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This Chicago Rental’s Thoughtful Design Redefines “Cozy”

by Garrett Fleming

Coziness doesn’t always mean lumpy beds, blankets, layering and such. Sometimes coziness a feeling. Like slipping into the perfect pair of jeans, a cozy space fits the owner perfectly, no matter the style. Hair stylist/blogger Lauren Wendt Bremer and her painter/graphic artist husband Matthew’s rental in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood is one such place. Instead of piling on the decorations in hopes of creating a cozy retreat, they’ve designed a space that fits them like a glove through restrained design touches and a strategic use of color.

At 850 square feet, the two-bedroom space isn’t huge. Minimally decorating each room has proven an invaluable way to keep the floor plan open, giving the home the illusion of being larger. Those few accessories that did make it into the apartment are a combination of the twosome’s aesthetic: Scandinavian and 70s retro. Luckily, Chicago offers many shops that specialize in those two looks, and the Avondale apartment has become a showroom for some of the city’s best stores: South Loop Loft, Humboldt House and Alapash. As you’ll see, Lauren and Matthew went through and thoughtfully handpicked colorful textiles and sumptuous leather goods from each that are big on style, not size.

To further streamline the look and help each room flow into one another, the couple used only two paint colors throughout their nest. The base white hue is warm and clean. It perfectly fits any decoration the couple throws at it and bounces light around the home in such a wonderfully calming way. The warm white is offset by pops of a rich, onyx-black tone. With such a bold hue, Lauren and Matthew knew they would have to be strategic in their use of it: an accent wall here, a cabinet backing there. The paint job has proven to be a subtle and refined way to tie each room together and add visual interest without adding clutter. Click through to see exactly where they peppered in the moody color and to ogle over the entire cozy, yet minimal abode. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Carolina Rodriguez

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Lauren starts her days here in the sunny living room, either curled up on the couch or stretching out with some yoga. She and Matthew say the best time of day to hang in the living room is late afternoon, though. "The windows are west-facing so we get the most amazing sunset glow, perfect for listening to records," they say.
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Four years ago, Lauren and Matthew Bremer got married. A mere two months before the big day, Lauren made the sudden decision that they had to trade in their old, not-so-ideal apartment for a new spot where they could start their new life together. Luckily their friend lives above this apartment and let them know the second it was on the market so they could snag it.
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Lauren and Matthew's living room showcases some of Chicago's most popular bohemian shops. The sofa -- rich in "70s grooviness" -- is from South Loop Loft. It took some time for the couple to finally pull the trigger and buy it, but they couldn't be happier they did. On it sit pillows from Alapash. The rug is from Target, and the task lamp is from West Elm.
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Late one night, the couple was eating pizza and drinking beer one minute, and the next they were painting this wall in Glidden "Onyx Black." "I just loved the accent wall in the bedroom too much not to!" Lauren says. In front of it sits a credenza that used to live in Lauren's grandfather's office. New hardware from Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. gives it a little update.
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The kitchen table is the most beloved piece of furniture in the Bremers' home. Lauren's dad made it. "It's super simple in design but is really the heart of our home. It's where we gather for meals, host dinner parties and brunches, play cards and board games, sit around for hours drinking tea or wine and talking," they say. The chairs are from World Market.
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Although the apartment dates back to the early 1900s, the owners admit it doesn't have many of the vintage touches most of Chicago's older apartments boast. This little nook is an exception.
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"I painted [the built-in cabinetry's] drawer handles gold and the back wall black to add just a bit of drama to an otherwise overlooked area," Lauren explains. The piece sits right in between the living room and kitchen. That being said, it just made sense that it should become an at-home bar.
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Lauren and Matthew renovated the dark kitchen as much as a renter can. They removed the cabinet doors, painted the insides white and replaced the old countertops with butcher block from IKEA. Luckily, their efforts paid off in spades. "It really opened up the room," they tell us.
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Before the couple took the plunge with the living room's accent wall, they tried out the color in their bedroom. The room is on the smaller side, so in order to keep it cozy and not cluttered Lauren likes to keep decorations to a minimum. She made the wall hanging and by pairing the copper piece with a vintage, golden trunk and kilim pillows has found a way to warm the space up with few accessories.
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Lauren hacked her IKEA bedroom dresser thanks to a little help from designer/blogger Sarah Sherman Samuel.
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A day bed in the second bedroom is the prefect spot to get a good night's sleep and for the occasional afternoon nap, thanks to cozy Lacoste bedding and Humboldt House throw pillows. Matthew built the bed frame with Lauren's father. The space is further decorated in Craigslist finds and vintage objects.
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The bathroom gets a jolt of pattern from this tropical shower curtain.
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Storage is at a minimum here, so they cleverly hung a wooden wine crate to combat the problem. Lauren and Matthew not only love how easy of a solution it was, but they like how "pretty and organic-feeling" the shelf is.
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The couple's home is located in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood.

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