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Liz's Light Off Lake Michigan




Chicago, Illinois



Square Feet:


What I Love About My Home

After renting here for almost a year, the views from my apartment still thrill me every day. In the morning, it sparkles as light bounces off Lake Michigan and pours in from the east. In the evening, I love watching the city light up from the quiet charm of my 7th floor hideaway. My space is simple, clean, and filled personal mementos and pictures of the people and places I love. It's small, but with the big windows and use of space, it never feels that way. The wood, steel, greys and blues help blur the lines between inside and out; I often feel like the park and lake are my own private balcony. But what I love most of all is that that the first thing my sister said when she saw it was, "Liz, it's so YOU!".

Biggest Challenge in Furnishing My Home

I'm plagued by expensive taste with a budget that doesn't necessarily match, so it was challenging for me fill my small space with pieces that I really loved but could also afford. I ended up making (gas pipe shelves were my first big DIY project, and from that point forward, I was hooked), repurposing and finding a lot of things secondhand. By necessity, I quickly learned how to draw, paint, build, reupholster, and navigate Home Depot, and I think the whole apartment feels more like me because of it. The other biggest challenging was rethinking the space so that it suited my needs. When I moved in the setup was very different, and there were two enormous closets that dwarfed my already minimal wardrobe. After a lot of rearranging, I ended up converting one into a dressing/vanity area, and the other into an office/storage space. I worked hard to maximize every square inch, and I'm constantly getting rid of things so that it feels airy and open, not cluttered.

Favoriting and voting have ended.

Comments (104)

your vanity area is adorable!

posted by brightred on April 15, 2011 at 3:16pm
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well, I think it looks chic!
Using the vertical storage at the living room in the way you did was nicely done, there's no clutter to be seen but it doesn't look staged.

j' adore the home office nook :)

posted by hotpaprika on April 15, 2011 at 8:33am
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love love love!

posted by ejoyce on April 15, 2011 at 8:40am
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The low arms on the sofa are nice -is that a vintage piece? If not where is it from?

posted by ratskolnikov on April 15, 2011 at 9:00am
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You did such a great job! So clean and organized. Congratulations on learning the way of Home Depot and DYI-ing - I'm on that journey myself.

posted by ElaneB on April 15, 2011 at 9:18am
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Great use of space, you've really put a lot of thought and work into it. The closet with the desk and curtain are brilliant. Good luck!

posted by R_Claw on April 15, 2011 at 9:21am
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Oh, this is gorgeous. I love when tiny spaces that seem huge!

posted by Shadlyn on April 15, 2011 at 9:21am
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i think the only thing that looks good on shelves is books.

posted by mishiko on April 15, 2011 at 9:24am
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posted by Mori on April 15, 2011 at 9:29am
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Big big thanks to my good friend Matt Gore for taking these photos. http://www.matthewgore.com/

Thanks for the positivity, guys!

@ Otilly - I completely agree. My motto is spend only on forever-pieces, or things you love. Make or find everything else :)

posted by elizabeth11 on April 15, 2011 at 10:23am
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@rahskir - I've had so many people ask that same question. Unfortunately, not a vintage piece. It's West Elm, the Lormier. http://www.westelm.com/products/lorimer-sofa-g149/

I searched for the perfect sofa forever, but the elevators in my building are unusually small, so I had to send two back that didnt fit. This one worked and I love the deep, low arms. And I got it on major discount.

posted by elizabeth11 on April 15, 2011 at 10:27am
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Very nice. I normally like super vibrant spaces, but this is really clean,bright and well thought out. I would definitely bring a bit more colour into the space, but the space planning and choice of furnishings is well done. Also you are a super DIY'er and that must be celebrated, it is far to easy to just go to a showroom and pick out a entire style of furniture and plop it into your space and call it your own. Good job!

posted by her_royal_gr8ness on April 15, 2011 at 10:33am
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This looks great. Did you put new doors on the cabinets, or were those existing?

posted by kyidmnmaiv on April 15, 2011 at 10:35am
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Love the office nook! So sweet.

posted by rajaune on April 15, 2011 at 10:39am
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@her_royal_gr8ness: thanks! i'm total color neutralist, but totally hear you on adding some more pops in there. i just bought a bunch of bright blue fabric to make pillows... baby steps :) the pictures dont capture it, but the windows overlook the bright green park and blue water, so it usually feels more colorful than i can personally take credit for.

