A Chicago Rental Home Is Full of Cute Cats and Clever DIYs

A Chicago Rental Home Is Full of Cute Cats and Clever DIYs

Anna Spaller
Nov 9, 2018

Name: Shannon Buckley; husband, Nick Huertas; and 3 cats
Location: Andersonville — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,500 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, rented

Looking at their apartment, it's hard to believe Shannon and Nick only moved to Chicago one year ago. Leaving Boston, the East Coast, and a number of dark, dreary apartments behind, they were determined to find a home with outdoor space and lots of natural light. Finding one in their ideal neighborhood, only a block from family, sealed the deal! They've put their hearts (and hands!) into creating a home that melds their styles and makes everyone who steps in feel welcome.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We think it's a cross between organic modern, new traditional, and warm industrial. There are touches of mid-century modern, modern, industrial, and bohemian all throughout the space. I honestly don't know if it looks like a cohesive style to an outsider's eye, but to us it feels like an eclectic combination of our tastes. My husband, Nick, is a big fan of the more industrial look with copper pipe, wood, and concrete. I am a big fan of the stereotypical minimalist "greige" (gray and beige) aesthetic with white walls, lighter-colored fabrics, baskets, and tons of ceramics and plants. If I could paint the brick walls white, I would! We strive to have a good balance of old, new, and DIY items in our home.

Inspiration: We both have a love for antique and vintage items, and personally my tastes mostly derive from my parents' house. They live in a log house they built on nine acres of woods in a small town on the Connecticut shoreline, and growing up I kind of resented the fact that my house looked shockingly different than everyone else's I knew, so it's funny to me that as an adult now I take so much inspiration from it. Everywhere you'd look were antiques and oddities: wrought-iron farm tools adorning a two-story stone fireplace, a huge wooden sleigh suspended on the beams of the vaulted ceiling above the living room, a taxidermy deer head on the wall, old glass bottles lining every windowsill, vintage quilts hung on the walls, black-and-white photographs of relatives from many generations ago, etc. In her spare time, my mom used to make her own pottery at a local art center, and there was a small wood shop in our basement that she made furniture in. My dad has a wall with a collection of antique license plates from all 50 states that he amassed over time from flea markets, antique stores, and eBay. Our house was very eccentric and super unconventional for a suburban Connecticut town, but it was my parents' style through and through, and they weren't afraid to be true to themselves in their quirky decor despite gentle teasing from family and friends (my sisters and I included) over the years. They really instilled in me the importance of mixing old, new, and DIY and being true to yourself despite what might be the trend or style of the moment.

From a social media standpoint, I have always found great inspiration in the home of Kate Arends from Wit + Delight. She has a real knack for mixing materials and pairing unconventional pieces together in a really natural and eclectic way. She used to have the most epic amazing wool pompom blanket from The Citizenry on her bed, and I coveted it big time. Not going to lie, when one magically came back into stock on the website a year or so after it was offered, I jumped at the chance to have it and ordered it right away. Once it arrived, Nick thought it was ridiculous and absurd, immediately vetoed it, so back it went sadly. That taught me that unfortunately some blogger trends are better left to Instagram. Also, it reaffirmed that no matter how much you love something and might think it needs to come home with you, it's important to consult your partner (or roommate) first to make sure he or she is on the same page as you. No one wants to be stuck living with something they hate!

Lastly, I can't help but glean inspiration from the TV show Fixer Upper. There were a few episodes in particular—the ones where they really went outside their comfort zone doing more modern and edgy renos—that I will always remember and take inspiration from: the tiny house one, the mid-century modern house one, and the super modern one with all the steel, glass, and concrete. No shame in loving the Gaineses! Unlike many other TV design shows that only design homes with new items, they reaffirmed my love of juxtaposing more traditional and vintage elements with modern and new pieces.

Favorite Element: It's so hard to narrow it down to just one! I am especially fond of the two exposed brick walls, the old hardwood floors, the two porches, and having our bed positioned against the fireplace—I love the statement of having a huge mantel across the entire wall as well as the built-ins on either side of the bed.

Having a good amount of natural light is also a huge deal for us because our last apartment in Boston was a total cave without many windows. We also really love the prime location of our building in Andersonville; it's a few steps away from Clark Street, which is predominantly lined with mom-and-pop shops and hole-in-the-wall gems that you don't get in many other parts of Chicago.

Biggest Challenge: Resisting the urge to buy new pieces all the time as I continue to hone in on our style, remembering to run decor purchases by Nick before bringing them home, not falling into the Instagram black hole of sadness by coveting everything I see in bloggers' and influencers' homes—the list goes on! Seriously though, I think I struggle with figuring out what our style even is and how to thoughtfully add (and remove) things to maintain and develop that style. For four years we lived in a tiny, very dark, and sad apartment in Boston, and it killed any desire for us to want to decorate and make it our own. Now that we love where we live (both the neighborhood and the apartment itself), it's hard not to want to indulge in decorating it to the brim.

What Friends Say: That our home feels warm, cozy, and lived-in. I love many aspects of minimalism, don't get me wrong, but I would never want our home to feel too spare or lacking in color, comfort, or character. Things like throw pillows, rugs, and wall art really bring a place together and make it feel unique, so that's something we're getting better about paying attention to. I think we still have a ways to go with adding more wall art, especially framed photos of us (and our cats), which we have an embarrassing lack of, given we've been together for almost eight years now. We got our two kittens a year ago, and we still have no printed photos of them, I'm ashamed to admit. We want our apartment to feel like a comfortable gathering place for hosting friends and family, especially since we didn't have the ability to do that in our place in Boston.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

Biggest Embarrassment: Using a MagicErraser on every little dark and dingy spot I found on our white walls. I went a little crazy one night after a few glasses of wine, and now we have little matte spots all over the place. They're not kidding when they say to test on an inconspicuous spot first! Other than that, it's hard to be embarrassed about anything relating to our apartment—we really do love everything about it. Is it a stretch to say I'm embarrassed that I want to have a gallery wall somewhere in the apartment but don't know how to go about doing one well? Or that I haven't shared more of our apartment on Instagram thus far? I have felt insecure about branching out into home decor posts on Instagram for fear of boring (or turning off) people who follow me for my outfits, or for our home not looking put-together enough or trendy enough. I think I've put off venturing into home style Instagram posts because I've told myself I'll get around to doing it once our apartment is finally "complete," but I'm starting to realize that it will never really be complete or perfect, and that's okay. It's a silly thing to worry about, so I'm hopeful that this feature will inspire me to share more of our home on Instagram now. I wish I could share what our old apartment looked like in comparison—we've come a long way in just a year!

Proudest DIY: Nick is the DIY king, hands down. I'm so lucky I get to benefit from his craftiness; he's always got a project up his sleeve. At a previous retail job, the store he was working for had a window display filled with a copious amount of copper pipe that they were going to throw away after they took it down, so he obviously brought it all home for us to repurpose into DIY projects! He's made countless items with it: a rolling clothes rack, several plant stands, a freestanding coat rack, bookends, a table lamp, our cats' food and water bowl stand, and a few wall racks for hanging his extensive hat collection. While that might sound like copper pipe overkill, all of the pieces are sprinkled throughout the apartment and complement all the wood and brass pieces we have very well. My favorite copper pipe pieces he's made have to be the plant stands. We have three, and one is an integral part of my Instagram outfit photo backdrop (along with the rolling rack). People ask all the time where they're from, and I wish he had a shop for them to purchase from! I feel bad letting people down. We're also quite proud of another one of his DIYs, which also happens to be an impressive IKEA hack: Turning an IKEA shelf unit into a home for two of the three litter boxes in our home. It's the first thing you see walking in the front door of the apartment, so you would think it'd be super obvious and an eye sore, but he disguised them so well. Our third litter box he made out of two old wine crates. The guy's a crafty genius! I certainly don't have the DIY gift myself.

