Reader OMG! – Cindu’s Historic Chicago Home

Reader OMG! is a series showcasing home tours from my favorite people…The DIY Playbook readers! Every month or so, I highlight the home of someone with some serious design style. I hope that these swoon-worthy spaces will make you say “OMG”…hence the name! It also gives me a chance to feature home styles outside of my own, so you can take away some fresh ideas for your space.Reader OMG blog series

So far we’ve featured these amazing homes in the series…

Cindu’s Historic Chicago Home

Cindu's family photos
Photo via Two Lillies Photography


  • Homeowners: Cindu, her husband, Jim, and their two boys. 
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Home Type: Originally a single-family home, converted into a duplex down. 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms.
  • Year Built: 1895
  • Describe your Home Style: Rustic modern. A bit earthy and a bit Indian inspired.
  • Favorite Spot in your House: The kitchen is extra special to me because my husband and I worked together as a team to design it and after almost a decade of discussing the potential remodel- we finally pulled the trigger and remodeled it four years ago. We did not hire a designer or architect because my husband (Jim) is very handy and was able to design the layout and I love design, so I took care of the aesthetics. I am extremely proud of how it turned out! We have a 10-foot island and it is where we spend most of our time- daily with our children and with friends and family when we are entertaining.

A peek inside Cindu's historic Chicago homeCindu’s face may look familiar because I teamed up with her earlier this year for an Instagram live. As a diversity and inclusion practitioner, she chatted with me about the term BIPOC and how to support the black community. You can still view our conversation here…I know I certainly learned a lot!A look inside this historic Chicago home that was built in 1895

Not only is she an intelligent and kind person, but she also has the most gorgeous home and I was honored to shoot this space to showcase it here on the blog. She actually lives in our old neighborhood (that we love and miss so much!) and owns a historic Chicago home that was built in 1895. How cool is that?!An original clawfoot tub in this historic home

The home has seen lots of changes over the years, but there are still some historic touches that make my heart sing. And they’ve managed to update spaces (like the kitchen and main bathroom) to make it more functional for their family of four.Adding bits of your culture and personality to your home decor

As we tour the home, you’ll notice that many of the sources for furniture and art come from local artists, small businesses, women, and people of color. Along with lots of pieces that reflect their travels, interest, and cultural background. Cindu is very intentional with all of her purchases and it was inspiring to see how much thought she puts into everything she brings into her home. So enough chatting, let’s get to it!

The Kitchen & Office

Cindu's family in their new kitchen
Photo via Two Lillies Photography
A look at this modern kitchen
White kitchen with marble backsplash
Large kitchen island with wood detailing
Marble herringbone backsplash
Barn doors reveal an office
A small couch and office space
A look at Cindu's historic Chicago home with modern touches

Paint Colors: Benjamin Moore “Champion Cobalt Blue” (office walls), “Chantilly White” (trim), “Paper White” (kitchen walls)

For a city home, I can’t get over how large their kitchen is! That 10 foot island is gigantic (and perfect for the kids to sidle on up after school). The couple renovated this space four years ago, taking down a wall to make a larger kitchen with plenty of storage. The white cabinetry is timeless and if you look closely, you’ll see they used wood boards on the island to bring in a bit of warmth, texture, and a historic feel. The couple sanded and stained the wood themselves and Jim even built the pantry with floating wood shelves to match.

Opposite the kitchen is a small room that they’ve turned into an office with a pull-out couch for guests. They added barn doors to give this room a bit more privacy and I love how this incorporates even more of that gorgeous wood into the home.

The Dining RoomThe dining room in this historic homeChandelier from Restoration HardwareFlowers on the table in the dining room

Paint Colors: Benjamin Moore “Balboa Mist” (walls) & “Chantilly Lace” (trim)

The dining room and living room both feature original hardwood floors. It’s so amazing to think that this wood is almost 130 years old! And that stunning Restoration Hardware chandelier is really the jewelry of this room!

Now let’s discuss that beautiful teak table because it comes with an awesome story. Here are Cindu’s words…

We bought the teak table in 2005 when we lived in San Francisco. We were having a lazy Sunday in our neighborhood (Noe Valley) and stumbled into a store that was selling this on clearance. We both fell in love but they would only take cash or check for it. We had to walk back to our home (which meant walking up a big hill) and when we got back home Jim wanted to sit down for a  minute to rest. By the time we made our way back to the shop, the table had already been sold. We were both so bummed.

A year later I was in another store that was owned by the same shop owner and he remembered me and told me that the person he sold the table to backed out last minute and he had it in storage. I jumped at the opportunity! The table has so much meaning and will be a family heirloom for our kids.

