Going Goethe: MSC's Home Tour

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I am the textbook definition of a homebody. I certainly love meeting new people and engaging with others, but my favorite part of any day is the end of it -- the pajamas, the candles, the quiet.

In February, I closed on this condo, and the renovations began soon after. My little Gold Coast fixer-upper was very much in need of love, as evidenced by the "before" photos. With the help of my A-team (contractor + parents), we created a sophisticated and sleek space -- think polished nickel pulls, honed marble countertops, open glass shelving, bright white subway tile and crystal doorknobs. Everything was hand-picked, from the shape of the hexagon marble flooring to a show-stopping light fixture -- the crown jewel of my kitchen. The project took almost two months, and by May, it was finally time to move in.

Slowly, I began to fill my home with things that I loved. The floor plan allotted an eat-in kitchen, which I outfitted with vapor acrylic bar stools -- a place for strawberry toast and coffee. Tucked around the corner is my workspace. The desk is covered in parchment leather, and above it, there is a sunburst mirror. (I bravely picked it up during a severe thunderstorm one summer morning.)

The living area is where I spend most of my time. I studied sofas for weeks, eventually deciding on a luxe down-filled RH piece. It is the comfiest couch, perfect for watching Friends, Bible study or an afternoon nap. The rug is plush white shag. On chilly fall mornings, nothing feels softer on my toes. My favorite part of this vignette is the art on the wall -- four dreamy photos of Paris, taken by Courtney during our spring trip.

A white marble bistro table sits in the window with two slipcovered chairs. I've sipped wine and tea here with friends, watching clouds pass in the western sky. The little pink pillows are custom-made. I adore them.

The bathroom is light, bright and accented with tiny pops of color -- a flower here, a towel there. An étagère with glass shelves and polished nickel finishes is a stage for small items that bring me joy -- BVLGARI soap from my weekend in NYC, for instance. Best of all, the light is on a dimmer, creating a soft glow.

Last (but never least) is my bedroom. I invested in a new mattress, and I will never regret that purchase. I sleep on a cloud -- a cloud topped with pink silk sheets and a down blanket. The tufted headboard, mirrored side tables and crystal lamps complete the story. My vanity is across the room, accessorized with the fluffiest Mongolian lamb stool. Fur is a theme in my house.

I have lived in many different places over the past few years: a tiny dorm room, a sorority house, a vintage Lakeview apartment, my parents' house in Hinsdale. For the first time, my home belongs to me. This is an indescribable feeling, and further, it makes my career in real estate so much more gratifying. With this peek inside my space, I hope to encourage others -- homeownership is absolutely within reach.

I love waking up here, and equally, I love coming home. It is my own personal slice of the Gold Coast, and I am so thankful.

Photos by Courtney Cimo Photo + Film
Read the rest of the Going Goethe series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Christina + Phil

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- MSC doesn't play favorites. But if I absolutely had to, Christina and Phil would be on the list.

After meeting through a mutual friend, the three of us began searching last spring. We saw new construction and resales in Old Town, Lakeview and Ravenswood. At that time, Christina and Phil were renting in Lakeshore East. They had a phenomenal apartment (hashtag views) that suited them in every way, but they were ready to move on to homeownership.

Christina emailed me one day about a particular townhouse in the South Loop. It was under contract already, but she wanted in. I immediately set up off-market and on-market searches for them. The first week of July, something popped up at last. I put the deal together on my birthday weekend -- it was one of two; a good birthday indeed. (I will never forget standing on the corner of Madison Avenue and 61st Street in NYC, heatedly debating comps with the list agent.)

This particular townhouse is tucked away on one of the South Loop's most coveted streets. It's spacious and bright, and there is an apple tree planted on the patio. They closed in August, and last weekend, I got to go back and see the place again at their housewarming. Christina and Phil opened up the kitchen, redid the floors and expanded the outdoor space -- I was blown away.

Congratulations, guys. I really loved working with you.

