Interiorssneak peeks

An 1890s Two-flat Building in Chicago with a Mid-Century Spin

by Lauren Chorpening

When Brandon Blunden and Katie Mckiernan met, they had no idea that their new friendship would eventually turn into a seven-year romantic partnership, the start of a business, homes together, and a future wedding. Brandon and Katie’s shared love for mid-century pieces is seen in every room of their Humboldt Park, Chicago two-flat apartment — and it fuels their custom and vintage furniture company, Department Chicago.

Brandon and Katie started looking for a new apartment three years ago. The first apartment they lived in together was in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of the city. The couple knew they wanted to stay in that neighborhood, but they needed to ensure that a new place would have more light than the first-floor apartment they were leaving. “We found our apartment now on Craigslist listed with no pictures,” Katie says. “We took a chance and it payed off. It is the brightest apartment we have ever lived in. It was perfect. South-facing windows unblocked by the house next door let in light all day long. It also has a huge deck, fenced-in yard and parking space. Can’t beat that in the city.” The result of this abundant natural light makes the couple’s flat the ideal setting for their retro styling and mid-century furniture.

Their business, Department Chicago, started with pieces Brandon and Katie found at estate sales, and has since turned into a handmade and curated collection for them to sell and enjoy in their own home. “Our apartment is an eclectic, ever-rotating showcase of art and furniture we’ve acquired over the past six years living together,” Katie shares. “Almost everything in our apartment is either vintage, up-cylced, or handmade. We tried to create a homey, warm, and functional space. We are big mid-century fans, but definitely wanted to keep a somewhat bohemian and retro vibe as well.” The large rooms, white walls, and historic charm of the 1890s apartment bring each piece of theirs to its full potential. Brandon and Katie’s unexpected life together has turned into a partnership, a beautiful business, and a thoughtfully styled home. –Lauren

Photography by Brandon Blunden

 

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Brandon and Katie's home is pulled together with vintage, handmade and sentimental things. Their overall design goal when they moved into the space was to create a homey environment curated with the pieces they love.
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Brandon and Katie in their bright, open living room. "The most challenging part of our apartment is definitely our front living room. Although the big bay windows are beautiful and let in so much light, it's kind of an awkward space," Katie says. "We never know how to set it up properly! We kind of just wing it and it keeps changing. The way you're seeing it now is the fifth or sixth set-up we've had. We love the current set-up!"
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The view of the living room from the dining room.
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"We love our white walls and being able to display the bright, colorful artwork we have," Katie says. "We just released a new product that we build, a mid-century inspired Hifi-Console, which takes center stage in our living room."
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"Since moving the Hifi-Console into our living room and taking out the TV, we've been listening to a lot more music and our record collection is slowly growing," Katie says. "Vinyl is definitely an expensive addiction, we frequently have to limit ourselves!"
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Natural light was at the top of their list when searching for a new home. This home is bursting with it.
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The nook by the bay window is the perfect spot to create a mini indoor garden of houseplants.
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Brandon and Katie have a set of prohibition bottles on display that were recovered from the Detroit River.
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"Light just floods our home during the day. Our neighbor's roof line is below our windows, letting in so much light from the dining room windows. Our table and chairs are vintage. The artwork over the sofa is a vintage screen print from an unknown artist, painted in the 70s - found at an estate sale," Katie says.
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"We think this is Brigitte Bardot, but anyone can please correct us if we are wrong! The bench is reclaimed pine wall planks from a cottage in northern Michigan," Katie says.
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Brandon built the credenza in the dining room. The 1902 map above was a gift from Brandon's mother for his 23rd birthday.
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Extra seating is stacked in the corner, giving the bar area a retro feel.
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The light-filled living area flows seamlessly from one room to the next.
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"We love having a peek of color coming from our kitchen. The wall-hanging is vintage and the driftwood was pulled from a lake at Brandon's family cottage in northern Michigan," Katie shares.
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"This year we finally painted our cabinets white! The kitchen is so much brighter now," Katie says. "We are lucky our landlord has good taste and put in all maple countertops."
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Minimal styling makes an impact on this deep green wall.
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"Brandon built this custom sliding door cabinet with solid maple top. The space is so narrow we couldn't find anything that fit nicely there, so Brandon went ahead and put something great together," Katie says.
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"We wanted to keep the home office very simple. The white-painted credenza is one of our pieces we currently sell. The chair is [a] Herman Miller knock-off we bought from our landlord."
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The master bedroom is simple and cool. "With so much going on in the living and dining rooms, it's nice to have a simple bedroom space. We hung a single mid-century Danish tapestry and have a small nightstand," Katie says.
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Brandon and Katie painted this mid-century dresser to brighten up the room.
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Each room is filled with pieces that have personality and a story. "Our guest room is so light and airy," Katie says. "The wall hanging is actually a vintage shower curtain, but it has a stain at the bottom so we repurposed it. The blanket is vintage and so soft and warm; another very treasured possession! Lamp and end table are vintage."
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"Guests have a small vintage cabinet that holds towels and few travel sundries. Above it hangs one of our most near and dear pieces of art. An early 1932 survey of the lake where Brandon's family had their cottage. It was left by the original owner of the cottage."
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The Thonet bentwood chair in the corner of the guest room is a dreamy addition to this perfectly vintage room.
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What we love most about our home is...

