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Habitar Design
1520 N Sedgwick St
Suite 5A
Chicago, IL 60610
T (312) 274-2299
F (773) 289-0714

Habitar Design Interior Design Blog

  • Choosing the Right Interior Designer Interview on Illinois Homes

    Last week, the principle of Habitar Design, Mitch Newman, was interviewed by, an illinois internet real estate resource. They asked him about Habitar, what it takes to be a great interior design company, and what clients should come to expect. 

    Read the whole interview here:

    Illinois Homes is the one of the top sites for Illinois Real Estate, including Chicago IL Homes For Sale, condos, multi families, and townhouses for sale. Illinois Homes also services Michigan Homes For Sale and California Homes For Sale.

    Mitchell Newman is principal at  Habitar Design as well as Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focused on luxury home, kitchen and bathroom renovations in Chicago as well as custom built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • Waterfall Countertops

    With all the different countertop materials that are available today (i.e. granite, quartz, marble, butcher block, onyx, etc) many homeowners find themselves designing their kitchens around the natural beauty that these surfaces provide. So why limit the use of these materials to just horizontal applications?
    Waterfall countertops, also known as risers, are becoming very popular in kitchen renovations today. Waterfall counters continue the surface material down the side of your cabinets all the way to the floor, giving the space a unified, connected feeling. It breaks away from the expected, and is much more visually enticing than the side of a cabinet.  Waterfall countertops and the timelessness of stone can give new life to an outdate kitchen.
    Here are some fabulous examples of waterfall counters that you can use as inspiration for your next kitchen renovation!

    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate interior kitchen and bathroom designer in Chicago at Habitar Design. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focused on luxury home, kitchen and bathroom renovations in Chicago as well as custom built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • Layering and Overlapping Rugs

    At Habitar Design we've seen not all rooms fit the proportions of standard rug sizes. Having a rug custom-created is a pricy solution. One current trend that provides a great solution is laying and overlapping rugs.  Not only does this look add a playful, relaxed feel to any room, but it can come in handy hiding imperfections such as scratches or stains in hardwood. Here are 7 tips to keep in mind while utilizing this look:

    1. To Create an interesting effect, play with angles, textures, and different piles of rug. Here a neutral, regular rug anchors the irregularity of the shape and pattern of a hide rug.

    2. When a bold patterned rug is too busy, it can be moderated by placing a solid rug on top of it, allowing at least 12”-18” of space on all sides to reveal the contrast between the rugs.

    3. To gain strength and vitality rugs can overlap each other.

    4. Overlapping rugs need not match, rather they can "go" together when they share a common detail, color, material, or motif.

    5. To help reduce cost, consider several small rugs, which often cost less than one large rug.

    6.Children’s rooms are perfect for layering rugs on top of carpet, adding extra cushions for first steps and falls.

    7. For extra comfort and warmth try layering a sheepskin rug on top of a lower pile rug.

    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate interior kitchen and bathroom designer in Chicago at Habitar Design. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focused on luxury home, kitchen and bathroom renovations in Chicago as well as custom built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • Black Doors, White Trim

    In Chicago one can find many older homes that possess plenty of character and charm, but still feel a little outdated. These clients often aim to maintain the existing vintage charm while making it feel more up to date with a minimal amount of work.

    In this case, paint is a great place to start.  Painting a wall can dramatically change the look of a space for a relatively low cost. Painting trim is an additional opportunity to modernize the home in an inexpensive way.

    Recently, painting doors black and trim white has become a popular trend. It immediately takes any space from ordinary to elegant, sophisticated, and sharp. Yet, this white and black are still neutral enough to work with any color scheme. 

    Have simple doors with no trim? Not a problem! Just pick up some decorative trim from your local hardware store and apply it to your doors before you paint!

    Here are some of our favorite spaces that utilize this timeless look:

    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate interior kitchen and bathroom designer in Chicago at Habitar Design. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focused on luxury home, kitchen and bathroom renovations in Chicago as well as custom built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • 5 Benefits of a Built-In

    Whether it is in your living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, or even mudroom, built-ins are a great asset to have within your home. Here are 5 benefits to having a built-in in your home:

    1) Built-Ins Save space:

    When you are pressed for space, especially in a city, a built-in is a great way to conserve. It can eliminate free-standing furniture that would normally project into your room and seem too bulky.

    2) Increases storage & eliminates clutter:

    Everyone always has extra items that need to be stored somewhere. Built-ins can include customized drawers, cabinetry, or shelving to cover large spans or even entire walls, greatly increasing the amount of storage available in a room.

    3) Full customization:

    Built-ins are completely customizable so they can be designed to fit any space or function and match any style, trim, or molding. Integrated lighting, specialized cabinet hardware, glass panels, aquariums are a few options that we've explored at Habitar Design.

    4) Takes advantage of unused or awkward spaces:

    Built ins can optimize unruly spaces too small or awkwardly shaped for normal furniture or cabinetry. For example, under stairwells,  below sloped ceilings or in tight corners. Built-ins can be designed to fit into these areas in order for you to better utilize the space.

    5) Acts as a focal point:
    The area that was once a bare wall or fireplace could now have a custom built-in installed that will bring attention to your favorite art piece or serve as an entertainment area in your room.

  • Window Treatments 101

    Window's aren't always the first thing that come to mind when decorating a room. However, selecting the perfect window treatment is a wonderful way to optimize the overall function of a space.

    What type of window treatments should I select?

    There are several different types of treatment options that can be applied to your windows. The most common types are blinds, shades, curtains, and shutters.

    For maximum lighting control, blinds are your best option. Blinds can be made of wood, faux woods, metal, and many other materials. The slats can be rotated in two directions allowing for as much or as little light as you want.

    Shades are often confused with blinds. Shades are generally one long piece of material that rolls down and does not include the rotating slats that blinds use. Shades come in a variety of types, including honeycomb, roman, roller, solar, fabric, natural woven, and pleated. They keep light out and help insulate; serving as a great energy saver in all seasons.

    Curtains are the most popular choice for window treatments due to the large variety of options that are available. They improve insulation, especially in layers or in combination with another type of window treatment. They give the room a sense of warmth and beauty, as well as the opportunity to add pattern, color, or texture in the space.

    Shutters are available to match any taste and style. With their ability to protect and insulate, as well as add character and value, applying shutters is a great way to enhance your home.

    Each type can be used individually or even in combination with each other. Choose the type that fits beEach type can be used individually or even in combination with each other. Choose the type that fits best with your desired treatment function and the style you are trying to achieve in your space.


    What size of window treatment should I choose?
    Window treatments, specifically curtains, come in a variety of lengths ranging from 63” to 144” to fit any standard window size. When selecting curtains, keep in mind that they should be floor-lengthor sill-length. If curtains are too long or too short, they'll look awkward. Curtains are best mounted just above and outside the window trim. Based on the height of your window, measure the length from the top of the window trim directly down to the floor. This measurement is the length of the treatment you should get. If wanting sill-length treatments, measure down to the sill instead of the floor. Panel widths are important as well. Both panels together should span 2-2.5 times the window width.

    Current Trends in Window Treatments

    Here are 4 current window treatment trends to help you with your design decision:

    1) Simplicity: Many window treatments are solid, often neutral colors, made up of either thick luxe or thin sheer materials. In either case, it adds a cozy feeling to your room without being too overwhelming. 

    2) Sustainability: Window treatments are becoming more eco-friendly because of both their manufacturing processes and their insulation properties. For example, there are curtains made of organic materials that allow a significant amount natural light to pass through, while still insulating the window; saving warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer.

     3) Cordless: Tired of tangled and confusing strings? Cordless window treatments have become more and more popular. With a manual system you can move the shade up and down with your hand, holding its location wherever you choose. You could also opt for an automatic, remote-controlled system to move the shades. 

    4) Big and Bold: Contrary to the simplicity route, adding bold colors and big patterns within your window treatment is a great way to bring color into your space and make a design statement in your room.

    Window treatments are one of our specialties at Habitar Design. Visit our interior design portfolio for more beautiful window treatment photos or contact us now for more information!

    Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.

  • Paint Color: Designing the Mood of A Room

    Colors and the associations we have with them have a dramatic impact on the way we feel in a space. Before you and your designer discuss color selection, think about what different rooms used for and the type of mood that would be most appropriate for their function.

     For large scale application- in full rooms or on several walls- colors such as blue, green, brown, gray, and white (including all of their various shades) will often be the best choice:

    Blue can be used to achieve a calming effect. It often reminds people of the sky or ocean. It should evoke feelings of peace, tranquility, harmony, loyalty, security, and cleanliness. On the other hand, a sterile shade of blue can produce associations with coldness and melancholy. Blues are most commonly used in living rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms.

    Green resembles nature and the environment. It should procure feelings of relaxation, health, growth, and renewal. Green has also been historically portrayed as a symbol for wealth and generosity. Negative associations with green include misfortune, queasiness (remember those pea green paints from the seventies?), and jealousy. Greens are most popular in kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, and bedrooms. 

    Brown is another color that recalls nature. It's a versatile neutral tone, especially in lighter shades, that can be used all over the home. It portrays a feeling of stability, safety, and elegance. If not used correctly, the color brown can be seen as dingy or sad. Browns are common in kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, and bedrooms. 

    Gray is another neutral color, especially in lighter shades. Gray today is cool and contemporary. It's emanates calm and sophistication and is a great way to blend masculine and feminine tastes. Caution: use dark shades sparingly or the effect can be too overwhelming. The color gray is used most popularly in kitchens, bathroms, and living rooms.

