Debbie & Devin's Modern Slow Living

Debbie & Devin's Modern Slow Living

Carolyn Purnell
Oct 23, 2012

Name: Debbie Carlos & Devin Higgins
Location: Humboldt Park; Chicago, IL
Size: 1 bedroom + small office
Years lived in: 4 years; rented (now moved)

To say that Debbie and Devin are creative types would be to put it mildly. A photographer by trade, Debbie devotes her spare moments to making jewelry, keeping a food blog, and creating online tours of other artists' studios, and Devin dedicates his free time to photography and music. As you might imagine, their apartment is a creative space, filled with fabulous art. What you might not expect though is the subtlety of the space, a trait that, perhaps paradoxically, makes the home's details all the more powerful.

Debbie and Devin's home is filled with simple elements: books lining open, non-fussy shelves, neutral, clean-lined furniture, natural wood accents, and art in unostentatious frames. Enumerated in a list, these elements could, to some, seem too simple or understated, but in the context of the apartment, nothing could be farther from the truth. Debbie and Devin are masters of white space, of the portion of the composition left unmarked. Their home's airy margins, neutral backdrop, and clean, natural elements allow decorative objects to exist in their fullness, and marvelous details reveal themselves anew with each glance.

Debbie has described her photographic subjects as "Moments of quiet strangeness, patterns of light and shadow, minute-by-minute surprises, changes that don't happen, something askew, something exactly in place, natural and artificial phenomena," and it's precisely this right kind of quiet and the mingling of the expected and unexpected that permeate Debbie and Devin's space. Green-filled window sills blend seamlessly with the treetops outside, making the space feel even more open, and the apartment is suffused with a soft, clear light tempered by warm, ample doses of natural wood. Living, running a business, and working in the same small space would be enough to make any apartment feel cramped, but if anything, Debbie and Devin's space feels maximal and open.

Knowing that readers would prefer to get a sense of a whole room, I resisted including too many vignettes in the tour, but I'll admit that I found myself continually drawn to a number of small, beautiful objects that often eluded my initial glances. A wooden alligator stapler peeped from behind the television, a small bronze lion made his den beneath a stack of books in the office, and softly draped scarves floated around bedroom doors, adding a layered feeling to the space. I'd definitely encourage you to look deeper at these photos to discover all the hidden moments that Debbie and Devin's home has to offer.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Eclectic, thrifted, natural

Inspiration: Japanese slow life, mid-century modern, modern farmhouse

Biggest Challenge: Trying to consolidate living space and working space. When we first got our place, I had a full time job but slowly went into working for myself. I've kind of taken over our apartment and even though half our living room is my office and studio, we've tried to arrange it so that we also have enough space for a sitting area to relax and unwind in.

What Friends Say: We always have anxiety about what people will think about how we've arrange our living room/studio but everyone seems to really like it.

Biggest Embarrassment: We have a cat and a bunny so there is pet hair everywhere.

Proudest DIY: The shelves we installed when we first moved in!

Biggest Indulgence: Our bed frame. We tend to only get our things from second-hand stores, trades, the alley, friend hand-me-downs, IKEA or DIYs. And even though it is IKEA, it is probably the most expensive piece of furniture we have bought and really made us feel like adults.

Best Advice: Slowly accumulate things over time and only things you really love.

Dream Sources: DWR, Sprout Home, Mjölk, Hindsvik, MUJI, Jayson Home

Resources of Note:


    • Office Desk: Home Depot DIY
    • Small plates on desk: Up in the Air Somewhere & The Object Enthusiast
    • Buffet: Jubilee Furniture
    • Industrial stool : Urban Remains
    • Lamp: IKEA
    • Fig tree: Adam & Sons
    • Trivet (keys receptacle): Doug Johnson
    • Art: Nathaniel Russell, Dante Carlos, Debbie Carlos, Todd Baxter, Adam James Boon


    • Art: Thrifted
    • Mugs: Ship & Shape
    • Sand pot: Broadway Supermarket
    • White enamel kettle: Designed by Makoto Koizumi from Alder & Co.


    • Bed frame: IKEA
    • Art: Barsha Dahal, Devin Higgins, Nathaniel Russell, Jacinta Moore


    • Mountain mural:
    • Basket: Doug Johnson

Thanks, Debbie & Devin!

(Images: Carolyn Purnell)

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