Sarah Reilly's Chicago Home Tour
Those in the know stumble upon the best small pleasures via Sarah Jane Reilly. Her blog Where The Sidewalk Begins is an inspiring collective of the daily discoveries and thoughts she finds beautiful. Sarah’s meticulous attention to writing and curatorial eye for design likens blogging to an art form. We admire how she doesn’t confine herself to blogging about one category—style, books, food, film...the sky’s the limit!
Sarah’s sense of wanderlust and appreciation of often-overlooked, yet meaningful details make her a true embodiment of Everygirls everywhere. We catch up with Sarah at her Chicago home about her background in art and graphic design, admiration of Nancy Myers, East Coast vs. West Coast living, and the art of planting roots in a new city (which she makes look easy!). Read on, and tell us: which coast are you most loyal to?
Full name: Sarah Jane Reilly
Location: Chicago, IL
Current title/company: Director of Sales, thismoment
Educational background: I went to Providence College in Rhode Island and majored in Art, well, Painting actually. Since this plagued my parents with worry on how I might make a living, I focused on Graphic Design through classes at RISD. I also attended two years of school in San Francisco for Interior Design at Berkeley.
You grew up in Rhode Island, moved to New York, then San Francisco, then back to New York, and finally Chicago. Are you settled here or does wanderlust still get the best of you? Can you share your story with us? When and how long did you live in each city? What prompted all of the moves?
I am no stranger to change – I love to throw myself into a new place. Growing up in Rhode Island I love the comforts of my small town but craved inspiration and adventure. What better place to start your post-college life than New York City? I lived in a one bedroom with a college friend; it was beautiful and small, and loud on 86th Street on the Upper East Side. After a few years in New York working in finance, I drove cross-country to chase my life-long desire to live on the West Coast. It was an exciting time and one that shifted my life forever, because ever since, I have been in technology, either writing about it or selling it. I had lived in NYC for two years and San Francisco for seven. And I wouldn't trade California living for anything really—the quality of life is amazing, and the friends I made are forever—but I craved being near family on the East Coast.
I packed up and moved back to New York City, and moved in with one of my best friends—we had a two bedroom in Greenwich Village—you couldn't ask for a better location. New York is where I started my blog and where I ended the struggle of What do I want to do with my life? New York re-inspired me and my group of friends there are the best hodgepodge of interesting, creative, and successful people who love to have a great time! I started with the company I work for now mid-2010—it was the perfect blend of me taking my digital media experience of working with agencies and brands at a former role in NYC, and my sales expertise and my mini-side business of doing social media consulting for small companies.
At that point, for the first time in my life, I moved for a job—to Chicago. And although I never thought I would end up here, it completes my city adventures. It has everything I need at this stage in my life, including my boyfriend that I met here and all of the wonderful blogger friends I connected with since landing in the Windy City. It was not a straight and narrow path by any means, but that’s what make it more amazing…I know the history, the story, the ups and downs, all of which make me laugh now and inspire me to always pursue my dreams—not being afraid of the outcome, or the unknown.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about each city?
Favorites about NYC: the people, the restaurants, the eye candy of fashion and hospitality design – and sometimes even the anonymity is nice. The fact that everyone really seems interesting and is motivated. The downside: it's expensive and living in small spaces isn't always conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
San Francisco: I heart this city, it is my little inner hippie and my spontaneous side that connects the most with the West Coast. I loved the chance, every weekend to hop in the car and have an outdoor excursion with friends. I hiked, biked, surfed, skied, had picnics, bonfires, went wine tasting, ate oysters on the beach. It was heaven. My least favorite aspect of it was that it is very transient, friends moved in and out of San Francisco always going somewhere next. It is absolutely perfect for right after college because it has a bit of a Never Never Land feel to it, and it's like a big playground.
How did you find your apartment in Chicago?
A friend of mine recommended the location—Lincoln Park, and I couldn't resist the views of the lake from my balcony once I saw it!
In searching for your apartment, what was most important for you?
There were three things that were factors for me right off the bat: I was moving to a city, in the middle of winter, where I knew two people and was going to be working from home. Hence, I needed a space I loved and that felt open. The kitchen space flows into the dining room and living room space that overlooks that lake off my tiny balcony. Outdoor space was a bonus! I wanted a dining room space that could fit my big farm table since I love to entertain. And I needed a neighborhood where I could walk to the store and shops and restaurants since I don't have a car.
What are your favorite/least favorite things about your home?
It's hard to pick...I love my dining room table, my blue desk, my zebra rug and my Ikat pillows! My least favorite thing...I would say since I was renting, I opted to keep the walls the neutral color, but I would have loved to paint or wallpaper.
What was the decorating process like? Did you bring most of your furniture with you? Did you purchase pieces in Chicago?
It's amazing when you move—you definitely weed things out, but I decided that since I had collected furniture along the way that I would continue to move what I loved with me from NYC to San Francisco back to NYC and finally to Chicago! I didn’t invest in ‘throw away’ pieces—I bought things I knew I could refurbish or refinish if I needed to that had a good structure. I got many pieces online through Craigslist when I got my first one bedroom in San Francisco. I painted dressers and reupholstered chairs, and collected more traditional pieces from my family, like an oriental rug, a writing table, and Chinese urns. I wanted to blend the things that I have together with bolder fabrics and color too, so I continue to be on the hunt for rugs, pillows, and accessories that keep it fresh.
How would you describe your describe your decor style?
I don't know if I have a particular style—but I'm so happy that eclectic style is in because that is how I would describe my apartment. My dream home style is a modern farm house with beautiful outdoor landscaping and tons of natural light through an open floor plan and large windows (something that apartments sometimes lack).
What are the biggest challenges when starting over in a new city?
It's hard at first to find your routines, your spots in the neighborhood where you feel welcome and comfortable. And it takes time to meet people but when you do, you feel like you’ve really conquered something, and now that I live in Chicago I feel grateful that I can visit friends across the country and know great restaurant spots in these great cities.
What advice would you give to a girl who is about to move to a new city on her own?
Do it! Yes, there are ups and downs—I’m a huge believer in ‘wherever you go, there you are'—so you have to be okay with spending some time with yourself. I really think it’s a unique opportunity to grow and learn. Sometimes the comfort zone doesn’t push us to explore what we are capable of—and it’s fun!
How did you save money when decorating your apt?
I saved by not picking everything out of a catalog. I really pulled old pieces in with new. For fabric I searched discontinued patterns and have an amazingly resourceful mother who never tires of looking for bargains. I think we spent several hours in HomeGoods before I moved.
What is your favorite budget-friendly piece in your home and why?
My Zebra chair—I bought this great chair at Salvation Army—it was donated after a local bank in Rhode Island had closed. I found an amazing zebra print fabric and had it recovered. It stands out in any room. The chair cost $15, and the fabric was expensive, but I didn’t need much. In fact I chose a cheaper fabric for the back of the chair since it was going against the wall. All in all it cost under $100 and looks very unique.