    For small scale applications- single wall or accent pieces- colors such as red, purple, orange, and yellow (including all their various shades) will often be the best choices.

    Red is a stimulating, high-energy color. It's perfect as an accent for adding a pop of color to a room. It often portrays feelings of speed, strength, celebration, happiness, and even romance. Red has also been known to increase appetite. Red, when overused, can become overwhelming; often evoking feelings of danger, violence, anger, and restlessness. Red is most commonly seen in kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms.

    Purple is most often associated with royalty and power. In history, the color purple was once only attainable by the wealthy. It portrays feelings of enlightenment, excitement, wisdom, passion, sophistication, and luxury. It can also be seen negatively as artificial. Purple is best used in a living room or bedroom.

    Orange is most associated with energy. It portrays feelings of enthusiasm, vibrancy, communication, concentration, and warmth. Similar to red, it has been known to increase appetite as well. The intensity of orange is the opposite of relaxing and can evoke feelings of uneasiness and rebellion. It's best used in a living room, dining room, or kitchen.

    Yellow reminds people of sunshine. It elicits feelings of happiness, optimism, decisiveness, hope, and inspiration. Yellow is another color that if overused has the potential to be too bright and overwhelming. It can be associated with rigidness, illness, and dishonesty. It has been known to cause people to lose their tempers more easily than in the presence of other colors. However, similar to red, it is a perfect accent color. Put a few yellow pieces in your space and it will brighten up tremendously. Yellow is usually used in kitchens and living rooms.

    Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.

  • Bathroom Design Trends: 5 Updates for your Bathroom Renovation

    Home Renovation is on the rise. In today's economic climate, homeowners are looking for ways to update their current homes instead of buying something new. Here are some of the top current Bathroom trends to keep in mind for your next renovation:

    1. Double Vanity & Sinks
    With dual sinks and double the storage space, your bathroom becomes much more efficient and much less crowded and cluttered. 

    2. Heated Floors
    Adding radiant electric heat under your hardwood or tiled floors is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. You'll love the added comfort (Chicago winters, anyone?) and personal temperature control. When your feet are warm, you feel warm.

    3. Walk-In Showers
    Homeowners are moving away from the typical bathtub/shower combo and moving toward walk-in showers with full glass doors and luxurious finishes and fixtures. A walk in shower can be smaller since you don't need room for a tub. It's safer when entering and exiting and embodies a more contemporary look. 


    4. Going Green
    No, not talking sustainability (even though that's great too, see below!) but literally the color green. Green is the most popular color being used on bathroom walls right now. Combine green with natural materials such as wood or stone to create a natural, spa-like ambiance. 

    5. Recycled Flooring
    There has been a huge increase in the use of sustainable materials all over the household, and the bathroom is no exception. One of the hottest growing trends out there is tile generated from recycled ceramic, glass, or metal. This material is durable, easy to clean, and comes in a wide variety of unique colors and patterns. It also helps the environment by keeping these materials out of landfills and putting them to great use!

    Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.

  • Treefrog Veneer

    Laminates aren't usually a person's first choice when selecting the type of wood and finish they want for their built-ins or kitchen cabinetry. Treefrog Veneer, however, a new product hitting the market, offers desirable finishes for both commercial and residential applications. Their veneers come in over 50 real wood laminates inspired by the most beautiful wood species from around the world. The wide selection of many types of wood provide suitable options for many design needs.

    Here are some examples:

    Treefrog Veneer-Zebrawood Grove 


    Treefrog Veneer- Black Oat Straight Grain 

    Treefrog Veneer- Salsawood Straight Grain 

    For more info, visit

    Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.

  • Bright Ideas: 7 benefits of LED lighting


    Here at Habitar Design, we use LED light bulbs in our very own office. LEDs are energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and have a long lifespan. Here are 7 reasons why you should switch to LEDs in your own home.

    1. Long Lifetime
    LED lights last up to 25 times longer than other types of light bulbs.

    2. Energy Efficient
    LEDs are 80%-90% more energy efficient when compared to traditional and conventional light bulbs.

    3. Ecologically Friendly
    LED lights are free of toxic chemicals and are 100% recyclable.

    4. Durable
    LEDs are extremely durable and can operate in extremely hot or cold temperatures, therefore working well in both indoor and outdoor applications.

    5. Zero UV Emissions
    LEDs produce close to no UV emissions.

    6. Variety of Designs
    LEDs can be manufactured in nearly any shape, which allows them to be used for many applications. They also have the ability to dim individually, which allows for a variety of options in regards to light distribution, effects, and control.

    7. Low Voltage
    LEDs only require a low-voltage power supply. This makes it easy to use in any area of your home. They also illuminate immediately and have the ability to be switched on and off frequently without affecting the bulbs overall lifetime.

    Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.

  • Four Fall Color Trends for 2013

    Fall is quicly approaching! As the weather begins to change, the color trends are changing too. This fall there are four new colors to keep in mind when updating your home:


    Add a pop of color on the wall behind a white bookcase or shelving unit.


    Select a flourescent side table that will break up a neutral color scheme and brighten up your room.


    Almost considered to be neutral, a mint green piece, like this chair, can add a fresh look to any space.


    Accessories like these deep-sea blue curtains add richness and warmth to your room.

    These are just a few examples of ideas and products that can easily be added to any room, giving it an update that is both functional and trendy. For more home design and interior design ideas, visit the Habitar Interior Design homepage and peruse our portfolio.

    Information from:'s+Trending+Colors/articles

    Author Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.

  • 3 Types of Lighting for Your Bathroom

    Bathroom Lighting

    Bathroom Lighting is often overlooked and isn't addressed to be as efficient as possible for its users. Here are a few different types of bathroom lighting we at Habitar implement in our own bathroom design and bathroom remodeling projects that help our clients light their bathrooms more adequately.

    Central Fixtures

    The first type of bathroom lighting to consider is a central fixture. Usually this type of light is in the form of a recessed or surface-mounted ceiling fixture, serving as the main light source for your bathroom. Other options include a pendant light or even cove lighting.

    Vanity Lighting

    The second type of bathroom lighting to consider would be vanity lighting. The best ways to properly light the vanity and avoid unwanted shadows on your face is to 1) install vertical wall-mounted fixtures on either side of the mirror, which are the best solution to evenly distributing light across the space; or 2) install a fixture above the mirror that is long enough to spread light along the entire length of the vanity. Both solutions are successful in producing enough light for your daily bathroom rituals.

    Bathing Area/Shower Lighting

    The third type of bathroom lighting to consider would be in the bathing area. In smaller sized bathrooms, an extra light in this area may not be necessary. In larger bathrooms, however, a recessed light over the shower or bath serves as extra light source for bathing.

    Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.

  • 6 Simple Ways to Go Green in your Home Remodel!

    If you are planning to remodel part of your home, consider a more eco-friendly route. There are many benefits to “going green.” In the long-run, the goal would be to lower the overall cost it takes to run your home and lessen the waste produced, ultimately reducing the impact your own home has on the environment. Implementing these few simple things in your remodel will result in a more sustainable and healthier home for you and your family.

    1) Install energy efficient appliances

    When selecting appliances for your kitchen be sure to look for the Energy Star label.

    2) Take advantage of Natural Light

    Turn off the lights and take advantage of natural light. Maximizing the natural light in your space allows less energy use. If you have the opportunity to install more windows in your space, do so! The more windows the better; especially on south facing walls, which allow the most light to be let in during the day.

    3) Install compact fluorescent light bulbs

    When selecting your new light fixtures, be sure to install compact fluorescent light bulbs, or even fluorescent. CFLs use significantly less energy than the standard incandescent light bulbs.

    4) Choose reclaimed, recycled, and reused products and materials

    In your remodel, selecting reclaimed, recycled, and reused products and materials allows for a more eco-friendly environment. For example, having bamboo or cork flooring installed works towards having a more sustainable space because these products are rapidly renewable materials.

    5) Make space for recycling bins in your kitchen

    Make it a point in your design to leave space and install recycling bins in your kitchen. Actively recycling in your day-to-day routine will help lessen the amount of waste collected as well as reducing the overall amount of waste sent to landfills.

    6) Repurpose and reuse old furniture in your space

    When selecting furniture for your new space, don’t forget about your existing furniture! By repurposing and reusing the furniture you already have, you are able to save money as well as lessen potential waste. Visit thrift stores in your area for recycled pieces.

    Mackenzie Cain is Assistant Designer at Habitar Design, a leading Interior Design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design specialize in luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom designs and remodels.
  • 6 Countertop Classics for your Kitchen!

    When selecting a kitchen countertop material, important considerations include the overall look, maintenance, lifespan, and cost of each potential countertop option. Here are six kitchen countertop materials that we at Habitar Design most often utilize as Interior Design and Remodelers in Chicago:

    1) Natural Stone: Granite, Marble, Limestone, and Soapstone

    Granite, soapstone and quartz are great for a highly active kitchen. They are durable and long-lasting, as well as heat resistant. Each countertop is unique because of the stone’s natural variations in pattern and color, resulting in a classic look that never goes out of style. Some natural stone countertops, such as marble and limestone, are softer and more porous. Not only can they be chipped but they are easily stained. They can be stained by red wine or inappropriate cleaners though in some circumstances “the patina of use” is desired. For light surfaces, when staining is not desired, quartz or quartzite materials are optimal as they are non-porous. Most stone countertops require periodic maintenance to seal them.

