Vernacular Spectacular!

Vernacular architecture.  Architecture of the people, by the people.  “Vernacular” is more than just a local spoken dialect.  Let’s get this party started.

The New York Times Magazine made this so we didn't have to!

The New York Times Magazine made this so we didn’t have to!

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Chicago Common Brick

Have you ever noticed that in Chicago, no matter how interesting and high-quality the brick on a historic facade is, the brick that’s on the secondary elevations is kind of, well, not so interesting and high-quality?   What you’re seeing is a, Chicago-specific brick type. DYSV could go on and on about proper mortar, pointing, reasons for color variation, etc., but we’re not.  We’re gong to keep this one short and sweet – just a brief dispatch on what Chicago common brick is and how it came to be.

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Victorian: It’s an Era, Not a Style.

Let’s be honest: we all like historic architecture, but not all of us know quite how to talk about it.  Maybe you can wrap your head around Colonial vs. Victorian vs. Art Deco vs. Modern, but in a city like Chicago, we’re blessed with building stock that challenges those descriptors.  And getting the nomenclature right when there are dozens of architectural styles and infinite substyles can be frustrating, even when you’re at your most eloquent.

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I Bought an Old House. H-E-L-P!

Happy New Year!brownstone

It’s been a busy season and DYSV is back on track. Holiday parties, family gatherings, long overdue get-togethers with friends, and office parties has spurred lots and lots of talk about all things old, vintage and historic – as far as homes and buildings go, anyway.     I have talked with so many friends, colleagues, and clients over the holidays about old houses, historic homes and vintage buildings and there has been an overwhelming similarity in experiences.   There are just too darn many buyers that did not know what kind of a jam they were getting themselves into – and that’s not right!  Let’s do a little something about that.

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Looking for a place in Lake View? Don’t bring your car.

diversey flickr user paul morganIs Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood poised to be the quintessential urban walkable community? With services like iGo, Zipcar, Lyft and other car-share startups, young people are finding it hard to justify owning a car in the city. Who can blame them when parking tickets range from $50 to $180 on top of city registration fees and zoned parking passes, not to mention the ever-lurking meter maid.

Lake View is Chicago’s second largest community area, but the most dense, with roughly 95,000 people living in about three square miles.

Neighborhoods like Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, or OTR as the locals call it, are experimenting with less parking and its effects on community building. This article tells the story.

Cincinnati’s mayor is passing an ordinance which impacts parking, zoning, and in a much larger sense, density. The word is out that density and the resulting face-to-face interaction is real, and needed, and helps spark ideas and form collaborations. Many believe that in the future, where you live is going to be more important than it ever has before. Density and walkability are two of the largest factors impacting our consumption of natural resources and ecological footprint. These are things that younger generations care about. Chicago’s Lake View community has  one of the highest populations of 18-34 year olds in the country.

How old are the properties in Lake View? That depends on where you go. You can find whole streets of 1890s Italianates, greystones and various other walk-ups. Almost 20,000 houses in Lake View were built before 1939. For comparison, the area has seen more than 5,000 homes built in a decade only once in the last 70 years. It is safe to say that most of Lake View’s building stock is of the older variety – back when they used to build the character in.

Lake View is the neighborhood of choice for Chicago’s college students so there are a lot of small two and three bedroom multi-unit buildings along main streets that they occupy. To balance that out there are a fair number of single family homes on interior streets and town houses within a few blocks of the lake. Over the last year the number of single-family homes listed has dropped by 23%. Average sale price for single family homes has come up almost 5% over the past year. Condo units, of which there are many in highrises along the lakefront, have seen a 10% increase in new listing over the past year with an increase of 40% in closings in the past year. Average and median sale prices for condos have been nearly unchanged in the last year. Those who wish to keep their car and live in Lake View do best living along the lake with Lake Shore Drive providing easy access to downtown.

belmont stop

The neighborhood is well connected to the ‘L’ with a brown line stop at Diversey, a red/brown line stop at Belmont and a red line stop at Addison. The Clark bus and the Ashland bus run north-south through the middle of Lake View and make it even easier to navigate the city without a car. Bordered by the Uptown neighborhood to the north, Lincoln Square to the northwest, North Center to the west and Lincoln Park to the south, the nightlife options are nearly endless.

