Monday, May 12, 2008

House Voyeur: Family Friendly Modern in Illinois

Jim Harbison, the man behind the wonderful Modern Craft blog (which is quickly becoming a daily read of mine), wrote in recently to tell me about the home that he shares with his wife, Kari, and young children, Elsa and Henry, in Evanston, Illinois. When I opened the pictures Jim sent, my jaw hit the floor. (Above: Brass candlesticks by Martha Sturdy.)

Jim, who works for a book publisher, and Kari, an art history major who worked in construction before their youngest was born, have an absolutely stunning house. But they've also created a comfortable and welcoming family home that still manages to be clean and modern -- which, as any parents out there reading know all too well, is no easy feat.

I'm in awe of the way that each object in this compact, 1,400-square-foot home seems so thoughtfully chosen (there's no junk here, and they've managed to make even the inexpensive stuff look high-end). Most of all, I love how the Harbisons have invested in original art and filled their home with painted and photographic portraits of their children that are truly works of art as well. (Pencil portrait of Elsa, below, by Jennifer Teichman.)

Here, Jim gives us a virtual tour of his family's recently renovated home. (Note: I didn't realize until late in the process of putting this together than Jim and Kari's house was also featured on Apartment Therapy: Chicago last year. I normally wouldn't run something than some of you have already seen elsewhere, but decided to go forward with this because Jim provided photos and information that weren't included in the previous tour. Still, apologies to you AT:Chicago readers for anything that looks familiar here.)

"Evanston is home to Northwestern University, and has a wonderful small-town hippie vibe. It's right on Lake Michigan and is just minutes from Chicago, but has maintained a distinct flavor of its own. Evanston has several midcentury modern houses, and the architect who built ours also built most of the houses in our cul-de-sac.

Our home is a 1958 split-level -- not quite a ranch, not quite a bungalow. We searched for over a year for a house with some modern tendencies, and luckily our real estate team called us the day this house went on the market. When we remodeled, we tried to emphasize what's modern about it -- opening the space and painting almost everything Lowe's-brand white (the living room wall, however, is Ralph Lauren's Polaris).

The house needed so much work that we had to spend our money on things like new wiring, which left less for bathroom renovation (we still have a bathroom that we won’t let anyone see). We took our budget really seriously, but there are always little problems that crop up (all of which seem to cost $600) and before you know it, you’re over. Still, we knew that running electricity to the garage and refinishing the floors were improvements that had to be made.

If we had it to do over again, we’d put more money into the house and less into the furnishings. As much as we’d love to live in a Design Within Reach catalog, it’s really the improvements to the house itself that bring the most comfort -- a bigger bathroom, for instance.

We love modern Scandinavian design and we’ve tried to be true to the feel of the house, which really has a Scandinavian spirit. When Kari and I went to Sweden and Denmark a year or two ago, we saw many buildings with this construction -- wooden ceilings, pegged flooring, and wooden slat walls. In fact, the slanted wood ceilings are our favorite original feature of the home. They give the place a lot of style and a lot of scale.

I frequently travel overseas for work, and that’s given me an interest in Asian art and an appreciation for the simplicity of Asian design. As a result, our house (as well as my blog) tends to focus on artists and small crafts -- there' an attention to the individual creator. The bud vases, above, are from Heath Ceramics.

The dining room lighting fixture was a stretch, but in an open floor plan like this, it’s important to have some major interest for your eye. So we put money into this Zoom Chandelier from Floyd Paxton for Serien Lighting, which expands and contracts like an accordion. It’s cool. The table is from Crate & Barrel, and the chairs (which are no longer available) were from West Elm. We put a Chilewich rug under the table because it was cheaper than any wool rugs we found and also because you can hose it off. That's an important feature when you have a 4-year-old who loves crushing his blueberries between his fingers.

