Home Tour: A Historic Chicago House With an Artistic Side
On Chicago’s desirable North Shore, a run-down but historic home just needed the right buyers to bring it back to its former 19th-century glory. Entry Jodi Morton of 2to5design and her husband, David, owner of DMK Restaurants, which includes such Windy City hot spots as Fish Bar, Ada Street, and DMK Burger Bar.
When the couple purchased the home, it had been vacant for over a year and was totally uninhabitable. Thanks to Jodi’s design sense and the family’s personal collection of art, furniture, and accessories, the property was transformed over the years into a bustling residence for a modern family of five.
Inspired by both the home’s historical roots and original elements as well as the modern items that are suited to their family’s style, Morton set out to create personal interiors that also fit with the bones of the house. “You can't help but be influenced by the scale of the rooms and the original wood paneling, and being in a historic landmark district, we first needed to take great pains to repair all of these original elements,” the designer says. Necessary updates included adding electrical, replacing flooring, salvaging areas that were damaged by a second-floor fire, gutting the kitchen and bathrooms, and more.
“I always take the provenance of the home into consideration when designing, and in this case, our inspiration was 'a modern family takes over an old abandoned mansion,'” the designer shares. “The scale and age of the home can be intimidating, but we have given it an approachable and livable vibe. It really is a personal, authentic expression of our experience with the home.”
The sunny dining room is a favorite spot for the family. “My husband and I fight over the chair in the corner to read the newspaper in,” Morton laughs. “The long antique wood table is often my makeshift office and has been host to some wonderful gatherings.”
“Once renovations were done, we took artistic license to modernize the spaces to meet the demands of our family,” says Morton. “There’s a great mix of old and new, and as always, when you buy what you love, it works.”
Assemblage Moroccan Incised Brass & Mahogany Folding Six-Leg Tray Table ($3250)
In the living room, the fireplace mantel displays artwork from a variety of sources. “There’s everything from canvases painted by our daughter to a tablescape painted by my mom and a painting by Pal Fried that hung behind the bar at David’s grandfather’s restaurant in Hyde Park in the ’20s,” Morton tells us.
With an art collection that includes such diverse pieces as vintage posters, modern oils, and unique local items, the Mortons have amassed a personal variety of art to display in their classic space. “Of course, modern art looks good with any style, so even if the home is somewhat traditional, I encourage my clients to collect modern works,” she says of utilizing art in décor. “The tension between traditional and modern elements is what makes a room feel exciting and fresh.”
“My home is more of an experimental workshop for me rather than a showhouse,” Morton says. “It’s a wonderful canvas for trying out pattern and color and scale.”
With three children between 10 and 15, the home is always full and needs to withstand the wear and tear of teenagers. “We use every inch of this house, and as a bustling family of five, there are always kids here after school and on the weekends,” says Morton. “With sleepovers, kids are crashing on the sofas and the floor almost every weekend, so nothing is too precious—even the precious things. It’s all meant to be used and loved.”
When it comes to decorating historical spaces or even mixing modern and traditional components, Morton recommends trusting your instincts. “If you love it, buy it,” the designer says. “Honestly, much of my job is getting my clients to trust themselves and not be afraid to make decisions based on their own taste.”