Hop across Western Avenue in Tri-Taylor and you’re in a subarea known to locals as "the nook." Arlington, Polk, Lexington, Flournoy, and Harrison Streets extend the quaint row house character of Tri-Taylor west a couple more blocks to a railroad viaduct. Once upon a time there was real estate investment in this tiny sector, particularly along Harrison and Western. It all ground to a halt in 2008, but when Sarah Enichen bought her two-bedroom fixer-upper in 2003, the feeling was that "the nook" was marching toward a comfortable, self-sustaining state.
“I saw lots of signs of life back then,” she says. “[The city] had just boulevarded Western and tire shops were giving way to more neighborly stores. It didn’t last, but I have noticed a pick-up since Pete’s Fresh Market opened last summer.”
As far as stability and tranquility are concerned, the area is very much block to block. Enichen’s totally renovated 1892 Victorian row house sits on one of the most physically attractive blocks around, with lots of tidy front yards and brick facades. The house itself is a rare find: rebuilt over a nine-year span with Interior Design magazine as guide book. Enichen also drew inspiration from her work in high-end retail, and took advice from friends and family.
The first order of business following purchase was structural preservation. Enichen sistered the weak east-west joists, correcting the house’s noticeable sag; had the home tuckpointed; and put in all new flooring—cork in the kitchen, tile in the one full bathroom, and bamboo everywhere else. “I found out that laying floor is a job for a reason.” She also installed new composite wood beams, striated and quite gorgeous.
With all that out of the way, imagination had free reign. Enichen used to rent on Division in Wicker Park and the landlord let her and a roommate make custom improvements to the unit, buying the material for them to work with. This is where she got her knack for renovation. While nine years working to reinvent a 1,800-square-foot home sounds sadistic, it wasn’t all that grueling. Budgetary constraints and workplace demands kept it moving along at a snail’s pace. And Enichen wanted to have fun, calling on beer gardens for inspiration in building a corrugated plastic roof for the back porch and picking the loudest possible wallpaper from Anthropologie. A friend landscaped her backyard with perennial plantings, a winding path, and patio area, and countless trips were made to garden shops for cobblestones and other ornament.
A guiding principle for the interior redesign was emphasis of the generous ceiling height in the midst of a compact floor plan. Freestanding and in-wall beams were left exposed; kitchen cabinets were stacked to the ceiling; and backsplash tile was lain vertically. The fireplace, a central feature of the main level, is a rebuilt original and “nothing in modern existence fit between it and the beams on either side, so I built shelving.” Enichen loved shaping her house and enjoyed living here, throwing a bunch of parties along the way. But her work is not close and she’s looking for a change.
Price Points: At least $100,000 was spent on the renovation. Disheartening for Enichen but enticing for a buyer, her asking price is exactly what she paid twelve years ago. On the market from April through September and relisting last week, there have been a number of nibbles but no bites. The price can’t come down much more, but if Enichen’s suspicions of a rebound in the neighborhood are true it might not languish too long. In the meantime, the house is also available to rent for $1,650 a month.
Veronica Miklusicak of @properties has the listing.