Northside Condo: A New House Gets a New Personality

When I met my client Eugenia and her husband Ethan a few months ago, they had just put an offer on a new condo here in Chicago. They were super excited about their new home, but wanted some help making a few changes to update it and really make it them.

Here are some photos of what we started with. One of the biggest challenges when looking for a new house is also being able to see past the decor and style of the current occupants. You have to learn to see past the furniture, the paint, the decor… because all of that is going away. It’s the space that you are buying, not the things that are filling it up. How workable and livable is that? It doesn’t matter that the seller might have the ugliest couch ever, it matters that the kitchen layout works, or that there’s enough light, that the space has most – if not all – of the items on your checklist of ‘must haves’.

These first two photos are from the original real estate listing and are a great reference so that you can see the difference between the space you’ll see when you are in the search to find your new home and then what the space looks like empty, which can sometimes feel really different. This space overall is pretty neutral as far as paint colors and finishes, but sometimes just seeing past elements that are easily changeable can be a considerable hurdle during your house search.

Yang_kitchen _existing final_1Yang_kitchen living existing final 2

Big picture, the space and layout work, and the building is fairly new construction, about twelve years old, not vintage, so there isn’t a need for any big repairs or updates, which is great. But it feels kind of… dated. There is a lot of oak… everywhere… maybe the ugliest kitchen counter ever {I don’t even know what developer started this trend but they really should be jailed for making the world an uglier place}, more oak finish there too and the icing on the cake is the amazing frosted seashell sconces on the living room wall. All of which were probably wonderful and really loved by the previous owner, but really didn’t match Eugenia and her husband’s personality or style – at all.

Here are a few pics of the space empty.

living room_existing finalYang kitchen existing final 2 Yang existing kitchen_final 2

Still, it’s a lot of oak… and without changing that, changing the character of this space was going to be tough.

The other big factor with this project is that Eugenia and her husband are also thinking they’ll probably live in this house for just a year or two before moving into something a little bigger and utilizing this as a rental property. So the big question here is, how can we make the biggest transformation possible for the most cost conscious budget possible?

Here are my first thoughts before I even stepped into her space:

  • paint that trim white – instant transformation. This isn’t cheap though, it will quickly add to the total cost of a project because of the level of detail and labor, so I wasn’t sure if it would be possible within the budget.
  • keep the kitchen cabinets, repaint them and replace the hardware, lots of cost savings there. The layout works and the shape and trim of the cabinets is clean and pretty classic, which is a great starting point.
  • replace that horrible counter. As soon as humanly possible. Maybe all of the developers will use it all up and there will be no more of that horrible choice left on earth, wouldn’t that be a gift to mankind.
  • I would have loved to propose refinishing the whole floor, but given that Eugenia and Ethan aren’t planning for this space to be a long term home, it probably wouldn’t be worth the cost – definitely propose rugs, anything to cut down on that oak.

Can’t wait to show you how things progress and the space starts to really change!

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