@kyidmnmaiv: cabinets are ikea, a recent update!

posted by elizabeth11 on April 15, 2011 at 10:44am
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I love it! You did an amazing job of decorating and maximizing the space.

posted by Kay10 on April 15, 2011 at 10:49am
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Beautiful. So airy and fresh.

posted by MarlyK on April 15, 2011 at 10:51am
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posted by Tristacoop on April 15, 2011 at 11:03am
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Wonderful job! I love the pipe shelving!

posted by decogirl on April 15, 2011 at 11:16am
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Awesome place!

posted by William in the 22 on April 15, 2011 at 11:43am
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Very nice! It looks much bigger than it actually is. Love the calming colors and your office area. Your place is definitely one of my favorites!

posted by Tracy333 on April 15, 2011 at 11:45am
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Your home is absolutely charming. Your office space is brilliant! The shelving unit in the living room is awesome! I guess I love it all, great job!

posted by teresadelizo on April 15, 2011 at 11:47am
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Wow. Just.....wow.

posted by Reeses902 on April 15, 2011 at 11:50am
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Beautiful space! I love how you mix antique and modern, industrial and polished.

posted by Gaidig on April 15, 2011 at 11:51am
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lovely. this could be the winner!

posted by rlmesq on April 15, 2011 at 12:02pm
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Great job in such a small space. Love the curtain hiding your office and storage. Love the black and white. Love the kitchen cabinets. Adding to my favorites. Good luck.

posted by robertspeg on April 15, 2011 at 12:42pm
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love it!

posted by ell.uu on April 15, 2011 at 12:42pm
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The gas pipe shelves are awesome and well done! I have a hard time putting together Ikea stuff.

posted by andrea_xtina on April 15, 2011 at 12:45pm
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Liz, your space is eclectic in the most elevated sense: An aesthetically pleasing blend of simpatico styles, which feels curated over time. As a fan of neutral, calm palettes for the home, your place seems sublime to me.

On a personal note, kudos for having few enough belongings that you have an overabundance of closet space! Well done on all counts!

posted by Dollface on April 15, 2011 at 12:49pm
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It is SO you Liz. Just lovely

posted by M Campbell on April 15, 2011 at 12:50pm
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Bravo, excellent work!

posted by Terry Clark on April 15, 2011 at 1:01pm
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I love this! It is such a charming space!

posted by KatelinAnne on April 15, 2011 at 1:01pm
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Really, really nicely done. So restrained and elegant.

posted by Juliet___ on April 15, 2011 at 1:11pm
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This is lovely! Well done!

posted by colellis on April 15, 2011 at 1:31pm
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Liz, you really have an eye about designing and decorating. I love what you did to your work area and closet. You were able to create a sense clean line in both areas. You definitely have my vote!

posted by pier723 on April 15, 2011 at 1:12pm
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Thank you all so much!

I really appreciate the feedback. In such a small space, I try hard to keep things restrained -- it keeps me sane :) I often feel like life is so crazy and colorful that I rely on clean neutral spaces keeps me calm.

@dollface - Thanks! My minimal closet/belongings is definitely a constant work in progress, but my grandpa used to remind us that if you have fewer things, you can spend more on each one. I am constantly weeding through my closet to see what needs to go before bringing in anything new.

posted by elizabeth11 on April 15, 2011 at 1:24pm
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so chic and tasteful, you seem to have filled the small space just the right amount

posted by ellerden15 on April 15, 2011 at 1:28pm
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You have a really great eye--and skills as well! Love.

posted by jen_g on April 15, 2011 at 1:40pm
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Really lovely, even though the colour palette is so pale and neutral, it feels warm and has a lot of personality, super nice!

posted by lei on April 15, 2011 at 1:55pm
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The little desk/linen closet combo deal is so beautifully organized and adorable, why does it need a curtain... ?

posted by MyDogistheShihTzu on April 15, 2011 at 2:01pm
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Seeing places like this make me want to re-prioritize my weekend into a massive straightening and editing event. Don't think the fiancee is going to approve of that plan, but i can't let this inspiration go to waste. Great job!

posted by MsDonnaGirl on April 15, 2011 at 2:11pm
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It feels very zen. Everything is simple, calm, and placed in its most functional/appropriate place.

posted by akay on April 15, 2011 at 2:17pm
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i hope you do well in the contest! like what i see :}

posted by hht on April 15, 2011 at 2:26pm
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Very nice! Love it!

posted by SBG13 on April 15, 2011 at 2:28pm
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I absolutely love it. Makes me miss Chicago and Lake Michigan :)

posted by teshi on April 15, 2011 at 2:30pm
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@MyDogistheShihTzu: Thanks! and great question with the curtain. All the curtains are just sheets of canvas that I cut and attached by hooks to industrial hospital tracking. Since the tracking goes across that whole wall, I have that curtain up so when there are other people over, you can just pull the curtain across to close off the dressing/vanity/bath area - it adds some privacy. When its not used that way, I kind of like the softness of the fabric breaking up the hard lines of my desk space.

