There’s nothing “Windy City Rehab” star Alison Victoria loves more than a traditional—perhaps even historical—Chicago renovation project.
But when she can reach back to her forefathers’ native Greece for inspiration? Well, that makes her (and all of us) say, “Opa!”
In the Season 3 episode “From Greece to the Gold Coast,” Victoria helps renovate a large, high-rise condominium in Chicago’s Gold Coast area for her friend and business colleague Ted. Ted is the owner of Diamond Wine Importers, one of the largest importers of Greek wines.
In turn, he’ll help Victoria create her own Greek wine, in her own unique style. Plus, she gets a trip to Greece to look for design inspiration and authentic accessories for the renovation project!
Ted recently bought a 4,400-square-foot condo in a building constructed in 1922 by a group of doctors—he even has the original architectural plans. It’s a full-floor unit with lake views.
Ted paid $500,000 for the property. He wants to spend just under a million on renovations and have it finished by Christmas so he can celebrate there.
Victoria is duly impressed on her first visit.
“I am floored when I walk in,” she says. “The minute you get out of this private elevator, right into your unit, I just am immediately am feeling like I’m in Paris. … It doesn’t even feel like we’re in Chicago.”
Ted has already hired architect/designer Tom Nahabedian to work on the project, and asks Victoria to come onboard to collaborate, which she is perfectly willing to do.
Together, Victoria and Nahabedian bring the 100-year-old condo up to modern standards, and even manage to get some Greek statement pieces in there. Along the way, they give us some fabulous tips that we can use in our own homes.
Say goodbye to wasted space
There’s a vestibule (also known as an antechamber, hall, or lobby leading into another room) in front of the primary suite. Apparently, vestibules were really big in the 1920s, when this building was constructed. But these days, does anyone really need a formal entry to their bedroom? This area goes to show it’s possible to waste space even in the biggest homes.
“For some reason, this was kind of a transition area,” Nahabedian says. “We want to grab this space and give it to the main suite.”
Keep the original coolness
Embedded in the wall in the hallway is an original, old-fashioned firebox—a cupboard that contains an ax, hose, and fire extinguisher. They look like they’ve never been used.
They’re in such great shape and so intriguing that the team decides to add a glass door and use it as an art installation.
More bedrooms are not always better
The more bedrooms the better, right? That might be true if you’re going to flip a property or are thinking about resale value, but if you plan on living there for a good number of years, why not tailor the home to your specific needs?
Ted doesn’t need a lot of sleeping space, so they repurpose two bedrooms and baths into one large primary suite with a spacious bathroom and walk-in closet.
But entertaining is high on Ted’s agenda, so he uses another potential bedroom as a billiard area that shares a luxury bath with the guest room. There might be only two bedrooms in this sizable unit, but that’s the way Ted likes it.
Open or glass-front cabinets are hard to keep organized
Kitchens with open shelving and glass-front cabinets might look terrific, but have you ever stopped to think how difficult it would be to keep them neat and nicely arranged at all times? What a hassle!
Ted understands this. When Nahabedian shows him kitchen cabinet materials, he says, “I thought it would be fun to break up all this wood—maybe we do a mesh front.”
Ted responds that the cabinets, drawers, etc., are going to be multiuse and store a lot of different things that won’t always be easy to keep in immaculate order.
Nahabedian is good with that, but slips one or two in exclusively for display purposes.
Save the vintage features
Victoria notices some unique pulls and hinges on the cupboards in the kitchen that they’re about to demo.
“It’s in perfect shape,” she says, “that hardware—even though it’s not something that I love, but somebody does.”
She carefully removes it all, even the screws and shelving clips.
“They’re solid brass,” she exclaims. “They don’t make ’em like this anymore, so I want to make sure I’m salvaging all this and putting it away in an organized way so that I can hold on to it for future projects.”
Wood-burning fireplaces aren’t always worth saving
One of the unique features of this building is that each unit has its own fireplace, with its own flue and chimney. Unfortunately, it’s going to cost $44,000 to bring it up to code, and Victoria thinks this is a waste of money.
“A wood-burning fireplace is like a cabin in the woods,” she says. “It’s Michigan, that type of getaway. Not your beautiful condo in the Gold Coast.”
She further elaborates: “You can get a really beautiful, very realistic-looking fireplace with a different option, and it’ll look great. There are some that have burning embers, with these fake logs that look so real. They’ve perfected it, and trust me, he’s not spending $44,000 to make this a functional wood-burning fireplace.”
Ted trusted her, and the results are fabulous.
The big finish
Ted couldn’t be more pleased with his team’s work, and they celebrate with a toast at the table Victoria had built especially for the dining room.
And what else would they drink but the unique wine that they also created together?
“This is building a home; it is not an investment property for me,” Ted says. “I don’t plan on flipping it. I’m planning on living here and creating great moments.”