    2) Wood: Butcher Block and Wood Slabs

    Wood countertops add charm to any kitchen and are great for those who love to cook. Butcher blocks and wood slabs serve as a great food prep surfaces and quicken work as cutting boards are not needed. Unlike most other surface in the kitchen, cuts and scratches do not worsen their appearance. They are very durable and have stood the test of time as a kitchen element. They do require regular waxing to prevent any shrinkage or expansion caused by extreme amounts of heat and moisture.

    3) Concrete

    Concrete countertops bring a natural look to your kitchen. They are very durable, as well as heat and stain resistant. They are customizable and can be manufactured with any stain, color, and texture. Concrete countertops do require some maintenance and must be sealed regularly.

    4) Quartzite

    Quartzite countertops have the look and feel of natural stone and come in a variety of colors, textures, and graining. They are heat, stain, and scratch resistant, and do not require any extra maintenance or sealing. Quartzite countertops, though not quite as natural looking as real stone, have a similar cost.

    5) Tile: Ceramic

    Tile countertops come in a variety of colors, shapes, textures, and sizes. They are the most affordable and you can install the tiles yourself. Tiles are also heat, stain, and scratch resistant. The tiles are very low maintenance, but the grout requires a regular cleaning. They can be chipped or cracked under extreme pressure, but individual tiles are often easy to replace.

    6) Metal: Stainless Steel, Copper, Pewter, and Zinc

    Metal countertops are antibacterial, easy to clean, and durable, as well as heat and stain resistant. Stainless steel, the most commonly used metal countertop application, can be customized for any design style and matches with many kitchen appliances. The downside: metal can be expensive and has potential to scratch and dent.

  • Choosing the Right Wood for Your Cabinetry

    While designing a new kitchen, bathroom or built-in, one of the first things to consider is what type of wood you will use for your cabinetry. Whether you live in a country cottage or a city loft, the look and feel of your room will be influenced by the natural characteristics of the wood that you will choose. When choosing a wood for your cabinetry, the three important details to consider are type, color and grain pattern. Here are a few types of wood that we like to use for our custom cabinetry here at Habitar Design.

    · Maple is a medium to hard wood with straight, wavy or curly grain. Popular for its shock resistance and durability, maple has a light, uniform appearance that produces a smooth, clean look when stained. Another plus is that it can also be finished to resemble other more expensive hardwoods and softwoods such as Cherry and Cedar. Maple is a great choice for a light, airy kitchen or a dramatic kitchen with darker finishes.

    · Cherry is well known for its smooth grain and unique color that mellows and deepens as it ages – like fine wine. This mellowing effect is enhanced by exposure to bright light, and, depending on the amount of exposure, will tend to darken several shades over time. Considered a luxury wood, cherry has pinkish-brown hues and occasional shades of white, green or gray. Its dark color brings a warm elegance to any room.

    · Walnut is one of the most versatile and popular cabinet making woods. It has excellent wood working qualities, and takes stains well. It is resistant to warping and is subject to only light shrinkage. The wood is light to dark chocolate brown in color with a straight grain in the trunk. Wavy grain is present toward the roots, and walnut stumps are often dug out and used as a source of highly figured veneer. It’s beautiful figured grains with a very uniform texture are appealing to many people with a modern aesthetic.

    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate interior kitchen and bathroom designer in Chicago at Habitar Design. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focused on luxury home, kitchen and bathroom renovations in Chicago as well as custom built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • On the move with Removable Wallpaper

    With many city dwellers choosing to rent, there becomes a need to find unique ways to make a space feel like home, even though you don’t own the property. In many rentals, one major issue prohibiting you from making your home unique is that nothing can be done to change the state of the walls. A new product that we are excited about here at Habitar Design is removable wallpaper. It has the same look and feel as real wallpaper without being so permanent. No glue is needed; it sticks to your walls using a non-toxic, low-tack adhesive, making it easy to install and even reuse! We have used this new product on a few of our projects, and have found a few websites that offer some fabulous colors and patterns:

    o Chasing Paper
    o Timothy Sue
    o Swag Paper
    o Tempaper
    o The Wall Sticker Company
    o Spoon Flower
    o Blik
    o Easy Wallz
    o Murals Your Way
    o Dormco

  • Secrets of Great Painting

    Achieving the perfect paint job is no easy task. It takes time, patience, experience, and careful craftsmanship. As Home painters in Chicago with countless rooms and homes painted under our belt, we created this video to show you just what goes into Great Painting. 

    Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focused on luxury home, kitchen, and bathroom remodeling in Chicago as well as custom built-ins and cabinetry.

  • Sharing the Master Bedroom

    For their master bedroom, Nikki & Perry wanted something romantic but not girly. I mixed dark, rich  woods with polished nickel and silk with silver-leaf to achieve a look that both genders could admire. I wanted every surface to be reflective from the mirrored night tables to the leather chaise lounge –imagine how the room would look in candlelight!

    In a room with volume ceilings, add crown or picture molding and bring the chandelier down from the rafters (about 8 feet above the floor). Doing this will create a sense of scale and proportion. Extend casing to the floor and add panels under narrow windows to add architecture. Hang draperies beyond the sides of the window to make them appear wider and the rods should be 3-6 inches above the top of the casing (even with half-round transoms).

    Remember that a room doesn’t have to be painted blue, to be a blue room. Use multiple shades of blue and different textures to add depth and richness.

    Karl Sponholtz is Senior Designer at Habitar Design Interior Design Firm Chicago. Habitar Design is a unique Chicago design firm mixing world-class design capability with in-house construction and cabinetry manufacturing.

  • Dream Kitchen

    What is your Dream Kitchen? For me, it has to be beautiful; easy to work in and easy to keep clean! The kitchen is one room where you’re going to have to splurge a little. Remember that you’re going to have it for a long time, so invest in durability and buy appliances that make cooking enjoyable and cleaning easy.

    For a kitchen that’s easy to work in, keep your stove, sink and refrigerator between 4 and 9 feet apart. These three appliances form the work triangle and are an important part of planning. Solid surface countertops are softer than granite and cause fewer chipped plates and glassware.

    There is a lot of stainless steel out there – so make sure your appliances match (trust me)!

    Consider a full-height pantry cabinet next to the refrigerator – it keeps all of your food in one place and makes unpacking groceries easier.

    These are just a few items I discuss with my clients when planning their Dream Kitchen. My last bit of advice is to seek the help of a professional. Even your Home Improvement center has qualified staff to help you with everything from planning the work triangle to selecting the finishing touches that can make your kitchen perfect.

    For more about kitchen planning:

    Submitted by Karl Sponholtz, Senior Designer at Habitar Design Interior Design Firm Chicago. Habitar Design is a unique Chicago design firm mixing world-class design capability with in-house construction and cabinetry manufacturing.

  • Bed and Breakfast

    For me, a Bed & Breakfast is my home away from home! It’s a place that I want to feel connected to and go year after year. Updating a space is always fun, but high on my list was repurposing some of the old furnishings in order to keep that connection with the past while giving it a new contemporary look. Freshly painted white woodwork is always a classic, and it really cheered up this old room! I left the doors stained to keep the warmth of wood, but painted the old fireplace mantle blue to add focus and playfulness.

    The beach-inspired mural is fun and the colors unify the oddly-shaped room. Adding a wainscot or horizontal lines can really scale down a room with high ceilings. Make sure that your wainscot is either 1/3 or 2/3 the overall height of the room (and nothing in-between), otherwise it will look odd – good luck!

    Submitted by Karl Sponholtz, Senior Designer at Habitar Design Interior Design Firm Chicago. Habitar Design is a unique Chicago design firm mixing world-class design capability with in-house construction and cabinetry manufacturing.

  • Trencadís Tile

    Trencadis Tile Example

    Trencadís is a technique of mosaic tile that is truly smashing! It was more or less invented by Spanish architect,  Antoni Gaudi, and can be seen in many of his works in Barcelona. More locally (and more recently), you may recognize this broken tile art-form covering the walls of Wolfgang Puck restaurants. Ceramics are constantly on the move from a design perspective. Gaudi used tiles and materials that were available to him at the time - even broken cups and saucers! Today’s tiles come in such a vast array of materials, colors and textures, that the combinations are limitless!

    In the pictures, I used three shades of porcelain tile with pale blue glass dots as an accent. I insist on using dark-colored grout, whether the tiles are square or arranged as a smashed mosaic. Grout should always be darker than the tile so that the tile stands out, not the grout lines!

    Read more about Antoni Gaudi:

    Karl Sponholtz is Senior Designer at Habitar Design Interior Design Firm Chicago. Habitar Design is a unique Chicago design firm mixing world-class design capability with in-house construction and cabinetry manufacturing.

  • Pick the Perfect Rug: 5 Guidelines for Finding the Right Sized Rug for Your Room

    As interior designers in chicago, one issue we see quite commonly is that the area rug is the wrong size or proportion. Most often the rug is too small, floating in the middle of the space without actually connecting with any furniture in the room. Sometimes it is the wrong proportion, being too long on one side, or too narrow on another. These are some rules to consider, helping you pick the perfect rug for your space.

    1. The Rug Should Touch all Pieces of Furniture

    Area rugs should be big enough that each piece of furniture in a seating arrangement is at least partially on the rug, unifying the space and creating good proportions. Having all legs of each piece of furniture on the rug, however, generally looks more pulled together.

    Area Rugs should touch every piece of furniture.

    2. Bare Floor vs. Rug Area

    There should be approximately 18” of bare floor between the rug edge and the perimeter walls of the room. This has been a standard for ages, bringing in a traditional proportion. This rule works best in spaces that aren’t open concept. In a smaller room, reduce the amount of bare floor to create a more appealing proportion for the space.

