We are so, so (so!) excited to kick off our next project – the garden apartment! If you’ve been with us since the beginning of this house’s renovation journey, you might remember that our home is zoned as a residential two-flat, meaning, there are two living units. Before us, the house was split into several apartments, with each one being rented. As soon as we signed those closing papers, we spent the better part of a year to turn it back into a two-flat. You’ve come to know the first two floors as ours, but directly below us is the garden unit!
It was never our intention to own a two-flat, but the price was right, and it was in our very favorite Chicago neighborhood. Of course, we learned to quickly embrace it – hello, income property! – and almost immediately, we leased the garden apartment to a friend who was looking for an inexpensive place to live. The unit got a good scrubbing, fresh paint and a handful of necessary repairs to get it in good working order, and we priced it accordingly. We couldn’t have asked for a better tenant; she never complained or grumbled about our own renovation messes, and we did everything we could to ensure that her and her boyfriend felt safe and comfortable.
Our plan has always been to overhaul the garden apartment. We didn’t know when, but we’ve been setting aside funds for a while knowing that it was in our future. There’s a world of potential in this unit. It would make us so happy to know that our tenants love where they live as much as we do, and for as long as we’ve lived here, we’ve constantly daydreamed about the changes we’d make – someday. Well, after 3.5 years, our tenants has decided to move on, and so here we are, someday, diving in head first!
We’re hiring out some of the work, DIY-ing the rest, and we’ll be partnering with a handful of the most supportive sponsors who are all just as excited as us to polish it right up. Almost every last thing you see will be getting overhauled – light fixtures, paint, floors, walls, shiny appliances and a complete kitchen remodel (to name a few!) – and we’re hoping to accomplish it all in within a three month timeline. In other news, somebody knock on wood – quick!
In this video tour, we’re sharing our plans and feeling giddy about what’s to come. Let’s go!
You can find even more background on the garden apartment, starting with the introduction, the progress, and our (round one) before and after! We thought it came a long way then, but my goodness, it’s got another thing coming – and soon.
What we use to film:
Our favorite lens
Music is Clap Tap by Brightside Studio, and this vlog was filmed and edited by us, Kim + Scott. It’d sure make our day if you subscribed to our YouTube channel!
So exciting! We own a legal 3 flat in Bridgeport (Chicago) and after 4 years are finally getting to the basement unit. The whole building needed a lot of work (and then we had a baby) and my husband had tried to do much of it himself so as you know, it’s slow moving! We’re excited to fix some of the old termite damage though, make it less basement like (hopefully) and get it rented after it’s been sitting empty for about 2 years. I’m looking forward to seeing your changes! Good luck!
Exciting and good luck to you as well! We know the feeling of slow moving all too well…
Cooooool! I can’t wait to see how it turns out! Sounds like it’s going to be amazing.
Question though: is tile floor freezing cold in the winter? Seems like an odd choice for a ground floor unit in Chicago but I have never actually had tile floors so maybe I’m just projecting.
That’s the million dollar question. We weighed heavy on this decision! We asked the former tenants of the tile was too cold in the winter, and they said, not really at all (much to our surprise). They told us that in the summer, it felt especially nice. We considered luxury vinyl tile (man, that stuff has come a long way!), but we knew that we wanted something crazy durable for years – decades! – to come. If this was our personal family room, we might have chosen luxury vinyl for the warmth, but because this is a rental, we had to keep in mind that we can’t babysit the people that come and go. We can’t ask people to put felt pads on their furniture (wouldn’t that be something, haha). Everything needs to be tough as nails from the start, so a cooler floor in the winter was our sacrifice. Luckily, area rugs and fuzzy slippers can help with that!
Interesting, we are putting in luxury vinyl planks in our rentals because they are so durable and waterproof. Maybe not as durable as tile, but that options wasn’t in our cards.
How about putting radiant heat under the tile? The electric kind is fairly straightforward to install.
I was just coming here to beg you to reconsider the tile flooring! We live in a similar climate and have endured basement tile and basement engineered flooring — both were miserable. If you ever get tenants with a young child, it is freezing to crawl around on that floor. I understand the durability issue with a rental, but please consider radiant flooring at the very least.
We have vinyl plank flooring in our basement (in central Canada) laid directly on the cement. It’s not warm but I feel it is warmer than tile would be. It is also crazy durable, scratch proof, water proof etc. And in terms of install it was much less work than actual tiling would have been for us to DIY. Just some input regarding going the vinyl route!
Love love love the video and so excited for your project! I’ve never been a fan of garden units, but Id move into yours in a heartbeat ??? good luck on the reno!
Thanks, Bonnie! Our biggest challenge is making any renter forget they’re in a garden unit. We’re going to really be focusing on the details to make this place feel special, fingers crossed!
This is going to be fun. Any chance of posting room dimensions?
Both bedrooms are about 10′ x 10′, and overall, the entire space is around 820 sq. ft.! It’s small, but we think it has the potential to pack a big punch. Lots more to come in the weeks and months to follow!
Thanks! I have a similar size space and have been dreaming for years of all the fun stuff that could be done. I can’t wait to see how yours turns out!
I’m so excited to watch this transformation for a rental unit. Lots of people share transformations for their own living space, but I know it is different for a rental. Like how we put in luxury vinyl planks in our rental, but might not be our first choice for our primary home.
Ooh, I’d love to know more about your choice using LVP! We strongly considered it, but in the end, we were too scared that renters might scratch them with furniture, pets, etc. We felt and looked at so many samples, and we were impressed with the quality, but we just couldn’t quite commit. How is yours holding up in a rental?
Can’t wait to watch this project develop!
That’s what the tiles were going to be for! :D So excited to see the progress and final!
Yup! Hence my questions about how you’re still loving it. :D
Ooooh how exciting! I am planning on moving to Chicago in 3 months! How do you plan on renting the space? I’d love to talk more about it!! :)
Hi, Ross! If you’re interested, please reach out to us via the contact form in our menu bar (or our email is listed there as well)!
Are you going to do the wood look tile everywhere? Kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms included? Because that would look so good
We are! We considered doing something different in the bathroom, but in the end, we thought continuity would help the space overall.
I can’t wait to see how this space turns out! So exciting!
Since you say you live in your favorite Chicago neighborhood and I’m assuming there’s a lot of cool stuff to do around there, have you ever considered using your garden unit as an Airbnb? You’d stand to make a lot more money that way than renting it to tenants. Just a thought…
We’ve definitely talked about that, but in the end, we felt a little strange having people that were looking to have a vacation staying IN our home, if that makes sense? It would be more to manage as an Airbnb (cleaning schedules, etc), but I guess you never know what could happen down the road! For now, a rental feels like the best option for us. :)
I am SO excited to read about your projects for this!! I dont have a rental unit of my own, but it’ll be very interesting to see why decisions are made for a rental versus your own home. And I bet it’ll be awesome. Almost makes me want to sell my house in the suburbs and apply to be the tenant for this unit! haha
I’m a big fan of garden units – my first three Chicago apartments were garden units. Their lower cost let us rent nicer apartments in great locations that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford. Props to you for helping Chicago stay renter-friendly!
So excited for this project! Lots of potential since it’s basically a blank slate!
Can you please explain about what you were burning and waving around in the rooms ?
It’s sage! We were smudging. We do it to clear the air, so to speak, for a fresh start and ridding any bad vibes. It’s a little hippy dippy, but we like to do it at the start of most projects (and anytime we hit a rough patch)! See more about it here: https://yellowbrickhome.com/2014/02/21/burn-cleanse/
Didn’t you also keep the old condo as a rental property? I can’t quite recall.
We did! Our tenants just renewed for another year. :)