For a self-proclaimed nomad, 13 years in the same apartment feels deserving of an award. When Devin Kirk, VP of merchandising at Jayson Home, and his partner, Chad Idol, originally moved into this 1600-square-foot Uptown Chicago apartment in 2005, they didn't plan to stay more than a few years.
Initially drawn to the area by the vibrant music scene: the Aragon Ballroom, the Riviera Theatre, and the legendary Green Mill Cocktail Lounge—a favorite haunt of Al Capone—they now spend more time appreciating the proximity to the beaches of Lake Michigan, one block away, which they frequent with Harry, their 20-month-old son.
A lot has happened in this apartment since 2005. Once a sad '80s condo conversion in a classic 1917 three-flat building, it was brought to life by the couple with thoughtful curating: a collection of framed butterflies, rugs sourced around the world from Morocco to Belgium, and a baby grand piano the whole family enjoys. "I was convinced Chad would get bored of playing it and it would just collect dust, but I was completely wrong," Kirk tells MyDomaine. "It fills the apartment with music and has inspired many impromptu sing-alongs. I can't imagine a house without it now."
Mixed throughout is a multitude of vibrant patterns, and yes, a few baby-friendly solutions. "I think the hardest part was just beginning," he adds. "I think we can all get stuck in our ways, and once you change one thing, you inevitably change another and another. It's tempting not to get that ball rolling. But the result is such a comfortable and happy space that I am thrilled I took the leap."
In his own words, Kirk tells the moving story of the unexpected apartment that became a happy home.
We never intended to be here for very long. When Chad and I bought this apartment in 2005, flipping apartments was all the rage. I was only 26 and had never lived anywhere, not even as a kid, for more than a few years. My mom always said this was because of her Gypsy blood. I tried to rebel by nesting into every new place, but I was born with a wandering eye too. Forever has always been a really hard idea to wrap my head around.
Nevertheless, over the next few years, we settled in and made a home that we really loved. It was pretty but still felt age-appropriate with the odd poster tacked to the wall and hand-me-downs mixed in with splurges like our baby grand piano. There were only nods to growing up. I loved that we had a formal living room that we barely used—we had arrived! The dining room's mammoth table was perfect for our Thanksgiving dinners with friends, no matter that it sat empty the rest of the year. Most nights, we holed up in the second-bedroom-turned-den watching Netflix and eating takeout. It was perfect.
And so it just seemed to make sense that 10 years later, after finally getting married and beginning the process of adopting a baby, we were looking for a change of scenery too. We couldn't picture raising a child in this place, with its linen sofas and limited storage. So we stalked new listings, went to open houses, and drove slowly down our favorite streets looking for rogue FSBOs.
Over and over, we were disappointed by what was out there, and at some point, I realized that if we had seen our apartment at one of those Sunday open houses, we would have written an offer on the spot. Sure, we wanted a third bedroom and a balcony, but we would have compromised for the good bones and great light. It was an aha moment.
And so I began giving away old furniture and selling off what I could. I took pictures off the walls and patched up the paint. I brought home the Jayson Home Theodore Sofa, covered in a smart Sunbrella fabric, which is all at once chic and family-friendly. A rug I found in the souks of Marrakech cozied up the living room.
Chad and I had been picking up framed butterflies from Deyrolle on our annual trips to Paris over the last few years, but I had sort of been saving them for the place I thought we might end up. No more! Unpacked and unpinned, the butterflies took pride of place on the mantel in the living room.
Needing the second bedroom to go back to being an actual bedroom, I transformed the dining room into a multipurpose media room. Equipped with a long skinny library table, it's perfect when we have 10 people for dinner, and it works just as well when it's only needed for coloring books. On the other end of the room, the sectional gives us more seating than we ever could have fit in our old den.
I found myself so inspired by vintage sectionals in their original snakeskin prints and mod psychedelic fabrics from the '60s and '70s I'd find on buying trips to Palm Beach that I hunted down a black-and-white marbled fabric that would give our space serious style while camouflaging anything our new life might throw at it—literally. A Lucite console, one of my nostalgic thrift store finds, did not meet our requirements for storage in the entry, but we found a new life for it when we slipcovered it in linen under the TV (did you know you can remote control through linen?!).
We remodeled the bathroom and cleaned out the cookbooks in the kitchen. We got the nursery ready, but after a year of being "on the list", there was still no baby.
I'm not good at waiting. And so, feeling a bit restless, I decided to tackle a transformation of the foyer, which was still not quite complete. I wanted it to be bold—something geometric, something saturated, a wow moment when you walk through the door. After looking at every wallpaper on the market, I couldn't find one I loved, so I decided I would just paint the iconic tumbling block motif I had in mind myself. What I had no idea of was how long that would actually take.
When I completed the entire first season of the Serial podcast before finishing the first five rows of blocks on just one wall, I knew I was in for a long project. I spent entire weekends painting perfect diamond shapes over and over but still wasn't getting very far.
On a buying trip with my colleague and Jayson Home partner-in-crime Caroline Scheeler, I was explaining to her that I thought I should cut my losses and call it quits. "Keep going," she said. "It's good for your brain." I wasn't sure what she meant, but Caroline does yoga and sometimes I see her reading books about meditation on the plane, so I figured she knew what she was talking about. It turned out that it was good for my brain. So desperate for this baby to come a few months prior, I now found myself praying for it to please just wait until I finished the last wall of blocks.
Our baby did wait just a little longer. Harry Thomas Kirk-Idol was born October 11, 2016, and came home to his black-and-white striped room (which he adores) the following week. As a baby, he was mesmerized by all the little things to see in our happy home, especially the bits of ephemera covering the walls—which has led me to decide that he will one day have a shop of his own: Prints Harry.