The Individualized Home

Last week I celebrated five years of owning my two-bedroom condo on Chicago’s northwest side. Although I had intended to sell by now and invest in a place closer to the Loop, I still like my unit and my neighbors, so the fact that I won’t be selling any time soon isn’t completely depressing. Fortunately many of the amenities the developer specified when the building was gutted and rehabbed seven years ago still are items buyers are seeking: stainless-steel, energy-efficient appliances; granite countertops; cherry cabinets; marble bath; whirlpool tub; hardwood floors; exposed brick in the living room; and a vessel sink in the bath. (Interested? Just kidding, kind of.)

A few weeks ago I visited my friend Jane’s condo for the first time. She and I have been friends for almost five years, and I’m ashamed to say I had never made the trip to one of Chicago’s far western suburbs to visit her. It was always easier to meet somewhere between the city and her suburb rather than battle traffic all the way to her place.

Anyway, when I walked in the door of Jane’s condo I was surprised by her unit. It was so her! Jane is creative and extremely outgoing, which is reflected in her condo. Her kitchen features a floor of large black and white tiles; white painted cabinets with art deco hardware; mismatched appliances; and a hot pink subway tile backsplash. Her window treatments look like they are straight out of the 1970s—vibrant prints I’m not sure you could still purchase if you tried. Her light fixtures were salvaged from Chicagoland buildings that no longer exist; she purchased them in reuse stores. Many are large—difficult to miss—full of crystals and gold. Jane’s walls are covered with loud colors and uniquely designed wallpapers. Nothing about her unit is muted. Jane’s personality oozes from every nook and cranny.

It suddenly hit me that, other than the personal photos I have displayed, my condo still looks like the model unit it once was. I very carefully chose my natural-toned wall colors. My furniture almost looks staged—as though I’m expecting a potential buyer to walk through the door any minute. I suddenly was a little envious of Jane’s freedom to make her unit her own. What potential buyers will think when they cross Jane’s threshold is not even on her radar. Unfortunately, imaginary buyers are nearly all I’ve thought about since closing on my place. Don’t get me wrong; I love my choices and am proud to show my condo off, but I was inspired by Jane to make some changes to my unit immediately—changes that reflect my personality and will make me even happier in my home. (How bold I’ll get remains to be seen!)

As the fourth full year of this housing slump rolls into the second quarter with no immediate end in sight, are you finding your clients are asking you to remodel their homes to meet their individual tastes and preferences? If so, what are some of their requests? Is anything surprising? Do you think any of these individualized changes will dictate future design trends? Please let me know in the comment section below.