Biggest Indulgence: Our king size bed. We upgraded from a full bed to a king when we moved from Boston. We wouldn't have been able to fit a king bed in either of the bedrooms, so we decided to take the living room and make that our bedroom instead. Let me tell you: no regrets whatsoever! A big bed is life-changing. Plus, we think having the (non-functioning) fireplace as our headboard is pretty striking. Sure, we lost out on having a door to our bedroom (we use a curtain instead), but we gained so much more space—we have a front porch right off our room now!

On a smaller scale, it was a bit of an indulgence to swap out the tacky, outdated chandelier over our dining room table; we're renters, so there's only so much we can (or want) to modify our apartment. It irked me ever since we moved in though, and I wanted to replace it right away, but Nick convinced me to slow my roll. Fast forward a year later, it was still bothering me, so we finally swapped it out for a beautiful modern fixture that makes me smile whenever I look at it.

Lastly, plants! I have a houseplant addiction now—can't stop, won't stop. I may have killed my fiddle leaf fig in a matter of months, but that won't stop me from wanting to become the crazy plant lady of my dreams. I'm working on it.

Best Advice: Don't be afraid of inflicting wear and tear on nice things, and don't hold yourself back from having nice things just because you're worried about them getting ruined. Some might think it was a foolish move to get a leather couch with cats who think it's their scratching post and a playful toddler nephew who thinks it's his dining room table, but I don't mind all the nicks, scratches, and stains too much. I think it adds charm and character, and honestly I think the couch will look even better a few years from now when it looks weathered and worn-in. What's the point of having something nice if you feel the need to keep it covered up all the time? I also want us to avoid having to replace large pieces of furniture every few years that don't hold up well quality-wise, so I was okay with us investing in a few high-quality pieces when we moved into this apartment. If they get scratched or dinged, they get scratched or dinged—it will be okay.

Another piece of advice is to hit up your local thrift shops and vintage stores on the regular because you might find some great gems you might otherwise not have found. We found our living room rug from a thrift shop down the street; it was covered in old pee stains from the previous owner's pet, but we took a chance on it and had it cleaned. Turns out it's from CB2! I didn't realize that until I saw it on a random stranger's Instagram post. Some other antique finds we're very psyched about are our marble coffee table and the wooden chair in our living room. I feel bad whenever people ask where they're from because I know they'll be disappointed when they find out they can't buy them anywhere! Really though, secondhand shopping should be your best friend.

Dream Sources: The Citizenry, Article, West Elm, Schoolhouse Electric, CB2, Room & Board, Restoration Hardware, Blu Dot, Frances Loom.



Side Table - Found on a roadside in CT
Lord Emmett Tray - Collyer's Mansion
Glass Bowl - Vintage
Mirror - From a friend's house in CT
Rug - Mercantile M
"Petite Fleurs" by Picasso - Cambridge Antique Market
Key Rack - Handmade by Nick


Rug - Hand-me-down from family
Federalist Eagle Mirror (Large) - Cambridge Antique Market
Federalist Eagle Mirror (Small) - Antiques Center of Cape Cod


Sahar Bath Rug - The Citizenry
Woven Stripe Shower Curtain - Target
Trash Can - Amazon
Aseana Small Milk Crate - Target
Wicker Storage Baskets - Target
Byholma Baskets - IKEA
Retro Alarm Clock - Kikkerland
Ball Jars - Flea market find
Hand Towels - IKEA


