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Reader Q+A, Take 2: Our Home(town)

Yesterday we got personal, so let’s spend today talking about… stuff. Home stuff. City stuff. This town that we love so, so much. Here’s what you’ve asked, and here’s what we have to say:

How do you budget for your home projects? Flea market finds? Surprise purchases?

SCOTT: We don’t exactly budget, but we do work hard live within our means, so when that perfect, gotta-have-it, one-of-a-kind item falls into our lap, we can justify the occasional splurge. (Below, Kim wanted everything in that room; really.)

KIM: We rarely start with a number in mind for any given project; rather, our goal is to stay as cost effective as possible. At the same time, paying for quality up front is a better long term option – and we’ve definitely played both sides of the coin (and learned our lesson when we’ve ‘cheaped’ out!).

S: Our biggest budget test will be the new home – balancing our want-tos and have-tos.

We’re in the decorating stages of our own home, and we have no idea where to start. How do I mix/match patterns, colors, and styles? Where do I start?

K: With the exception of the studio – which was completed, more or less, start to finish in a handful of months – every room in our home has evolved over time. Layering in pieces we love, stumble upon or seek out is a process that has taken us years! What do you already have and/or can’t change? Build upon those items slowly and intentionally – but don’t over think it. There’s hardly a steadfast rule to mixing one pattern with another, red with blue or dark woods with lights. Trust your gut. Only you have to love it.

S: Surround yourself with items you’re attracted to. If something’s not working out? Purge.

Help! What are your best organizing tips in a small space?

S: Go vertical! Our ceilings are high, so in a space as small as ours, we’ve utilized shelving above the television, in the studio and even have a small, seamless cubby above our back door.

K: To avoid visual clutter such as remote controls, phones and wallets, we use cigar boxes as functional – but still cute! – drop zones. Most importantly, we try really hard to only have items we use or need. As we begin packing our home in boxes these coming weeks, I know we’ll find more to donate and/or sell.

How did you decide on your neighborhood in Chicago?

S: Before we moved to Chicago, we spent several weekends visiting our in-town friends in Logan Square, and we fell in love with the diversity, creative energy and expansive green boulevards. Our move to the city was natural and simple: Logan Square would be – and still is – our neighborhood.

K: The decision felt effortless; we love it more every day. Cheesy, and yet so true.

What’s the best brunch in Chicago?

S: Chicago Diner. Lula Cafe. Bite. Bang Bang Pie. Donuts at Do-Rite or Glazed and Infused (or both!)

K: We have so many favorites, but we’ll narrow it down based on how we’re feeling. Would we like to sit outside? Milk & Honey‘s outdoor patio is a great people watching spot, full of veggie and meat-loving options, and on a warm, sunny day, it hits the spot. There’s never a shortage on our rotating hit list, but hands down, we think you can’t beat the diner atmosphere and budget prices at Cozy Corner – not to mention, they’ll give you a lollipop on your way out!

What is your favorite non-touristy thing to do in Chicago? Your favorite (absolutely) touristy thing?

K: In the summer, the Randolph Street Market is a can’t miss, in the winter, cocktails and a cheap ticket to the Logan theater are sweet and cozy. A day at the beach can’t be beat, and shopping along State St. is a nice way to take in downtown while avoiding the Michigan Ave tourists (although truth be told, I love the touristy must-dos, too!). For a slight tourist detour, take in the Lurie Garden – it’s so pretty, it’s stupid.

S: On the touristy side, Millenium Park’s Downtown Sound (Monday nights) is a must, the Shedd Aquarium (and the entire museum campus) is worth it, and grab a drink at the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Building. It’s one floor below the Observation Deck, but rather than spend the money on that ticket, wouldn’t it be better spent on an overpriced cocktail in the lounge? And Taste of Chicago – you should do it, at least once – while shoulder-to-shoulder, it boasts free music from national and local headliners.

What are your best Chicago travel tips that won’t break the bank?

K: Venture outside of downtown! Chicago is a city of neighborhoods – each with their own unique personalities. Lincoln Park has a free (and adorable) zoo, then rent a bike and cycle along the lake shore path. Head northwest on Milwaukee avenue to hit the shops in Wicker Park, the bars in Logan Square and pack a picnic to dine along the boulevards.

S: Seek outside-of-the-box hotel stays, such as the rooms at Longman & Eagle, plan your trips for the week (rather than the weekends), and skip pricey cab rides by grabbing a 5-day pass for the train! For entertainment, check out a tasty brewery tour at Revolution (below) or Half Acre – or catch a free movie in the park!

How in the world do you survive the cold Chicago winters? I love the city, but that weather is a deal breaker!

K: However cold, frigid and snowy the winters, the summers are just that much more warm, sunny and bustling. Full disclosure, I never actually enjoyed summers all that much growing up in Ohio (they were much too muggy for my tastes – and hair!), and until we moved to Chicago, I had no idea that the warmer months could be so beautiful! From street fests to fairs to cool lake water and a perfectly manicured, flowered and energetic downtown, I can’t get enough. Once the winter has passed, Chicagoans only look forward. For every bad winter month, the warm weather months more than make up for it.

