Interiorssneak peeks

In Chicago, Room to Play Meets an Exercise in Restraint & Simplicity

by Kelli Kehler

When The Dolgin Family was looking to stay in their Chicago, IL neighborhood of East Lakeview over three years ago, their mission was driven by the desire to keep their children at the area’s local school. Mischa, 10,  and Romy, 8, were already attending the community’s elementary school, and Amy and husband Harell wanted to stay put to enable Emmett (5) and Sy (1.5) to eventually enroll. The family of six waited patiently in a small nearby condo, eyeing the market for something to drop — a natural observance for Harell, a General Contractor who works on both . is a nurse, teacher, and artist, and her knack for design combines harmoniously with Harell’s skills, making them seasoned reno pros and a well-oiled machine.

“I am a creative [type], dressed as a nursing instructor,” Amy shares. “I paint and draw, as well as [teach] women’s health to undergraduate students. My husband and I have moved frequently, as we both enjoy the process of designing new spaces, renovating and moving, starting fresh. We try to parent in as slow a way as possible, while still living in the fast-paced city.”

When the couple laid eyes on their current home — “an anomaly for our neighborhood in many ways” — they saw past its dilapidated state and close proximity to the train. A 1891 red brick coach house, the structure’s wide open space (3,000 square feet) made up for the lack of outdoor space for the kids — which wouldn’t be used much if they had any, with the persistent train noise. Perfectly planned for an energetic bunch of kids, the home’s open-concept ground floor holds the kitchen, living room and dining room and mud room. Upstairs are four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a den/library.

The home is walking distance to Lake Michigan, Wrigley Field and, most importantly, school — the proximity of which gives the Dolgins a deep sense of community in the middle of Chicago’s hustle and bustle. “We love living in East Lakeview,” Amy begins. “Our kids attend the neighborhood elementary school, so we walk to school most days. Having so many classmates and friends in the neighborhood gives us a small town feel right in the middle of Chicago. The shop owners recognize us, and I have the feeling that the teachers and families that live nearby have an eye out for my kids.”

Amy and Harell chose to let the architectural details of their home — like the nearly 12-foot ceilings with exposed joists — shine, while adding some striking, unique design touches. Other than that, the space remains a clean and streamlined haven for family time and relaxation. Amy tells us, “The process of renovating this space was an exercise in restraint and simplicity. We really wanted this house to feel casual and comfortable, so we chose simple, comfortable materials, and kept as much open, unfurnished space as possible.” With the next renovation on the horizon — it’s the nature of this family and their skills — the Dolgins are enjoying this home for now. Amy’s learned some valuable lessons through each project, and passes them along: “Your likes and dislikes change with time, and as your lifestyle and family life changes. Embrace whatever you find beautiful right now. Don’t be afraid to get weird with your decorating choices — weird is good! Choose what works best for you, and [what] you love, now.” —

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Image above: In the midst of a sleek and stunning kitchen, a functional family adaptation: “One small hack we used for our large family is to put two standard refrigerators side by side, rather than invest in a big Sub-Zero or more expensive large-capacity fridge,” Amy offers. “You can see into the mudroom here, too.”

From the coach house's front door, a view up the stairs and a fun arch carves out a peek into the kitchen.

The family used Benjamin Moore’s Oxford White paint throughout. On the front door, signs that kids were here. Amy notes that architect and dear friend lent his skills to help transform this home for the Dolgins.


The home’s main floor space is accommodating to many an activity, whether it be gathering, playing music, or swinging.


In the main floor living space, Amy’s design restraint is on display. “I am most thankful for the comfort and safety that our home provides all of us — that there is space for us to be together and also space for each of us to find a quite spot alone.”


In the dining nook, green vintage chairs and deep green wall paint anchor the space while oversized white lanterns play up the space’s industrial features.


Benjamin Moore “Enchanted Forest” is the perfect backdrop to light wood flooring and treasured artwork.


The downstairs powder room. “I drove to Indiana to buy this Craigslist console sink — totally worth it.”


Upstairs, the boys’ shared room features a vintage Jenny Lind bed and a soft rug for playtime. “Emmett, our 5-year-old son, is high energy all the time,” Amy shares. “He is a natural leader and has a smile that makes us laugh off his frenetic energy. Our youngest, Sy, is 18 months old. He is the sweetest, smiliest baby. So far, he just loves being with his siblings, emulating their every move, and making us all laugh. He can soften any of us when family life gets too busy or angsty.”


The girls’ shared room (complete with a treehouse-style reading nook!). “Our kids are great — I know, I’m biased,” Amy admits. “Mischa, our oldest, is 10 years old and so driven. She loves school, music, and sports. She strives to get to the bottom of everything, to understand the root of it all. Romy, our second daughter, is 8 years old. She loves the visual arts, always planning and creating something — usually involving fabric, string, yarn, and other materials.”


The upstairs den/library expertly uses Benjamin Moore “Wythe Blue” as a neutral. The casual yet sophisticated space is where the family reads before bedtime.


Embrace whatever you find beautiful right now. Don’t be afraid to get weird with your decorating choices – weird is good!


The main bedroom is located off the den/library. Amy says “[The] canopy bed is discontinued from Home Decorators’ Collection — but we love it and it was less than $300!”


“This shows how the master bedroom connects to the master closet — we built a partial wall to split the master suite into bedroom and closet.”


Amy and Harell’s bathroom is a light and bright space that marries both clean, crisp lines with rustic, weathered brick walls.


“Despite having more than enough bathrooms in the house, everyone chooses the master bathroom,” Amy shares. This gorgeous free-standing bathtub is from .


A glamorous scene studded with signs of real family life — like a mesh bag full of bath toys hanging on a robe hook.


The upstairs shared kids’ bathroom features a fun shower curtain and black tiles — a good choice for a place that sees a lot of little feet.


Upstairs, a fourth bedroom is used as an office and painting space.


Back downstairs, the family’s workhorse room: the mudroom. Benjamin Moore “Black Beauty” adds an interesting edge to the space.

The quaint front door to the expansive home that is found beyond.

The Dolgin Family’s 1891 coach house — “This means it is built behind another building, and largely hidden from the street. It is a red brick two-story building. [Here you can see] our location next to the train, our big kitchen window, and our attached garage.”


The Dolgin family: Harell, Amy, and their children Mischa, Romy, Emmett and Sy.


“What I love most about my home is the space it provides for my family’s growth and creativity.” — Amy Dolgin

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