Name: Diana Lu Barabe, her husband Jesse and kids Miles and Olive
Location: Logan Square — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,000 square feet
Years Lived In: 6 years, owned
When designer Diana Lu Barabe and her husband bought this Chicago bungalow six years ago, the house had already been fully renovated. They were thrilled to find such a ready-to-move in, beautiful house in Logan Square, an upcoming neighborhood. But they were bummed so many design decisions had already been made. “Without sounding ungrateful, we only wished we had the opportunity to renovate the house ourselves. People thought we were crazy to even think about touching a new house, but it didn’t feel like us,” reported Diana.
The couple didn’t let their friends’ comments stop them, though. “Whenever we could find extra time and money, we made small adjustments to the house and most of it we did ourselves. Our work isn’t perfect and it will always be a work-in-progress, but we’re very proud of it nonetheless.”
You can see some of those small adjustments in the kitchen. “When we got this house, there were dark cherry wood cabinets on top and bottom with a sea-colored stone and glass tile backsplash. Can you envision it? It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t our taste either. With lots of hesitation, we ended up taking the upper cabinets down and hacked through all the tile work…It was a mess. Since we are always on a budget, we decided to patch up and paint the walls, add open shelving and replace all the knobs. Instantly, we felt like our kitchen could breathe!”
Another thing Diana and Jesse don’t let get in the way of their style? The fact that they share their home with two small kids. “I always get a little chuckle when I hear other families say that they will invest in their house when the kids are older,” admits Diana. “I understand it, but I refuse to let it stop me. Having a home that is comfortable, stylish and family-friendly is a priority. We have a three-year-old girl, Olive, and a five-year-old boy, Miles. They inspire my designs and creativity everyday. I want a house for them that does the same.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Modern, eclectic and always evolving. I appreciate a thoughtful mix of modern and vintage, and lean towards neutral colors and natural materials. My husband, Jesse, is a true minimalist. Living together, we (slowly) found a happy balance and agree that less is more.
Inspiration: Our house and its neighborhood. We live in a historic Chicago bungalow from the early 1900s, and I wanted to stay true to its roots. Traveling is important to me too. I love the bright, open spaces of California homes and am impressed by the clever, small space solutions of New York apartments. My core inspiration comes from my family and how we live together.
Favorite Element: The big windows in the living room, and how the sun comes in.
Biggest Challenge: Creating a shared kids’ bedroom; hands down. The room is oddly shaped and has a fun, built-in playhouse. We channeled our Tetris skills and moved around the furniture (a lot). We wanted to create a space for Miles and Olive within a shared space. I read somewhere that it is important for kids to have ownership for their own space, as well as learn how to share it. With this in mind, we created a corner for each kid and personalized it with their favorite things. The playhouse is treated as their clubhouse to read, play and reconnect. We love this room.
What Friends Say: That it feels happy and cozy. Also, how lucky (and surprised) we are to have a yard in the city.
Biggest Embarrassment: Jesse and I were convinced we could paint the house ourselves. One gallon of paint an half a room painted later, we hired painters. Jesse is frugal and I love a good DIY, but sometimes you have to factor in time and energy, and ask for help.
Proudest DIY: We bought our house already renovated and struggled with making updates to a “new” house. The kitchen had dark cherry wood top and bottom cabinets with sea-colored glass and stone tiles. It was nice but it wasn’t our style. I think Jesse was sick of hearing me grunt about it, so he took off the upper cabinets and chipped away the tiles. To save money, we patched and painted the walls, and installed open shelving. It felt like our kitchen could breathe again, and so could we.
Biggest Indulgence: Vintage Safari Chair
Best Advice: Don’t be afraid to make your home your own, even if you bought it new. Do it yourself and/or hire help — whatever suits your personality and wallet. If you have a small budget, tackle projects one at a time, and let the house evolve with you.
Dream Sources: BDDW
PAINT & COLORS
Alabaster — Sherwin Williams
Artwork — Leah Reena Goren
Stool — Ikea
Striped curtains — Similar
Pompom curtains — Urban Outfitters
Miffy lamp — Moma
Purple rug — Anthropologie
White rug — Land of Nod
Toddler bed — Similar
Bedding — Auggie
Kid chair — Similar