Kate's kitchen has wooden counter tops and cabinetry built from materials found at Rebuilding Exchange.
Kate's kitchen has wooden counter tops and cabinetry built from materials found at Rebuilding Exchange. Credit: Andrea Bauer

Let’s admit it: describing a living space as a “garden apartment” is inaccurate. Gardens get lots of light and have blooming flowers. Basement apartments, especially in the dead of a Chicago winter, are soul-sucking holes. Kate Goshorn was lucky enough to find what she calls a “nonshitty” garden apartment. Nonshitty, definitely, but also kind of awesome.

Kate’s no stranger to subterranean living—she moved into her current basement from a different basement two years ago. The previous spot was a typical cave dwelling, with drop ceilings, industrial carpeting, and neon lighting. “It had glass-block windows so you could never really see outside. When I moved here I felt like I got let out of jail,” she says.

Her present home—customized with elements from Rebuilding Exchange (1740 W. Webster), a sustainable market that reclaims and reuses building materials—is loftlike, featuring an open floor plan and exposed brick. The bathroom’s space is maximized through the incorporation of a pocket door and a Japanese shower, in which water drains through wooden slats in the ground—no tub or curtain required. The rest of the floor is tiled and has radiant heat. Actually, the entire apartment has radiant heat. And a huge walk-in closet stretches nearly the length of the building.

Aside from books and a few choice pieces of art—a leaf collage by her father, a drawing by local artist Melina Ausikaitis, a velvet tiger painting found in an abandoned apartment—Kate doesn’t have much stuff. “If you live in small places and have a lot of stuff you may end up being one of those people they find under a pile of it. I try to not have things that collect dust.”

The apartment has another atypical perk: a view. A street-level window offers a shot of Humboldt Park. “You can look out and not see any neighbors; you feel like you have a lot more space.” But the best part, Kate says, is having a window in her bedroom. “In the morning I can have sun coming in on me, which is a lot more life affirming than in my old place.”