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A Chicago Couple Settles into The Netherlands

by Garrett Fleming

Earlier this year, consultant Matt Reddy was given the opportunity to open up the European branch of his company. The catch? It meant packing up the Chicago, IL home he shared with artist Morgan Schemel and moving to The Netherlands. After a little thinking, the couple realized it was an opportunity not to be missed and moved far, far away to a place where they didn’t know a soul. Since it was literally (and figuratively) a very foreign place, they chose to settle down in Utrecht’s city center. Matt and Morgan were told time and time again that finding a home in the ancient city with big windows, an abundance of light and an open concept would be nearly impossible. “Dutch houses are traditionally very tall, narrow, and positioned right next to each other, so they’re typically pretty dark,” Morgan says. After taking a peek inside their 1920s, Art Nouveau apartment, however, it’s crystal-clear they’ve done the impossible.

Morgan and Matt are a bit competitive, so the second they saw the building’s outdoor space, tall windows and big rooms, they knew it had to be theirs. With their keys in hand and their essentials in a suitcase, the couple waited a month and a half for all of their furniture and collectibles to be shipped over. Anxious that all of their “unique artifacts and trinkets” would not survive the trek, Morgan lost quite a bit of sleep during this time. She’d have been devastated had they not all arrived unscathed. The pair are big travelers, so their collection of far-and-wide finds means the world to them. With bated breath, Morgan and Matt unpacked box after box, until each cherished memento was in place — safe and sound. From the moment the pieces were unwrapped, the couple hit the ground running in order to quickly create an oasis from the bustling streets of Utrecht. Not only do their accessories help to make their dream a reality, but peppering plant life into each of the apartment’s two floors produces the “gezellig” – Dutch for “cozy” – feel they adore.

The longer they live in the city, the more the two realize how lucky they were to find such a gem of a home. I personally love the sunny and sleek kitchen, but it’s only one of the many treasures you’ll find as you dig through the couple’s 900-square-foot Dutch space. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Morgan Schemel

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"We were told the bed was a queen size, but when it was delivered to our apartment in Chicago, it was actually a European queen. So our mattress didn’t fit. I guess it didn’t matter because a few months later, we moved to Europe!" Morgan says. The couple picked up the cowhide rug at Chicago's Randolph Street Market.
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For a month and a half, while waiting for their furniture to arrive from Chicago, IL, all the couple had were a few suitcases, a sofa and this bed from Nest Furniture. Pillows from Turkey and Mexico, and artwork from Leslie Hindman Auctioneers and Allison Sprock Fine Art decorate the bedroom.
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Morgan grew up on a farm, so she eagerly peppers in plants throughout the home. "Nature was such a big part of her life for so long and something she really missed while living in Chicago," so bringing the outdoors into their Dutch home was a priority when the couple moved overseas.
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The nightstand's gold camel is from Morocco.
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This open-concept kitchen is perfect for the always-entertaining pair. I personally love how Matt and Morgan mixed this traditional rug with stark, white cabinetry.
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"The framed watercolor on our countertop is there to remind us of home. It depicts the Hinsdale Train Station, the town where I grew up," Morgan says.
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Morgan's own "Birds Over Water" painting lives above this bar made from a salvaged bike.
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"The windows are the strongest feature of the house," the homeowners say, and they overlook the Dom Tower of Utrecht. The tower has a light show at night, and the couple can often be found admiring the spectacle over a glass of wine. The handwoven, Moroccan rug trekked through 4 countries and 3 continents before landing at the couple's doorstep. It's paired with a hookah they purchased on vacation in Istanbul. The originality of the etched brass was what helped this one win out over the other painted-glass options at the market, and Morgan finds it so pretty it's on permanent display.
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Morgan is the queen of dumpster diving. She and Matt picked these wooden palettes up one night (in their pajamas) when she spied them in a shop's garbage. The golden sculpture is actually a door knocker from Mexico.
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"With a shared love of travel, we try to fill our home with unique artifacts and trinkets from the trips we've taken together," Matt and Morgan say.
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International accessories add a fabulous, storied and layered look to the home.
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Artist Morgan, Matt the consultant and their black cat Frankenstein. He was adopted on Friday, the 13th – hence the spooky name.
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The dining and living room flow together to create one giant space, perfect for guests and spreading out. The sofa is by IKEA, and the poufs came from Morocco.
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Frankenstein lounges next to a secondhand dining table and matching chairs. The couple reduces their carbon footprint as much as possible by purchasing vintage and secondhand goods. The David Wittig photo is one of Morgan's most-cherished pieces. She lost many hours of sleep worrying that it wouldn't make it overseas safe and sound. Luckily, it arrived unharmed.
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The harsh, Dutch weather has already taught the family a thing or two about which plants will thrive here. Next year, it's heartier plants for this pair.
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Outdoor space is a rarity in the city, so Matt and Morgan spend as much time as possible lounging here in their vintage chairs. The stunning view is one of Matt and Morgan's favorite aspects of their Art Nouveau home.
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I love the twisting-turning nature of the staircase.
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Morgan and Matt are huge map fans. They say, "something about tracing your finger along the route you took is so magical. The big map here has lines all over it from our travels together."
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Morgan's mother traveled all over the world and collected many trinkets and mementos along the way. Every Christmas she gives Morgan and her brother a mask from her huge collection. They remind Morgan of all of the places she hopes to go to one day.
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"The [upstairs] studio windows have been such an inspiration for my work. I love watching the sky, and this is the perfect little tower to do so in!" Morgan gushes. The chair is secondhand and pairs nicely with her IKEA desk.
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Whenever Morgan starts painting, she looks to this wall for inspiration. She explains her current project, “The Art of Travel Subscription” as "a collection of artwork, inspirations, and trinkets from her travels each quarter. It’s meant to awaken the traveler’s mindset within. To look at your life – with or without trips planned – as an adventure, as a new experience of constant explorations."
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Finding a home with natural light is difficult in this part of The Netherlands, since the buildings are very close to one another. This home's abundant light was a major selling point for the pair.
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A top view of the first floor of the home.
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The second floor's layout.