S: Of our 7 survived Chicago winters, only 3 (maybe?) of them have tested our endurance (and will to live!). Fellow Chicagoans, remember the Thundersnow?

If I ever visit Chicago, can we meet up for a beer? (Or is that creepy?)

S: We know just the place to take you.

K: And who are we to turn down a drink?

S: First round’s on you!

We must admit that while we tried to answer as many of your Qs as possible – you all a curious bunch (ah, just like this girl!) – there are a handful we replied to personally. You can also see our first ask us anything! round up from two years ago right here and here. It’s sort of fun to see how some of our ideas may have shifted and changed, and which thoughts have stayed exactly the same.

And because we love to bounce ideas and suggestions off of fellow home lovers and dwellers, how would you chime in? Your favorite Chicago brunch? Your best organizing tips? Your top-notch winter survival tips? (It doesn’t get that cold, does it?)

PS: There were a LOT of photography tutorial requests – enough to warrant its very own post. I hope to get something together in the coming weeks and share some simple and easy tweaks to spruce up any photo.

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  • Julia @cuckoo4design6.20.13 - 6:41 AM

    Loved the Q&A posts! And can’t wait to read the photography tutorial!ReplyCancel

  • Amber6.20.13 - 9:05 AM

    Thanks for the Chicago recommendations! I’ve lived here for 5 years and find that the longer I’m here the less I go outside of my Lakeview “bubble” so I’ll be putting some of your recommendations to use this summer. PS. I agree the winters aren’t too bad! It’s the “spring” that gets me!ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.20.13 - 9:53 AM

      Amber, you’re right! Chicago springs aren’t much of anything – it goes from cold to hot!ReplyCancel

  • Trish6.20.13 - 11:18 AM

    Regarding surviving the Chicago winters, I have lived here my whole life and it took me forever to figure this out. Buy some really warm clothes – while I hate to be cruel to geese, a down coat will save your life! And you can find cute accessories to style it up (check out Uncle Dan’s) if you are afraid of looking like the Michelin man. I have dogs who need to be walked daily and don’t mind the biting cold, so I have learned if you can’t beat them, join them. I have a full length North Face down coat given to me as a gift by my boyfriend and it changed my life!

    My other piece of advice – don’t worry about your vanity, just dress warmly. I have been known to walk my dogs at the lakefront wearing ski goggles. I really don’t care what people think – I just stay warm and get it done. And being out in the winter time is the best way to beat the winter blues. I thank my dogs for keeping me out and about every day. It does the mind and body good. So don’t let the winters scare you away – embrace it and arm yourself with the right gear.ReplyCancel

  • ohmelvin6.20.13 - 11:46 AM

    If you come up with enough items you plan to part with, you should consider an online auction. You could donate a % of proceeds to an awesome animal rescue. Yes, this is my way of encouraging you to sell me your unwanted things!ReplyCancel

  • Kim6.20.13 - 12:33 PM

    Trish, you’re spot on! I actually just purchased my first down coat this winter (honestly, I have no idea what took me so long), and it changed my life. I remember asking Scott, “so people have been walking around this warm all along, and no one shares this information?!”

    I also love my earmuffs. LOVE THEM.

    Oh Melvin – that’s a great idea! Sadly, I think most of our items aren’t exactly auction worthy (at least the ones we’ll be purging). But it’s definitely something we’ll keep in mind!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa6.20.13 - 12:44 PM

    I usually don’t mind winters here. I remember them being much worse when I was a kid, as far as snow and ice storms go. Summers? I HATE summers in the city! I feel like the odd one out. ;) As soon as it hits 80, I hermit as much as possible. It’s not the heat, but the soup-like conditions created by the warmth and humidity. I never have adjusted to feeling as if I’ve just spread Elmer’s glue on my body.ReplyCancel

  • Kim6.20.13 - 12:47 PM

    Melissa, too funny! Coming from Cincinnati which is (in my mind) the humidity capitol of the world (it’s set in a valley, so the air just sits on top of you!), Chicago is a breath of fresh air! Not to mention the lake for cooling off… Funny though, I feel as I get older, I love the heat more and more. Maybe age plays a factor, too.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole6.23.13 - 9:44 AM

    Thank you! This is perfect timing. I just got a job on Chicago and will start next week. I’ll have two weeks to find a place to live before my stuff arrives! Also, coming from SoCal, the cold-weather tips are appreciated.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole S.6.26.14 - 9:46 AM

    We just moved from Logan Square to Albany Park, where we bought our own little fixer upper! Looks like we have the same taste in food…I definitely miss being within walking distance of Bang Bang, Lula and Revolution, but I’m loving living in a new neighborhood and having a HUGE backyard for our boys to run around in. You’re totally right about the city…venture out of downtown and get into the neighborhoods. So much to see!ReplyCancel

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