The Unpatterned Home Series: First Floor Before & After recently blew our minds by publishing an online article about our little Chicago house renovation. As promised, and long overdue, I'm delivering a series of blogs about the renovation. You can read a bit of the back story of the house, how my husband and I redesigned the layout and had it renovated, and added some finishing touches in the article! 

We're kicking off the series today with the first floor, including before & afters, floor plan changes, and the rundown of the renovation in general. 

PEEP THE FULL DWELL ARTICLE HERE and even better, leave us some love there too by commenting or clicking that little heart. ;)

What up, equilateral?! Most of you aren't strangers to the ol' entryway triangle stencil. In case you are, you can check out the triangle wall stencil DIY here, our update info here, or the Dublin version here.  A few quick notes - the door is original to the 1959 house. I believe the escutcheon is as well, but unfortunately not the knob. I dream of getting that door in better shape (oiling it? Sanding and staining?) and replacing the knob with something more true to the original. Perhaps a Rejuvenation piece? Maybe we'll polish the mail slot and escutcheon to their original brass shine one day? Man, this is probably a really easy fix, but just one of those things that hasn't gotten done! Anyway, let's walk through the first floor and I'll talk about the renovation, point out some sources, and you'll notice how so much of what we have on the walls or on display on this floor and throughout the home  has meaning to us.


Yes, that's a framed photo of me during the framing phase of the renovation in that capiz shell frame from West Elm. Flor carpet tiles make the best entry mat for us here. The little shelf was an afterthought and was made to match the built-in. I still love those little CB2 prefab house candle holders.

Here's a floor plan overview of the old layout and the one we created. We made a few impactful changes:

  • We changed the entryway around. You used to see all the way into the kitchen upon entering, straight to the dirty stove. We liked the idea of a more "formal" entry and creating a visual block so you experience the house more in phases. We rearranged the coat closet to create this. 
  • We also liked the idea of opening up the access from the living room to the kitchen, instead of having to walk through the dining room. This also created more easy access to the side door, which is really our main entry for the family.
  • We decided to steal 15" from the kitchen, actually making the kitchen a bit smaller (WHAT?!), in order to get us room for a built-in dry bar on the living room side. The previous owner had a little high top table in the main kitchen, which we no longer needed with the addition of the peninsula and openness to the dining room.
  • In the kitchen, it was a no brainer to relocate the stove from the corner to adjacent to the peninsula. There's only crawlspace beneath our first floor so relocating the gas supply was no issue. Plus this allowed for a pantry cabinet in the old stove location. Storage is key in these old efficient houses. The rest of the appliances remained in the same locations.
  • We completely opened the wall between the kitchen and dining room to allow for the peninsula breakfast bar.
  • Last, but not least, one thing that isn't reflected on this plan is the fact that we removed the non-structural headers at the entryway and doorway and between the coat closet area. This was an on-the-spot change during construction that would later make it possible to create that gorgeous 3-sided built-in. In this plan, and at the beginning of construction, we had only planned for a built-in dry bar on the living room side. More to come on that!

There's so much meaning in this shot for me! The entry table is from a local antique mall. I love the tile top - no coasters required. The globe and presidents are from my days at Post 27.  I picked up the peach Haeger vases on an antiquing stop driving through in Indiana. I bought that midcentury TV Console from a dealer out of his basement off craigslist in 2006; he now has a local shop. The large vase on the the TV console was a souvenir from my brother and sister-in-law's trip together to Vietnam. My dear husband bought that painting by Kathleen Patrick while I was in labor with our daughter. I was mad for a while, but I love it now and it's perfect in that spot. And last, but not least, there's my grandma's chair, which was reglued, refilled, and reupholstered in a rainbow houndstooth remnant as featured on Apartment Therapy!

As part of the renovation, we had the red oak floors sanded and stained walnut, including removing the carpet from the stairs to the second floor, which revealed hardwood yay! We painted all the mismatched nondescript oak trim and windows white. We reconfigured the lighting (which was really wacky on this floor) and added built-in speakers. The kitchen was gutted, including furring out and insulating the plumbing wall, new cabinetry, appliances, backsplash, and quartz counters. Let's talk renovation regrets for a minute: not insulating the ENTIRE first floor and not considering replacing the original windows at the time. They are kind of okay and kind of a hot mess too.

Let's clap for removing soffits, 42" uppers, and full height 2x6 glass backsplash tiles. The Boos block is removable and actually a carryover from our old apartment. I still LOVE it, 4+ years later. We are probably one of the only people to recently renovate their kitchen and put in a double bowl sink, but I refuse to have dishes drying on my counter and I insist on a dirty/disposal side! That coffee was no joke what I was drinking when the photographer arrived the morning of this photo shoot in December. Some people get their drawers in a bunch over all white kitchens, but I can't imagine this one any other way. The cabinets are super wipeable and I adore the Atlas Homewares edge pulls, although the edges are a bit sharp for our littlest resident. 

This little bank of cabinets now resides in our laundry room!

I never thought of myself as a white walls person before, but Benjamin Moore's 1611 Graytint provides the lightest of gray neutral base for this floor. You can see the photograph ("The Happy One" by ND Trivette) on the back wall, which we bought on a trip to Portland, OR. Real talk: I keep my counters almost this clear all the time and only have one basket of kid toys on this floor, plus a gaggle of books in the magazine rack. Adult space can be real, you guys. 

I had the original draperies and sheers dry cleaned and we were able to reuse them! This was a happy coincidence that they happened to work well with our color scheme. I searched high and low at the time for a vintage sputnik that was the right size, price, and look, but ended up getting a reproduction in the end. The sofa is the Adelaide Bisectional from Gus Modern, and I thought it was pushing the limits of fitting the space, but it's perfect. That sofa is 3+ years old and still looks brand new. The rug is a wall to wall carpet remnant with the edges surged, and the coffee table is CB2. The throw pillows are a Target and Homegoods combo. 

The dining wall is Benjamin Moore 1615- Rock Gray. The dining table was a $35 craigslist find that I painted in our old apartment basement. That was a labor of love that made me reconsider future DIY projects. It still looks decent and I love it as a pop of color on this floor. The chairs are Steelcase, also a Craigslist find that no one believed would work in this setting, but I dig them. The counter stools are IKEA. The photos on the dining wall are from trips Brad and I have taken together including Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Puerto Rico, all taken by us, printed at Costco, framed in IKEA. The curtains are IKEA on a target rod and they are probably the one thing on this floor that I regret not doing a bit higher end. 

And that's a wrap for the first floor Before & After overview. What's your favorite part? Would you have blown out the entire center wall? More to come about that next time when we discuss the three-sided built-in. Future posts will include details on the upper floor - the gutted bathroom, the bedrooms, my office, and probably even a peek at the only untouched room in the house - the lower level bathroom.

I can't wait to share more with you - stay tuned. And big thanks to for featuring our home.

All photos, with exception of the "befores" are by Mike Kaskel for Unpatterned.