(the end of being) at home in chicago

the current view from the sofa...

yes, boxes and more boxes.  we're moving!  in three weeks, we are moving to my home state of north carolina. at long last!  chicago has never truly felt like home to me even after six and a half years and now i’m ready to live where i’ve got roots and where i’m ready to put down more.

to be brutally honest, the first time i visited chicago in 2002, i thought it was the ugliest city i'd ever seen and i couldn’t remotely imagine myself living here.  i found/find it so flat, so gray, so heavy, so barren, so un-ornamented, so, to quote carl sandburg, "stormy, husky, brawling".   but in 2005 i did move here and it's hard to believe it’s now 2011.  i accept that my aesthetic standards were unreasonably high upon my arrival having just come from some of the most picturesque cities in the united states: portland, oregon and pasadena, california.  but i was still sort of appalled by how grim most of the streetscapes seemed.  turns out the most visual and aesthetic pleasure i’ve gotten from chicago has been not through its exteriors, but instead through its interiors.

and plenty of interiors i’ve seen: during my time here, i’ve lived in six different apartments.  six!  three of those were within my first year here.  my first place was in the logan square neighborhood - a nice condo building but nothing homey and i didn't spend much time outside of my room or the kitchen.   its major perk was the in-unit washer and dryer but that luxury was fleeting.

apartment #1.  top floor, somewhat ornamented, but a crappy street otherwise. duration: maybe five months.
the second place was a rough, raw and incredibly cheap loft shared with four roommates in wicker park.  living in a house full of artists, i didn’t mind the sketchy alley entrance, the peeling paint on every surface including the floors, the rickety rusted death trap ladder to the rooftop, or the lack of real visual or auditory privacy.  in fact those elements felt exciting and very cool for the short months that I lived there.

apartment #2. top floor, alley access only. duration: maybe four months.

i pretty much would be horrified by the same situation now, but in the end the advantage of such a undefined space is that you could do no wrong to it because it was never going to be civilized or tamed.  i did pick up two valuable DIY skills there: i learned how to plumb a pedestal sink (which had been found in an alley by a friend) for the bathroom where there wasn’t one before and i learned how to frame a stud wall to create a new room within the vast open space.

my third home was with a new roommate i‘d found on craigslist, still in wicker park.  my room was teeny tiny and required me to loft my bed in order to fit both it and full size drafting table below.  it was like a tree house nest.  such tininess i really did not mind when it was all to myself.

apartment #3.  top floor, upstairs from a knitting shop.  duration: 6 months.
the roommate and i were a good match and six months in, we moved to my fourth apartment only two blocks away.  being that it too was shared, i still didn’t feel the urge to prettify anything beyond my own room, and even there, my decorating was pretty minimal.  

apartment #4.  top floor, south facing windows galore.  duration: one year.

apartment #4.  barely decorated interiors.
 all those months of transience thankfully came to and end when, in january of 2007, i met my love while on a trip to omaha.  just months later in april, i had moved out from the wicker park roommate and found a fifth place to call my own back in logan square.  i was alone in the new place (just one block from my apartment #1) for about one month before my main squeeze moved from omaha to chicago to be with me.  i was so happy to be able to share the apartment that i loved with someone that i loved.

apartment #5.  top floor, ugly exterior.  duration: one and a half years.
here was where i really started to decorate in earnest.  the space got incredible southern light in its handsomely proportioned bedroom and living room. i painted the living room twice, the kitchen got a red accent wall, then i painted over that.  i stenciled a louis sullivan-inspired design on the bedroom walls.   i painted the bathroom, hung art, got custom wooden blinds to replace the horrible vertical blinds in the living room, bought more real furniture.  i guess i felt a much greater urge to make the space personal and cozy since i had a partner to share it with.

apartment #5.  evolution of the interior.
alas, one and half years later, a new job in the far western suburbs was impetus enough to move yet again.  after swearing while living in logan square that next time i moved, it would be out of chicago, i made it as far as oak park, a town which lies just west of chicago.   so technically i held true to my promise, though i didn't make it as far as i had hoped.

apartment #6.  top floor, pretty outside, pretty inside.  duration: two years.
this sixth place is the best yet.  incredible walkable neighborhood with legendary architecture all around, impossibly huge houses, lovely gardens, parks and shops galore.  this space has a separate dining room with room enough for a giant work surface.  good morning and afternoon light.  original 1920s bathroom tile.  a decorative fireplace.  the only real drawback is the impossibly small kitchen, but that has been pretty easy to overlook for all other great features.   i will miss this interior and exterior; it has been good to me and to us.

apartment #6.  evolution of the living room and other rooms.

but now: onward!  homeward!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Annie. You will be seriously missed in Chicago. Two comments: 1) more pictures of your entryway/dressing room. It deserves a post of it's own!! 2) Will you do a retrospective of some of your earlier apartments/homes? We need to see that artist's early influences!!



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