    One foot of bare floor surrounds the area rug in this Modern Chicago Condo

    3. Rug to Bed Proportions
    Extend the rug 12 – 18” surrounding the bed. This keeps the rug looking balanced, and prevents it from feeling insignificant under the bed. It also provides a nice amount of area to step on to when you get out of bed in themorning. The rug should extend 18” beyond a king or queen bed, and 12” for a full or twin.

    The area rug should leave enough space around the bed to put your feet down.

    4. In the Dining Room
    Extend the area rug 24” beyond the dining table. This makes it much easier to maneuver chairs, because even when they are in use, all four legs will still fit comfortably on the rug. This can sometimes be difficult to achieve, due to the typical proportions of dining tables and area rugs.

    The area rug around a dining table should have enough room to pull out chairs comfortably.

    5. High Traffic Areas
    If you are going to put rugs in the hallway or entry, make sure that they cover the majority of the walking area to provide safety and comfort for those traveling through. It is preferable to have both feet fall within the surface of the rug in high traffic areas.

    Hall Area Rug

    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate designer at Habitar Design, an interior design firm in Chicago. Habitar Design is a unique Chicago design firm mixing world-class design capability with in-house construction and cabinetry manufacturing.

  • Six Uncommon Locations for a Home office

    Everyone needs an office, but not every home has enough square footage to designate an entire room to this function. These forgotten spaces in a home could easily be transformed into an organized and functional workspace.

    At the End of a Hallway

    Modern Living Room design by New York Architect Loadingdock5 Architecture PLLC

    This otherwise unusable space is the perfect nook for a small yet functional desk. Located away from the regular traffic pattern of the home's inhabitants, it becomes a quiet space that is perfect for productivity.

    In a Closet

    Home Office design

    If there is no room for a desk elsewhere in the home, a closet can become the perfect workplace to store all your office equipment and files. When the day is done the doors can be closed and that 9-5 can be put out of sight and out of mind!

    Under a Staircase

    Contemporary Home Office design by Vancouver Interior Designer Maria Killam

    Another odd and challenging space, many times its difficult to find a good purpose for this area. A desk could fit perfectly in this triangular nook, still allowing enough head room to work comfortably at a computer.

    In a Guestroom

    Contemporary Home Office design by Los Angeles Interior Designer Erica Islas / EMI Interior Design, Inc.

    Used only occasionally when friends or family come to stay, a guestroom can function as an office 95% of the time. Utilizing a Murphy Bed that can be cleverly hidden, one may not even know that the space is a bedroom!

    In a Kitchen

    Contemporary Kids design by San Francisco Interior Designer Artistic Designs for Living, Tineke Triggs

    A good majority of the day is spent in and around the kitchen, the heart of the home. Since so much time is spent here, it only makes sense to have a computer that is easily accessible from this area. Not only can daily tasks be performed here, but it could also come in handy for finding an online recipe to make for dinner!

    On a Stairway Landing

    Contemporary Home Office design by San Francisco Architect Feldman Architecture, Inc.

    Often there is a lot of unused space at the top of the stairs. This centrally located space would be the perfect place for a little office, and would still allow for quick and easy access to the rest of the home.


    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate interior kitchen and bathroom designer in Chicago at Habitar Design. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focused on luxury home, kitchen and bathroom renovations in Chicago as well as custom built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • Turning your Living/Dining Room into a Multi-Functional Playroom

    “Go play in your room” was a common command from my mother back in the 60’s. Child rearing has evolved and children’s playrooms have evolved to keep up. Once relegated to the basement or remote areas where a door could be closed on the mess, children’s playrooms are taking over the formal living room and dining rooms where parents can closely interact and monitor their children. The challenge is to create child-centric space that can allow the adults some use as well. It means that after fun and games it must clean up well.

    When this young couple bought their new home in Chicago’s south loop, we developed design rules that worked well for both kids and parents.

    8 Rules For Designing Multi-Purpose, Child Friendly Playrooms:

    1. Kids don’t need much seating. They need soft surfaces to play on, in this case, large rugs on a hardwood floor. The minimal seating they do need should be easily moveable, soft and have round edges.

    2. Kids need plenty of open space for various activities. Kids like to spread out, play with dolls, cars, art projects, etc. They need space.

    3. Stain resistant durable materials are a must. This is always a must with kids.

    4. Plenty of storage and display. Creating a mix of open and closed shelving allows kids and parents to see their child’s important items and allows the kids to have a place for everything to be cleared away to. If everything has a place to fit it makes it much more likely things will get put away by children and parents alike.

    5. Create different stations throughout the space for example a music area, a craft space, a toy area. Adults like different room in their house to serve different functions. It helps us focus, it comforts us. Kids are no different. Different distinct areas help them focus on different activities. They create a sense of order and make their world feel multifaceted. To small children, your dining room can feel like their house.

    6. Chalkboards and magnetic surfaces are highly recommended. They are great way for kids to be creative without things getting too messy.

    7. Desk tops or tables are important for drawing, writing and school work. Since your kids will grow up it’s best to make sure desk tops can be raised. With some fancy hardware, desk surfaces can entirely disappear into cabinets.

    8. Built-in benches are cozy and multi-functional. They provide seating and extra storage. Build them full high as they will be useful to children as young as 5 or 6 as well as adults who can use them with a dining room table for entertaining.

    Remember, kids grow up fast, so don’t make the space too age-specific, especially when it’s in the main part of the house.

    Here are designs we created for our client which struck a nice balance of playfulness and color for the kids and functionality for the parents. The custom built-ins were manufactured in our cabinetry shop in Chicago.

    child playroom living room open space

    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate interior designer at Habitar Design as well as a custom kitchen and bathroom designer in Chicago. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading residential Chicago construction company focusing on high quality interior design in Chicago, in particular kitchen and bathroom remodeling as well as custom built-ins and cabinets in Chicago.

  • Shaker Cabinets for Traditional, Contemporary, and Transitional Kitchens and Bathrooms

    Shaker style furniture was first produced by the Shakers, around the 1790’s, a religious group that valued simplicity, solid craftsmanship, neatness and orderliness. Their cabinets are characterized by simple square cut rails and flat central panels. Chicago interior designers favor this unadorned cabinet style for these reasons:

    1. Shaker goes with any style, from traditional to contemporary, and allows designers ample flexibility in matching styles by adjusting other features in the design. Not many cabinet door styles can fit both a farmhouse and an arts and crafts kitchen but Shaker can. Often clients don’t want to take their kitchen too far in one direction. Shakers are a great solution for them.

    2. Shaker won’t go out of style. Some styles are here to stay and Shaker doors are one of them. Just like Carrere marble, it may be more “in” at times, but it’s a constant. For that client who is concerned about resale in ten years, the Shaker door profile is a safe selection.

    3. Shaker is commonly available. Almost any cabinetry manufacture makes this door. This means for the designer and buyer, there will be many lines to choose from. Further, should a door be damaged for some reason, replacing it will be a breeze. The same cannot be said for many traditional profiles that may require research or custom tooling to recreate.

    4. Shaker is not expensive. Their simplicity makes them easy to manufacture and they are often in the lower price range of most cabinetry lines.

    5. Shaker style plays well with others. They can be mixed with flat panel doors when glass panels are added for effective kitchen cabinetry design.

    We manufacture Shaker doors ourselves in our Chicago custom cabinetry shop. This means Shaker cabinet doors have a faster turnaround time as opposed to doors we order from a supplier and we can offer them in a variety of woods easily.

    Here are some examples of different styles of kitchens and bathrooms in which we’ve used Shaker style cabinets:

    bathroom shaker custom cabinets    shaker custom cabinetrykitchen shaker custom cabinets     kitchen shaker custom cabinetry     

    Hannah Tindall is senior associate interior designer at Habitar Design specializing in high quality, high-end kitchen and bathroom design in Chicago. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading Chicago construction company focusing on expert kitchen and bathroom remodels in Chicago as well as custom wood work, built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • Four Questions to make any Bathroom Renovation go more Smoothly

    Here’s how we handled a master bathroom project in a vintage Lincoln Park condo:

    1. What style are you after, and what elements do you want to pull in from the rest of the house, if any? 

    You don’t have to make the bathroom match the rest of the house. It’s a separate room and can be contemporary when the rest of the house is traditional (or vice versa). But if you prefer it can match.

    In this case the client opted for a vintage bathroom to fit with the rest of the house. She chose Carrere Marble in numerous mixed traditional tile patterns (Subway, Octagon, Hexagon and Herringbone) to achieve a stunning result. Her Shaker style walnut cabinet selection worked wonderfully in this bathroom, adding warmth amplified by the dark cherry stain. Crystal knobs and cup pulls on the cabinet doors added to the classic look along with the traditional but clean-lined chrome fixtures.

    2. Do you want a bath, shower, or both?

    Before answering this, consider whether you’re building this house for yourself or for resale. If you’re planning to live in your house for 20 years and the kids are all grown up then it’s your decision. Only you know whether you like to take showers or baths. If resale is a factor, then keeping one bath in the house may be a safer choice. However, eliminating the tub may allow you to put in a large shower or create space for storage. We find this the more common choice these days. We rarely eliminate a shower to replace it with a bath-shower combination.

    In this bathroom, the client opted to eliminate her tub, replace it with a shower and remove her pre-existing shower all together. She used the gained space for her corner storage cabinet. The result is a luxurious shower under a beautiful arch with plenty of bench space.

    3. How much storage do you need and where do you want it?

    There are five areas of storage in a bathroom. In this case, the client opted for a corner cabinet with drawers above and below the countertop and storage in cabinets below the sinks. None of the drawer panels on the vanity function, so the client considered internal drawers built-in below the countertop. Since the internal drawers would not be particularly easy to access for aging family members or guests, the client elected to have drawers placed above the countertop in the corner cabinet, nicely fixing the issue.

    4. How is the bathroom going to be used?

    Powder rooms can have less storage and less light than master or hall bathrooms. In other words, they can sacrifice function for style. Vessel sinks make far more sense in a powder room where guests are more likely to leave a countertop dry than a busy hall bathroom where children get ready for school. If more than one person will be using the bathroom at a time, then two sinks or one long sink with two faucets is mandatory (if you have the space).

    This master bathroom had to serve the owners and the guests. It had a door off the hall. The designer dealt with this by balancing function and design. The square sinks are functional, handsome, and fit with the bathroom’s clean lines. The lighting above each mirror is elegant and adequate to provide enough illumination for make-up. With dimmer switches, the lights provide greater ambiance. The designer also guided the client toward storage options that would allow the bathroom countertops to be left clean. The result is a bathroom with great dual functionality.

    With these questions answered, the design process will go smoother and the results will better fit the client’s needs.





    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate interior designer at Habitar Design specializing in high quality, high-end kitchen and bathroom design in Chicago. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading Chicago construction company focusing on expert kitchen and bathroom remodels in Chicago as well as custom wood work, built-ins and cabinetry in Chicago.

  • Planning Shower Niches- Eight Essentials to Keep in Mind

    Walk-in showers never seem to have enough storage. All your bottles end up on the floor or a bench where they're in the way or can be easily knocked over. Niches are the perfect answer. They’re cleaner than many wire storage devices and don’t take up any room in your shower.

    If you are in the process of remodeling your bathroom, here are a few things to keep in mind while you are designing your shower niche:

    1. When putting a shower niche in an existing wall, 12”w x 24”h is a good size. It allows the niche to fit between studs which are often 16 inches apart. With a glass shelf at 12 inches this creates 2 feet of shelf space.
    2. The typical depth of a shower niche is 3.5 inches, the width of a wood stud. In a high rise building, the steel studs may be 2.5 inches deep and this should be considered. This is still wide enough for most bottles.
    3. Niches should not be against outside walls if possible in cold weather climates. The niche space will replace valuable insulation. If you must use an outside wall, be sure to put in some form of polyurethane insulation or the tile may frost up on cold winter days.
    4. Niches can be larger in new walls where your contractor can adjust the width of studs and make sure any plumbing or electrical pipes are not in the way. Wider niches are difficult in pre-existing walls but still possible. Keep in mind that every time a stud is cut there will likely be cosmetic damage to the wall it supports, so expect a little patching and painting in other rooms.
    5.  Keep the tile dimensions in mind when specifying a niche. It’s best for tile to be symmetric around a niche. The tile line can end right on the niche for a very clean look. One thing to avoid is a very small tile on one or both sides of a niche. One solution is to frame the niche.
    6. Remember your niche may require bullnose tile, particularly when using ceramic tile that don’t have color through the clay body. This may be problematic with porcelain but is rarely an issue with stone.
    7. Specify all sides and back of your niche. If the niche is mosaic resting in larger field tiles, it often works best for all 5 walls (back, sides, top and bottom) to be mosaic. If the tile is glass, it allows you to hide the cut edge behind the field tile which is often easier to work with.
    8. Make sure your contractor waterproofs the niche with a product like Red Guard and ensures there is proper drainage into the shower area. This is particularly important with mosaic tiles. A leak from a niche will cause substantial damage over time.

    With proper planning niches are practical and create a great visual focal point in any a shower or bath area.

     Hannah Tindall is an assistant interior designer at Habitar Design specializing in kitchen and bathroom design in Chicago. Mitchell Newman is principal at Stratagem Construction, a leading Chicago construction company focusing on high end kitchen and bathroom remodels as well as custom wood work, built-ins and cabinetry.

    Shower Niche 1        Shower Niche 3   

  • 11 Ways to Enlarge a Small Kitchen

    Here at Habitar Design and Stratagem Construction we recently completed a renovation on one of the smallest kitchens we've ever designed, and we learned a lot along the way. We have an inkling that many people in Chicago feel that they’re kitchens aren't quite as roomy as they’d like them to be. When remodeling this space at the heart of your home, here are some things you can take into consideration to make your space feel larger and more useful.

    1. Create a breakfast bar. This not only provides a place to eat where you may not have had one before, but also provides plenty of extra counter space for food preparation.
    2. Knock down as many walls as you can. In this kitchen we removed the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, making it feel more like one large living area instead of two separate rooms.
    3. Utilize glass cabinet doors to keep the space feeling open.
    4. Layers of lighting add a lot of dimension to a space and keep it nice and bright. In this kitchen we used recessed lighting, under cabinet lighting and pendant lights above the breakfast bar.
    5. When designing cabinetry, think about going up. Especially in tall spaces, you can gain tons of storage from creating cabinets that reach all the way to the ceiling. Even if these cabinets aren’t easily accessible, they are a great space to store not so frequently used items.
    6. Think outside the box. If you have space immediately outside your kitchen that is underutilized, there may be a great opportunity to expand your storage. We used the space under this client’s stairs to create a pantry with some open shelving and a wine fridge.
    7. Keep it clean and simple. Don’t go too overboard on colors, textures and materials in a small kitchen. If things start to get to busy it can make the space feel more cramped. We kept the color scheme pretty neutral in this kitchen, painting the walls the same color as the upper cabinets.
    8. Use pantries wherever possible.   Pantries greatly increase storage space.   They take the storage space of lower cabinets and carry it up to the top of the upper cabinets.   Pantries almost double the storage space per linear foot of cabinetry.
    9. Cabinets above the refrigerator should extend to counter depth.   Not only does this create a great built-in look for the refrigerator, it creates great storage, eliminates dust collection on top of the refrigerator, and makes for a much more accessible cabinet.   
    10. Use light colors. Bright colors reflect light while dark colors absorb it. The white cabinets and countertops in this space reflect light around the room making it feel even brighter and more open!
    11. Add great hardware solutions.   When you don’t have much space, every inch counts.  Hafele hardware with its showroom near the merchandise mart is great resource for small, highly efficient, designer kitchens in Chicago.


    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate designer at Habitar Design.   Her outstanding design in both contemporary and traditional bathrooms and kitchens in Chicago have won her wide acclaim on Yelp and Angie’s list.

  • Small Zen Bathroom Designed with Natural Materials

    This master bath had a very specific list of requirements that it needed to meet. Although it is a very small bathroom in an older home, the client wanted it to have a Zen feel to reflect her practices and beliefs. We quickly learned that many of the elements of Zen interior design worked to our advantage while designing this small space in Chicago. Below is a list of some ways that you can incorporate Zen elements into your home.  Even if you don’t want a particularly Zen style room, these ideas are great to keep in mind when designing a small space:

    • Clear away visual clutter.  Since this is the only bathroom in the home, the more storage we could create the better. But it was important that what we did need to store was out of sight. We installed a large medicine cabinet that could store a lot of toiletries, along with a vanity that comes in useful for storing larger items such as toilet paper and hair dryers.
    • Create clear, open spaces to help the flow of your room.  It is important in Zen design that you can travel through a room easily without too much blocking your way. To achieve this we created a shower without a door, you simply step right into it. We also removed the old radiator and replaced it with one that mounts on the wall, and replaced the pedestal sink with a floating vanity.
    • Utilize clean, straight lines with minimal decoration.   From the toilet to the radiator, from the vanity to the mosaic tile and the light fixture, every material or piece of furniture that we selected has beautiful clean lines.
    • Use of natural materials that are aesthetically pleasing but unfussy.  While looking for material we found this gorgeous Mother of Pearl Tile that fit our aesthetic perfectly. It is a natural material that has an iridescent quality that brings interest and warmth to the space.
    • Low impact colors taken from nature, a minimum of subtle pattern. We used a pretty monochromatic color scheme, pulling the color for the walls from the colors in the Mother of Pearl and Freshwater Pearl tiles. The Crema Marfil tile on the floor and in the shower complements the mosaic tile as well. The colors are subtle, warm and calming.

    Click Images to Enlarge  


    Hannah Tindall is a senior associate designer at Habitar Design.   Her outstanding design in both contemporary and traditional bathrooms and kitchens in Chicago have won her wide acclaim on Yelp and Angie’s list.

  • Ravenswood Condo

    This condo in Ravenswood was built in a rehabbed 100 year old warehouse. Initially Habitar was asked to simply re-design the clients bathroom. After seeing the impeccable work that was done, the client then expanded the project to other parts of his home. Habitar Design ended up doing work in his living room, his kitchen and then 2 bathrooms.

    Click to enlarge images.

  • Habitar Design Visits Häfele Showroom in Chicago

    Mitch Newman of Habitar Design and Stratagem Construction went to the beautiful Häfele showroom in Chicago. Here he is demonstrating the smooth and practical hardware Häfele offers for your kitchen.

  • Mitch Newman on Karl Sponholtz at Habitar Design and his leaving to Design Star

    “It really all started with an e-mail that I received from a source that didn’t identify themselves” says Habitar Design owner, Mitchell Newman. Consequently, when Karl was invited to do a
    design TV show, no one at Habitar Design knew where in the country Karl was going or what
    show he was going to do.

    Newman says, “We did know that it was going to be about ten weeks and that it was a reality
    show where the losers get kicked off early.” As weeks went by without hearing from Karl,
    Newman assumed the best. “Karl’s very talented and very fast. Plus he’s commanding, genuine
    and passionate. We could see him as a star. ”

    Weeks went by and still there was no word. The contestants are not allowed to have contact with
    the outside world except for their significant others on an extremely limited basis. This keeps
    the designers focused and helps create a dynamic between them for the show. Finally, Karl
    called. The show had completed taping and he needed a few days to recovering before being
    able to talk.

    “My first question to Karl was whether he was going to come back,” Newman says: “we really
    needed him.” But Newman also understood Karl’s world had changed and he might never be
    back. Newman says he’s glad for him. “It was a privilege having Karl around and he’s not the
    kind of guy who will lose touch.” As for other talented designers at Habitar: Newman says
    they’re all “Design Stars” otherwise they wouldn’t be working for him.

    For more on this story, check the recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

  • Four Popular Appliance Garage Cabinet Options from Häfele Hardware


    At Habitar Design we are proud to include Häfele hardware in our custom builds.  Today we'll look at some of their options for appliance garages.  If you are planning a kitchen renovation or rebuild, please let us know how we can assist with your project.  Custom cabinetry is one of our specialties.

    Appliance garages can be a great way to maintain a clean look in a kitchen.  These different closures each have their own elegance and usefulness.

    1 - Flipper Door Slides
    The door flips up and then back across the underside of the top of the cabinet. This is the most economical solution of the four. Your cabinet must be deep enough to retract the door the desired amount. Maximum retraction is equal to the door height minus approximately 3 1/4”.

    2 - Strato Lift Up System
    The door pulls forward and then up in front of the cabinet above the appliance garage, remaining vertical. Includes “Soft and Silent” closing feature which is a very popular feature. This type of installation works for a wide variety of door sizes and requires minimal cabinet depth. No special cabinet construction is required. The door projects between 10 7/16” and 12 3/8” forward of the cabinet in raised position.


    3 - Libra 20 H Vertical Sliding Door System
    The door slides upward vertically without projecting into space in front of the cabinet. This is done using a track, cables and a counter weight at the back of the cabinet.  For this option to work, the space above the  appliance garage must be open with no door. Requires special cabinet construction including a 2” cavity behind the back panel to make room for the counter weight. This one accomodates inset or overlay doors as well.

    4 - Tambour Doors
    This option is beautiful and elegant.  A custom aluminum roller shutter lifts vertically and either rolls onto a spindle, coils up inside the top of the cabinet or rolls across the top of the cabinet and down the back. Shutters that roll onto a spindle or coil up have a counter balance mechanism. Shutters that roll down the back of the cabinet do not. Tambours come is anodized aluminum  or a stainless-like finish. Custom finishes are also available. Slat heights are either ¾” or 1”. Glass tambour doors are now available as well.


     More hardware options can be found here.

  • Using Built-Ins to Create a Functional Office in Any Space

    In this day in age, with internet playing such a critical role in our daily lives, it is almost a requirement to have a home office. The growing number of people that work from home are also contributing to this trend. With the help of a well designed built-in, it is very easy to integrate a functional office into just about any room in the house. Here are some examples of recent offices that we've designed and built:



     An unused space in between a bedroom and a bathroom, this breezeway is the perfect nook for a quiet office space.

    A basement built-in becomes a great place for the kids to work on homework or play computer games.


     A Built-in dresser in a master bedroom flows smoothly into a small but organized workspace.



  • Habitar Featured on Houzz today!

    Opera Loft Condo contemporary living room


    We were excited to get the note today that we are featured in a cool article on called 'Art: The Unexpected'.  Some great examples of how to rethink design assumptions ...Cheers guys!


  • Music Room

    This Arlington Heights family’s entry room had long ago been forgotten; it was merely a pathway where shoes and outerwear were tossed while escaping to the heart of the home. But as the children grew, so did their hobbies. It soon became evident that a space was needed to accommodate these activities, specifically the numerous instruments that are practiced and played regularly. This small entryway would soon have to wear many hats: it would need to act as a mud room where shoes and jackets could be stored, a sitting area where friends and family could gather to chat, and a music room where instruments could be housed. With the help of some custom built-ins, this forgotten room was transformed into a mixed-use space that is now utilized on a daily basis by both parents and children. In fact, this is now the family’s choice hang-out spot!

  • Whats Kappening: Baby, its cold outside...Fireplaces

    traditional fireplace by habitar

    It's winter in Chicago and it is cold. You awaken to the bracing sounds of a neighbor scraping ice from his windshield, your breath is visible in little arctic puffs and the sidewalks are salt-slushy (if not a bed of solid ice). So, this is the perfect time to talk fireplaces!

    designer fireplace by habitar

    The most obvious reason to add a fireplace to a room is to enjoy the warmth that it provides. Aside from basking in the radiant heat, it also adds a lovely ambiance and dancing light that makes a room feel cozy and hospitable.

    custom fireplace by habitar

    The first thing to consider is what kind of fireplace is appropriate for your home. The three most common fireplace types are wood burning, electric and gas. Each have their pros and cons regarding cost, efficiency and use. It is important to talk to your contractor and designer about the options that fit your budget and lifestyle. Gas fireplaces seem to be the popular kind of fireplaces being installed in Chicago because of their ease of use. Even though it is more high maintenance, nothing is more romantic than cuddling up with a loved one by the glowing warmth and hearing the soothing crackling of a wood burning fireplace.

    modern fireplace by habitar

    The other consideration is how to integrate the fireplace into the design of your space. The wonderful thing about fireplaces these days is that the sky is the limit. You can go modern and sleek or rustic and charming. It can be the focal point on its own, or integrated with built-in bookcases.

  • Whats Kappening: The Writing on the Wall

    Remember when you were a kid? You had that box of crayons in front of you — the one that had the sharpener built right in. And the blank piece of paper seemed, well, kind of small all of a sudden. How could you get the sun and the clouds AND the house and all that other stuff on one measly piece of paper? The wall seemed a much better canvas…

    I never outgrew the urge to doodle or scribble on the wall, l but now I can do it without repercussions.

    Rust-Oleum now makes tintable chalkboard paint, so you can create a writable surface in any room, in any color. But I like the old school blackboard! You might also try priming with a magnetic paint first and voila: you have a magnetic board as well! Chalk can be dusty, but there are a line of liquid chalk pens on the market that work very well. I Prefer Chalk Ink. I have seen some complaints about staining, but I have not had that experience. Just wash with water or use a lint free cloth soaked in Coca Cola (strange, but it works).

    Of course, a child’s room is the first place that comes to mind. Check out this Chalkboard Barnyard Mural painted in a basement playroom!
    Think of the possibilities for themed playrooms...But lets be honest...mommy wants to draw on the walls too. Here are bunches of cool and practical ways to have adult friendly designer approved chalkboard walls:

    A kitchen or pantry can benefit from a wall or two for family notes, shopping lists, recipes or calendars. Do you have a home office? How about a place where you can jot down numbers, to-do lists etc…Or how about a dining room where you write the evening's menu or inspiring words. B all means, write on the wall! This time, you’re allowed.

    Martha Stewart:  How to make your own custom color Chalk Board

    Start with flat-finish latex paint in any shade. For small areas, such as a door panel, mix 1 cup at a time.
    1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps.
    2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry.
    3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust. IMPORTANT!!!!
    4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge. Photo Credits:
    10. -KS
  • Featured Designs on

    Our work is now featured on's Ideabook, an online showcase of design you can use to inspire your next project. Described as "the Flickr of design idea sites" by the Washington Post, Ideabook is a great resource for anyone redesigning part of their home.  Mark you favorite pictures and share them with you designer to jump-start the creation of you dream space. Ideabook offers over 40,000 photographs of projects from the world's top designers and already people are checking out our work; Habitar's bathrooms and kitchens are generating particular interest.

  • 3-D Renderings

    Google 3 D-Renderings have been a great tool to communicate our vision to our customers. They also help us design. They're great from room layouts and when it comes to construction, such as complicated built-ins where we have to consider how various plains will come together, they're invaluable. In many way, we find the mistakes in construction on the computer so we avoid them in the field.

    Compare these to the finished product in the last posting.

  • Contemporary Kitchen on a Budget


    I cannot be more thrilled about how this project turned out. I had worked with Chris when she called for our 4-hour Half-day design.   She needed a little help making her gorgeous, minimalist's dream of town home more cozy and inviting. Chris also wanted to update her mostly white laminate kitchen but wasn't sure it was going to be within her budget.

    Right away, I knew Chris had a good sense of design as her existing pieces were all very harmonious and looked as if they could have been selected by a designer. Yet she had a mix of styles going on and items that seemed to have a bit of her personality or a bit of history, which in my book, adds a layer of richness that you cannot buy. All that was missing was a little punches of color and a few minor adjustment on materials and proportion. During our design session, I gave her advice on what needed to be done. I also,designed an updated version of the kitchen she may later decide to remodel.

    Chris had a budget for the kitchen that at first seems impossible, but Mitch worked his magic with our suppliers.  After a few revisions, here it is. I am just so happy with the look of it. The best part is that it really was Chris' vision. We just helped her make it happened. I love that it is clean and minimal...but it's warm and the best part is that it looks as if it was the original kitchen. As if it was always part of the original intent...

  • DESIGNWALI: Contemporary Bathrooms

    DESIGNWALI has picked-out a very nice selection of contemporary bathrooms from, including one of ours from a recently completed project in the South Loop. 

    modern on a budget modern bathroom

    The tub that Moroso used in the last photo is particularly striking.