And we can’t be a preservation blog in Chicago talking about the Lake View neighborhood without mentioning one of the biggest projects happening in the whole city.

wrigley flicr user dgphilliWrigley Field is due for a facelift! As the Restore Wrigley website details, the owners agreed to do a sensitive restoration of the ballpark. The main objectives are to clean up the locker rooms, improve food preparation spaces and provide more restrooms. It will be interesting to watch the project unfold and to see the second oldest ballpark in the country get some new life breathed into it.

Building a VINTAGE Brand; 1.2


Building your vintage brand.Set goals for image and public perception.

A brief summer vacation. I’ve taken a little time off to refresh, re-tool and re-energize.  Time to get back at it.   Too much rattling around in the old noodle to remain idle.

Back in February I started a series of posts focused on building and managing a brand. In my case, a “vintage” brand,  positioning myself as an expert in historic and vintage homes. It’s been on my mind throughout the spring and into the summer as I attempt to follow my own sage advice in further developing my brand.  I have been reading a lot (I mean a lot) this summer, and now I remember why my Mrs. Pender, my 5th grade teacher made such a big deal out of reading.  Perception, expansion, self awareness, growth, understanding…on and on.  I have gleaned some pretty good perspective on how others manage their public personas – good and bad. 

Because our personal brands are built from the thoughts, words and reactions of other people, it’s shaped by how we present ourselves publicly – in person or online. This is something we have absolute control over.  Whether branding our own identity, a service, or a product, clarity and simplicity are critical.  It’s how we define who we are to the public.  It’s our reputation.

By deciding how I would like people to see me, I can work on publicly being that image. What are my goals for my brand? 

How do I want potential customers/clients / audience  to think of me?

How many job interviews have we sat through being asked to describe ourselves in three words?  Not an easy task, unless we’re REALLY self aware.  Even then, it’s a tall order.  It’s so much easier when if we view ourselves from a “public”  perception. What have we put out there illustrating who and what we are?  

As a real estate broker and historic preservationist, my goal is to present myself as a successful, educated, and accomplished “go-to” guy when it comes to selling or buying a vintage or historic property – approachable, friendly and efficient. Vintage is certainly not all I do, but it’s a niche…a specialty.   Bottom line, I sell houses, I am an expert in old houses and I’m successful at what I do – all of this accompanied by the delicious adjectives by which I want my audience to perceive me.   That’s all nice and good but it’s not enough. 

How can I publicly ‘be’ that brand?

This question is an important one, but a tricky one.  I look at personal branding defined by public composition of actions and output in three areas:

    • What we’re ‘about’. Think about the key ideas you would want people to associate with you. Seth Godin is about telling stories, being remarkable. Leo Babauta is about simplicity and habit forming. Jonathan Fields (btw…I try to read every word these guys put in print) is about finding ways to build a career out of what you love doing.  I am about providing exemplary client service (mixed with a little fun during the process) in the real estate industry.  Creating memories. 
    • Our Expertise. Every good brand involves the notion of expertise. Nike brands itself as an expert in creating quality and fashionable sportswear. Jeremy Clarkson (host of Top Gear) is an expert on cars. No matter what you do or sell, you need to create the perception that its the best, the brightest and everyone’s got to have it. I am an expert in vintage and historic homes, their construction, care and integrity. 
    • Our style. This is not so much what you communicate about yourself, but rather, how you do it.  Are you witty  and raw, like Naomi Dunford? Are you confident and crusading, like Michael Arrington? Hopefully you’re none of these, or at least, not in the same way. Your style of delivery should be as unique as any other aspect of your personal brand.  If you don’t actively imitate anyone else, it will happen naturally. Read widely and write a lot. I use humor and feigned  formality (that is quickly found-out) as my communication and presentation style.  If you know how to mirror your clients’ urgency, your style can be totally adaptive to your brand. 

With so many to-do’s, there are also a few ways to screw it up.

  • DON’T exaggerate.
  • DON’T put off your online image management.
  • DON’T be lazy.
  • DON’T become outdated.
  • DON’T get stale on what the competition is doing.

So, who are you and what do you do?

Next up:  Building a VINTAGE Brand; 1.3   Logo Design and Recognition. Gotta’ Get a Gimmick!

Staging an Historic Home to Sell

Vintage1What’s this staging thing all about?  We spend lots of time and money to make our homes reflect our good taste, personality and sometimes, financial prowess.  Well, when getting  ready to sell, the tables turn and all of that time, energy and money has to be reassessed to appeal to an “audience.”   Staging a home to SELL is a somewhat different animal when you are dealing with a historic or vintage home. While you want it to appeal to the widest audience possible, you have to realize that many buyers interested in buying a historic or vintage home are attracted to historically decorated interiors. Most historic homes sell to a specific kind of buyer who is looking for character and architectural details that will make them fall head over heels.

Here are ways to put the focus on a historic home’s distinct architecture and appeal to the most likely buyers.

1. Choose classic or design neutral wall colors. If you need to paint the walls, choose a color from a period-inspired palette. Use fresher, cleaner historic options, such as Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue, Adams Gold or Georgian Green.

2. Less is More.  Clear out the clutter. Historic homeowners tend to be collectors and don’t always tune in to the crowded look that can create over time. Clear away clutter and create symmetry in the furniture arrangements, and buyers won’t miss your home’s good bones and architectural gravitas.

3. Emphasize the architecture. Put the focus on the architecture by toning down the patterns and ornate decor. Effective use of color keeps the attention on the architecture of the room, its millwork, cabinetry, windows, and detail.

Modern-Victorian-Kitchen4. Maintain a functional kitchen. Even a charming period kitchen needs to appeal to 21st-century buyers. Make sure your kitchen provides plenty of storage and boasts up-to-date appliances. With period charm in the mix, old house lovers will be sold after viewing a kitchen like this one.

5. Exaggerate space. A period home doesn’t often measure up to new-home room proportions. Make the most of your square footage by mixing painted finishes with traditional dark wood finishes to expand the impression of space.Stairwell

6. Keep window treatments simple. Remove fussy window sheers and heavy draperies from the windows in your historic home — gone are the days of elaborate festoons, jabots and swags. By taking down heavy window treatments, you reveal the beauty of the window trim and make the rooms appear bigger by letting in more natural light.

Keep it neutral. Keep it simple and let the house speak for itself.

Originally posted by: Kristie Barnett at

Edited for www.Ispeakvintage by Keith Goad

Building a VINTAGE Brand; 1.1

Building a VINTAGE Brand; 1.1


Find your brand, develop it and stay on track.

This year’s Super Bowl XLVII delivered a few commercial hits and misses worth poking fun at as examples of brand management…good and bad.

For this consumer, Tide took the prize in which a stain appearing on a football jersey resembled San Fran 49er, Joe Montana. Remember the Jesus and Mary image on a pancake? Same thing. After much celebrating of the miracle stain, it was washed out by the jersey wearer’s wife, a Baltimore Ravens’ fan.  It was timely, connected with the audience and created a need for the product.  Bottom of the list was the Blackberry z10 advert. BB claimed that in 30 seconds, it was easier to show us what BBz10 could not do. Seriously?  I wasn’t sure what the product was and by the end I didn’t care.

Both are great examples of consumer product brand management that illustrate the importance of messaging and connecting with our audience.  When developing our personal brands, one of the most important points is pinpointing our audience. Once we know the demographics and interests of our target group we can begin to construct our message.  Are you an expert? Are you trustworthy? What do you represent? What ideas and notions pop up when someone hears your name? Bottom line – what’s your “thing” and who do you want to know about it?

If you’ve been around for a while, doing whatever it is you do, you’ve probably already developed a personal brand. People recognize your name, what you’re working on, what you offer and what you’re about. What can you say about your own personal brand? Is it strong and clearly identified or weak and disjointed? Just because people recognize your name or your brand does not mean they like it or will follow it.  Most of us like bad boys and naughty girls but we probably wouldn’t hire them.  If you’d like to make your personal brand stronger, keep reading and I will work through a few details of my own branding, outlining the components of a strong personal brand. If you don’t feel like you have a personal brand yet, let’s get this party started.

Your personal brand is your calling card.  Look at is as an investment.  It has the potential to last longer than you. While the projects you’re working on might move forward or get snuffed out, your personal brand will persist and (hopefully) add value to each new project you create. If you consider yourself to be in a particular game for the long-haul, whether it’s an online business, accountant, or selling houses, a good personal brand is an invaluable, evolving investment. People will follow your brand if they feel connected to it. When launching new projects, your personal brand has the potential to guarantee you never have to recreate the wheel.

Me – I am a real estate broker.  I sell houses.  I am honest, friendly, hardworking and ethical. That’s all nice and good but who really cares? Right?  That’s why I focused my personal brand on my passion: marketing and selling historic and vintage homes.   It took me way too long to figure that out but once I did it was full speed ahead.  I will get into some (but not all) the specifics of what to do once you get to that point later.

What are your passions, your strengths, talents and interests?  What lights a fire in you belly?  Whatever it is you do (or want to do), create the niche, find the passion and start to gather the building blocks that will identify and connect with your target audience. Like a strong house needs a solid foundation, the same is true for a strong and true personal brand.

On your mark. Get set. Go!

Next up: Set goals for image and public perception

Your Old House Has a History

Historic Newport DistrictDo you live in an historic home, landmark district, or one of Chicago’s architecturally  iconic buildings?   Researching the history of the homes I sell is a topic that frequently comes up in the search and ultimate purchase of historic Chicago homes.

In putting together resources to aid the process, I came across “Your Home Has a History,” a research document & process on the Chicago Landmark Commission’s website at For anyone that wants to do the legwork to research the history of their home, this document provides a step by step process.

No surprise that permit and record keeping was not formally put in place (in Chicago) until after 1871. Fresh start, I guess – right?  If your home was built before that, there is another bevy of challenges in digging through archives.

Below, I have paraphrased some of the Chicago Landmark pamphlet to whet the appetite of true history nerds. Step one is pretty straightforward.  Beyond that, it gets more detailed as you move from step to step.

You own a lovely home that you’re proud to call your own. But someone owned it before you. Someone built it, cared for it, and made changes through the years to it. And now you’re interested in finding out the “who, when and what” of your property.

Researching your house can be fun, fascinating and completely engrossing

However, beware! Research can become addictive. It can also be frustrating. You may exhaust every source possible and still not find the answers to your questions. But no matter how many questions remain unanswered, you will have unearthed some interesting information, learned a little more about your community, and become familiar with some important public institutions in the city.

So, have fun, and good luck.

Before you launch your research, it would be good to have a general idea of your house’s style and the approximate date of its construction.

If your house is newly purchased, the real estate listing undoubtedly had a date typed into the appropriate box. While you shouldn’t assume that this date is correct, it may help get you started.  The architectural style of your house can also provide you with clues to its approximate age so you know where to begin your research.

Some common styles in Chicago and their most distinctive features

  • Front Gable or Worker’s Cottage (beginning 1870s) – narrow house, steep roof, off-center front door
  • Romanesque Revival (1880-1900)- large arched openings, masonry walls, towers with conical roofs, asymmetrical façade
  • Italianate (1860-1900) – widely overhanging eaves, decorative brackets, tall, narrow arched windows
  • Queen Anne (1880s-1990) – steep roof usually with a prominent gable, porches, variety of building materials
  • Prairie (early 1900s)- low pitched hipped roof, wide overhanging eaves, horizontal detailing
  • Bungalow (early 1900s)-low pitched roof, wide eaves, brick walls, and bay window with art glass
  • American Four-Square (1900- 1930)- cube shape, hipped roof, broad front porch, little ornament
  • Colonial Revival (1880-1955)- cube shape, gabled roof, symmetrical, prominent front door

Step One

Checking the Chicago Historic Resources Survey

The very first place to look for information on your house is in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. A copy of this book is in every branch of the Chicago Public Library and can also be viewed at the Commission on Chicago Landmarks office. An electronic version of the survey is available on the City of Chicago’s website at:  If the survey lists the date and architect for your building, you’re in luck. That means a permit was found by Commission researchers and additional information may be on file in the Commission Offices….

A Good Mystery

Historical research is often compared to reading a good mystery. By now you should know who did it, where, with what, and maybe why. But your search may have just begun. Our city, and its world renowned architecture, have a rich and engrossing history. The people and institutions you’ve used to do your research are ready to help you continue. Make good use of our public libraries, our museums, our government agencies and our universities. They are a wealth of information preserved for us and our children.



A Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Your Property”


Again, this is just a tease to illustrate that researching your home, who built it and who lived there over the years is not as daunting as it may seem.   There are six steps that end with researching the history of your neighborhood, which can provide a terrific snapshot of the years that have rolled over the economic and demographic changes that shape the varied neighborhoods of Chicago.

Soldier on and see what you find.  If you have specify questions, let me know.  Good luck!