Sven Charme Tan 72" Sofa - Article
Ceniza Lumbar Pillow - The Citizenry
Taupe Blanket - Hand-me-down from family
Star - Found on a roadside in Brookline, MA
Wall Clock - Andersonville Antiques
It's OK Banner - Secret Holiday
Copper Pipe Plant Stand - Handmade by Nick
Copper Pipe Coat Rack - Handmade by Nick
Maggie Media Console - West Elm
Puebla Marble Coasters - The Citizenry
Desert Dhurrie Rug - CB2via The Brown Elephant
Marble Coffee Table - Andersonville Antiques
Wooden Chair - Andersonville Antiques
La Brisa Throw - The Citizenry
Gray Linen Blanket - Fog Linen Workvia Sailor
Gray Mini Bowl - Little Fire Ceramicsvia Gather Home + Lifestyle
Sea Urchin Wall Decor - Target
Blue Glass Candle Dish - Vintage
Candles - Catbird, Maison Louis Marievia Sailor, and Square Trade Goods Co. via Cowboys and Astronauts
Kid's Wooden Chair - Downtown Antique Mall in Nashville, TN


Seno Walnut Round Dining Table - Article
Sede Walnut Dining Chairs - Article
Mobile Chandelier - Large - West Elm
Candlestick Holders - Vintage
Ihallig Place Mat - IKEA
Slate Coasters - Handmade by Nick
Mid-Century Tripod Floor Lamp - West Elm
Black and White Paintings - Jill Andrada
Writer Oak Letter Board - Letterfolk
Black Side Table - Hand-me-down from family
Fladis Basket - IKEA
Ladder Shelf - Hand-me-down from family
Assorted Cat Figurines - Foreign
Brass Plant Mister - Gather Home + Lifestyle
Stop Clock - Cambridge Antique Market
Assorted Pottery - Handmade


Adjustable Industrial Stools - West Elm
Assorted Oil Lamps - Antique/Vintage
Cat Portrait - Savannah Williams
Cat Clock - Kit Cat Clock via Amazon
Leather Valet Tray - Billykirk
Dish Drying Rack - Amazon
Puebla Hand Towel - The Citizenry
Gold Kitchen Towel - Target
Blue Chambray Oven Mitt - Target
Assorted Ball Jars - Vintage
Trash Can - Amazon


Dining Set - Broadway Antique Market
Oversized Jenga Set - Handmade by Nick


Rug - Hand-me-down from family
Whiskey Bi Cast Leather Xander Armchair - World Market
Marble Side Table - Mercantile M
Wood Slab Chair - Hand-me-down from family
Pampas Leather Lumbar Pillow - The Citizenry
Credenza - CB2
Record Player - Crosley
Clarinet Lamp - Handmade by Nick
Kallax Shelf Unit - IKEA
Branas Baskets - IKEA
Hat Rack - Handmade by Nick
Hats - Goorin Bros.
Copper Pipe Plant Stand - Handmade by Nick
Dictaphone - Antique
Hemnes Wardrobe - IKEA
Billy Bookcase - IKEA
Wine Crate Litter Box - Handmade by Nick
Cat Food and Water Bowl Stand - Handmade by Nick
Framed Concert Posters - Ra Ra Riot


"Burgeoning Landscape II" by Jean Cate - Martha Mae
Chembra Block Printed Cotton Flatweave Concentric Diamonds Rug - Rugs USA
Bed Frame - IKEA
Ullvide Sheet Set - IKEA
Belgian Flax Linen Melange Duvet Cover - West Elm
La Nieve Pillow - The Citizenry
Ursula Pillow Cover - IKEA
Vanity - Yard sale find, re-painted by Nick
Leather Stool - Martha Mae
Monogram Mug - Anthropologie
Glass Cup - Anthropologie
White Table Lamp - Hand-me-down from family
Hat Rack - Handmade by Nick
Hats - Goorin Bros.
Dresser - Craigslist find in Boston, MA, re-painted by Nick
Brass Knobs - Amazon
Threshold Aged Column Large Lamp Base - Target
Threshold Basic Lamp Shade - Target
Coaster - Anthropologie
Boston Topographic Print - Mr. City Printing
Blue Glass Candle Holder - Pier 1
Trio of Ceramic Vases - Pier 1
Rolling Clothes Rack - Handmade by Nick
Nzuri Basket - The Citizenry
Copper Pipe Plant Stand - Handmade by Nick
San Cristobal Wall Hanging - The Citizenry


