B&A: This Dated Chicago Condo Now Has the Coolest Built-In Ideas We’ve Ever Seen

B&A: This Dated Chicago Condo Now Has the Coolest Built-In Ideas We’ve Ever Seen

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Name: Annabell Ren and Steven Karvelius
Location: Lincoln Park — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 900 square feet
Type of Home: Condo
Years lived in: 2 years, owned

Creative couple and designers Annabell Ren and Steven Karvelius are two thirds of Chicago-based architecture office, NEW OFFICE (they cofounded it with friend and designer, Elliott Riggen). The office specializes in architecture, furniture, and small renovations, and Annabell and Steven’s own home — a 900-square-foot Lincoln Park condo they found it on Redfin when they were home hunting about two and half years ago — is an amazing showcase of the team’s work.

“As architects, we didn’t want to build a new home in the city, but instead find an existing historical structure to work with. There are plenty of beautiful old homes in Chicago that just need some time and attention to bring out their original beauty,” Annabell writes. “It’s a 120-year-old historic four-flat. Our unit is on the 2nd floor. With its tall 10’ ceilings, south-facing windows and beautiful historical hardwood floor and cabinets, it has beautiful natural light throughout the entire day. The building is in a residential neighborhood in the city, but the windows are all hidden behind the top of tree branches which capture a view of greens. The living room is filled with light and shadow of dancing tree branches blown by the Chicago wind.”

“After we closed this home purchase in 2019, the pandemic came into our life. This home became the place we had to live in 24 hours and the place we had to work from. We jokingly call it our ‘Covid project’ as architects. We spent our weekends and nights looking at our life routine, designing the space and building the built-ins while we couldn’t go outside. The only reason for us to go out was a trip to Home Depot to curbside pick up our construction materials. We spent all our time in the living room, dining, and kitchen designing, drawing, building, cooking, and imagining the day Covid would be gone and we can have our friends in this space.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Function = Fun + Function

Inspiration: Materiality, craftsmanship, and space play with light.

Favorite Element: There’s a balance and contrast between the original dark woodwork and the newly constructed red oak.

Biggest Challenge: Upon move-in, the unit interior was dated and there was very limited storage space. Much of the original woodwork still existed throughout the unit.

Biggest Indulgence: Our time. We managed the cost of materials, but we put a lot of time into the design and building process. We redesigned a lot and spent a lot of time figuring out the details and structure to hide all construction joints. It was so worth it. This is the main reason all designers love what they do: seeing a design that was once only imagination come into real life.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? The two full-height millwork pieces take advantage of the ten-foot-tall ceilings but offer much more than just storage. They’re also used for seating, naps, and lighting. Playfully painted wall murals transform a dated dining room into a multi-functional gallery and dining space. Each shape was created by projections onto different corners and surfaces of the room. When viewed from one vantage point, the shapes are a perfect circle, but from anywhere else, they’re stretched, squeezed, and warped. Utilizing chalkboard paint for the murals allowed us to record messages and sketches for our daily life. 

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? The furniture comes from many different places and was procured in many different ways. There are secondhand nesting Kartell coffee tables, auctioned Ufficio Tecnico Spoleto dining chairs, IKEA rugs, and EQ3 lighting. These Kartell coffee tables we found in a secondhand modern furniture store. It is made of three different round tables of different heights. It can be used by stacking on top of each other to become one table and three different tables.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: With this kind of historical building, usually the ceiling is 10’. Built floor-to-ceiling storage can save you a lot of space in plan.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Reuse secondhand. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, local vintage stores, and local auction houses are all great places to go find pieces that can be reused in your home.

Thanks Annabell and Steven!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

Adrienne Breaux

House Tour Editor

Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.

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An Indonesian House That Gets Light To Play With Stone And Concrete [Video]

An Indonesian House That Gets Light To Play With Stone And Concrete [Video]

As the future home of a designer couple, this project came into the hands of TIES architects with some very specific homeowner requirements. The couple wanted to integrate their daily working environment as a fundamental piece of the puzzle, where it would merge with the regular routine at home. Because of this desire for a strong work and home life link, the 375 square metre house was constructed upon two leading functions. The essential home office is located down on the first, semi-basement floor, with a welcoming residential area situated upon the level above. It’s here that a towering window wraps a pitched, double-height room, and a breathtaking breeze block wall brings stunning sunlit pattern.

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These Are the Best Colors to Paint Your House Based on Its Architectural Style

These Are the Best Colors to Paint Your House Based on Its Architectural Style

During the early days of the pandemic, in the absence of bar hopping and returning things at the mall, I became especially interested in houses. On walks with my dog and drives to the grocery store, I began habitually taking stock of the distinctive mix of window treatments, timbering, brickwork, and roofing details separating one architectural style from the next.