    Telegraph Hill Residence modern bathroom
  • Hafela Hardware -- LeMans

    Hafela (Haefela, Hefela) offers several different corner cabinet pull out drawer systems.   We installed the LeMans and the Magic Corner one in two kitchens.  Here are some things to consider when choosing between these various pieces of hardware.

    1. Careful measurements of the size of your box and the size of your opening are critical.  The LeMans requires less space and is easier to install than the Magic Corner.

    2. The door swing for these two systems need to be toward the cabinets on the other wall of the corner.  This means that if your door is on the wrong side, your installer will have to reswing the door.  It will require patching a whole where your handle was or require a new matching door -- which can be a lot of work.

    3. The Magic Corner II opens differently so that it has the opposite door swing -- the door swings back toward the cabinets on the same wall.  The issue we had with the Magic Corner II was that it required a larger cabinet opening than we had.

    Below you will see pictures of Hafela LeMans install.  The owner is not overly pleased with it, but her nanny likes it alot.   This might indicate that it's helpful but not seen as a good value to this particular owner.  Prior to installing this unit, this corner was not being used at all; now it clearly is being used.   The limiting factor in this cabinet which is 19.5 inches tall is the height.  In a taller cabinet, the LeMans would be able to carry more on its top shelf. 

    This top notch hardware is not inexpensive.   With install it ranges from $975 to $1300 depending on the particulars.


  • What's Kappening...Patterns!


    Okay...other than being a home decor person...I am also a fashion person.  Which is fine because they are not that different.  So while I was checking out some pics  and news from fashion week, I noticed the trends of which is PATTERNS. So I was thinkin'...a lot of people I know are very scared of patterns.  Both for their clothes and their homes.  I say this is the year to conquer your fears...because  lets face it...patterns are fun! Without them the world is so boring.  You're a little boring without patterns.  I'm not saying go and cover your entire house with patterns or wear head to toe polka dots...unless you want to...Thats the thing, patterns  can be lively and bold but used in moderation, it can be subtle and sophisticated.  So try throwing a checkered scarf around your neck...maybe all your blah living room needs is a little bit of striped rug...if you're still scared...get it in a neutral tone.



  • What's Kappening: Modern Bathroom for Le$$

    Okay...I am WAAAAYYY happy with the way this bathroom turned out. I just had to post...  My clients have great taste...and expensive taste... But in this economy, it makes more sense to try to save as much as you can.   So we had to be more careful with our selections. We hunkered down and crossed a few things off of the list.  So no fancy Kohler italian high-end Euro-cabinetry...But thanks to my boss, and Krzysztof and Artur and Javier, we did not have to sacrifice an ounce of style to keep within budget.  Yay!

  • What's Kapening: Another One Bites the Dust...R.I.P Met Home

    After spending a long and grueling weekend at the Merchandise Mart for NCIDQ Preparation workshop, I came back to the office on Monday morning to find a postcard stating that my subscription to Metropolitan Home was going to be replaced with Elle Decor.  It may not seem like a big deal to most people.  But to me, it was another blow, right in the belly.  Why? Well...I'll tell you the sob story....

    Almost exactly a year ago, my beloved magazine, Domino, folded.  It was almost unbearable, as a few months earlier, I had received a corresponsdence from none other than Ms. Tori Mellott herself.  She was interested in me as a contender for the annual Domino 10.  OMGx10!!!!! Also, a model I furnished was picked up by an international magazine.  This was right before Xmas '08.  My boss was so giddy he threw a huge holiday shin dig to mark the occasion.  We are moving up! and the future couldn't be more promising.  I was on cloud nine for most of December. But then silence...Emails unanswered...A lot of anxiety and restlessness....Then on January 28, 2009, Conde Nast made their announcement....Domino was no more....My heart sank...I 'm sure I cried.  

    So, here we are, one year later...another magazine ...or 10 later... A sad reminder of how quickly things can change...

  • How Banks are Hurting Real Estate Values -- the Government Plays a Key Role

    Construction and real estate account form about 10% or more of the economy.   Construction booms and busts have the lead the economy out and into recessions.  With 10% of the economy paralyzed, it’s fair to say an chance of an employment-filled recovery depends on repairing the sector.  


    Three factors suppress the industry: first, lack of confidence, second, lack of qualifying buyers, third bank practices.  They’re all intertwined.


    A falling market keeps buyers thinking a better deal awaits – so why buy now?  Buyers will purchase when prices stabilize.  Unfortunately, until buyers purchase prices will keep falling.   Only discovering a sea of oil beneath Montana could create the kind of economic burst to break this psychology.  That’s not likely.


    The lack of confidence in future prices is justified.  Too many units were built, banks are squeezing developers to sell their buildings at a discount to pay off their construction loans and the number of qualified buyers is in retreat.   As fewer buyers chase more available properties, values fall, more properties go upside down, banks require more sell offs, and more real estate pours onto the market.  This causes the next round of price drops and the cycle repeats.  


    Eventually, if nothing is done a bottom will be reached but it won’t be pretty.  Every piece of real estate will be owned predominantly in cash or will be appraised at the price of a rental.  This applies to everyone who has short-term financing and might have to refinance in the next five years and it includes single family home owners.


    The lack of qualified buyers is not predominantly a result of the recession.  Unemployment rose from 7 to 10 percent or considering real unemployment and underemployment it went from 11 percent to 17 percent.  That should mean 6 percent fewer qualified buyers plus those buyers who fear impending unemployment.  This latter group shrinks as the economy sheds jobs and stabilizes.  It also shrinks as we get used to our current circumstances.   In other words, we stop fearing the possibility of unemployment just like we stop hearing a noisy neighbor.   The fear always exists during good and bad economies and eventually the fear factor between these two level out.   


    This means that once the job growth begins, the number of qualified buyers should be at most only 6 percent lower than before.   On the other side of the coin, with housing prices falling, a whole lot of Americans with smaller incomes should now qualify to purchase homes.  Only they can’t.


    The reason is a crisis in lending.  Bankers have strong incentives not to give mortgages.  First, bank regulators demand that they build their reserves and limit their real estate exposure.  Second, regulators examine their loan portfolios and challenge anything questionable such as home mortgages.  Third, Fanny May, Freddie Mac and FHA dictate home loan qualifications and they’ve raised the standards.


    And there’s more: some banks like Bank of America irrationally avoid mortgage risk.  Avoiding risk is not irrational but avoiding low-risk mortgages while taking on higher- risk loans for less return is irrational.  Major enterprises get plenty of money at low rates even though they’ve had their major collapse.  Remember GM?   Bankers act like a herd in a stampede.  The bolt of lighting was the mortgage crisis and they’re still running fearing the cloud of dust they themselves are creating.  


    Banks making record profits reinforces this risk aversion.  If you’re making record profits doing what you’re doing, why change?   Banks borrow from the fed at 0% and lend at 5, 6 and 7 percent.  It’s a big slice.  Writing mortgages is a small slice.  Mortgages get sold off and banks only make routine profits.  It requires work the old fashioned way but it’s not worth doing when there’s low hanging fruit at 5, 6 and 7 percent.


    Banks have other destructive behaviors: they know they have their real estate developers by the short hairs.  No bank will finance another bank’s construction loans.  In other words, if you’re a developer and you need your loan renewed, you have only one choice, your existing lender.  The result is that banks are squeezing real estate developers with loan renewal costs, interest rates, and the threat of foreclosure.  Banks justify this by claiming the need to replenish their capital reserves.  Developers are easy pray.


    The result is a sell off of real estate, a flood of units on the market and lower values which trigger further sell offs.  The banks acting individually destroy real estate values which they end up holding as a result of foreclosures.  Game theory indicates they all would be better off if they changed practices and worked together.   That hasn’t happened which means it’s too much to expect of bankers.


    The government needs to intervene or the destruction will continue.   The FDIC has to loosen its standards and raise its insurance rates.  It should focus on unethical and irresponsible business practices and let bankers hold more real estate-related loans in the portfolio.   Fanny, Freddie and the FHA have to get on board, too.  I haven’t had a single foreclosure in the projects I’ve sold but it’s unlikely that half our buyers would qualify under today’s standards.  This means the standards are far too tight. 


    Had these buyers not been able to purchase, our construction capacity would have been wasted. That’s exactly what’s happening nation-wide today.


    Finally, the fed can stop lending money to all banks equally.  If banks had been making mortgage loans previously, demand that they continue to do so.   Tie their fed loan rates to the percentage decrease or increase they have in writing home mortgages.  A proper formula will make it profitable to write real estate loans.  A flood of new qualified buyers in the market will stabilize prices and create more new jobs than any stimulus program.


  • The Bathroom Renovation Checklist (s)

    Everyone agrees that in home renovation nothing is more valuable than a checklist, just no one agrees on what it should include.    

    Here are three lists developed by Habitar Design.  The first has the purpose of making our designers more efficient.  It lists all the things one needs to determine in designing a bathroom to the last detail.

    It not only helps make sure our designers don't miss anything, it eliminates wiggle room for the contractor.  If you give the contractor a list and say this is what I want, when the contractor puts in ugly gray grout contrary to the grout color listed on your list, if you show him the list you will usually win the argument.   Most contractors welcome a list.   They want to get it right and not having to guess what you want or bother you makes their live's easier.  The list also gives the client an opportunity to consider every option and helps them do their home work. 

    Some clients find all the choices baffling and appreciate our work as interior designers more while others will begin to look more closely at their friend's bathrooms and begin the process of discovering what they really like.   

