When we made the decision to pack up and move to Chicago last April I immediately planned a trip to look at houses. I flew out in May and with the help of an awesome realtor (hi, Patsy!), spent 3 days seeing 24 houses around as many Chicago neighborhoods. It was both exhausting and awesome. By the end of the 3 days I knew exactly what I wanted. Sadly, it didn't exist.
Chicago lots are 25' wide. Free standing homes are built with gangways on either side so houses are extremely narrow. Due to the tight lot width, new construction tends to look exactly the same: you enter into a tiny, almost unusable living room, followed by a dining room, a kitchen, and then a family room in the back. It gets really old really quick. The housing boom in Chicago has lead to many of the old homes getting torn down and being replaced by the cookie-cutter houses. My friend Cally accompanied me on one of the days of house hunting and she couldn't believe how similar all the houses were. We began differentiating the houses by which faucets and tile they had as these small features were the only things that separated one property from another. Cally said it best: "I feel like you could buy one of these homes on Amazon, they're all the same". Little boxes all the same.
Since choosing things like tile and faucets are what I do for a living, it seemed really silly to let some developer do it for me. Also, it broke my heart a little bit to move into someplace that was completely new. No history to the home, nothing for me to remodel or renovate. Don't get me wrong, I would have wallpapered, painted, and decorated the &%*@ out of that 'little box', but by day 3 I just knew that wasn't what I wanted.
When I called Alan to tell him I'd found our house (yes, he sent me out to Chicago alone) he was very skeptical to say the least. I had found the "worst house on the block" on a quiet little street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The only reason why it hadn't been torn down by a developer was because it was a row house and shared a masonry wall with the house next door. I loved it. It was built in 1886, just a few years after the great Chicago fire. It had a ton of history, was solid masonry and was just full of potential. And, it had a yard.
Now it is our house and I love it even more. It is an old 3 flat that previous owners turned into a single family home in the 90's. The thing is, they did a fairly terrible job. The 1st floor consisted of two bedrooms and an office, the 2nd floor featured the living room, dining room, and kitchen, and 3 more bedrooms were located on the 3rd floor. The home felt really awkward and separated. Not good for a young family. The plan was to move the living space to the 1st floor, turn the 2nd floor into a master floor, and dig out the basement. In May I presented this to Alan as a 6-9 month reno. Start to finish.
I can tell you now that the reno has exploded (figuratively speaking) and we have gutted the place entirely and are adding an addition. We are renting an apartment in the neighborhood because the house doesn't have interior walls, let alone luxuries like plumbing or a kitchen. A few months into the renovation I realized that this could really be my family's forever home, and it was more important to do it right than to do it fast. Gut renovations are not for the faint of heart, but man are they exciting and if you do it right, sooooo worth it.
I'm so excited to share the story of the renovation with you here. More coming soon!