If I could be anything besides who I am, I'd love to be a famous artist. Sadly, this isn't the case, so we aspire to have a house full of art by friends and others we admire. We really love looking at things that inspire us and have tried to add what we love to our home. Of course, we have to be able to afford it. But there are wonderful affordable art sites out there now, like LUMAS and 20x200, and it’s made it easier to actually buy art that you want, not just what’s available. It's really opened things up for eager collectors like us. The art in our dining room is by Maira Kalman, Theodore Boggs, and Christine Jelson, among others.

We’ve had great luck recreating high-end looks on a small budget. The biggest improvement we made to the house was gutting the kitchen and installing high-gloss white cabinets, quartz counters, and a narrow island. The runner is from Crate & Barrel.

We started by visiting an exclusive kitchen remodeling store, then we searched for an alternative that would be half the price. Turns out, we ended up at Lowe’s, where we found KraftMaid Venicia cabinets that worked out perfectly. Add a Zodiaq quartz counter, some Jenn-Air and GE Profile appliances, and Bauhaus bar pulls, and we recreated the catalog look for a lot less. The blue tile leaning against the wall next to the toaster is by Xenia Taler.

The paint in the master bedroom is Sherwin Williams' Relaxed Khaki.

All of our beds are from IKEA, as are a surprising number of window treatments. You can’t beat IKEA! A lot of our furniture and accessories are either family heirlooms or things we found in vintage stores. The sconces over the bed are from Tolomeo. The bedding was from Design Within Reach. It’s terrific -- it looks like packing blankets from a U-Haul. Sadly, DWR discontinued this line. The red pillow is from Thomas Paul.

The tapestry in Henry's room is a picture of American Indians and cowboys made for Kari's great aunt, who was a school teacher, by her students. The green print next to it is Monsters by Brian Flynn for Hybrid Home, which we got from from Velocity Art and Design.

Henry's bedding is Trees by Boodalee.

My favorite DIY project was building a little stage area in the backyard for the kids. The stage curtains are from IKEA.

Having kids in a house that has such large open spaces is difficult. You can spend all your time tidying up, or you can just accept that you have children who like to imagine that the kitchen mop is a car wash for their Hot Wheels. Life really isn’t a gallery, so you have to let kids play, but teach them to clean up when they’re done. And there's nothing you can do when they cling to the pink-and-yellow stuffed unicorn and beg to bring it home. Their aesthetic is not your aesthetic -- but we all get to live in this house, so everyone should have some say.

I think you can really get caught up in the modern aesthetic or the snobbery of doing things a certain way (at least I can). But in the end, you’re trying to create a living space, complete with comfortable chairs and rugs that don’t stain."

Hear, hear! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing home with us, Jim and Kari.

(P.S. Want to see more? Click here for a peek inside other readers' homes.)

9 comments:

coco+kelley said...

WOW! i'm in love with the dining room. the light fixture is genius! and the mixed/matched frames add a great personal touch. lovely!

Jo in NZ said...

Didn't catch this on AT so thanks for reshowing, and for including different angles & elements.

I am blown away by this home.
Real!

That's the word that comes to mind. I dislike overly curated & cutesy staged ~ this felt just the opposite ~ warm, inviting and yes, REAL! I liked that the family didn't have an endless budget, either, and reproduced/reinterpreted high end possibilities.

I hope they enjoy living there one half as much as I enjoyed peeking!

Thanks again.

Darla said...

Beautiful home, it is so calming! I love the art, of course I am partial to pencil portraits and Chuck Close's art already, since I am an artist!

Joslyn said...

I love Jim and Kari's house! One of my absolute faves in the blogosphere...

molly said...

i never get bored of checking out jim and kari's home, and i even read jim's blog every day. thanks for running it!

Funky Finds said...

What a fabulous home! I especially love the kitchen. Divine!

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Wonderful home!

Melissa

casacaudill said...

I am *in love* with the beamed ceilings, white clapboard walls and the bathroom sink. Must have the bathroom sink.

Ping said...

This is really a fabulous home. I love every part in your home.

By the way, I just found another great place to renovating your kitchen. Hope this is also useful for you.

http://kitchenspro.com/

 

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