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Comments

  • Lovely tour! Can I ask where you got the brightly colored planters in the 6th picture? They really make the plants work together! Also, would love to know more about the red, white, and, black quilt folded over the couch. Thanks!

    • Thanks so much! The colored boxes stack inside of each other and were made in Italy! Probably from the 60s or 70s – found at a Salvation Army. We repurposed them :) The quilt was an estate sale find – it’s amazing!! Looks to be earlier than Mid Century (very deco pattern) Maybe 30s or 40s.

  • Very beautiful home with a happy atmosphere!
    The woman on the Photo looks like France Gall. It is definitely not Brigitte Bardot. Nevertheless a beauty!

  • Hi. I like the way the walls are dressed in this home; such a good range of artworks. And the dark green wall is great. As you suspected, the photo isn’t of Brigitte Bardot but it does seem to be Pattie Boyd, also an iconic face of the 60s.

  • Beautiful apartment! I was wondering if you could tell me the name of the green paint in the kitchen?

    Thanks so much,
    Maggie

    • Thanks Maggie! We tried a bunch of samples but Gliddens “Dark Hunter Green” was exactly what we were looking for. We used Behr Marquee for the actual paint – a new product from them. The coverage is great. If you use a Behr Marquee color you can pretty much get it done in one coat! Since we used a Glidden color it took only two coats. Highly recommended.

  • What a lovely appartment that is. Second the importance of much light! And nope it’s definitely NOT BB, but I couldn’t say Who it Is!
    What is that inset grill in your dining room (floor)? And did I understand rightly that your dining room is also the entry? (I see a set of wardrobe stuff ….) It seems a bit unusual but then, Why Not.
    Love that your love for the ‘pre-loved’ furniture marries so well with your very colourful art. Just great – and you are a pretty and seemingly very happy couple!

  • Definitely France Gall and definitely not Brigitte Bardot or Patty Boyd, though there are certainly similarities. Great job on your apartment!

  • @Kiki Entering into the dining room is a design quirk of the standard Chicago two-flat! The grate in the floor is a register for heating or a cold air return, which may not still be in use.

  • @Kiki -I couldn’t have answered better than Becca! She hit the nail on the head :) Our entrance is in the dining room and the registers are currently inactive – we are lucky to have central air and heat!!

  • Thanks so much everyone! The girl definitely looks like France Gall so we’re going to tell guests that from now on lol!!

  • Katie: I believe I have the same “duck” sweater that you’re wearing (2nd slide pic). I gasped when I saw it as I thought mine was so unique! My sweater was my mother’s (born in 1915) and I received it from her around 11 years ago! Love your apartment.

    • Awesome!!That’s so cool. Definitely one of a kind. It’s one of my absolute favorites, had to wear it in the picture lol!

  • The presence of bright sunlight in the apartment makes you very lucky. The white walls are looking awesome and the collection of things to decorate the interior of home is unique and beautiful.

  • I am shocked to see such a beautiful mid-century decoration curated in in way. It reminds me to my grandmother’s house and makes me feel homey, loved and at home :) I loved Hifi-Console! Your house is a piece of art. Besides, it’s so clean, uncluttered and gorgeous!

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