Meet our old pals Mike and Harlene. After raising three kids in the Chicago suburbs, they sold their house, donated their kids’ old toys, divested themselves of lawnmowers and snow shovels, and moved to a sixth-story loft in Printer’s Row a few blocks from Mike’s office. They carry up their groceries via a creaky old double-doored elevator. They pay closer attention to the forecast because they walk everywhere. It’s a fresh start, this urban adventure. But at the same time, everything in their new home, down to the door knobs, is an homage to their shared history. I’ve never seen a space more nostalgic in design. It is also utterly modern in function and comfort. And best of all, the place is like Mike and Harlene—welcoming and without a shred of pretension.
We spent a weekend with them and I was like a country mouse in the big city—I couldn’t stop gawking at everything. I mean, look at those candelabras in the photo above! Harlene bought them online from a Catholic diocese in Ohio.
I was also interested in their transition from suburbanites to city dwellers. This was before we found our farm, and I wondered what drove them to make such a change. At her core, Harlene is a risk taker. She plunges forward and figures things out as she goes. She is more afraid of indecision than of a bad decision. This mindset has served her well, and it set her free from the usual confines that hold back many people standing at a crossroads.
Harlene is also an interior designer. This raw space was a chance for her to flex her muscle. (And man, you will see that she’s got serious design pecs.)
While Mike admits he misses the Oak Park neighborhood where they hung out on green lawns with the neighbors, this loft apartment six floors above an august Chicago book shop, this aerie with fire escapes and drawers for grandmother’s dishes, this cozy spot a few blocks from the corner where Harlene’s grandfather owned a pharmacy, is all theirs. It epitomizes “what comes next and how to like it.”
Phew! You made it to the bottom! I hope you enjoyed this home tour. Do you ever think about picking up and starting fresh somewhere new? Is it a pipe dream or just a matter of time?
Iphone-quality photos are mine. The professional photos are via David T. Kindler.