Thanks so much for all your great comments :)

posted by elizabeth11 on April 15, 2011 at 2:51pm
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If you're not a professional interior designer now - you should be! I love your photography collection too.

posted by eclectic-chick on April 15, 2011 at 3:11pm
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Ditto, Liz...I too am plagued with expensive taste issues.
From one Liz to another, that's a nice place you've got there!

posted by elizabethb on April 15, 2011 at 3:32pm
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Liz, your apartment is so nice! I hope I get invited over for a cup of tea sometime soon :-) Good luck with this.

posted by Matthew Hutchins on April 15, 2011 at 3:39pm
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@eclectic-chick -- thank you! with the exception of two (my friend's dad- a super talented photographer- shot them), all of the photography are pics ive taken or old family photos, edited and restored. i've found that big frames and crisp white matting help distract from my lack of real skill.

@elizabethb -- must have something to do with the name :) thank you!

posted by elizabeth11 on April 15, 2011 at 3:41pm
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I want to live there!

posted by Melissa the Canadian on April 15, 2011 at 3:53pm
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Now this is goregous! Everything was well thought out. Well done! You are very talented.

posted by nycbound on April 15, 2011 at 4:07pm
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Really well executed. I love it.


posted by eise0100 on April 15, 2011 at 5:03pm
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Liz, I've never posted a comment on AT before, but loved your space so much I felt compelled to.
Personally, I love the pale, neutral color scheme. The wood floors and furniture give it plenty of warmth. I typically don't gravitate toward vintage furniture, but you have chosen your pieces so judiciously, they work brilliantly.
By far my favorite space---Bravo!

p.s. I like that you can do chin-ups over the vanity area. ;-)

posted by Paul from MN on April 15, 2011 at 5:12pm
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Clean,beautiful space. Surrounded by special photos to give it character and warmth. Love it! The space looks twice the actual size. So impressive.

posted by Betsy53 on April 15, 2011 at 5:19pm
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Im so appreciative of, and humbled by, all your kindness. Thank you!

@Paul - Thank you + glad to be a catalyst for your posting! And of course, my morning routine involves chinups over my calla lilies; upper body strength should not be overlooked.

@thorndale - I love what I do, but a stylist would be my dream job, so thank you :) I tried dividing with shelves and it made my already tiny space feel tight. I found that the straight back of the sofa provides a clear, unobtrusive division between spaces. Rug is from craigslist; I love how it looks but its semi-prickly on just-out-of-the-shower-feet. Ive been imagining replacing it with b&w striped FLOR tiles. Those old wooden chairs in the kitchen were one of my favorite finds - $25 from the dining room of Chicago's historic Pump Room.

posted by elizabeth11 on April 15, 2011 at 5:52pm
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Fab black-and-white combo. Lovely closet-work station convertion.

posted by Ofelia on April 15, 2011 at 6:17pm
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Very polished and pulled together. I love it! Great job.

posted by rochellealb on April 15, 2011 at 6:18pm
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Well done Liz! You got my vote. Love the great use of space it feels very nice and cozy...and is totally you.

posted by cec chicago on April 15, 2011 at 6:26pm
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can't find words to describe how much i love this space!

posted by illestwifey on April 15, 2011 at 7:19pm
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great job liz.... you never cease to amaze me.never thought much about living in Chi-town, but looking at your place and reading about the views from your 7th. floor apt. has me thinking. why not??!! good luck...

posted by kazoo/steve on April 15, 2011 at 8:15pm
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I'm so impressed with what you've done -- light, bright, total class ....just like you, Liz. You have inspired me to de-clutter and simplify my home...starting this weekend!

posted by ZooLorrie on April 15, 2011 at 8:30pm
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My favorite teeny-tiny! Very elegant and refined, but warm at the same time. The light is beautiful in the picture, I can only imagine in person. Love your greys with the black and white photos throughout. You handled the two closets brilliantly. And the drop leaf table could be multiuse? Pulled out for dinner company or when you need a bigger working area for a project? I love your in the closet desk, I can see that making one of AT's posts on converting your closet. Sadly, I would fill up those two closets and then some if I was in your space but I'm working on downsizing.

posted by mauishopgirl on April 15, 2011 at 9:55pm
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Love the gas pipe bookcase built in! L O V E!

posted by mattNmags on April 15, 2011 at 10:15pm
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Beautiful apartment... I can also tell you have good taste in shoes :)

posted by ndj99987 on April 17, 2011 at 7:59pm
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One of my favorite entries thus far. Just gorgeous!

