When Andrew and I first met, our homes were just a few miles apart. He lived in a rustic brick-and-timber loft in the West Loop (I was immediately attracted to the fact that he was a homeowner!). I lived in a chic condo in the Gold Coast with all-white furniture and lots of fuzzy accessories. For nearly two years of dating, there were dozens of late night Ubers, tight parking spots, and packed L rides as we visited one other at our respective homes.
My Gold Coast Home
Andrew’s West Loop Home
There was one date night in May 2018 (a month before Andrew proposed) when we started talking — really talking — about buying something new together. We both had always adored Lincoln Park, and we wondered if we could sell our condos to get us there. After one too many cocktails and an inventive meal at Proxi, we found ourselves texting Chris, my mortgage lender. He quickly sent us the pre-approval link. I remembering sprinting to Andrew’s building after paying the bill, eager to get the ball rolling.
Finding “The One”
For a few weeks, we were on the hunt. I’d forward Andrew any pocket listings I could find, and he’d email me properties during his lunch breaks. One night, Andrew texted me a “coming soon” listing on Redfin. I started swiping through the photos, and suddenly, my heart skipped a beat. I called my boyfriend.
“Oh my gosh,” I breathed. “I love it. Andrew. It’s stunning.”
“What are the comps like?” he countered, practical as always.
“I don’t care! I’d pay full price for this. I’m texting the agent.” I knew this home would sell in a nanosecond.
The next day, I drove over to the property for a sneak peek. Luckily, I had done several transactions with the listing agent, so she agreed to let me (and Courtney, because I needed a level-headed professional opinion!) have the first look before it hit the market.
As it turned out, the property was even more beautiful IRL. Andrew went to see it straight from his office, and then we debriefed over sushi at Naoki. It was unanimous: This Lincoln Park condo was the one. We wrote the strongest offer we could possibly muster, praying all the way.
Andrew and I waited three agonizing days before the sellers accepted our offer. I later found out just how many bids were on the table — nine! — but the sellers loved our syrupy-sweet letter, they loved that I was a broker who knew the process, and ultimately, they accepted. We were over-the-moon.
Ups & Downs
I’ve learned there is no such thing as a perfect transaction, and ours certainly was not. Once the contract was executed, the drama began.
We decided to sell Andrew’s condo and rent out mine, so soon after we completed our inspection at the new place (and got engaged!), I listed his West Loop loft. The units in his building had been selling like hotcakes — we kicked back, confident his sale would follow the trend. But Chicago’s real estate market had other plans. The unit sat on the market for weeks with a tiny handful of showings and zero offers. I felt a strong sense of personal failure — after all, this was my job!
Okay, I thought. I’ll just sell mine instead.
My unit hit the market that June, and after a flurry of showings, I accepted an offer. We found tenants for Andrew’s place, too. It suddenly seemed like things were going our way. But just a week later, the buyers backed out, and I tearfully re-listed my condo.
The buy-and-sell tango is one of the toughest transactions to navigate. I’ve helped many clients glide through the process, but when I became my own client, all rational and perspective went out the window. I was a wreck, and the financial pressure of carrying multiple mortgages was weighing heavily on my then-fiancé and I. After a lot of prayer and a price reduction, I finally found an all-cash buyer for my condo. It closed without a hitch, and with a bittersweet sigh of relief, I said goodbye to my Gold Coast urban oasis.
A Fresh Start
After we closed on our new condo in Lincoln Park, Andrew and I celebrated with Chipotle burrito bowls on the floor. We were giddy. It was July 2018, and in six months, we would be married, finally living in our home together.
I lived at my parents’ house in Hinsdale that fall, and on the weekends, Andrew and I perfected the condo. We spent countless hours deep cleaning, picking out furniture, driving back-and-forth to Home Depot, collecting quotes for countertops, and hanging light fixtures. My mom, lover of interiors, helped us find statement pieces that fit just right in our space.
After our wedding in December, I officially moved in. Andrew and I began sussing out new memories as husband-and-wife in our home:
We spent bone-chilling winter nights with the fireplace crackling, Frank Sinatra on Sonos, and a good red wine in the decanter. We planned a potluck-style New Year’s Day brunch with our friends. Andrew cooked me gourmet dinners, including a special Valentine’s Day meal of pan-seared scallops and heart-shaped sugar cookies from a trendy Instagram bakery. We watched movies (mostly by Nancy Meyers, of course) on the couch. I welcomed springtime by opening our windows and buying soft pink roses from Trader Joe’s. We prayed before bed. We argued over hair in the shower and the correct way to fold clothes (love you, Andrew!). We dealt with our first disaster: water damage. I invited my girlfriends over to watch “The Bachelor” and hosted my church small group. We threw a last-minute 4th of July party on one of the hottest days of the year. Andrew bought a new grill and used it all summer. We finally finished decorating and asked my best friend to photograph our place.
…And now, here we are. Home. It is our favorite place to be; it is where we can be our most authentic selves; it is a beautiful blessing that we are impossibly thankful for.
