eCommerce Director Dave Widmer’s sun-drenched Chicago home proves that great design doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Dave Widmer and his husband Chad Ross both care about modern design like it’s their job. In fact, it is. Widmer is CB2’s eCommerce director, and Ross is a visual market manager for Ann Taylor LOFT. So it was only natural that back in 2012, when they went hunting for their first home together, a clean, open layout topped their list of requirements. After a futile search, they made a bold move: “We decided to build our dream home ourselves.” They purchased an abandoned property in Andersonville, and in nine months time, stripped the house down to the foundation and constructed a contemporary three-bedroom home in its place.
An architect friend, Scott Delano, helped them design a home that fit their aesthetic, all while keeping a tight budget in mind. Dave describes the design process as an exercise in give and take. “Chad and I don’t have the same taste,” he swears. “I’m more about simple and modern, and he’s a little edgier and industrial. He pulls me in a different direction and sometimes I have to pull him back, but that’s been part of the fun of it.”
The result is light-filled haven for the couple and their two dogs, Oscar, a 6-year-old Boston Terrier, and Wilbur, a 5-year-old French bulldog. We recently took a tour of the dreamy space, discovering brilliant ideas and fresh inspiration at every turn. Here, we share their formula for designing a home that’s easy on the eyes and the wallet.
1. Go neutral with the big stuff so you can play with colorful accessories. “We wanted to live here for a while before we made big color decisions,” Dave says, “and it’s easy to brighten things up with seasonal accessories.” Crisp white walls, massive windows, and sleek concrete floors make the home’s first floor seem to stretch on forever. A tailored grey Crate and Barrel sofa hosts a rotating mix of throw pillows while a collection of posters by artist Amos Kennedy (some of which were designed for CB2) create a casual gallery of wall art.
2. Opt for multi-functional furniture. A large industrial coffee table provides plenty of surface space as well as storage for blankets and magazines. Plus, it’s easy to roll in and out of the room for parties. A pair of chill white media consoles support a tv and tabletop decor with convenient shelves and drawers tucked below.
3. A simple way to make a major design statement: Hang a giant piece of graphic fabric on the wall. This Marimekko fabric—a gift from a Crate and Barrel textile buyer—transforms a blank space in the living room and complements the room’s neutral color scheme. “And I love that you can see it from outside the house through the windows,” Dave says.
4. Repurpose items you already own. The couple already owned a perfectly-sized dining table that extends with a leaf when guests are over. So to make it work in the new digs, they simply painted it high-gloss white. “We love going to flea markets and finding items to repurpose,” Dave says. “It’s nice to have items with some life to them.”
5. Standard materials can look sleek—and save you a ton. Dave and Chad installed dark grey concrete floors throughout the entire first floor for a durable, easy-to-clean look that was completely affordable. They outfitted the entire kitchen in high-gloss grey cabinets that they assembled themselves, and opted for a butcher block countertops over pricey quartz ones. Even their big, beautiful windows are commercial-grade, but when grouped together in sets of three they look custom-made.
6. Turn an empty corner into a cozy desk space. On either side of their kitchen cabinets, Dave and Chad set up office nooks with desks and chairs, making it easy to get work done and still be in the heart of the home.
7. Go wild with (temporary) wallpaper. Commitment-phobes have a lot to love about temporary wallpaper. It’s easy to apply, instantly adds visual impact, and can be removed when you’re tired of it. Chad and Dave selected two dynamic patterns by Chicago designer Noël Ashby exclusive to CB2 to cover the back walls of their master bedroom and guest bedroom.
8. Put collections on permanent display. An assortment of vintage oil cans, which Chad and Dave have collected over time, pop up throughout the home. “A few of them even came from our dads’ garages,” Dave says.
9. Deck out the bonus room as a stylish media nook. A small space nestled between the upstairs bedrooms serves as the perfect hideout for movie nights. The couple transformed a would-be closet into a tv station with a pair of vintage shelving units and a flat-screen tv. Noël Ashby’s crumpled trees metallic wallpaper dresses up the walls without distracting from the screen, and a pair of alcove wall shelves hold an eclectic mix of vintage and new accessories above a plush leather sofa and storage stools.
10. Extend the comforts of home outdoors. Just outside their kitchen door, Dave and Chad (and the pups) have plenty of room to lounge, enjoy meals, and soak up the sunshine. A galvanized planter, outdoor pillows and a sunny outdoor rug make the space feel even more like a real room and deliver major personality.