posted by kellykat0 on April 15, 2011 at 11:36pm
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Love it Liz! I'm extremely impressed with the fact that you have extra closet space to make use of! :) The view sounds wonderful! Good luck!

posted by KellyCK on April 15, 2011 at 11:59pm
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Really nicely done.

posted by djfernandez on April 16, 2011 at 12:33am
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one of the top three favorite entries for sure! what a great use of small space. love the vanity and the office. quite inspiring! good work!!

posted by queenyellowsun on April 16, 2011 at 12:40am
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I love the comfort of your apartment. Very well laid out and all the colors, furnishings..all just well placed. And to top it all off, you even put the cozy touch in the closet area..how cool is that?...very creative. Love it all!

posted by smoothsailing on April 16, 2011 at 9:28am
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Love the converted closets and how airy and light it all feels!! :)

posted by iLayla on April 16, 2011 at 10:06am
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posted by Gorica on April 16, 2011 at 4:11pm
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Thanks for the encouragement, everyone!

@mauishopgirl - Keen eye on the multi-use drop table. Its perfect for pulling out into the kitchen for bigger projects. And admittedly, sometimes while getting ready in the morning I just flip up that outer leaf, spread out my breakfast, makeup, computer, and pull up a chair so I can leisurely dry my hair and check email. When I got it, the top of the table had huge stains and scratches. I loved the color of the finish on the rest of the table as it was, so I covered the worn top with a sheet of matte midnight blue wrapping paper and placed the shiny glass over it. $6 later, it went from exhausted to elegant!

posted by elizabeth11 on April 16, 2011 at 4:17pm
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I want to live here! Not only do I love the apt, but I'm very jealous of your view. As a Chicagoan now living in NYC, no Manhattan view can top Lake Michigan.

posted by thebluehaiku on April 16, 2011 at 4:30pm
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I absolutely LOVE the media unit, the closet office and your use of greys and creams throughout the space. The home feels so light and beautiful, and because of all the light, it feels so large and welcoming! GREAT JOB!

posted by Design Build Love on April 16, 2011 at 5:51pm
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Stunningly beautiful. Liz, you have lots of talents! I applaud to all your achievements.

posted by CanadianMango on April 16, 2011 at 6:52pm
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Ms. Liz, you did a great job with your space. I love all the light you have. The table and mirror, I guess that's a part of your closet..love it...all the pictures!

posted by wendym1 on April 16, 2011 at 9:44pm
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I bet this is a total joy to come home to. Way to represent for Chicago!

posted by doony on April 17, 2011 at 12:25am
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here I am again :), yesterday I had no time to give a proper opinion :). everything you love about your home, I love it too.. I'm also big fan of pictures, and frames, (I'm in the contest as well - in international entries, and although our places are different, I find them quite similiar, cause of issues you had .. I had also to figure out how to maximize every inch I have)... your home is one of the first entries I just want to walk into... Good look! you have my vote!

posted by Gorica on April 17, 2011 at 7:14am
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I love this. I actually really adore how neutral it is. I don't think you need to add much colour, as the layers perform that function (at least to me.) I especially love the photographs, the work station, the kitchen chairs, and one question -- it seems you built your media stand yourself (correct me if I'm wrong.) How did you go about doing that? Are there instructions anywhere?

posted by SarahBerneche on April 17, 2011 at 9:47am
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you all are so wonderful. thanks for the support and kindness and cheer! im glad you like it as much as i do :)

@doony - coming home is my favorite thing. the second i step in the door, everything that doesnt matter falls away. three cheers, fellow chicagoan :)

@gorica - just checked out your space, and i had already added it to my favorites. you did such a fantastic job of maximizing and utilizing your sq feet -- a far greater task with almost 100 less than i have! thanks + good luck to you!

posted by elizabeth11 on April 17, 2011 at 10:52am
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@SarahBerneche- thanks! i did build the media stand/shelves myself. it was a one weekend project, done with just my two hands (which i say as encouragement - because there is something extra satisfying creating something solo, i think + no need to feel like you must wait for help to get started!), some tools, and a lot of patience and math.

i knew that i wanted steel and wood shelves. i saw the ones at the ace hotel and thought the concept was perfect: http://remodelista.com/posts/house-call-ace-hotel-swim-club-in-palm-springs

a continued search led me to the most amazing diy/design blog and instructions for building: http://www.the-brick-house.com/2009/09/shelving-unit.html (morgan is a god)

i just sketched out my space and the design i wanted and then modified his plan to suit my needs; altered the spacing between shelves, different wood stain, used some different pipe measurements etc. i also skipped painting the pipes black because the steel worked better with my steel window frames - theres a need for exactness in measurement, but great room for creative flexibility everywhere else.

they are a task, but SUCH fun to make. and the cool thing is that you can build them to any size. so you could start small, if you so choose - or go big! :)

posted by elizabeth11 on April 17, 2011 at 11:08am
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Beautiful space, Liz! Love everything about it. You creatively used your space to its best!

