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The Colorful New Chapter of a Charming Victorian

by Sofia Tuovinen

When Natalie and Alan Papier began looking for a new home for their family, the diverse and welcoming Oak Park neighborhood just outside of Chicago, IL stole their hearts. The area boasts a wonderful mix of architecture, from numerous Frank Lloyd Wright houses to 19th-century Victorian homes. With an active arts community, easy access to the city and a charming downtown area, the couple couldn’t think of a better place to settle down. It was eventually a charming Victorian in the Pleasant historic district that would become home.

Natalie, a home stylist, and Alan, an investment analyst, met 12 years ago back when Alan was the singer in a band, and happened to be playing in their hometown one night. The couple’s love for music and arts has prevailed throughout their years together, and has filtered down to their kids Kellen and Maddie, as well as their home. Their old Victorian is truly an extension of all things creative, decorated with unique pieces that create a cozy and inviting vibe. “There are no decorating rules here. It just has to feel good,” Natalie explains.

Built in 1883, their three-floor house has all the quirks that you would expect of a 19th-century home. “It’s a drafty old house but full of charm and all the things we love,” Natalie shares. “Things are always falling apart and needing updating a little at a time. We envision a full kitchen reno and mudroom addition in the next couple of years,” she adds. The biggest project that Natalie and Alan have taken on so far has been the attic conversion, which they completed in the fall of last year. The raw and unfinished space was turned into a family room, complete with a kitchenette. The project turned out to be well worth it, as the attic is now an ideal entertaining space for the kids and the perfect spot for family movie nights.

The family’s home naturally reflects Natalie’s fun and unique style and her love for decorating. From the bold poppy print wallpaper in the entry, to the emerald colored velvet sofa in the lounge, it’s clear that Natalie isn’t afraid of big statements. The common thread throughout the home is her creative use of color, pattern and texture in a way that feels cohesive and most of all, happy. Since moving in five years ago, making the house a home has become an ongoing process that will probably never end — as time goes by, the family can evolve and change with the house, becoming part of its story, just as much as it becomes part of theirs. Sofia

Photography by Marcela Rafea | Kitchen and dining table shots by Natalie Papier

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The Papier family’s colorful and eclectic style greets you right at the door. The mustard colored velvet chair adds old-time charm, much like the old Victorian’s original details. Above the chair hangs “Evil Be Gone,” a custom family portrait by Bryan Cunningham. And let’s not forget Henry, the family’s sweet 10-year-old Shepherd mix, whose portrait Natalie painted herself and hung above the foyer mirror!
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The foyer is a wonderful example of pattern play at its best. The Draping Poppies wallpaper on the back wall is a true showstopper, and the perfect preview of the bright and vibrant home. Natalie’s dad, Kelly Hass, turned an old sewing table into an entryway table.
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The gallery wall above the staircase makes the walk up to the second floor an art-filled experience. The collection includes a Metropolis piece by Jay Ryan. A large metal pendant from Crate and Barrel adds dimension, while still feeling light. The walls are painted in Coventry Gray by Benjamin Moore.
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The downstairs area feels bright and spacious thanks to wide doorways between the foyer, living room and dining room. The living room walls are painted in Vanderberg Blue by Benjamin Moore, a deep teal that adds just the right amount of drama to the space.
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The slightly southwestern inspired living room features plenty of pattern, and colors that both accentuate and contrast the dark teal walls. Nothing frames a space like a large rug, and this one from CB2 is the perfect addition to the bold color palette. Above the sofa, Natalie hung a piece of vintage fabric framed in an embroidery hoop. The wall hanging by the fireplace was bought while on vacation to visit Alan’s parents in Arizona.
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The vibrant color scheme continues into the dining room, where orange tie-dye curtains, chairs, artwork and a rug from IKEA add orange and yellow pops of color. The dining room table and bench are from West Elm. The most recent addition to the room is the Orbit 8 chandelier by Schoolhouse Electric — such a stunning piece! Walls are painted in Coventry Gray by Benjamin Moore, as in the foyer.
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The paper mache deer head from West Elm adds a quirky touch to the dining room decor. The artwork is a mix of old and new.
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“The thing we love best about our home is the creative energy” — The Papier family
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Chicago winters can be freezing, but the yellow walls make the kitchen feel warm and sunny. Still, the next big project will most likely be to add a mudroom off the kitchen and backdoor, which will help keep the space warmer during the colder months. “Because of the sharp roof lines, every winter the gutter over the backdoor freezes over to form a ‘death-cicle’ over the back entrance way. Last year Alan knocked it down with a shovel from the upstairs laundry room and it put a hole through our deck!” Natalie laughs.
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The floor plan of the three-story Victorian, built in 1883.
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Henry the dog enjoys the vintage velvet couch in the lounge. This is where the family chills out, plays games and listens to music on a mid-century record player that Natalie found at an estate sale. “The whole room was furnished for less than $500, which I am proud of,” she says.

The gallery wall features Alan’s concert posters that Natalie framed, portraits by friend and Oak Park artist Asha Partyka, Natalie’s own work and vintage pieces.
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The lounge also features what is probably the most unique addition to the family’s home — a trapeze. It’s a big hit with the kids and let’s face it, with the adults too!
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The master bedroom on the second floor is decorated with calm and natural tones for a serene feel. Instead of art, Natalie’s hat and purse collection adds interest on the wall. The sconces are by Schoolhouse Electric; the mid-century dresser was a local purchase.
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Kellen’s room is painted in Aegean Teal by Benjamin Moore. The desk is vintage Teakway by Kent Coffey. It was a thrift store find along with the tennis rackets and desk lamp.
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The headboard is a unique piece that was custom built by Natalie’s dad, Kelly Hass. The London bed pillow is a keepsake from when Kellen was little and the family lived in London.
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The staircase to the attic features an oil on linen canvas painted by friend and local artist Michael Hedges. A glimpse of the gallery wall shows the family’s love for Wes Anderson movies.
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Converting the attic into livable space has been the biggest project that Natalie and Alan have taken on in their home. They decided to build a kitchenette into one of the attic dormers — such a successful transformation!

Bar-style seating was built along one wall, and reclaimed wood from ReUse Depot was used for the bar top as well as the beams. The wall-mounted stools add a vintage industrial touch and were acquired from Penrose Brewing Co. in Geneva, IL. “After we asked where they were from, they sold them to us!” Natalie shares. The old attic subfloor was repurposed for the walls throughout the attic.
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Alan, Natalie, Maddie, Kellen and Henry the dog in the attic. “It's a good reflection of our quirky style and our whole family!” Natalie says.
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One of the attic dormers was made into a TV area, where the family can enjoy movie nights together. The bench seat is made by Angie Cataldo of She Said Sew. The couch is a find from Joybird, the chair from Divine Consign.
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The third dormer was turned into custom built-ins for toy storage and decor. Vintage pieces and pillows made by friends decorate this nook.

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