When Darcy and Mike arrived at a building in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago for a condo showing two years ago, another unit owner in the building happened to be moving out at the same time. The door was open and they popped their heads in. It had high ceilings, an unbeatable view from the rooftop deck, and a dedicated space for the office…but it needed a ton of work. Far more inspired by this wild card option than the cookie-cutter condos they had toured — though in a rough shape — they turned to each other in the car ride home and immediately started scheming ways to fix up the space.
Since closing on the unit, most everything has been ripped out and built up from scratch, save for a major showstopper — a wooden ladder illuminated by the skylight hatch it ascends to. It once led to a rooftop deck, but a past fire forced the condo association to rebuild decks elsewhere on the building. Instead of removing the defunct ladder, Darcy and Mike use it to display plants, lantern centerpieces from their wedding, and other odds and ends.
Turning the quotidian into a cosmetic feature gives this space some major attitude. It’s the kind of peculiar feature that elevates the space to “TV apartment” status, not unlike Friends’ eclectic kitchen or the Mary Tyler Moore Show’s brown velvet couch. The ladder dramatizes the ceiling height while keeping knickknacks from running astray. The space almost looks a bit like a reverse tree house.
A practical open kitchen-dining-living area make up much of the space, which radiates into the office, bedroom, and entryway. Renovating the rest of the condo was no easy feat. Darcy, who works remotely, had to conduct business-as-usual through the thick of it, while trying to manage a disorganized contractor. But in the end, it was all worth it. “Having to choose every detail of your home — from the backsplash to the stain of the floors to the knobs in your shower — and making daily, sometimes twice daily trips to Home Depot, is incredibly overwhelming, but we would do it all again because it’s 100% us.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Eclectic, modern and cozy.
Inspiration: Pinterest, HGTV and Instagram. Anything that isn’t all white everything.
Favorite Element: The “urban garden” on the stairs. It used to be a waste of space because it doesn’t even connect to our rooftop anymore, but now it’s everything.
Biggest Challenge: Limiting nervous breakdowns during the renovation. We’re finally at a place where we don’t see everything as a potential project anymore and can just enjoy the space.
What Friends Say: We’ve gotten “this looks like a TV apartment” a couple times, which means our countless hours of TV-watching have finally paid off.
Biggest Embarrassment: There are signs of Moose being a (pit) bull in a China shop and general nuisance all over the place. Luckily, he’s really cute, so we’ll keep him.
Proudest DIY: The crazily painted office walls. Darcy and her best friend did it over margaritas and ’90s pop music one night. Darcy works from home so it was really important to make it fun in there (bonus: her coworkers probably think she’s nuts on video calls). Mike’s pick is probably the Restoration Hardware shelf knockoffs in the kitchen and bathroom.
Biggest Indulgence: King-size bed! Considering how tall we are and how Moose insists on sleeping, we probably waited a bit too long to make this purchase.
Best Advice: Pretty much everything can be fixed with a coat of spray paint.
Dream Sources: West Elm and Restoration Hardware
PAINT & COLORS
Behr – Chicago Fog
Devine Color – Metallic Copper
Behr – Limousine Leather
Behr – Midnight Blue
Ralph Lauren – Iron Blue
Behr – Raspberry Truffle
Couch – IKEA
Coffee table – World Market
Shag rug – Amazon
Red pillow – Target
Small spaces – Urban Farmgirl
Home pillow – Urban Farmgirl
Green pillow – Target
Blue pillow – Target
Ladder – thrift market
Coffee table tray – Target
High-top table – World Market
High-top chairs – TJ Maxx/Home Goods
Wine cabinet – My mom’s house
Superman painting – a now defunct bar
Ladder plants – mostly CB2 and IKEA
High-top chair pillows – Crate & Barrel
Chandelier – Urban Outfitters
Island – IKEA
Table runner – Target
Floor runner – Target
Large bar cart – Craigslist
Jersey duvet cover – Macy’s
Rug – Target
Bedside tables – my mom’s house
Closets – Ikea
Map — Ikea
Wayne and Garth prints – DIY
Chandelier – West Elm
Desk – Craigslist (originally CB2)
Rug – CB2
Chair – IKEA
Women’s March print – Etsy
Peace sign print – Vote + Rally