Open House: The Family Building; or, Happily Never After?


Our mom was nervous when my brother and his wife moved into the building directly across the alley from my 2 flat.  We weren’t close as kids (translation: he thought I was a dork), but we’d spent more time together since he moved to Chicago several years ago, and we discovered that we’re as similar as we are different.  And I really dig my sister-in-law Jen who’s smart, loyal and funny.  Mom wondered if living in such proximity would threaten to stir up the dust.  In fact, living so close has worked out great.   We have dinner now and again, say hello in the alley and wave to each other from our respective kitchen windows, an act which they tired of quickly despite my continued delight.

The arrangement has worked out so great that we’re ending it.

I guess modifying is a more apt description.  The happy kids are moving into my building’s recently vacated second floor apartment.  It’s positively old fashioned, and I’m just about so excited I could spit.  Someday I’ll say, “During the recession we all lived together in that ducky brick building.”  And it’ll be much more convenient to feed their cats during their many, many (many) sojourns.  But will it be too much of a good thing?  Will the endless grind of day-to-day living wear away at our strange little family?  What do you think folks?

Continued . . .


When I moved into the solid but dirty building, the first floor had already been modified.  Prior owners tore out the wall between one of the kitchen’s double pantries to enlarge the kitchen.  And when I moved in, I widened the door between the living room and sun porch to bring in more light.  I also had the brick sun porch drywalled and replaced the badly maintained carpeting with hardwood flooring.

The upstairs unit, on the other hand, still retains its original footprint, and spending some time in the apartment makes me kind of wish I’d left well enough alone.  The kitchen pantry is very handy, and the sun porch looks fine as it is.   But the milk has been spilt.  Anyway, I took some photos the other day, so I thought I’d share a few before photos.

The upstairs sun porch also had dingy carpeting, but I was surprised to find concrete underneath.  When painted, the concrete will contrast nicely with the adjacent living room’s dark hardwood floors, which means I won’t need to buy carpeting, a nice surprise that will help my budget.

Because the maroon, black and white kitchen color scheme looks dated, I’ll show you several simple and inexpensive ways to makeover your kitchen on a limited budget.  I’ll replace the dated back splash with white subway tiles, replace the counter tops with butcher block (Ikea of course) and replace the odd white malamine hardware on the kitchen cabinet doors with brushed nickel.  Along the way, I’ll show you more time saving tips to beautify your rental unit in preparation for the arrival of a sibling. 

All that and more in the next Family Building post!!!

OK, have a great weekend.  Ciao!



Will I regret replacing this light fixture (ugly as I find it to be)?


This bathroom makes me see red.


The back bedroom had been outfitted with a white malamine office, which will be torn out.


When I had the building's aging radiator system removed, my tenant said he liked industrial and asked me to not drywall the sophets, a request which I gladly accommodated but which left me another project to deal with before my brother and sister-in-law move in.


I'm replacing all the chandeliers.



The downstairs kitchen no longer has a pantry. Also, I plan to continue the white subway tile back splash below the chair rail on this wall.


The off-center stove drives me a bit looney, but it'll have to remain until some point in the future.


Tearing this tile out ensures it will be the next big thing.


I am investigating the feasiblity of adding another base cabinet to match the existing. This will create more storage and a more symmetrical look.



I love the black dining room, but my brother and his wife will have none of it.

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7 Responses to “Open House: The Family Building; or, Happily Never After?”

  1. What a great looking unit, Tate. I looking forward to watching you make the updates. Look forward to the posts.

  2. Keep us updated on the renos, please. Where are you putting in the ceiling fans, er, airblades? If you can keep some of that office furniture for yourself you won’t regret it.

  3. How nice it will be to visit both of my sons in the exact same place. What are the chances?

  4. well, i guess the word is out that we’re moving in. we’ll see how loyal i am in a couple weeks…instead of waving to each other through the kitchen windows, we’ll just stomp on the floor. how are the cats? in seattle for the first night.

  5. what a beautiful apartment! can’t wait to see your changes. there’s a great story in this.. lots of drama!

  6. Decorator Dave 10. Aug, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I had the same inner window arrangement in my dining room when I lived in Andersonville. It was a source of much consternation to me; while I appreciated the enclosed sunroom I would have preferred it as the screened porch that it originally was. I ended up painting all of the walls, trim, and windows the same deep color to try and minimize the oddness of the windows.

  7. look at my version of the ghost chair===good speaking with you friday