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.”