Women's Council/NAR Annual Conference 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

My career is an independent one -- self-directed and self-motivated. I spend many daytime hours alone, emailing from home or blogging at a coffee shop. I've grown accustomed to this lifestyle, and although it can be isolating, I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

The Women's Council and National Association of Realtors Annual Conference reminded me that I am a part of something bigger. 

Last week, I flew to Orlando bright and early on Wednesday morning. I was there on behalf of the Women's Council of Realtors -- I am the 2017 incoming secretary for WCR Chicago, and along with my fellow board members, we were eager to represent our chapter. 

I wasn't sure what to expect from a conference like this one. It comes around every fall, and this year, almost 20,000 people registered. At the Women's Council meetings, I met realtors from all over the country -- both veterans and newer agents. There were trainings, inspirational talks and brainstorm sessions. I kept quiet, taking it all in and listening to others share. As an introvert and homebody, traveling for a work conference was not in my comfort zone. But it was an opportunity for me to get outside of myself and learn from others in my industry, as well as bond with the lovely ladies in the Chicago Chapter.

I can now honestly say that I get it. I get why it's so vastly important to be involved in the Chicago Association of Realtors. I get why Women's Council can be a strong growth opportunity. I get why the National Association of Realtors is such a well-respected trade organization. 

Unfortunately, I had to fly home early to meet an out-of-town buyer, but I am so grateful for the three days I could spend in Orlando with my industry peers. Thanks to WCR Chicago for supporting me and launching me into this larger picture of real estate.

Gold Coast Mansion Walk

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Gold Coast Mansion Walk comes around every fall, always on a Tuesday in October. It is an opportunity for realtors to tour the listings in the neighborhood -- each home is priced between two and seven million dollars. This was my third year attending, and to make it even more special, I brought my parents along with me.

My mom and dad met me at my condo, and from there, we walked to the first mansion on State Street. This one is priced at $4,500,000, and it did not disappoint -- think herringbone floors, stainless steel countertops, private outdoor spaces. We wandered through the rooms and up the staircase (four stories!) to see every inch of the mansion. Together, my parents have quite the real estate resume. They have bought, sold and designed many Hinsdale homes, so this tour was a dream for them.

We saw six mansions that afternoon, but our favorite one was on Scott Street. At $3,600,000, this place took our breath away. The entryway felt like a boutique hotel, complete with an elegant black-and-white checkerboard floor and two little bathrooms. From there, you could either take the elevator (!!!) or the stairs. We opted for the latter.

Everything about the space was exquisitely designed, from the decor (a massive marble dining table) to the doors (glazed black paint) to the details (a subway-tiled wall in the kitchen). I've grown accustomed to the condo market, but this home was in an entirely different league. While oohing and ahhing over the built-in bookcases, I made a mental note: learn to sell mansions.

The walk-in closet sealed the deal with a velvet green couch and shelves of Manolo's. Carrie Bradshaw would have melted -- my mom and I certainly did.

To debrief and recover (one word: stairs), the three of us went to RH. I ordered a pot of tea, and they split a lox board. It was such a treat to share this day with two of my best friends -- surely, one of the best memories of autumn so far.

MSC Goes to Nashville

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sarah and I have known each other for a little more than two years. We met in small group at Park Community Church, and she became my client a few months later when I helped her find a place in Lakeview. Our first friend date was at Sheffield's. We drank Vander Mill Cider and discovered just how much we had in common.

At that time, we were both living in Lakeview, and the adventures were plentiful: walking through the McDonald's drive-thru, making up synchronized dances in Lake Michigan, hanging out at Ave Tav and much more. We took a trip to Disney World last October, and we've driven to every church retreat together. This year, I moved from Lakeview to the Gold Coast, and Sarah followed -- she now lives just a few blocks away from me, and I see her constantly. It's the dream.

We decided it was time for another vacation, and Nashville had been at the top of our list for a while. I have a few friends there, and Sarah used to live in Franklin. Boldly, we committed to the first weekend of October -- she sent me a Gcal invite, making the trip officially official. On the windiest Chicago morning, I picked her up and we set off for our seven hour drive to Tennessee.

