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12 Bedroom Mansion at 1547 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago

How Would You Use This 12 Bedroom Mansion?


While walking home from the Chicago Air and Water Show the other day with the kids I passed this gorgeous Queen Anne mansion at 1547 N. Dearborn Parkway in Chicago which was listed for sale.  Since I’m kind of into real estate and beautiful homes, I had to check out the price and some of the specs on the home.  The most staggering piece of information on this home was not the $13,750,000 asking price but the fact that it had 12 Bedrooms and 12.5 Bathrooms covering ~18,500 square feet! When I got home with the kids I had to tell Katy about this beautiful home.

Then we got to thinking, how would you use this 121 bedroom mansion?


Our Assumptions?

To come up with our list, we made a few assumptions:

  • Owned by a family with 2 parents and 3 kids
  • Both parents worked in careers with required the use of a home office
  • Had out-of-town family that would want to stay the night which would require a guest room or two
  • They would have at least one “junk” room
  • The 12 “bedrooms” listed in the MLS listing don’t include other large spaces like dining rooms, sun rooms, etc.

Our Room Assignments?

So, here is how we came up with our use of the rooms:

  1. Master bedroom
  2. Bedroom for Kid #1
  3. Bedroom for Kid #2
  4. Bedroom for Kid #3
  5. Office #1
  6. Office #2
  7. Junk Room
  8. Guest Bedroom #1
  9. Guest Bedroom #2

As you can see, we are still struggling to figure out how to use the 12 bedrooms.  How would you use all of these rooms?  Leave us your list in the comments section below.


Basement closet with low ceiling height

Could Your Closet Cause a House Fire?

Us Chicagoan’s love our closets! Mainly because we live in smaller spaces that require us to utilize every inch of the space to it’s fullest.  At Design Inside, we believe that you can never have too much storage.  We have been known to hollow out walls on some of our design projects to make way for a new closet, even if it is only 1’6″ wide by 1′ deep.

The reason I have closet lighting and potential fire hazards on my mind is because we just ran across a unique closet in a basement renovation project we are working on in the western suburbs of Chicago.  Though this basement renovation project was a full gut renovation where the floor was dropped 1.5′ and most of the HVAC, plumbing and electrical was ripped out, one spot where we had to compromise was the closets.  In one particular closet, the ceiling height of the closet is really low due to an I-beam being hidden in the closet.  Though, I would have loved a nice tall ceiling in the closet, sometimes compromises have to be made, especially when renovating the basement of a 1930′s farm house.

Because of the low ceiling height, one thing that we had to keep in mind is the proximity of the items in the closet with the light.  If the items are touching the light or really close to the light, this could be a huge fire hazard!

How did we solve this problem?

According to the National Electric Code (NEC), or NFPA 70, there are set standards for all lighting fixtures that are installed in a closet.  The first thing we had to do was determine what types of lights or luminaires are allowed in closets?  For closets, we have 3 basic options:

  1. Surface or recessed incandescent lights that are properly covered.
  2. Surface or recessed fluorescent lights.
  3. Surface or recessed LED lights that are covered.

Since the ceiling of the closet was covering a steel I-beam, standard recessed incandescent lighting (AKA Can Lights) were out of the question.  We considered these amazing thin recessed LED lights, but even with the thin light, the transformer required that we would have had to drop the ceiling a few more inches taking away from precious closet space.  This left us with the option of no lighting or a surface mounted light so we investigated our surface mount options.

Incandescent Lighting

Standard incandescent lighting (AKA the normal light bulbs we have been using for years) runs really hot which is why they consume so much energy.  This type of lighting requires a little extra attention when used in closets.  When considering incandescent lighting, here are some things to think about:

  • Fixtures must be enclosed and have a cover over it.  Exposed (uncovered) light bulbs are not permitted in closets.
  • There must be a minimum of 12 inches from the surface mounted fixture bulb cover to any part of the storage space (e.g. shelf, rod or clothing).
  • Recessed incandescent lights that are enclosed need to be 6″ from the closet storage space.

