As a little girl, I lived in an apartment on the north side of Chicago with my mom and dad. There was something magical about being in a community where the park, school, the grocery store, and even entertainment like restaurants and movies were just a short walk away. The walkability of my neighborhood gave me freedom from a young age to being able to explore by myself and find my passions.
I particularly loved walking to the hardware store which was right around the corner. I remember being enamored with drawer paper liner, paint color, and all the widgets in small boxes organized on shelves. I was inspired by all of the tools around me, which did not seem like much individually, but my creative mind raced with endless projects that I could use these tools to explore. I implored my mom to indulge me in these projects, and soon I was building items such as storage spaces for my toys. I thought it was fantastic to help create something of my very own. One of my favorite childhood memories growing up was playing with my Barbie® Dream Home, Camper and Pool Set. Although most girls played with each piece separately, I would combine those three over and over again in different arrangements to create a fabulous lifestyle for my dolls. Little did I know, this would be my future.
Not long after falling in love with the hardware store, we moved for the first of what would be a series of moves to different apartments around the Chicagoland area. While it was hard to constantly re-adjust to a new environment, I loved recreating space after space with my mom. No matter how big or small our apartments were, we always made sure they were cozy, and fit to the way we lived our lives.
The inside of our apartments usually had small kitchens and bathrooms and large dining rooms and living rooms. In 1971, while other families were using the dining room space for family dinners, my parents had divorced, and it was just me and my mom. My mother was efficient with the space we had, and moved a small table and chairs into the kitchen and made an entertainment area in the dining room which fit our needs perfectly. We relaxed, played in a bigger space and rarely entertained, so this just made sense. Looking back, I believe my mother actually invented the kitchen / great room that is seen so commonly in apartments today!
I loved exploring all of the intricacies of the buildings when we got to each new space. Some had high ceilings, some low. There were large windows with sweeping views, and small windows that provided limited light. Some buildings had very basic entry doors and some had grand ones that made me feel regal as I walked in. In our apartment I realized that with a few minor adjustments like a new paint color on the walls, a quick rearranging of the furniture, or the addition of a few pillows, a space could literally be transformed. I have always been a girl that notices the details, and I started to think about the elements of a building and the spaces within it that give it personality, and affect the lives of those who live there.
I also noticed the building staff, and one building maintenance man in particular. After my parents divorced I was amazed that he seemed to be able to fix everything for my mom and me, smile included, to make our lives a little easier. He cleared the walkways of snow and kept the grass neatly cut so that my mom and I were safe in the winter and could enjoy the lawn in the summer. I can recall looking at the large apartment building, counting all of the halls and units in the building and wondering how he could look after everything by himself.
As my mom and I decorated each space whether during move-ins, or just to commemorate the season, I learned the importance and value of a budget. I was my mother’s constant companion on price comparison shopping for bedding, furniture that fit into the budget or decorating for the holidays. This experience taught me that there is always a way to combine elegance and value – a lesson which I have utilized constantly in my work.
The environment in which I grew up in has truly shaped who I am today. Growing up in an urban environment where everything was accessible by foot or bike, coupled with the fact that my parents gave me the freedom to explore made me more curious about the world, and more independent. Living so close to all my neighbors in our many apartment complexes, made me realize the value of social interaction, and I now seek constant interaction with others to further my learning. Setting up our apartments after each move helped me realize that a high quality of living is achievable on a budget, and that life is a little easier when you are comfortable in the space you live.
My husband and I have sought to raise our kids with this same independence, enjoyment of community, and motivation to live life to the fullest. For us, this has also meant raising them in an urban environment in close proximity to others. Due to this choice (and aided by our parenting skills!) I have seen them become independent, cultured, interested in their environment and the people around them, and determined to get the most out of life.
Similarly, in my work as a developer of apartments, I strive to create spaces fit for modern life that inspires people to live healthier, happier, and more elegant lives. Spaces that allow for a better life with amenities, a sense of community, beautiful finishes, and efficient layouts. Spaces that encourage residents to meet and learn from neighbors in beautifully finished common spaces, to explore the city on foot or bike, and to live greenly. Spaces for those that desire an easier, comfortable way of living regardless of age, or budget.
I invite you to spend a year in the spaces that my team and I have built to reflect the life that I have been grateful to lead. I hope to inspire you with the living environments that we have created, as well as some thoughts to help you make your space your own, and simple, fun ideas to encourage social events and form communities.
All the best,