See This Architect’s Custom-designed Minimalist Condo

Mollie Code’s Chicago condo is the envy of many. Why? Because she designed it top to bottom. Yes, we’re talking renovations! Her home is defined by neutrals colors, natural textures, and balanced with bright pops of color. 

This Chicago architect recently left her full-time firm position to found her own business, Studio Code. She and her husband plan to beautify the city one renovation at a time, bringing beautiful spaces back to life. And her mission is most certainly reflected in the taste and attention to detail found in her own home.

Keep reading to learn more about Studio Code, the process of renovating, and life in Chicago for this budding business owner. 

Name: Mollie Code
Current job/company: Architect and Project Manager, Studio Code
Education: University of Notre Dame, Bachelor of Architecture; Yale University, Masters of Architecture

Just a few weeks ago, you left the world of corporate architecture and created your own firm, Studio Code. Walk us through the journey! 
My transition to Studio Code has been a long time coming. I had a great career at a large architecture firm, but wanted the opportunity to do more design-driven work. Dave, my husband, and I worked together in renovating our condo over a year ago. We loved the process of collaborating together on the design and have been discussing doing more rehab ever since. This seemed like the ideal time to take the leap!

So many homes with strong underlying architectural value stand neglected and dated. Our goal is to bring new life to homes.

It has been a process figuring out how to make Studio Code a reality—we have spent many hours searching for potential properties, working on marketing and website development and the not-so-glamorous aspects (establishing the LLC, bank account, etc.). We love Chicago and its longstanding, rich architectural history, yet so many homes with strong underlying architectural value stand neglected and dated. Our goal is to bring new life to homes.

We also have fun working as a team—Dave has a gift for finding potential projects and understanding the financial implications, and I love the nitty-gritty design work. It has been a huge transition for us and not without its challenges, but we are so thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue this passion and lucky to have so many people around us who are encouraging. 

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How do you envision this new normal for you? 
I’m still trying to figure this out, but I love having the control to determine my new normal. So far, I have really enjoyed the flexibility and the uniqueness of each day. I’m no longer at a computer for eight hours a day—I’m out looking at homes, meeting with inspectors and contractors, and exploring potential neighborhoods. 

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Talk to as many people as you can who are experienced in renovations or are in the building industry. Once you’ve listened to everyone’s opinion, let it all go and go with your gut. 

You and your husband renovated your Chicago condo with a beautiful result! Give us a glimpse into the process.
Thanks! Dave and I started by creating a Pinterest board of all the ideas we loved. Pinterest is a great visual tool for renovation because it helps communicate initial ideas to contractors, architects, interior designers, etc. We then narrowed these ideas down and started drawing floor plans and choosing materials.

As an architect, I love spending time developing the floor plan and this took many iterations to get just right. Once we had completed the floor plan, we picked the materials, and got the necessary permits. The contractor took it from there!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to renovate?
Talk to as many people as you can who are experienced in renovations or are in the building industry. Once you’ve listened to everyone’s opinion, let it all go and go with your gut. 

I think self-editing your belongings is a huge part of design and when Dave and I combined our things, we tried to focus on keeping only those that were either meaningful to us or that we really loved.

Let’s talk about your new space! What were some must-haves on your list during the renovation and decorating process? 
The biggest must-have was to bring out the real beauty of the space. The condo was originally a factory that was later converted to residential condos—imagine maple cabinets and dark granite countertops. We wanted our renovation to showcase the amazing bones of the space so we chose a lot of contrasting materials: cool gray kitchen, white walls, bleached floors to contrast with the warm timber and brick. 

You have mastered the balance between feminine and masculine in your space. How did you achieve this? 
Dave and I both care deeply about design and we spent a lot of time figuring out how we wanted to feel in this space. I think self-editing your belongings is a huge part of design and when Dave and I combined our things, we tried to focus on keeping only those that were either meaningful to us or that we really loved. The result is a space that we feel comfortable in and is a reflection of both of us. 

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Between renovations and decor, how were you able to stick to a budget? 
Renovating and decorating the condo was definitely a financial investment, so we tried to be strategic in our spending. For example, most of the tile in the bathrooms and kitchen is inexpensive tile from Home Depot that we paired with more expensive cabinets and fixtures.

We also decided to invest in quality large pieces of furniture like the couches and dining table, and chose more affordable decorative objects. There are many finds from our parents’ basements like the leather chair and red suitcases, and we spent many weekends scouring Randolph Street Market and Salvage One for fun pieces. 

How would you describe your style? 
I like to think of it as comfortable yet intentional. While I draw inspiration from many design movements, the thing I love most in a space is contrast, whether it’s contrast in color, texture, or style. I’m drawn to unexpected pairings, like mixing a rough barn table with sleek Danish chairs. While I don’t always have a grand vision for a space, I try to only include things that are either sentimental or that I love. 

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Where do you see yourself in five years? 
Our dream is that in five years, we will have a thriving real estate development firm. I hope we establish a reputation for ourselves as a company that designs durable, adaptable, and beautiful homes. 

What advice would you give your 23-year-old self? 
Be anxious less and joyful more. This is something I still strive for each day. 

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Mollie is The Everygirl… 

Coffee order? 
I love a skim cappuccino from La Colombe.

Morning routine? 
Mornings are my most productive time of the day! I get up around 7ish, make coffee, eat a usually huge breakfast, check my email and real estate listings, and spend some time with my husband as he gets ready for work. I work until about 11. Every day is different. Lately this has involved developing our website, designing our brand, and looking for potential properties. Then I workout and have lunch. 

Ideal weekend in Chicago? 
My ideal weekend in Chicago would involve sunshine, biking to get tacos in Wicker Park (Big Star or Antique Taco), walking around Randolph Street Market, and dinner with friends. 

Dream project? 
Our dream is to convert a small warehouse into Studio Code’s office and also a collaborative workspace for all our like-minded friends!

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order? 
Professionally there are many women I look up to, but personally I would love to have lunch with my grandmothers, whom I have never met. I think we would need to spend the afternoon making some family recipes!

 

Product Sources

Entry
Trunk, Vintage
Console, Crate and Barrel
Picture Ledge, IKEA
Artwork, Society6 and own original watercolor paintings
Lamp, West Elm
Desk Clock, Pottery Barn
Camera, Vintage
Patterned Bowl, West Elm (similar)
Eames style chair, Midcentury Monger
Candle Holders, Crate and Barrel
Plaid Blanket, Target
Wall Planters, Etsy, Light and Ladder

Kitchen
Mixer, Crate and Barrel
Bowl, IKEA (discontinued)
Bar Stools, Salvage One
Rug, Vintage

Dining Room
Table, Restoration Hardware
Chairs, Room and Board
Trivet, The Commons, Charleston
Candle holders, Vintage
Vase, Target
Green chalkbards, Salvage One
Light, Arhaus
Bike, Bikes Direct

Bar
Artwork, Randolph Street Market
Assorted glassware, Crate and Barrel and Randolph Street Market
Plant, IKEA
Clock, Target

Living Room
Sofas, Restoration Hardware
Pillows, Restoration Hardware and West Elm
Blanket, Restoration Hardware
Ottoman, Pottery Barn
Small Ottomans, Target
Leather Chairs, Craigslist
Leather Suitcases, Vintage
Side Tables, Target and World Market
Console Table, Randolph Street Market
Decorative Accessories, Salvage One and Target
Map, Salvage One
Floor Lamp, IKEA
Basket, Crate and Barrel

Office / Guest Room
Sleeper sofa, IKEA
Desks, IKEA
Desk Chairs, Lex Mod
Leather Chair, Parents’ old chair
Pillows, Restoration Hardware and West Elm 
Map, Salvage One
Floor Lamp, IKEA
Desk Lamp, Pottery Barn
Cabinet, Salvage One
Pouf, Handmade by Mollie’s mom

Guest Bath
Cabinet, IKEA
Tub Caddy, Peg and Awl

Master Bedroom
Bed, IKEA
Bedding, Restoration Hardware
Trunk, Ebay
Tapestry, Society 6 (similar)
Bedside Lights, IKEA
Rug, West Elm
Ottomans, Craigslist
Gray Nightstand, IKEA
Chair, Craigslist (refurbished by Mollie)

Master Bath
Bathroom accessories, Restoration Hardware
Cabinet, Randolph Street Market
Watercolor Painting, Mollie Code

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