Fluorescent Exposed Tube Lighting

Fluorescent light fixtures are typically found in kitchens and in older under-cabinet lighting but they can also be used in closets.  The benefits of using this type of fixture in a closet is that the bulbs run cooler and can be closer to the clothing.  The downside is that they can take a few seconds to warm up and reach full brightness.  According to the NEC code, the following must be true:

  • Surface mounted fluorescent fixtures must be at least 6″ from any part of the storage space (e.g. shelf, rod or clothing).
  • Recessed fluorescent fixtures must be at least 6″ from any part of the storage space.
  • Check to see that the bulb and fixture you are buying is rated for closet use.

LED Lighting

In the past year, LED lights have dropped dramatically in price and are starting to arrive in all shapes and sizes at warmer temperatures (e.g. 2700K) with Color Rendering Indexes (CRI) approaching 100.  With the recent advances in LED technology, we are starting to specify LED bulbs throughout homes and even in closet spaces.  Though these bulbs are cool to the touch, they still have to follow the rules for closet use.

  • LED surface-mount fixtures must be enclosed and have a cover over it.  Exposed LED bulbs are not permitted in closets.
  • Surface mounted LED fixtures must be at least 12″ from the storage space.
  • Recessed LED fixtures must be at least 6″ from the storage space.
  • Check to see that the bulb and fixture you are buying is rated for closet use.

Our Final Choice

GE Fluorescent light fixture

To maximize headroom and keep costs low, we decided to go with a Fluorescent light fixture from GE (model 16029).  Though it’s not the most beautiful light in the world, it is extremely functional for the space and will allow the home owner to stack items up to 6″ from the bulb.  This means that we can add a closet organization system with a higher shelf that can safely utilize more of the precious closet space.

More Information

If you are looking for more information on this topic, you can check out the following websites that I found helpful:

Chicago Interior Designers Bill and Katy

The Importance of Hiring an Interior Designer

Recently, Bill and I were interviewed by Illinois Homes.  In this interview they asked us a lot of questions about why home owners should hire an interior designer for their next home renovation or design project is important.  I always love an opportunity to sit down with someone and share with them our story of how we started our business and our philosophy behind our business.

Below, are some of my favorite questions from the interview.  Or, you can click here to read the entire article.


In your opinion, why is it important to utilize the services of an interior designer?

When furnishing your home or designing a space like a kitchen or bathroom our customers can spend hundreds to thousands of dollars. It’s really important to make sure that you are spending your money on the right products and services that work with your design tastes and lifestyle.

We have seen it too many times where a friend or potential customer has purchased an item like a sofa that is too large, the wrong style or the wrong color for the space. Sure, there are ways that we can work around a piece of furniture and make it work with a space, but it much easier (and sometimes cheaper) to work with a designer from the start.

Another important reason to hire a designer is to help you build a space that is cohesive. Many times, people will pick out an item because they like it or because they are familiar with it. Unfortunately, just because you like a particular item doesn’t necessarily mean that it will go with the space or that the items will work with the other items selected. Not only do you have to worry about making sure the heights of items function well together (a high sofa and a low coffee table can be irksome), you also need to consider the lines and visual weights of items relative to each other (an ornate, traditional lamp could look weird on an industrial style table unless you have some other ornate elements in the room.) Beyond decoration, the interior architecture needs direction to achieve cohesion. I have seen plenty of examples of Chicago style bungalows with Corinthian Columns. We love Bungalow’s and we love Corinthian Columns, just not in the same house. Importantly, if your home has a strong aesthetic concept, you’ll need to work within the styling bounds of that concept. This may mean that the concept is about rectangular, visually heavy items; it doesn’t necessarily have to be as restrictive as saying, “I have a Prairie-style home.” Knowing where and when to stay in the lines is as important as knowing when to push beyond them. A designer knows these lines.

How does the vision of an interior designer differ from that of the average homeowner?

We are able to come into a space and see the space in terms of style, overarching design concept, color, light, volume and functional needs. This allows us to listen to a client and help guide them in the right direction – much like how an Accountant can look at a pile of receipts and statements and know what to do in order to maximize your tax returns.

The discerning eye of an interior designer is also helpful when looking for a new home. Many times, potential homeowners will overlook a beautiful home because they can’t see the end potential. This is the very reason why every Realtor will have you paint your home a neutral color and have you clear out excess furniture when trying to sell it.

