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Name: Becky Bloom, with cats, Pumpkin and Stringbean
Location: Northwest Side of Chicago in the historic Bungalow Belt
Size: 1,400 square feet
Type of Home: 100-year-old bungalow
Years Lived In: Less than a year owned
Becky Bloom, a lawyer and digital product manager, lives in a house full of architectural details, and in the year that she’s owned it, she’s added a lot of her own personality (and color!). “My house is a beautifully maintained 1924 bungalow, complete with original stained glass and hardwood floors,” Becky explains. “The primary bedroom in the finished attic is such a dreamy space to take a long bath or listen to music, the updated kitchen is great for entertaining, and I love my private little yard for gardening and relaxing. The open kitchen and large dining room are great for entertaining — I can cook dinner while loved ones keep me company and pour themselves a glass of wine.”
“The house is one of many similar homes on the block. It’s located in the bungalow belt, a strip of homes that run up and down Chicago and adjacent suburbs all featuring the same style houses. Each bungalow has a similar structure, but varies in details, from brick to stained glass to window shape. It’s fun to be part of the community. I’m an official member of the Chicago Bungalow Association, a great local resource for owners of bungalows and other vintage homes,” Becky explains.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Cozy, whimsical, pragmatic, and colorful.
Inspiration: Mid-century textiles, my friends’ art, vintage shops, family heirlooms, and everything kitsch.
Favorite Element: My favorite element in my home is that I get to surround myself with emotional items from my friends and family. I love celebrating moments big and small, so I keep items around that allow me to have those tiny celebrations every day. My friend Jessica just published a children’s book, “The Big Picture,” and I keep autographed copies on display (and extras for visiting kids, of course).
My friend Caroline is a talented painter, and my parents commissioned a painting of one of my favorite flowers from her for my birthday in 2020. On top of that, Caroline painted a beautiful birthday gift for me this past May of ranunculus, which is upstairs , and a “sexy pizza” for downstairs.
I have darling family heirlooms, like Grandma Rose’s bowling ball, and a handful of mid-century modern textiles that my mother emigrated with in the 1970s. It makes my heart sing to be surrounded by things that remind me of the people that I love best.
Biggest Challenge: Welp, my bathroom and bedroom are all kinda the same room. Part of what I loved when I first visited the house was the huge bathtub — I’m a bathtub gal. But, there’s just a small half-wall separating where I sleep from a toilet and the rest of the bathroom.
Although I plan to frame out a wall and put up a door in the future, I have other higher priority projects I need to get done first. So I put some plants and shiny party decorations up and I’m leaving it be for now. Not gonna lie, it’s super convenient to hop out of the tub and straight into bed!
Proudest DIY: My yard is my proudest DIY! I built a few very large raised beds from a Vego Garden kit, hauled a million wheelbarrow’s worth of dirt and mulch (nobody warns you that half of home ownership is just buying and spreading mulch), and planted a bunch of vegetables and flowers that I grew from seed.
Now that it’s warmer out in Chicago, I get to spend every morning in the yard drinking my coffee while checking on my plants. I can spend some afternoon time in my hammock, and I can even take some meetings from outside (with my feet in the kiddie pool) thanks to a few well-placed sun umbrellas.
Biggest Indulgence: I’m relatively handy, thanks to a mom who told me I could do absolutely anything I set my mind to, and a dad who always involved me in home projects when I was a kid. But, after a consultation with my general contractor (aka Dad), it seemed best that I hire experts to install skylights in my bedroom. Who am I to put two holes in a perfectly good roof? Seems like hubris to me.
When buying the house, I made the choice to put less money down so that I’d have more cash in hand for a few house projects. I don’t want to wait until I’m moving out to improve the house — I want to make it cozy for me to live in while I’m here. It’s so easy to put off house projects, so I chased the momentum of the house purchase and scheduled the installation over the winter.
The skylights were expensive, but they went in over just a few days and had an immediate impact. They were absolutely worth the expense, because the room is more usable and feels bigger. I was able to add a reading corner and more plants in what once felt like unusable space. The skylights open and close by remote, which is so important during the summer because I don’t have central air, and any breeze during a Chicago summer helps!
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? My formal dining room is now half dining room, half home office. I love my front windows, and I work from home more often than I host dinner parties, so it made sense to nestle my desk up front. Having a happy home office is important to me because I work from home most days. My dining table is small, but whenever I host larger groups, we find ourselves sitting on couches and the floor in the front room or around a fire pit in the yard.
I also converted my huge coat closet into the “cat” room where the litter boxes live. My coats all hang on hooks or in my closet, so it was an easy decision to pop a cat door on the coat room and put the litter boxes and an air purifier in there. Now the cats have their own space, and the litter remains mostly contained in the room.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Good god I love my Dyson pet hair vacuum. When the sun hits just right, I can see cat hair everywhere, and it makes me anxious. Being able to just grab the vacuum off the wall, run it over the carpet, hardwood, upholstery, or whatever and then put it away has been a lifesaver. I have ADHD, and the chore of taking out a vacuum, plugging it in, shlepping the heavy thing up and down the stairs, and minding all the attachments was enough to stop me from vacuuming frequently. Having the Dyson mounted on the wall and easy to use cuts through my brain noise and makes cleaning a lot easier.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: If I have to put something away in storage, I will forget that the thing exists and never use it again. This seems like an exaggeration, but it’s mostly true.
My solution is to store things in plain sight by using rolling carts, or wall-mounting stuff items for easy access. One cart is for hand tools, the other for art supplies, and another for gardening stuff. Everything stays where it’s supposed to live, I can move the supplies all over the house, and it’s generally easier to find the things I’m looking for. Before, I’d find hammers and tape measures just sitting on a chair or on the porch; Now, it’s easier to put the things into their homes so I can find them again next time.
I’ve carried around my electric bass that I got when I was 15 to every house and apartment I’ve lived in, but I didn’t start playing again until I hung it from the wall a few months after moving in. Just having it out and easy to use makes all the difference, and it makes me happy.
What most people get wrong about using color in their home: Color is about what makes you happy — it isn’t about trends. You can collect inspiration anywhere: clothing you wear, things you see outside, and screenshots of whatever images make you smile. It’s a little bit of an exercise to open your mind to it. Take pictures, assemble a little vision board, and over time I’ll bet you see a theme develop. Use that theme in your home, whether you find a cute throw blanket or paint a whole room.
What are the biggest tricks/secrets to using color in decor? In my case, more is certainly more! I have a knack for stacking colors and patterns until they all make sense. But less can also be more — a pop of color in a stark neutral room can be beautiful, and also an accessible way to start introducing color into your home. If I see fabric in a fun color, I’ll grab a yard of it and sew some cocktail or dinner napkins. A small color accent can make a heap of difference.
Also, if you’re painting walls, it’s just paint! You can always paint over it. I’ve started and painted over murals a number of times, sometimes it just doesn’t work, and that’s okay. Just try it again. It’s gotta work out eventually.
What’s your favorite wall paint color of all time: I’m digging Sherwin William’s “Arugula.” I’ve used it in the kitchen and for the bathroom door. It’s such a grounding pop of color, and plays well with other louder colors — like, say, magenta or neon green — that I like to use. I’m really feeling pink and green combos lately. Also, what a cute name, right?
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? When I get moving on my home projects, I remind myself of two things: Getting started is the most difficult part, and 70 percent done is good enough. Given unlimited time, I’d spend every waking second on a project trying to get it perfect. But that’s stressful and not fun, because decorating our homes should be (mostly) joyful experiences. Give yourself a time limit and feel comfortable walking away when you’re mostly done. Most of the time, after you reflect a little bit, you’ll be happy with the outcome.