The Living Room

Front room in a historic Chicago home
Old fireplace in a historic home
Live edge coffee table
Comfortable sofa
Preserving the millwork and shutters from a historic Chicago home

Paint Colors: Benjamin Moore “Revere Pewter” (walls) & “Chantilly Lace” (trim)

If you look closely, you’ll notice the exquisite millwork in this space (not to mention those 12-foot ceilings!). That is the original millwork from 1895. Oh, and those wood shutters and fireplace are original too. It’s fun to see these historic elements paired with Cindu’s unique style…furniture with clean lines and color from the art and accessories. Cindu says this is where her boys love to hang out, relax, and cozy up on the sofas from Maiden Home (a home retailer founded by a woman of color).

And how about that live edge coffee table? Jim’s best friend made it for the couple as a wedding gift back in 2005. I can’t get over the craftsmanship. The family displays a lot of Indian art here to represent their South Indian heritage (some purchased from shops in Bangalore, India). Cindu also added living moss wall art over the sectional and I love the pop of greenery.

The First Floor BathroomHistoric clawfoot tub from 1895

Copper clawfoot tub

Okay, I know I’m going on and on about the historic touches…but this is the last one I’ll gush over….the clawfoot tub!! It’s copper and from the 1800s. I just about died when I saw it. It’s absolutely stunning. They had the inside of the tub refinished to make it look new again and Cindu says she uses it regularly. I also love the wood beadboard in this charming bathroom.

The Main Bedroom & BathroomMain bedroom with dark wood furnitureCindu's home and bedroomAccessories in a bedroom spaceCome tour this historic Chicago home with modern updatesMarble shower with brass shower hardwareThe details in this modern bathroom makeover

Brass shower hardware
Black and white bathroom with brass accents

Paint Colors: Benjamin Moore “White Dove” (bedroom & bathroom walls), “Chantilly Lace” (trim)

The top floor of their home has three bedrooms and two full bathrooms…including the above main bedroom and en suite bath. This top floor was added on in the early 2000s, so they were eager to make some upgrades up here knowing that it wouldn’t affect the integrity of their historic home.

And boy oh boy, did they deliver with that main bathroom! I was gushing over every last detail. Cindu got some guidance from her friends who work in the design world (Annarya Design & VK Kontrakting) and together they were able to bring her vision to life.

The wood vanity to match the dark wood downstairs, the porcelain tile (everywhere!), the brass medicine cabinet mirrors, and brass vanity lights…it’s all so good. Cindu actually used our go-to contractor to get the work done (and his team nailed it!). They actually just finished this space before our photoshoot, so the only thing missing is the glass shower door. But you can still get a good sense of the new space. I know I’m taking notes for our future bathroom makeover.

The PatioOutdoor patio space in ChicagoHanging flower basketCityscape made of legosOutdoor sectional on a Chicago rooftopPurple flowers

Finally, let’s hop to their back deck. As a city dweller, outdoor space is coveted and they’ve made the most of their deck with a large sectional and additional seating. And I must chat about the DIY artwork that Cindu’s husband made over quarantine with their kids. He used legos to create three unique scenes and then built a frame to display them on their patio. What a fun idea! Perfect for a family space, playroom, or kid’s room.

Shop the Look – Historic Chicago Home

Cindu's historic chicago home with rustic modern design and Indian inspired art

Sofa // Brass Showerhead // Gold Flower Print (Unavailable) // Hands Print (Unavailable) // Teak Live Edge Coffee Table // Ivory Rug // Black & White Throw Pillow // Geometric Pillow (Unavailable) // Marble Side Table // Calacatta Oro Tile // Bathroom Lighting // Clawfoot Tub // Wood Elephants // Arched Wood Mirror (Similar) // Vases // Decorative Tray (Unavailable) // Black Planter

Cindu's family
Photo via Two Lillies Photography

A big thank you to Cindu and her family for letting me crash their house. I loved meeting in person and I’m hopeful that we’ll team up again as I work to make the Playbook an inclusive community for everyone. Come tour this historic Chicago homeCindu is a wealth of knowledge and I always learn so much from our chats.Come tour this historic Chicago home tour

Submit Your Home for Reader OMG!Reader OMG blog series

Want to see your home featured on The DIY Playbook? Send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Reader OMG!”, including lots of photos of your gorgeous home. My goal is to make the series as diverse as possible, featuring all kinds of family units and different communities (LGBTQ, BIPOC, AAPI, etc.). So please reach out!



The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.