To call this row house in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood “eclectic” would be a misinterpretation of what it is. Rebekah Zaveloff of KitchenLab Interiors is an expert at restoring historic homes while also ensuring that their “newness” doesn’t interfere with the authenticity and naturality of the space. This particular home, recently purchased by a family of professionals with two kids and one on the way, was an 1886 row house. “It was in a 70’s state of purgatory,” Rebekah quipped. “It still had good bones, moldings, and so on, but some of it had been messed with.” This meant that this project required a complete gut renovation as well as an addition to give the family all of their must-haves on their list.
The extra 900 square-feet that they added to the back of the home allowed them to rearrange the layout of its three separate levels. The kitchen, for example, was on the first floor, separate from the living and dining room. By moving it up a floor to connect it to the other living spaces, the bottom floor was then able to accommodate a guest room/study, family room, laundry room, and bathroom. The third floor remained the family’s main sleeping quarters where the main bedroom and children’s rooms are located.
Structural engineers and architects worked on the layout of the space, while Rebekah focused heavily on restoring and designing the interior of the home. “I’m obsessed with making Victorian-era city homes designed to function for a modern family, while still maintaining their charm and character,” she said. “I love maintaining the moldings, the room divisions with cased openings, the intimacy of the spaces – while bringing in modern touches in the lighting, furnishings, and rugs. When gutting an old home, the biggest challenge is not having everything look brand-spanking new. So, I chose materials that had an authentic patina, like the hand-painted Tabarka terracotta tile in the main bath and foyer. I adore its authenticity – it looks like it was ripped out of a home in Paris.”
Certain elements of the home weren’t replaced but were restored and repaired. Rebekah refinished the row house’s floors, adding a herringbone option that had the same finish as the original in areas that made up the addition. The spindles of the staircase were too low and not up to code, which then needed to be extended and installed at the proper height. The crown molding also had to be taken out and refreshed: “All the moldings are original but we had to lightly strip off their sticky finish and refinish them,” she explained. “We had knives made to create moldings made to match in the 2nd floor part of the addition (both the dining room and kitchen).”
For the furnishings, Rebekah paid special attention not to go in too far in one stylistic direction. “The living room has a more classic style sofa from Jayson Home,” she said, “whereas the barrel chairs are more mid-century modern. The dining room table is vintage Robjohns-Gibbons, mixed with Hoffmann cane dining chairs. The Ikat rug in the living room is from Stark and goes more contemporary, so we contrasted it with an overdyed Persian rug in the dining room. Each room is a study in contrasts – we didn’t want any of the rooms to be all one era or style.” After about a year, this historic home that was stuck in the ’70s was finally brought into the 21st century, but with authenticity, never losing its original character.