Interior designers bring the experience of working on hundreds of other homes to achieve many of the shared desires of all homeowners, whether its how to maximize storage, how to create intimate seating arrangements, or how big of a light fixture to use in a foyer if your ceiling is 8′ or 30′ high. We have the benefit of seeing many homes before we have worked on them, allowing us to discover the things that do and don’t work in homes.

Can hiring an interior designer help me to save money in the long run? Will they help me budget?

Many times we can help our customers spend their money more wisely. For example, if a customer has a budget of $10,000 to freshen up their home. It may be tempting to try to spread out that $10,000 across all of the rooms of the house instead of focusing on the critical spaces that provide the most impact. As designers, we do our best to help our customers save where they can and splurge where it is necessary in an effort to provide the best value for their budget no matter how much your budget is. This means that we have ideas for how to get some kind of equivalent to that 20k table you saw in a restaurant. The expertise means that you will have access to the vendors and tradespeople that the interior designer has had good experiences with.

What are some design elements I can add to me home that will really increase its value?

It really depends on what you are trying to do with your home. Depending on where we are at in our lives we may be looking to freshen up an apartment with a tiny budget, design our dream home where we have a larger budget or put your place up for sale.

In all 3 examples, we would have different objectives and different design goals.
For example, with the apartment on a tiny budget, we would focus on finding pieces that can be taken with you after you move out of your apartment. Though you may want to paint your walls and replace the carpet, apartments are usually not the best place to do this since your Lease Agreement will many times prevent you from doing those types of renovations.

When building your “dream home”, pick what you love assuming you plan on staying in the space for at least five years and it falls within your budget. For example, if you really wanted heated floors in your bathroom and it’s in your budget, go for it! Working with an interior designer will help you ensure that you don’t go overboard.

If you are planning on selling your home, it’s time to simplify, de-clutter and make the space neutral and non-offensive. Now is not the time to show off your love for a bright color or put a ton of money into some dramatic tile backsplash. What you may love may completely turn off a potential buyer.

Almost universally, however, we find that updated countertops (granite, Silestone, etc.), crown-molding, and hardwood floors are elements that impress in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Do interior designers have access to resources that the overage homeowner does not?

Some interior designers (like us) have direct accounts with manufacturers. This allows us to have access to a larger variety of merchandise since we can specify any make, model and variation that the manufacturer offers. Every year, we make the trips to various furniture shows to learn about new manufacturers and products that are available.

Other design firms may only have access to stores that sell to “the trade”. The downside to this approach is that the designer may have a smaller selection available to them since the store will many times pick and choose which models and items they choose to resell, much like any furniture store that is open to the public.

While the average homeowner may have access to all the same tradespeople, the tradespeople recommended by a designer have been vetted. For those that have dealt with shoddy craftsmanship, they know how much a good resource is worth to the end result.

Do you have any other insight on why hiring an interior designer is important?

When we first meet with customers, many times they are just sick and tired of their current home and how it looks. They usually feel “stuck” and don’t know how to get a particular look or feel out of a space. One customer once described his situation like he was looking under the hood of his broken car. He knew something wasn’t working right but just saw a bunch of hoses and cables and had no clue where to begin in order to fix it.

Sometimes customers think that their entire home is broken when in reality it may need a few small repairs. Other times, its time to start over from scratch. In both situations, an interior designer should be able to help you out. That is why we offer both single design sessions and larger design projects for our customers.

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.

Kitchen Remodeling Costs in Chicago

Kitchen Remodeling Costs in Chicago

If you are planning on renovating your Kitchen, there are a lot of things to take into consideration.  Should you buy new cabinets or refinish the existing cabinets?  Tile or granite countertops? White appliances or Stainless Steel appliances?  All of these decisions can have a big impact on the overall project cost.

Luckily, our friends over at Houzz have recently put together a guide that surveys a large portion of their users to find out how much they are paying for Kitchen remodeling projects in Chicago.  I’ve also included what other large cities are spending on their Kitchen remodeling projects as a point of comparison.