What software did you use for your floor plan? I'm helping my sister design a new addition and would be perfect. Thanks and good luck! You've got my vote!

posted by oobladee on April 17, 2011 at 1:17pm
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Thanks for the link to instructions and your explanation, Liz; it's much appreciated!

posted by SarahBerneche on April 17, 2011 at 3:25pm
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Favorited! I need to learn your restraint!

posted by afoundhome on April 17, 2011 at 4:12pm
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@oobladee: thank you! i use floorplanner.com i love it. have fun with your sisters addition!

@sarahberneche: you're welcome + hope to see pics if you decide to make one!

@capitaldigs: oh, im constantly learning and working on restraint. small spaces help cultivate it, i think. big thanks for the favorite

posted by elizabeth11 on April 17, 2011 at 5:15pm
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Not enough colour for my usual taste, but wonderfully done, I especially love the wardrobe/table/mirror nook.

posted by Pipstar on April 17, 2011 at 9:18pm
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this is wonderful and not overdone. your furniture is the right size and has the right details to tie it together. wonderful job!

posted by sofistiphunk on April 18, 2011 at 6:04pm
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Your office nook is so organized and attractive that you could probably lose the curtain there. Why hide such a charming show piece? Very well-done!

posted by Scholar2011 on April 19, 2011 at 10:34am
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thanks everyone :)

@scholar2011: thank you! the curtains are just a sheet of canvas, hung by hospital tacks that run the entire length of that wall. i put that one up so that it can be pulled across to cover the dressing/closet/bathroom area - if needed, it adds some privacy when other people are here. but i also like that when pushed aside, it softens up the many hard lines of my desk space. plus, if it gets messy, its a great coverup :)

posted by elizabeth11 on April 19, 2011 at 9:39pm
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Closet FTW! I used the same canvas to hide my closet and desk, in much the same way. It's an excellent solution and very inexpensive.

posted by Terry3 on April 20, 2011 at 12:38pm
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Oh, cool, you live in the Constellation! Your apartment looks cozy and charming, yet light and elegant.

posted by dn on April 20, 2011 at 6:15pm
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@dn - thank you! and yes, it is in the constellation! do you live there too?

posted by elizabeth11 on April 20, 2011 at 6:46pm
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would like to see a bit more color, but adding to favorites nonetheless. very classy and cute!

posted by mekleiber on April 21, 2011 at 11:01am
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One word— BEAUTIFUL!.....good job!

posted by scandesign on April 22, 2011 at 4:46am
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Liz, I wish (well, not really, I love my place), but it's a cool building none the less. The architect also did 320 Oakdale and some cool buildings in Philly.

posted by dn on April 22, 2011 at 3:15pm
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This is my favorite out of the whole contest! Wish I could add it to my favorites more than once!

posted by mstol7 on April 23, 2011 at 7:31pm
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Just beautiful, Liz! Looks like something I would see on a HGTV! Go you! Go you! xo

posted by Stanchfielda on April 25, 2011 at 8:03pm
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so amazing. best apartment ever.

posted by Vtaylor526 on April 25, 2011 at 10:37pm
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Wow, this is perfect.

posted by suzie__lee on April 27, 2011 at 1:31pm
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The place looks great, liz. Such a wonderful mix of new & classic, clean & crisp yet cosy, and practical. And i like the reminder not to run out of almond milk or cupcakes-- so crucial!
@Mello1, "all the rooms look great, except for the bedroom". You realize this is a studio...? You're not making any sense. Reading your other comments i think its clear you've got a serious axe to grind. With all due respect, if you dont have anything constructive to say, rather just don't. These are people's homes you're commenting on, not showroom floors. As for the chair, tv furniture, i really like them.

posted by Paul_C on April 28, 2011 at 12:22am
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yeah, what is up with that dinky chair? Lol! mello1 always makes me laugh. your place looks lovely and inviting. great job!

posted by conejitoasesino on April 28, 2011 at 5:50am
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smart lay-outs and well applied optical tricks, like the black & white rug placed under the mahogany table

posted by emilies on May 1, 2011 at 9:17am
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I've alway's loved Liz's look.

posted by betsy bougie on April 17, 2012 at 6:38pm
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