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Comments

  • I love this house! The light is gorgeous and they’ve created such an interesting and welcoming space – their mix of textiles and art look just right against the architecture. That deck & that view is amazing.

  • I am so glad that you wrote about Morgan and Matt. Being friends with Morgan’s mother and hearing about her daughter’s and Matt’s adventure and new home, it is awesome to see them in color images. What a great adventure for two young people experience. Have fun and enjoy life.

  • What a lovely home, and Utrecht is a lovely city! We’re getting ready for a second international move, back to my husband’s native Britain, but we won’t have those nice bright windows unfortunately. I am hoping to get a cat though!

  • I recently visited Matt and Morgan’s home in Utrecht over my fall break with one of Morgan’s mutual friends. Although our tour of the their beautiful home was quick, I was still left impressed at the amount of space and windows their apartment offered. They have really made their new home look and feel quite cozy and homey! Nice job! :)

  • So lovely and cozy! I kept noticing things like evil eyes and kilims….and then saw the hookah they picked up in Istanbul! I love seeing how people incorporate vibrant patterns and cultural tchotchkes that harmonize with their decor rather than stand out as “souvenirs.” Nice!

  • The couple reduces their carbon footprint as much as possible and therefore ships stuff across the world. Makes sense.

    • Abraham, I understand your concern. Just to clarify for you, we shipped with a green moving company. They use recycled boxes and packing material. They collect your belongings months before the actual departure. Meaning, our items waited at a port in Boston for two months before there was enough space on a shipping vessel to put our one pallet. I’d also like to remind you that we live in the Netherlands, one of the world’s leading green countries. 50% of the rail system works off of wind power with goals to hit 100% in just 3 years. We don’t (nor have ever) owned a car, but prefer to bike. Additionally, very, very few items were purchased at chain stores (IKEA, Target, HEMA, etc). We make a conscience effort to shop local and purchase everything from furniture to groceries with small businesses. Our decision to live here in the Netherlands was based on all of these factors and we’re really happy we made the move. Thanks for your concern!

  • how cool is that gold bike bar?!?! love it…so creative. also, i need more ferns in my life…love that little moment in the kitchen.

  • I’ve scanned many of your wonderful stories but this one touched my heart. I just love this “a collection of artwork, inspirations, and trinkets from her travels each quarter. It’s meant to awaken the traveler’s mindset within. To look at your life – with or without trips planned – as an adventure, as a new experience of constant explorations.”

    Clearly captures all that is seen in the pictures and in their life story! Thank you!