    As remarkably simple as checklist are they've been shown to be extremely important at completing complex tasks with better outcomes.

      Bathroom Design Worksheet
    Items Fixtures
    Tub Faucet/ Spout  
    Shower Valve and Trim  
    Lav Bowl  
    Type (undermount, vessel etc…)  
    Lav Faucet  
    Cabinet Door Height  
    Cabinet Door Style  
    Wood Type  
    Glass Insert  type of glass (ribbed, translucent etc.)
      Cabinetry Hardware
    Cabinetry Pulls/Knobs  
    Color Name  
    Edge Type  
    Edge Thickness  
    Material 1  
    Grout Color 1  
      Wall Tile Materials
    Material 1  
    Color Name  
    Grout Color 1  
    Material 2 -Accent  Drawing of pattern
    Color Name  
    Grout Color  2  
      Flooring Tile Materials
    Material 1  
    Color Name  
    Grout Color 1  
    Material 2 -Accent  Drawing of pattern
    Color Name  
    Grout Color  2  
    Wall Sconces  location, type
    Overhead Lighting/Fan  location, size, type, heating element?
    Recessed Cans  Location, size, type
    Color Name  which walls?

    A completed checklist also helps a contractor price your bathroom more accurately and order materials more efficiently.  Everyone wins and it helps keep the peace.

    The second list is a list of resources and questions we like our clients to explore to help them understand what they really like and want to achieve with their bathroom renovation.


    1.  List three to five words that describe the bathroom you want.  (i.e.  contemporary, traditional, clean, open, light, modern, welcoming, etc.)

    2.  List the major reasons you want to change your bathroom. (i.e. Out of date, don't like the way it looks, doesn't fit our current needs, too small, want to improve for resale, etc.)

    3.  How is this bathroom going to be used?  By who?  What functions in the bathroom will make it more useful?  Consider:

    • More storage (medicine cabinets, drawers, additional vanities, linen closet.)
    • Hardware (more towel bars, towel warmer, shower bar for support, shower seat.)
    • Lighting and electrical (better lighting for make up, other lighting needs, additional outlets -- possibly inside cabinets, heating under the floor tiles, fan -- adequate ventilation, noise level)
    • Plumbing issues (water pressure, additional hardware like hand-held for shaving legs, body sprays, double shower heads, drainage problems, toilet flushing, freezing pipes, change a shower or bath tub.)
    • Mold and mildew.
    • Ease of cleaning.

    4.  Aesthetics:  

    • What kind of materials do you like?  (tile, countertops, vanity)
    • What colors do you like?
    • What kind of tile patterns do you like?

    5.  Budget

    • what would you like to spend and what is the maximum you can spend?

    6.  Rate the following on a 1 to 7 scale, 7 being the most important.

    • Budget
    • Aesthetic
    • Function


    We advise our clients to search the resourses and show us a number of bathrooms they love and particular elements they like.   It's best not to consider budget or whether it will work but rather take it as an open exploration.

    The third list to consider regards practical aspects of the build out.

    1. What bathroom will you use during construction as well as our workmen?

    2. Where will the workmen enter the house?

    3. Where will the waste be hauled out?  Is there a storage place for waste?  Is there a storage space for materials?

    4. Is there a place for the tile cutting?

    5. Is there a time you will be on vacation when this can take place?

    6. When is the optimal time for this project to take place?

    These checklists help us achieve optimal result in meeting our client’s need and in performing quick, efficient build outs. Good planning pays large dividends.  Good luck.




    Send your comments to


  • Sound Control and Testing in Chicago (the Old Fashioned Way)

    One night, a client was wandering through their yet to be completed renovation when he heard the neighbor's television through the wall of his master bedroom.  He reported it was "as if it was in the same room."   He explored further and found he could hear it on the floor above in the soon be bedroom of their 3-year-old daughter.  To make matters worse, the neighbor reported hearing our workers as if they were “in her master bedroom” and that until then -- for 15 years since she had moved in -- she “had never heard the neighbors.”

    Their first assumption was that we, Stratagem Construction, a home renovator in Chicago, had done something to cause this.  This is a universal reaction.  The home renovator is always at fault even if a bird house falls down in the back yard. 

    In this case, we hadn’t done much work on the party wall.  We hadn’t opened it, rather, our work was limited to constructing a built-in along the wall.  We had screwed into the 2 x 2's but not more.  So we considered whether the built-in acted as a speaker adding sound transmission.  But this theory didn’t account for why their child's bedroom upstairs had become noisier.

    To better understand the situation, let me describe the party wall.  It was typical construction separating our client’s town home from his neighbor.  The central structure was a 6 inch concrete block.  Each side was furred with 2 x 2's wood studs and covered with 5/8th inch drywall.  This usually creates excellent sound protection.  

    Here are our general ideas for dealing with sound control and sound insulation issues (in Chicago):

    1. Everything sounds worse in a quiet, empty house.   There's no furniture to absorb the sound, nor are their other sounds to mask them.   In addition remember that clients are very sensitive to anything unexpected.  It makes a problem seem larger.  

    2. Everyone has a different sound tolerance.  What may be hardly audible to you, the home remodeler (in Chicago), may be very irritating to them.  The client by definition is right but it’s still important to have a thorough discussion regarding sound perception.  A few talking points:

    • People stop hearing things that are repetitive like nearby trains.
    • Sound machines or fans can mask sound.
    • Furniture, carpet, clothes in a closet all absorb sound and improve the situation.
    • You can talk to your neighbor and work out quiet times as alternative to sound control methods.

    3. No matter what method you use for sound control, it may not be effective.   Sound is like water, if you block one way, it may enter another way.  Chances are the more you do, the more likely you improve the situation.  Be sure to show your client information on how sound transmits through and around walls.  The more they understand how complex sound control is, the less likely they’ll be angry when the results are not as good as they had hoped.

    4. Start your analysis by listening to the offending sound with your client.  As a neutral observer, your listening will put their perceptions in perspective.  If you can barely hear the sound that is annoying them, they’ll understand they’re very sound sensitive.  In addition, you’ll understand their level of sensitivity to the noise.

    5. Map out where sound is loudest.   Have the neighbor turn on the TV and put a cup to the wall and your ear on the cub and start listing.  It’s old fashion and there’s no fancy machinery, but it’s surprisingly informative.  Check all the surface, floor, ceiling and walls. 

    6. Visit the source of the noise.  If the neighbor has turned on the TV for you, go from your client’s bedroom to their bedroom on the other side of the party wall.  This helps you and your client how good the party wall is at stopping sound transmission.   Importantly, try to observe where the sound is being generated and spot how the sound is being transmitted to the party wall.   Is the TV on the wall or is it across the room?  Is sound transmitted through conduction or through the air?  Are there speakers in the ceiling so some layers of sound protection are being circumvented?

    7. Picture the construction between where the sound is created and where the sound is perceived.  Use your knowledge as a home remodeler (in Chicago) to create a theory on how the sound is transmitting through various construction elements.   Your theory should account for the sounds source and where the sound is heard loudest.   

    8. With a theory of how the sound is transmitting, consider sound control solutions.  They have to be appropriate for your client’s space and budget.   Can you add sound insulation?  Can you build a second wall?  Do you have room to put in a layer of elastomeric polymere and drywall?  Maybe an unorthodox solution such as buying a carpet for your neighbor’s children’s playroom will get the job done.

    9. Before embarking on any solutions, talk to your client and repeat every third sentence that you can't really be certain.   Give him your cup and let him test your theory.   Taking your time here is your best protection against your client holding you responsible for a poor result.


    This is my Argonne National Laboratory nanotechnology cup that turns colors when ice tea is added to it, but any cup will do.

    In this particular case, our client and I had the neighbor turn on the TV and listened together.  I could barely hear the TV – it was not as described -- and my client admitted he was very sound sensitive.  We observed that the sound traveled from the neighbor's master bedroom to master bedroom on the same floor in my client's unit.  In addition, it also transmitted well to the floor above.  My client was correct in his perception.   We heard it in both places equally.  When we visited the neighbor, we saw her TV’s speakers were in the ceiling.  This meant that sound went along the joist spaces in her ceiling to the block where they hit wall without obstruction.  They might also have been carried in the joists themselves.  The vibration likely conducted across the wall into the furring studs and then up and down the wall equally.  This explained the reason we could hear it upstairs so well.

    We mapped out the sound again with our cup evaluating which walls required sound proofing most.  This method helped exclude certain wall which saved our clients hundreds of dollars.

    We opted for a thin coat of elastomeric polymere (green glue) which absorbs sound transmissions in multiple directions.  We cover the existing drywall with the elastomeric polymere and screwed in a 1/4 drywall sheet.  It would be nifty if we could test the sound transmission immediately, but elastomeric polymere needs a minimum of 10 days to cure with maximum sound dampening after 30 days.  After refinishing the wall we put the built-in unit back in.  We'll see how it works.

  • Not Pottery Barn... Pottery Bargains


    Original art adds uniqueness to any interior decorating project.  Unfortunately it's usually expensive.   The same might be true if you purchased ceramics at a gallery.  Ceramics purchased at art fairs are often better values because the middleman is eliminated.  However some of the best values can be obtained at your local ceramics school.   The vase on the left -- a beautiful porcelain piece -- was purchased at the One of Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart every year for about 180 dollars.  The two pots on the right were purchase from a gifted local potter for about $75 each.   She and a number of other gifted artists sell there work at Park West Ceramics located in Lincoln Park.   They're one of our favorite places to pick up accessories for interior decorating work in Chicago.

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