I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into our space. Thank you to Courtney for her breathtaking photography — she is the artist with the camera!
Located on an idyllic tree-lined block near Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park, our intimate walk-up building was constructed in the 1800s, & its units have seldom become available to the market. There are certainly some quirks that come along with pre-war architecture, but Andrew & I found that our particular unit checked all of our boxes: three bedrooms, garage parking, vintage charm, smart updates, hardwood floors, crown moldings, & unique details abound!
Naturally, we spend much of our time in this room. It is a step down from the main entryway, a subtle detail that I absolutely adore. When we purchased, the wall on the left was painted navy. We swiftly changed the color, and we also replaced the light fixture with this beauty. I’ll never forget the time we installed it! I was dripping sweat, teetering on a ladder while Andrew attached the hooks to the ceiling. Worth it, though.
Sofa: Restoration Hardware // Chandelier: Circa Lighting // Chairs: Mitchell Gold // Rug: Mitchell Gold // End Tables: Ballard Designs // Stools: 610 HOME // Cheetah Pillow: Jayson Home // Accent Pillows: Room & Board // Media Cabinet: CB2 // Table, Lamps & Art: Vintage
This room is almost always sunny. I love sipping my coffee in here, typing away on my laptop and looking out onto our quiet street. When Andrew works from home, he closes the French doors and hones in on his engineering designs. We are both grateful for the extra space to focus.
Desk: RH Teen // Chair: CB2 // Bookshelf: IKEA // Lamp: Barbara Barry // Rug: Costco // Frames: Restoration Hardware // Corkboard: Target
I feel so grown-up now that I have a dining room. In here, we sit down for “fancier” dinners (though we did once eat Chipotle at this table for Andrew’s 30th birthday).
The fireplace is a wonderfully unexpected touch. Now that cooler weather has returned, there is nothing better than coming home from a long day of showings and warming my toes by the hearth.
Table: Williams Sonoma // Chairs: Restoration Hardware // Bookcase: Mitchell Gold // Candelabra: SG Geneva // Entry Table: CB2 // Entry Lamps: Vintage // Bar Cart: 610 HOME // Mirror: Crate & Barrel
Morning sunlight pours into this space, and we ease into each day with freshly-brewed coffee and bowls of cereal. I love having the option of sitting at the breakfast bar (where I can watch Andrew cook later on in the evenings!) or cozying up at our bistro table that overlooks the balcony.
We renovated this space shortly after closing. The most major change was the countertops — we opted for calacatta laza quartz, and the installation was fairly painless. I will share a few before-and-after photos on Instagram soon!
Stools: CB2 // Rug: SG Geneva // Shelf: West Elm // Bistro Table: CB2 // Chairs: Serena & Lily // Pulls: Restoration Hardware
Our bedroom is quiet, plush, and safe. We have been married for almost an entire year, and I’m still figuring out how to sleep through Andrew’s snoring (he puts up with me stealing the covers in the middle of the night, so we might be even). But we cherish this room and the peace it provides.
When I initially toured the condo, I remember having a very spirited reaction to the closets. They are built-in, painted a beautiful shade of ivory, and provide enough space for our wardrobe.
Bedding: Home Goods // Blanket: Jayson Home // Pillow: John Derian // Bedside Tables: RH Teen // Dresser: Arhaus // Rug: Costco // Lamps: RH Teen // Frames: Proud Fox Gallery
Since we’ve owned this home, we’ve had the joy of opening up our guest bedroom to those in need of a place to stay for the night — like my brother, a friend from my small group, and Andrew’s childhood friend from out-of-state.
I think it will make a sweet little nursery one day, too.
Bedding: Home Goods // Stool: Bedside Manor // Pillow: Jayson Home // Blanket: Jayson Home
I am what you might call a “bathroom hog.” I take my time in the shower or tub, use almost the entirety of our cabinet and drawer storage, and never put the cap back on the toothbrush. Somehow, Andrew has learned to put up with my ways, and so we share this bathroom happily.
After closing, we didn’t change a thing. The flooring is a cool black hexagonal tile in a matte finish, the backsplash is all-white subway tile, and the vanity is sleek yet functional.
Hand Towels: Crate & Barrel // Bath Towels: Restoration Hardware // Soap: Aesop
Balcony & Deck
Outdoor space can be hard to come by in a vintage building, but we are lucky to have a private balcony as well as a shared deck. Andrew’s grill (he built it himself one evening — I drank wine and watched!) sits in the corner. He told me one of his most-loved activities is cracking open a cold beer and manning his Weber. Lush green ivy adorns the brick walls, reminiscent of charming historic homes in Montmartre, Paris’ 18th arrondissement.
We filled flower boxes up on a late spring day. My dad, the green thumb of my family, always says you need three things to complete an arrangement: thriller, filler, and spiller. We gathered our selection, and we delighted in the blooming boxes and baskets all season long.
Photos: The graceful and talented Courtney Cimo of Courtney Cimo Photo & Film