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Zainah's Lakeview Chicago Apartment

M.A.S.H. , featuring real homes & the personal stories behind them

Introduce us to your home.

I’ve been living in my ~825 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment for about two years now, with my boyfriend Thomas. This is our first home here in Chicago. Choosing which neighborhood to live in was no easy task because neither of us are originally from the area. Prior to moving, we took a short trip to the city and drove all around town, pinning streets we liked on our maps app. Eventually, we found an apartment in our budget and on a street that we had pinned. We never saw the apartment in person; we just had virtual tours of the space. Neither of us could remember what that street looked like on which the apartment stood, but we decided to trust our past selves’ intuition and signed the lease, fingers crossed. When move-in day arrived, we were pleasantly surprised and happy with our risky decision (so were our parents!) Phew!

Our belongings are pretty eclectic, but we try to make the space feng shui nicely. We love the character of our apartment: hardwood floors, arched doorways, molding on the walls from who knows when. Our kitchen is updated with subway tile and a farm sink, yet it all flows with a modern/classic vibe.  When moving in, the building manager asked if we wanted beige or white walls, and we opted for stark white. We bring warmth into our home with wooden furniture, plants, and cozy rugs/ throws.

What’s your favorite space & why? 

I can’t decide between the bedroom or the living room, but the thing pushing me towards saying the living room are the 27-year-old, ceiling-high bookshelves that we have anchored to our living room walls. Two months after moving in, a local bookshop down the street was closing (after many years of being in business), and we snagged two bookshelves for a total of $50! That price was unbeatable, and the story behind them makes them special to us. We honestly wish we would have bought more. Otherwise, my bedroom because I love coming home to a perfectly made bed to decompress and relax on.

Show us something handmade. What’s its story? 

These two pictures were hand drawn by some locals in Lewiston, PA. I was visiting my sister, and we went to a coffee shop near the hospital where she works as an ER nurse. At the shop, there were clotheslines filled with square photos, collages, and sketches. All proceeds were being donated to their local pet pantry – I bought a couple to support the pantry, and now I have some cute sketches.

If we’re in your neighborhood, where should we go? 

I LOVE my neighborhood. Here are some things I recommend: 

  • CRISP: the one and only location in Chicago (just a 1 min walk from my apartment). Come here to drench your taste buds with their famous Korean Fusion chicken wings or buddha bowls. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, this place is always packed. 
  • Coffee & Tea Exchange: Founded in 1975, this neighborhood institution has barrels of fresh coffee beans in every flavor imaginable covering the sales floor + glass jars fill the wall shelves from floor to ceiling with loose leaf tea. The coziness of this place makes you feel right at home. 
  • Lincoln Park Zoo/ Conservatory: This zoo is one of the oldest zoos in America, founded in 1869. It’s magical and remains FREE of admission, which is hard to come by these days. I always roam through the zoo and conservatory on a weekday to beat the crowds and ponder life.

 Are there projects or spaces you’re currently tackling? 

Since we moved in, we haven’t given our bedroom much love. The space above our bed is empty. Some closet reorganization needs to happen, and we are currently trying to find the perfect bed-frame. I have been on the hunt for some new dining chairs, as well. In general, though, I always feel like I’m trying to improve my home, both rearranging or envisioning how best to use each room/space.

Any Ghost Stories? 

Not in this apartment! Although, we do joke about a young ghost named Jimmy who lives in our entrance coat closet. Our closet handle doesn’t latch properly to keep the door closed, so every now and then it pops open and we say hi to Jimmy haha. 

My childhood home was definitely haunted, though. Thinking about it gives me chills. There are many instances I could recall, but the funniest one involves the Tickle Me Elmo toy. Do y’all remember that one? Well, we had a storage room under the stairs, where Tickle Me Elmo was residing. I think it ended up there because my mom was sick of my younger brother playing with it. One day, I had to grab something from that room and, when I opened the door, Tickle Me Elmo started saying over and over, “Tickle me, hehe!” – or whatever they used to say.  It was weird, but I tried to shrug it off. I grabbed the Tickle Me Elmo to turn the toy off, but it wasn’t even on… in fact, I went to check the battery compartment and guess what? NO BATTERIES! It was going off with no batteries and wouldn’t stop. I remember burying it under some boxes, slamming the door and running upstairs to tell my mom. It was extremely spooky as a young child, but now it is weirdly funny to think that our Tickle Me Elmo was probably possessed by whatever ghost resided in that home.

Where do you find inspiration for your home? 

Definitely a combination of things – I follow a lot of furniture companies on Instagram. Pinterest is good for inspiration, too. When I find unique images of spaces, I save them for future reference. Sometimes I like watching Netflix shows that showcase off million dollar homes. If I ever come across home or design magazines, I always give a quick flip through them. I feel like I’m always casually saving inspiration and locking it away in a mental vault.


Zainah is a creative who recently jumped ship from her ND roots. She lives the city life in the Lakeview East neighborhood of Chicago w/ her bf Thomas. When she’s not working, you can find her eating poké, petting dogs, and sharing her style and skin wisdom on her Instagram.