With a two-story, woven brick facade enclosing the home's front yard, Tereasa and David's modern architectural marvel definitely stands out among its neighbors.
Built as a study by renowned architect Jeanne Gang, the couple gave the master free reign over the project in exchange for a rather shoestring budget. "We have five cents to give you, do whatever you want," half-jokes Tereasa, a Creative Director at Ogilvy.
David (a fellow Ogilvy Ad Executive) originally purchased the home as a rickety horse stable from the 1880s. Interestingly, the first step of the renovation process was broadcasted nationally when Nate Berkus selected the home for a TV makeover. The celebrity designer tore down some walls and redecorated the living room from top-to-bottom - just not within the couple's personal tastes. "No disrespect, he's an amazing and generous human being, but it just wasn't our aesthetic," admits Tereasa. "At the time, we just thought 'free shit,'" David jokingly interjects.
Wanting to start anew, they gave away most of the gifted furniture and began plans for a full-scale renovation. Originally, the couple intended to maintain the home's historic charm, but quickly learned that the property was too far gone. With a modest $400K budget, Tereasa and David relinquished full control of the home's re-design, and devised crafty ways to stretch every dollar. "Did you notice there are no doors at all upstairs?" Tereasa points out.
But despite the novelty of the home's architecture, we were more enamored by it's decor. Avid collectors and thrifters (Tereasa's even written two books on the subject), the home is almost entirely furnished from flea market finds. Despite differences in era between the home's architecture and its contents, the couple masterfully curates vintage pieces to suit the home's modernist shell. Mid-century furniture is paired alongside a towering collection of vintage suitcases collected from years of travel. "Every time I travel, I buy a vintage suitcase and fill it up with finds from the trip," Tereasa explains.
With more collectibles than their 3,200 sq foot home can hold, the couple use the rest to outfit their summer retreat, Camp Wandawega. The prohibition-era speakeasy, turned brothel, turned Latvian Catholic summer camp frequented by David's family as a child, has since been transformed into a truly magical, vintage Americana wonderland.
We'll explore David and Tereasa's whimsical lake resort next week, but in the meantime, check out our visit to their truly one-of-a-kind contemporary home, and shop the collection inspired by their equally unique (but opposite) furnishings.
Could you tell us a little bit about the history of the house itself?
David: This house actually used to be a horse stable from the 1880s, but we don't really have any artifacts left from its original structure. The only remnants we have left are a few horse tacks that used to be in the walls.
Tereasa and I are both big into vintage and reclamation, so our original vision was to restore it. But when we started to tear through walls, we found that there had been really bad fire damage. It was in such bad shape, there really wasn't anything we could salvage. Had we tried to restore it, we would have ended up with more of a “Disney-like” recreation of an old stable rather than the real thing. In the end, we decided to build something entirely different, instead of creating a fake version of it.
There's a fascinating story behind the rebuilding process as well, right?
Tereasa: We built this house for the price of the average Chicago condo because the architect did it as a study. We were like, “We have five cents to give you, do whatever you want.”
David: We did give them a lot of free reign, but still had to keep them in check. Otherwise, they could have easily ran with their architectural fantasy and taken it to a place we couldn't afford.
Tereasa: That's why we have concrete floors because we didn't have the budget to put in wood floors. And that's why we don't have any doors upstairs. Did you notice that there are no doors? I think it was a fun exercise for the architect too.
We would have ended up with more of a “Disney-like” recreation... In the end, we decided to build something entirely different, instead of creating a fake version of it.
What about decorating? Wasn't your home made over by Nate Berkus at some point?
David: That was way back when I lived here alone and the house was more of a bachelor pad. Tereasa and I were engaged at that point, so the goal was to make it more...I don't want to say unisex - they basically scrubbed it of all of my personality, haha! It was a fun and interesting experience, but we ended up giving away most of the stuff.
Tereasa: No disrespect, he's an amazing and generous human being, but it just wasn't our aesthetic - It was a designer thing. And back then we were so young, we weren't were paying much attention.
David: At the time, we just thought 'free shit.' Haha!
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Do your tastes tend to agree or collide?
David: I'd say we're both very eclectic in our tastes and have a strong appreciation for vintage finds. Even before we met each other, we were both into restoring old things, dumpster diving and thrift store shopping. For the most part, everything here is pretty old and rough around the edges. Nothing is too precious. Everything we own is meant to be used.
We'll debate over things though. Tereasa and I are both art directors by background, so we each have our own opinions, but she's much more strong-willed than I am - I tend to go with the flow more often than not. It's not that I don't care, it's just that I don't have the will to debate, haha!
"Every time I travel, I buy a vintage suitcase and fill it up with finds from the trip. They organically started to pile up, and now it's come to a point where they're not really functional anymore. When it was a smaller pile, we used them for storage. But now, it's just a big ole pile of suitcases."
We built this house for the price of the average Chicago condo because the architect did it as a study. We were like, 'We have five cents to give you, do whatever you want.'
I'd say we're both very eclectic in our tastes and have a strong appreciation for vintage finds.
"We found the mugshots as part of a collection. An old police station must have closed down or something because there were tons of them. But each one has an amazing story - the way they describe the people and the crime. I think those are from the West Coast, maybe during prohibition. We like things like that that people can pick up, explore and find out for themselves - it makes things interesting."
For the most part, everything here is pretty old and rough around the edges...
"It's weird - I've been a car fanatic since I was probably 7 or 8, but I grew up in the city and didn't even know how to drive. But Tereasa grew up in the country with a dad and brother who were really into cars, and so she's been around them her entire life.
I like to buy old cars that have a good body and transmission, so it's not like a full scale restoration. And these aren't like trailer queens or showroom vehicles - you can actually take them out and drive them around. "
...Nothing is too precious. Everything we own is meant to be used.
"There's a funny story about that painting. This level used to be an apartment - I lived downstairs and rented out the upstairs. The old tenants left that painting behind, but it turns out that a girl I work with saw a photo of our home in a magazine and she was like, “Oh wow, you have one of my paintings!” It was totally coincidental - she must have given it to my old tenants. Small world. "