House watching is something of an inexhaustible hobby. There are dozens of residential styles of architecture, according to the National Association of Realtors, and each one represents a specific point in history. While there’s certainly personal preference and popular trends to consider, it doesn’t hurt to take architectural style into account when embarking on any kind of renovation, including a routine paint job. 

Modern architecture prioritizes function over form. It encompasses a few familiar architectural styles, such as Craftsman, Ranch, and contemporary homes. Morse says you can go one of two ways with a modern-style home. “Keeping it light is best for resale, but a dark modern home is a gorgeous and striking look,” she says. Think dark grey or black, such as Benjamin Moore’s Graphite, Gravel Grey, Iron Mountain, and Iron Ore.

Morse adds that for a modern home, it’s sometimes best to keep landscaping to a minimum, as it can distract from the clean lines and sleek aesthetic typical of the style. “You want your home to stand out and be bold,” she says.

Traditional homes draw influence from historic styles, such as Colonials, Cape Cods, Georgians, Victorians, and saltbox houses. Generally speaking, Morse recommends a classic color palette for this style family. “I think classic white with black shutters is a win for curb appeal as well as resale. It doesn’t matter if it’s painted brick or siding, it always looks beautiful and never appears dated,” she says.

The most common house style NeJame deals with are Colonials. “Traditionally, the trims of Colonial homes were painted white or cream,” she says. “To increase curb appeal, think about painting the trim and body the same color. Painting window sashes and grids dark colors, such as black, bottle green, and burgundy is another subtle touch that can amp up curb appeal.”

Meanwhile, for homes with shingles, clapboard, or other wooden siding, NeJame suggests “Nantucket Grey,” which is a weathered grey that can be achieved using a bleaching stain. “Traditionally the cedar shingles on Capes were left to naturally weather and grey, but leaving shingles to weather on their own, without protection, shortens their life,” she says. “Today, we can achieve that same weathered look on your shingles using products that also help protect them and prolong their life.” 

Transitional-style homes incorporate aspects of both traditional and modern styles. The transitional style lends itself well to a variety of color palettes.

“I think keeping it light with a neutral color, such as Benjamin Moore’s White Dove or Sherwin-Williams’ Agreeable Grey, contrasted by black windows and doors is a gorgeous look for curb appeal and resale,” says Morse. She adds that if you choose to go light, consider light shutters, trims, and sashes as well. “You can also go one shade lighter or darker than the main color so everything blends well,” she says.

Conversely, you could opt for a bolder look with a dark exterior paint, such as Benjamin Moore’s Essex Green. “In this case, keep the windows and doors dark too,” she says. “Dark green exterior looks great with black windows and doors. If you go in this direction I think it’s best if you have plenty of trees and landscaping in the front yard so it blends more with the surroundings. The curb appeal will be fabulous.”

A 1959 Michigan MCM House Has a Stunning Wall of Shelves & All-Black Kitchen

A 1959 Michigan MCM House Has a Stunning Wall of Shelves & All-Black Kitchen

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Name: Colin Tury and Ellie Ingram
Location: Southfield, Michigan
Size: 1,300 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years, owning

Colin Tury is the co-founder of Midwest Common, an independent Detroit-based design firm. In his words, he lives and breathes furniture, lighting, and interior design. “I have been making and designing things since I can remember. Luckily, I’ve followed my passions and get to do it for a living,” he explains.

This mid-century modern house built in 1959 is the first house for him and his partner, Ellie Ingram, but it didn’t look like the beautiful modern home it is today when they first purchased it five years. The creative couple have put A LOT of work into transforming it into what you see today. “Every square inch of this house has been affected by us and we’re proud of it” he writes. “I know that there will always be things that we ‘need to do,’ but for now it’s turned into a very special place. Also, this house has become a mini gallery for all the wonderful artist and craftspeople we’ve met along the way. All of the artwork in our home is from someone that we personally know and support.” 

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Style: Soulful Contemporary

Inspiration: Isamu Noguchi and Dolly Parton

Favorite Element: There are so many moments we are proud of. I personally feel like the glass doors I built between Ellie’s studio and the living room truly transformed the house the most.  

Biggest Challenge: Doing everything ourselves while living in it.

What Friends Say: It’s been a running joke that our house doesn’t actually exist because we’ve never truly hosted a formal event here due to ongoing renovations. We will let you know after the belated housewarming party…

Biggest Embarrassment: The only embarrassing thing has been my assumption of how long all of the renovations would take. We are pretty proud of everything we’ve affected thus far. 

Proudest DIY: This entire house. It’s hard to believe what it used to look like and the condition it was in versus how it looks/feels now.

Biggest Indulgence: A selfish display of my own furniture and lighting. And dog toys, of course.

Best Advice: Don’t be too critical of your own efforts. Truthfully, you’re the only who really cares. 

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

Diana Paulson


Equipped with an eye for photography and an interior design background, Diana has been blending these two passions to create stunning images for Apartment Therapy.

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