop in the stroller to walk Sadie to school, and then back home to clean up from breakfast. I make a cup of tea, grab a juice box for Eli, and we head up to the studio. This is one of my most productive times as Eli plays. Then, we hop back in the stroller, pick up Sadie, and sometimes stop at the local postal place to mail a painting or two, which is always a thrill for me! Next, we’re home for lunch, a nap for Eli, and rest time for Sadie. During this time, I quietly sip a cup of tea and journal while sitting in my studio. I’ve kept a journal since third grade. Then I catch up on email, and work on a painting or blog post. Once the kids are up, I finish what needs to be done while they play in the studio. Next, we hop back in the stroller and head to the gym; yoga and I really like each other. Ed usually meets us there and we walk home together for dinner, stories, and bed. Finally, Ed and I have a few hours alone to chat and chill.
Q: What’s your favorite space/corner in your home? How would your family members answer this? And how would your guests answer?
A: This is an easy one for me! My studio is my favorite. Ed loves the backyard in the summer and the studio with the kids in the winter. Sadie loves mommy and daddy’s room because the bed is so big, and Eli loves to play with the toys in Sadie’s room.
I would guess that guests enjoy the dining room. Our record is a 17-person dinner party with everyone seated at two tables we put together.
Q: If you could change one thing, decor-wise, what would you do differently?
A: I have great dreams of opening the kitchen and dining room to create one enormous kitchen. I’d also love to add a wall of windows on the back of the house. However, the BIG dream is a greenhouse on the roof adjacent to the studio. There is a perfect spot for it. I love gardening, and it would be a dream to be able to garden all year long!
Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
A: Other artists like Matisse, Hockney, Rothko, Peyton, and Doig. I scoot down to The Art Institute of Chicago to teach every once in a while, and I always make a point to stroll through the galleries. I’m inspired by decor and fashion magazines and, of course, blogs and Pinterest. Lately, I’ve found inspiration at the Nature Museum; it’s a hot spot with the kiddos.
Q: When does your home work best?
A: When it’s full of energy, whether it’s a dinner party or a play date. This house thrives on having people enjoy themselves and the space.
Q: What would you say are the perks and drawbacks from working at home? How do you balance your schedule with an in-house studio?
A: The biggest perk is to be able to pick up and/or leave my work in a second. It’s a thrill to see my children play while I create. Recently, it’s been fun to see Sadie begin to mimic what I’m doing; she talks about mailing her work to imaginary friends. The main drawback is not always having solid chunks of uninterrupted work.
Since having children, I’ve learned that schedules change monthly, weekly, daily, and even hourly, so I’m forced to keep my schedule flexible.
For instance, right now I’m typing this with one hand while holding Sadie’s while she patiently waits for me to play. Whether I like it or not, everything is always fluctuating, and I’m constantly challenged to change and grow with my children. I cherish this magical time we have together. Similar to my design philosophy, my work philosophy is to have fun, keep things simple, and only create what I would love to live with. It’s all about play and experimentation.
Oh, Kate! I agree with you; every house should have at least one swing! Thank you so much for sending me your home to share. You also sent a heaping dose of inspiration! Friends, be sure to check out Kate’s portfolio and especially her chandelier prints like the painting in her dining room. Elegant whimsy, right?
P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!