I'm not the best at road trips. I make constant stops -- for the bathroom, for a Diet Coke, for an apple -- and can't listen to a song for more than 45 seconds. This slowed us down. We rolled into Nashville around 8 o'clock on Friday night, and we drove straight to my childhood BFF's condo in Green Hills. Kaissling and her older sister, Katherine, own the most glamorous bachelorette pad I've ever seen, and they were generous enough to host and entertain Sarah and I that night.

We ubered to The Gulch, an impossibly cool neighborhood full of beautiful people and trendy restaurants like Saint Añejo -- we caught up over creamy queso and house margaritas while waiting for a table there. Kaissling and Katherine only lived in Hinsdale for a few years, but somehow, my relationship with them has not changed since elementary school. Those two are still the same hilarious and giggly girls that I grew up with. Their laughter is infectious, and it was such a joy to see a slice of their lives.

After dinner, they took us to Broadway, Nashville's iconic thoroughfare. Their go-to place is Acme Feed & Seed, a four-story bar with a different vibe on every floor. Outside, a line snaked halfway down the street, but Kaissling and Katherine marched right up to the bouncer for hugs and a brief heart-to-heart. We cut the line, ordered four Mule Kickers (read: adult slushies) and went straight to the rooftop. Sarah and I looked at each other with wide eyes -- we were out with Nashville Royalty.

The next morning, Sarah and I said goodbye to the girls and headed to 12 South. Our Saturday plan wasn't much of a plan -- we knew we wanted coffee, but other than that, we were up for anything. We stopped at the Frothy Monkey for breakfast, and we could not help but marvel at the sweet little coffeehouse. We saw lots of flannel, floor-length sweaters and boots galore. After caffeinating, we drove to Belle Meade for a little real-estalking (in true MSC fashion).

We spent the early afternoon hours at Cheekwood, a glorious garden that happened to be hosting a fall festival. It was the most wonderful way to spend the first day of October. There was a bluegrass band, kids playing bags and a tiny house made entirely of pumpkins. One of my best friends, Maggie, recently moved to Nashville -- she met up with us at Cheekwood with a friend in tow. We explored the grounds, sipping our Oktoberfest beers and enjoying the ease of the day.

Sarah and I are quite similar. At home, our favorite activity involves wine, HBO and our laptops. On a trip, our itinerary is equally relaxing. (Sound familiar?) We finished our drinks and decided to go check into our Airbnb for a few hours of recharging -- ourselves and our devices.

The house was a heart-stopper: a bright yellow front door, Edison-style lighting, exposed kitchen shelving, white subway tile and rustic decor. Our room was upstairs, tucked away and cozy. I had to resist from Snapchatting every single detail. Oh, and the back door was pink.

We spent some time on the front porch rocking chairs, switching off between conversation and quiet. It was the nicest day -- 70 degrees and passing clouds. I couldn't help but notice how suburban it felt in comparison to my Gold Coast condo.

Some time later, Maggie came to pick us up in her adorable VW bug. She took us to her place, an immaculate duplex in an effortlessly hip neighborhood called Five Points. From there, the three of us walked to The Treehouse -- my favorite stop of the weekend, I think. The back patio is truly built like its namesake, and there are twinkly lights everywhere. We listened to Lord Huron and sipped our drinks until it was time to go.

Sarah and I had impulsively purchased Jon McLaughlin tickets the night before, so we ubered over to City Winery for the show. This was one of our better life choices. At the venue, we were able to sit down, order food and drink wine as we listened. We went with a margarita flatbread and pinot noir, naturally. The show was outstanding, and I felt blissfully happy to be there with a best friend.

We told each other we'd go out after the show, but by the time 10 o'clock came around, we both wordlessly agreed the night was over. Unashamedly, we called an Uber and went back to our Airbnb. (At my request, our driver cruised through the McDonald's drive-thru for ice cream. We also had McDonald's for lunch that day. I'm not even the least bit sorry.)

Our alarm went off bright and early the next morning, and we were Chicago-bound by 7:30. The sky was cloudless, there was no traffic and we listened to this exceptional podcast. It was a quick trip, but one I know I will remember.

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