In preparation for moving into her first apartment without roommates, Julie Ghatan began searching for a place four months before her shared lease was up. “You know how Craigslist is full of dumps? This was the first clean place I saw, and I took it,” Ghatan says, referring to her Ukie Village home of a year and a half.
The new apartment was so much smaller than any other place she’d lived that Ghatan, 28, embarked on a major purge, honing down her possessions to only those that would fit in her pared-down, grown-up-style pad. Not that she’s a stranger to editing: As co-owner (with Jennifer Clower) of the three-year-old Noble Square vintage boutique Dovetail(1452 W Chicago Ave, 312-243-3100, dovetailchicago.com), Ghatan is a professional at separating gems from junk. “Merchandising was something I had to learn about. I’d never worked in retail at all before we opened the store,” says Ghatan, who also works as a certified résumé writer—a booming business in this dismal employment landscape. “I think I’ve applied what I learned about putting items together here at home. It’s tightened my approach and cleaned it up a bit.”
Making it work here is more often about presentation than owning expensive items. For instance, a collage of empty, hand-painted frames hung on her living room wall exudes a sophisticated window-display aesthetic. The pièce de résistance—a charming, multihued wooden flower carving—came straight from the “free” bin at a yard sale. A nonfunctioning record player console scored for free at a thrift store functions as a side table. “All it needs is a needle, but I think I’d rather just keep using it as a table,” Ghatan muses. And while her vintage prints and posters might look forlorn displayed individually, grouped together (gallery-style) above the green couch, the collection makes a statement.
Living in Ukrainian Village, Ghatan says, reminds her of Wicker Park when she moved there ten years ago. “It’s up and coming but still quiet, with a good mix of families and young people. I can walk to my shop.” She occasionally invites friends over for brunch on Saturday mornings to dine on her rainbow-colored set of painting palette–shaped dishes, and her 15-pound, sociable black cat, Kitty, keeps watch on what’s going on outside from the windowsill. He’s also partial to draping himself over the dividing wall between the kitchen and living room where, incidentally, there’s no flat-screen TV to detract from the overall retro-chic vibe.
“I had an older TV, and when they were doing the conversion to digital, I didn’t buy the box.
Then I thought, Maybe I’ll go flat-screen. But where would I put it?” she asks, looking around at her small apartment.
That said, much like at Dovetail, where the merchandise is largely “vintage that doesn’t look like vintage” as Ghatan puts it, her vintage-adorned home still exudes a modern air. “Please don’t write that my place is kitschy,” Ghatan begs. “It’s such a downgrade word! Makes me think of avocado green and the ’70s.”