Threshold Curtain - Target
Painting - Michael R. Nuccio
Rug - Hand-me-down from a friend
Trunk - Yard sale find
Zinus 12 Inch Deluxe Wood Platform Bed - Amazon
Linen Duvet Cover in Pinstripe - Cultiver
Belgian Flax Linen Sheet Set in Platinum - West Elm
Lapis Pillow - The Citizenry
Zafiro Pillow - The Citizenry
Threshold Aged Column Large Lamp Base - Target
Threshold Basic Lamp Shade - Target
Geo Burst Wall Decor - Target
Double Lined Black Vase - Bombabird
Gray and White Medium Bud Vase - Little Fire Ceramics
Mesa Bowl in Bronze - Oatmeal
Black Medium Bud Vase - Little Fire Ceramics
Marbled Mini Bud Vase - Bombabird
Flower Painting - Susanna Risser
Ribbed Catch-All - Bombabird via Schoolhouse
Pewter Teapot - Vintage
Sea Urchin Wall Decor - Target
Gray Ball Vase - Heather Stewart Harvey
Little Splatter Dish - HEA Ceramics via Goodwin
Feel Loved Painting - Savannah Williams
Tiny Textured Container - Bombabird via Schoolhouse
Ivory Vase - Handmade by my mother
Tan Bud Vase - Heather Stewart Harvey
Amber Oil Lamp - Antique
Totem Candles - Schoolhouse
Bud Vase - Hanselmann Potteryvia Sailor
Birch Tray - Schoolhouse
Framed Wrapping Paper - Rebekka Seale via Elizabeth Suzann
Brass Frame - Target
Flip Clock - Schoolhouse
Pyrite Cluster - Cowboys and Astronauts
Coaster - Anthropologie
Na Nin Moondance Candle - Goodwin
Sea Urchin Wall Decor - Target
Svlume Vase in Speckled Cream - Paper and Clay via Goodwin
Pewter Cup - Vintage
Marble Vase - Vintage
Tin Tray - Vintage
Bead Frame - Hand-me-down from family
Gold Vase - Alapash New Home
Rose Oil Lamp - Antique
Glass Display Box - Anthropologie
Clover Dish - Vintage
Wooden Box - Gift from family
Wooden Hat Block - Vintage
Wooden Sculpture - Gift from family
Wooden Canoe - Gift from family
Agate - Cowboys and Astronauts
Hense Retro Twin Bell Alarm Clock - Amazon
Metal Car - Cowboys and Astronauts
Shoe Shine Box - Unknown
Tarva 5-Drawer Chest - IKEA
Brass Knobs - Amazon
Copper Pipe Table Lamp - Handmade by Nick
Leather Valet Tray - Billykirk
Framed Electrical System Blueprint - Cambridge Antique Market
Hat Rack - Handmade by Nick
Hats - Goorin Bros.
Hat Boxes - Goorin Bros.
Tarva 6-Drawer Chest - IKEA
Brass Knobs - Amazon
Fan - Broadway Antique Market
Kitten Keepy Ring Rish - Catbird
Incense Burner - Notary Ceramicsvia Sailor
Extra Tiny Gold Lip Dish - Catbird
Kitten Travel Candle - Catbird
Oval Dish - Soda DNAvia Sailor
Small Speckled Round Dish - Gather Home + LIfestyle
Large Mauve Round Dish - Gather Home + LIfestyle
Glass Ring Stand - Vintage
Hexagonal Tray - Wit + Delightfor Target
Gold Planter - Target
Ikornnes Floor Mirror - IKEA
Black and White Framed Photo - Taken by my mother
Kubwa Basket - The Citizenry

Thanks, Shannon and Nick!

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