A pair of architects bought a Lincoln Park condo with too little storage and what they describe as a “generic” bathroom two years ago and set to work changing all of that.
Their finished project, with clever cabinetry, a stylishly minimal bathroom and big graphic circles on the dining room walls, is coming on the market Friday. Priced at $359,900, the two-bedroom condo in an 1880s building on Dickens Avenue, is represented by Melanie Everett of Melanie Everett & Company.
“There was almost no storage, like in a lot of historical Chicago condos,” said Anabell Ren, who with Steven Karvelius bought the condominium in 2019. The pair, who are principals in the architecture firm New Office, designed floor-to-ceiling cabinetry for existing nooks in the floorplan, in both the foyer and the living room.
The architects designed a built-in wall of cabinets to fit into a nook on one side of the living room. A combination of closed cabinetry, display space and sofa, the built-ins are made of red oak plywood.
“It’s wood, like the historical trim, but it’s a contrast,” Ren said.
The built-ins are being sold with the condo, all covered by the asking price.
This photo from before the couple bought the condo shows where the niche was, and the handsome original oak trim that is familiar to residents of countless old Chicago apartments.
Preserving all the old oak “was important to us,” Ren said, and complementing it with new materials was their way of highlighting it.
In the dining room, which for a while also served as the workspace for New Office, the architects contrasted crisp white walls with deep blue circles. The aim, Ren said, was to provide some curves as contrast to the strictly rectilinear wood trim.
The revamp of the condo’s look included removing inexpensive wood wainscoting that had been added in a previous owner’s attempt to complement the historical elements—the opposite of these owners’ preference for contrasting with the originals.
The bathroom had last been updated something over a decade ago and was “generic, nothing historical to keep,” Ren said.
Their updated bathroom may at first not seem to have any references to the historical elements, but Ren points out that the shower curtain rod, hooks on the walls and vanity are all red oak. That’s seen in the photo below.
“We used red oak throughout, to continue the new wood that contrasts with the old wood,” Ren said. They made few changes in the kitchen other than to change out metal cabinet handles, replacing them with more red oak.
The pair paid a little over $340,000 for the condo in July 2019. Their asking price is about 6% more than they paid prior to making the changes. The median price of condos sold in Lincoln Park has risen about 5% in the time the two have owned this condo. Thus, their asking price is not far ahead of the market despite the enhancements they’ve made to the property.
Ren said they’re selling because they want to move on to another property and redesign it.