CityAverageLower 3rdMiddle 3rdKUpper 3rd
New York$38,775$9K$27K$80K
Los Angeles$35,531$8K$28K$70K
San Francisco$42,82210$K31$K87$K

Image and data courtesy of Houzz


Picking the Proper Exhaust Fan for Your Bathroom Renovation

If you are remodeling your bathroom or simply looking to replace an old bathroom fan in a powder room, it’s important to select an appropriate ventilation fan that will not only look good (an important factor for us designers), but also function properly.

Before we dive in to calculating the size of the bathroom fan you will need, many homeowners ask us, why we need a bathroom exhaust fan or sometimes why they need 2 fans, especially if they have a window in the bathroom.  Well, let me give you a few reasons:

  • Bathrooms with tubs and showers create a lot of moisture.  Though its nice to wake up to a hot and steamy shower during a cold Chicago winter season, all of that moisture will build up and start to moisten the dry wall, plaster and any wood.  This can not only lead to nasty mold growing on your walls and ceilings, but it can also lead to the wood in your bathroom starting to rot.
  • Bathrooms can also become stinky places for obvious reasons, so it’s nice to get the funk out.

Now that we know why we need an exhaust fan, picking the proper one requires you to look at 4 main features:

  • Size – If remodeling, you will want a replacement fan that is the same size and shape
  • Fan Speed –measured in CFM
  • Noise Level – measured in “sones”
  • Features
  • Style

Fan Size

If you are remodeling you bathroom or replacing an old or outdated bathroom exhaust fan, it’s best if you try to pick a new fan that is the same size and shape.  If you remove the vanity cover of the fan, you can gather the dimensions of the fan housing.  It is possible to go with a larger or smaller fan, but this will require additional carpentry and drywall work.

Determining the Proper Fan Speed for the Bathroom Fan

When you hop on over to the local home improvement store or go online, there can sometimes be hundreds of fans to choose from.  The first thing you should focus on is the speed at which your fan runs.  This is measured in CFM or Cubic Feet per Minute.  The larger the bathroom you have, the higher CFM number you will need to look for.  Now, before you go all Tim Allen on us and look for “More Power”, there is a little math that you can do to make sure you don’t pay for more than you need.  Here is how you calculate the size fan you will need.

(Bathroom Width X Depth X Height) x 0.13 = Minimum CFM Rating

For example, if you bathroom is: 6 X 8 X 8.5, you would need a fan with ~a 53 CFM rating.  To speed things up a bit for you, here is a table with a few common bathroom sizes.

Bathroom Width

Bathroom Depth

Bathroom Height

Minimum CFM





















If you have an incredibly large bathroom, or one with an enclosed toilet of if you have a steam room in your bathroom, you may opt for 2 bathroom exhaust fans instead of one.  Or, favor a fan with a higher CFM rating.

Bathroom Exhaust Fan Noise

The next important feature to think about with your bathroom exhaust is fan noise.  When looking at fan noise, manufacturers of higher end fans will typically promote how quite the fans are.  Personally, I like a bathroom fan with a bit of noise to it.  For me, the noise allows a bit of privacy, which is critical in bathrooms that are in a public space like a powder room on your main floor.  For a master bathroom suite, a quitter fan may be more important so you don’t wake up your significant other in the morning after you take your shower.

Once you determine how “noisy” you want your fan to be, now its time to decipher the coding on the side of the fan box.  When you read the box, have a number on the side of it like 2 sones.  “Sones” are the measurement of fan noise. One sone is equivalent to the sound of quiet refrigerator. The lower the sone rating, the quieter the fan will be. Most fans range anywhere from 1.5 sones to 5 sones.


Exhaust fans have a variety of features, the most common are:

  • Built in light – great for basic bathrooms.
  • Night-light – a nice feature for a kids bathroom, may require wiring a new switch if your bathroom doesn’t already have a switch for a night light.
  • Heat lamp – We like to avoid this because they are unsightly and use a lot of electricity to run.


Selecting a stylish fan is important to us at Design Inside.  After all, we are interior designers.  We typically go for a white fan that has a clean look.  This is the least distracting to the eye.


When shopping for a replacement bathroom exhaust fan, remember to keep an eye on size, fan speed, fan noise, features and style.  If you keep those 5 factors in mind, you have no problems selecting the appropriate fan for you bathroom.


Fan image courtesy of Brian Matis