Derek Erdman and Ashley Armitage moved to Chicago about two and a half years ago specifically to live in the apartment they’re in now. The couple’s 1,800-square-foot space in Logan Square, which also includes a 700-square-foot basement that Derek uses for painting, is brimming with color and characters. It’s the kind of place you’d want to be invited to for a party—you’d never run out of things to talk about. “My best friends bought the house and it had an extra unit, and I was pretty ready to leave Seattle,” says Derek. “I’d lived in Chicago in the past and missed it something fierce.”
“I’m currently a painter and work in a law office,” Derek says. “I’ve painted for most of my living for the last 15 years or so, but I like having a regular job too—I need the structure. The law office is a civil rights firm that does a lot of meaningful work, and my title is something like intake coordinator.” Ashley, also in a creative field, works as a photographer and director, and uses her eye to zhuzh the apartment.
“I’m really lucky that Ashley is as tidy as me, and cares about her home surroundings,” says Derek, who loves having a colorful home: everything in its place, busy but organized. “My style is a little shabbier than hers, but I defer to her because she cares a little bit more.” Plus, they each get dibs on decorating different domains. Derek goes to town in his office and Ashley makes her mark in the living room and bedroom.
The artwork filling the apartment is typically in flux. “We change it all the time, especially when our own work sells,” says Derek. “There’s a massive food painting in the kitchen, and the walls in the first hallway are mostly black-and-whites. There’s a closet where Ashley takes my stuff down and puts it in a pile. A framed photo of Studs Terkel hit the chopping block recently—it was quite sad.”
Beyond the amazing finds from trips and friends, Craigslist, and eBay, and the artwork that comes and goes, the space has needed little reconfiguration. “We changed some overhead lights. We painted the walls white—they were an odd puke green/gray when we moved in. Who even picks a color like that?” says Derek. “Otherwise it really hasn’t been rehabbed ever, aside from one of the bathrooms and the kitchen.” The kitchen cabinet doors coming down was a quick project for Derek and Ashley, who found them quite boring. “Plus I like to see all of the stuff, and not having to open a cupboard is one less thing to do in life.” Ashley adds, “Not only did we take off some cabinet doors, we also took off some doors! There used to be a swinging door between the kitchen and dining room and it felt in the way, so we took that off after about 48 hours of moving in.”
If you feel the smack of the wild decor (though we still find it quite cozy), it’s likely because Derek says he has always favored style over comfort, even to the dismay of guests. “Sometimes I’ll visit a friend’s house who has really comfortable chairs and realize, ‘Oh, a person can do that.’ But I have certain things that I love and care about,” he explains. “I’ve always decorated my house in my own paintings too, which I guess could seem tacky, but if I want a painting of Skylab, I can just make one.”
Loved by Derek, Admired by Ashley
The painter and photographer share their favorite places to shop and find inspiration.
Instagram feeds to follow:
Derek: I don’t really look at Instagram, I just post and go.
Dream addition to your space:
D: I’d kill for a proper claw-foot tub with arm space on both sides. That’s it really, otherwise it’s prefect.
A: Yeah, a tub. Ooooh, and a sunroom/greenhouse situation that I could fill with plants.
Favorite detail in your home:
D: I’m a big fan of the pantry, that’s such a nice thing to walk in to. I’ve never had one before. A room full of food. Okay!
A: I love our orange-subway-tile bathroom. Pastel-tiled bathrooms are my favorite thing in the world, so I’m happy to finally have one in my house.
Biggest design inspirations:
D: This one is probably for Ashley.
A: Honestly, I love ’80s interior design books. I go through phases where I buy them in bulk from thriftbooks.com.
Last thing you had delivered/bought for your home:
D: This one is for Ashley, for sure. Probably some candlesticks or a duvet cover. She has exquisite taste.
A: I did just get us a new Dusen Dusen duvet cover! Our cats scratch the heck out of our bedding, so we have to replace it like once a year.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest