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Renovation Inspiration: the Resources That Inspired the Modern Oak Home

Nicole Oertel

Modern Oak Home

Renovation Inspiration: the Resources That Inspired the Modern Oak Home
Once we decided we would call Lake Forest home, we needed to find a house. We knew that any home we bought would most likely need updating. But, since we'd always dreamed of building a home, the thought of remodeling one to make our own was exciting. Our only real search criteria, outside of price, were a ranch layout, a large open kitchen, and a basement. Our goal was to be in the home by the time our daughter started kindergarten in the fall of 2019. Other than that, we were pretty open. We trusted that when we saw the right house with the right layout, we would just know it was ours. Being in the real estate industry for 20 years certainly helps, and in some ways, it takes the emotional side out of the equation. We know not to get attached until the deal is closed! With that said, I'm also human, and once I find something I like, I want it. Especially when it's priced well. I'm a deal seeker, for sure!
We looked in West Lake Forest and East Lake Forest, and we ended up in the middle. I really loved West Lake Forest as many of the homes are spacious 1.5- to 3-acre lots. Coming from the city, that is a ton of land! The first property we almost put an offer on was a West Lake Forest house on 3 acres. I loved all that space, and it even had a tennis court! However, it didn't have a basement, and at that point in the search, we weren't willing to give that up.
The next house we liked was also in West Lake Forest, but it didn't quite have the layout we were searching for, and it needed A LOT of work beyond manageable updates. The real deal-breaker was the small kitchen with walls we would have to tear down to get what we wanted. That might not have been a deal-breaker on its own, but the house was already at the top of our price range, putting significant renovations in would have sent us well over our budget.
We then started looking in East Lake Forest. Some of the lots were a bit smaller than I wanted, but I loved the vintage homes and midcentury modern architecture. And that's when the Modern Oak Home came on the market. It's not a ranch layout, but it had a large kitchen that opened up to a family room with sliding glass doors to the yard. It also had a basement and a good-sized lot. Plus, it was a foreclosure with a price much lower than we expected, leaving us a healthy budget for the renovations it sorely needed. It was only on the market for a few days before it had multiple offers, and our first offer wasn't accepted. But I continued to follow up, and due to an issue with the first accepted buyers' financing, we got a second chance, and on June 3, 2019, we closed!
I have to give a huge shout-out to our amazing mortgage broker Steve Dykeman and our awesome attorney Al Dynia — AKA The Dream Team. We've worked with Steve and Al for almost 10 years and refer all of our clients to them. But this time, John and I were the clients, and I have to say, I was more impressed with them than ever! It was a true testament to what they can do for our clients every day, and I'm so proud of the professionals we have associated ourselves with.
So the Modern Oak Home was all ours, red carpet, linoleum-covered fireplace and all. Yup, this house that hadn't been lived in for three years was our new home. Time for the fun to begin!

John and I had been pinning and bookmarking design concepts for months (actually years). We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted this home to look like, and thank goodness we agreed on most of it! We have pretty similar design styles, so that made things easy when it came to choosing the big items like floors, countertops, and cabinets! I'd say our overall vibe is modern rustic. Not too modern or contemporary, but certainly modern touches with some rustic notes throughout to make the design feel warm and inviting. We also love neutral tones and kept to a simple color palette of white, black, and grays with some metallic accents. You'll see soon!

Even though we had our own ideas, there were certainly other people who inspired us along the way. What did we ever do before Instagram and amazing home renovation blogs?! I honestly LOVE The House of Silver Lining. I found her home décor blog right after we closed on the house and after I had already picked out our color palette and overall style. I was instantly drawn to it and quickly became obsessed as it was so in line with how I wanted to renovate the Modern Oak House. Her kitchen and home are clearly larger than ours, but it's always cool to be able to see how something goes together before you do it yourself. As we moved forward, I would refer to her kitchen and think, OMG, we did the waterfall edge countertop just like hers! OMG, we are doing the dark cabinets on the bottom and white on top just like hers. Again, it's always nice to have a beautiful reference point! As I write this blog today, I'm realizing for the first time that she hashtags her house as #thefoerstmodern. Haha! Kindred spirits!
Kitchen inspiration from The House of Silver Lining
Kitchen inspiration from The House of Silver Lining
Nest Out West is another great blog I love to follow. Cait is a mom who gives awesome DIY advice, and her house always looks so cozy and inviting!
Nest Out West laundry room inspiration
And one of my fave local Chicagoland developer sites that I am constantly drooling over is M House Development, from another husband and wife power couple whose work I'm obsessed with! I mean just go take a look, no need for me to say anymore.
More kitchen inspiration from M House Development

More kitchen inspiration from M House Development

More kitchen inspiration from M House Development
I must also mention that I was lucky enough to have a photoshoot last year in a home that local designer Jessica Margot put together. OMG, was that home stunning, from the European white oak floors to gorgeous quartzite countertops and a mirrored refrigerator that still has a piece of my heart to this day. I certainly took notes! The home was beautiful, and not only did I have a gorgeous photoshoot but I also met a truly talented designer, mother, and woman to work with! She has exquisite taste, and she's just a pure joy to be around! We are actually collaborating with Jessica on Compass Concierge projects! Stay tuned for more on that collab — we are super excited!
A to-die-for mirrored refrigerator by Jessica Margot.
Stunning décor by Jessica Margot.
Nicole and Jessica Margot.
Update on our Modern Oak Home:
The Modern Oak Home is really coming along! Our kitchen is about 90 percent done! The backsplash is up, the accent tile wall is complete, and the appliances, cabinets, and countertops are installed! We are still in need of some open shelving, and I need to find barstools I had a look in mind, but now I'm having second thoughts on the color and overall style of how I want to furnish the home. It looks like I will be the one calling Jessica for help!
That is one thing I will always recommend for all things in life — There is no shame in asking for help! I think I have a good eye and good taste for the general design of a home, but when it comes down to the details of furniture or a rug or decorating my fireplace mantle, I get super-overwhelmed. I mean, I love a trip to Restoration Hardware or HomeGoods, but the anxiety going on in my mind while I'm there is on another level. First, I'll get one concept in my head and start gathering items, but then I see something shiny from another concept. The next thing you know, I've got an entire collage of items that don't go together! Or I go in with pure Zen thoughts and come out with something loud and bold. It's like a constant battle to stay focused! LOL
Here is an in-depth look into the before and during kitchen pics from the Modern Oak Home kitchen. I can't wait until we have our own photoshoot day, coming soon!


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