Open House: Janis’ Lakeview Abode


Janis is a rarity in Chicago these days; she bought her house in 1980, paid it off, plans to live there for as long as she’s in the city and doesn’t really think about what it’s worth. And unlike well . . . me, she’s never gutted it or thrown out everything to decorate a room from scratch.

“Nobody decorated back then,” she explained to me as she described how her house came together . . .

“Nobody decorated back then,” she explained to me as she described how her house came together – slowly and over time. Janis moved to Chicago as a teenager and first settled in New Town (now more commonly referred to as Lakeview) when it was a hippie enclave. After stints living in East Lakeview and Andersonville (when the Swedes still lived there and there was nary a gay in sight), Janis settled into her current home.

Janis is a fan of antique and second-hand stores, preferring to buy items that she finds more interesting and less expensive. Her shelves are full of delicious eye candy and other curiosities, things she collected over the years.

Continued . . .

I love Janis’ house because she makes decisions based on what she wants, not on what’s “in” or how a decision will impact the resale value of the home where she’s spent the past 28 years. For example, when she first moved into the house, the floors were damaged and she didn’t like the idea of carpeting (which if you will recall, was all the rage in the eighties), so she painted the floors white, an inspired choice that very few of us think of, let alone have the guts to do).

Talking with her is like being deprogrammed by an expert. “Why don’t you get white marble counter tops?”, I asked her when she started talking about remodeling the kitchen. “Because I like formica, and it’s cheaper”, she said. Huh? But after a hundred conversations like this, I realized that one doesn’t actually need marble to prepare food – it’s possible to cook without them.

The point is that Janis has been innoculated against the B.S., and that’s what I so value about our friendship – she doesn’t conform to expectations, she doesn’t bow to corporate culture and she’s the first person I met who liked the city better in the eighties, before it was transformed by gentrification run amok. Her tale of meters bountiful and grit majesty sound like a fairy tale now, a better time when the city was really cool, when apartments were cheap and money so besides the point. The city was about families (natural and intentional), it was about art and culture and conversation. And hanging out with Janis makes you believe that maybe, just maybe, her Chicago isn’t just a long time ago, but perhaps her (and our) happily ever after.

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8 Responses to “Open House: Janis’ Lakeview Abode”

  1. Fun place!!! It looks very Wicker Park!!!!

  2. janis seems very cool.

  3. I think this house is in Lakeview. Read the story. I like the ratan chair a lot.

  4. I’m going through all the house tours that I missed, this one I like.

  5. Hey, I am so excited to see this open house tour again, because I am remodeling my kitchen. Thank you for this photographic record of my old kitchen. You made it look better than it actually looked. Soon it will look magnificent, I hope.