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Prep, Prep and More Prep
Reviving a 1923 Chicago bungalow

View of the finished dining room.

Now 100 years old, this Chicago bungalow was a long time victim of wear and neglect, but the care, skill, and extreme tenacity of Harmony Haus brought it back to its former glory, and then some. After the previous owner had passed away, the house sat empty for two years, and it’s likely it hadn’t seen any care or maintenance in the half century before. The new owners bought the house as is, then brought in the trades to see what could be saved and what needed to be reworked.

When Harmony Haus of Evanston, Illinois appeared on the scene; not only were they met by the homeowners, but by a home full of difficult prep tasks. For starters, every room in the house had painted-over wallpaper — usually several layers of it — that needed to be removed. There was some discussion with the homeowners, whose friends were advising them to leave the wallpaper in place since that was the only thing holding the walls together. “Not on my watch!” said Lovett, who convinced them that it needed to be done right or not at all.

“Before an abrasive pad or primer even touched a surface, hours and hours of prep went into removing painted-over wallpaper to reveal the condition of the plaster beneath. Then we sanded and scraped the failing paint that was on the trim so we could create stable surfaces to prep and paint.” Also, multiple sections of entire walls throughout the four bedrooms, living room, dining room, two hallways and stairway required that the plaster be stabilized, reattached to


Before and after, the second floor landing shines brightly after the restoration and repaint.

opening 2

The crew discovered the damage that lurked behind the bungalow walls; this was the case throughout the majority of the house.

lathe, and that portions of unsalvageable plaster be repaired or replaced. After all that prep and some basic painting, Lovett worked with the new owners on color

Outside factors also chimed in to put a dent in the timeline. The job started at the end of 2021 and continued into March of 2022. Lovett was dealing with supply chain issues, and COVID-19 took a hefty swipe at her, putting her out of commission for almost a month.

Had Lovett and painting partner Javier Hernandez not drawn on their experience and patience, this house might still be falling apart from the inside out. “This was an enormous amount of work for two people,” she said. “Luckily, thanks to a finely curated arsenal of gear acquired over the years, we have some phenomenal tools that can quickly and cleanly get the job done while causing minimal body fatigue. We started upstairs, putting rosin paper down over all the freshly refinished floors, followed by plastic sheeting. We were the only two working in the home at the time so we could safely work to contain dust and debris.”

There was even more work planned until the budget called it to a halt, but in the end, the house came together … in harmony. “Everyone from the realtor to the homeowner’s friends and neighbors, and even the homeowners themselves, cannot believe it’s the same house they first saw,” Lovett comments. “This classic Chicago Bungalow had great bones and a lot of potential hiding beneath layers of painted over wallpaper, improperly applied paint, and decades of neglect. With some care and love, this majestic lady shines again!” APC

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