Before and After: A Designer’s Chicago Flip

Before and After: A Designer’s Chicago Flip

Before and After: A Designer’s Chicago Flip


Homepolish designer Carly Callahan of Callahan Interiors and her husband turned an outdated, historical one-story Chicago home into a stunning, classically beautiful two-story space. Let her walk you through the renovation process.

Photos by Dustin Halleck.

My husband and I had been looking for a house to flip and fix up for a few months, and we were immediately drawn to this home. We wanted a house we could fully transform, but a space that had a character we could retain. This home was perfect. It was also in the town where I grew up, so that felt like a good sign!

One of the things I loved most about the space when we first saw it was the house had tons of original details. There are these great archways that connect different spaces, sweet windows over the kitchen sink, and tons of smaller moments throughout the home that drew me in. We worked hard to preserve and enhance all these accents to really make sure the space felt like a home.

Another selling point was that the home was one story, but had the ability to support a second floor. It was originally a two-bed, one-bath house, but we added the second floor and turned it into a five-bed, four-bath. That allowed us to open up one of the bedrooms on the first floor and convert it into a family room or “bonus area” off the kitchen.

The original kitchen was just so dark and small, which didn’t reflect the rest of the home. It was a classic example of space not being used properly. We took down the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room, which allowed us to open up the space and create a breakfast bar without increasing the size of the actual kitchen at all!

I knew I wanted a white kitchen because it felt just the total opposite of what was there before, but I made sure to mix in touches of brass and wood to add a warmth and keep it from feeling too sterile. With white shaker cabinets, white quartz counters, and Carrara subway tile backsplash as the “base,” the kitchen definitely has classic staying power. But hardware and accessories can be switched out over time to reflect someone’s personal taste or evolving styles.

Paint was really transformative throughout the space. One small trick we employed was painting the original wood doors which helped the vintage glass knobs pop.

And then there’s the office. It had previously been a lounge-television room and was laid out poorly. It’s also at the front of the house, so the space is one of the first things you see when you come in the front door. The shelving was already there so I decided to keep it and paint it black. It really was the game changer! From there we layered in some functional furniture turning it into an attractive spot that I can see someone putting to good use.

One of the largest changes we made midway through the renovation was to add another bedroom and bathroom upstairs. We originally had a huge master bath and closet that’s location was dictated by the location of the fireplace. Looking at floor plans, it seemed great, but we realized standing in the space that there was greater potential.

Our builder encouraged us to shift the hallway over, giving a few extra feet to what was the master closet so we could turn it into another bedroom with an en suite bath. This also meant that we needed to decrease the size of two back-to-back bedrooms and add a Jack-and-Jill bathroom between the two spaces. It was totally worth the two or three week delay. And the master bathroom still turned out great. It’s flooded with the most incredible natural light. It’s my dream bath that I sadly don’t get to spend quality time enjoying.

Since this project was a flip, budget was hugely important. It plays a role in any project, but typically there is more wiggle room than we had! My husband was the numbers guy and would reign me in from time-to-time, but for the most part, I enjoyed finding new cost-friendly pieces I still loved. That might have been the most rewarding part. It was such a challenge, but it was much more exciting when it all came together in the end.

I would describe my overall style as relaxed, comfortable, and classic—with a fresh twist. I like to approach a design first by selecting base items that have staying power, and then having a little fun from there.

For a renovation, that means picking fixtures and finishes that feel timeless. I stuck to that as much as possible in this renovation. The flip budget guided most of my choices, but, in the end, it looks stylish and not just stylish in-spite of the budget. There is nothing more exciting to me than seeing a space that has potential and being able to help see that vision all the way through. We will definitely be doing this again.

In this tour: