When Lauren Feece and her husband, Chris Silva, moved back to Chicago two years ago after a four-year stint as caretakers for an old coffee plantation in the Puerto Rican jungle, they were slightly overwhelmed by the change in scenery. Fortunately, their house in Wicker Park is buffered from the city noise by an expansive front garden, filled with plants and shady trees, perfect for lounging under.
"Being in the yard helps to get rid of the city," Feece explains. "It's magic-y. And it makes you so calm! At least that's what happens to me. I spend a lot of time in the garden. I'm always joking that I have a list of things to do and I always end up in the garden."
Both Feece and Silva are artists, and both the yard and the inside of the house are filled with their work. Feece took a break from painting two years ago when their daughter, Loey, was born. Instead she's been funneling her creative energy into making a home.
"A two-year-old lives here, so the decorating has to be for kids," Feece says. "It has to be open and fun." There are plenty of Loey-sized chairs and a large area—empty except for a rug—where Feece teaches yoga classes. Feece's studio is hidden away behind a large bookcase, but Loey is allowed in there, too; she recently made her first painting.
The couple's time in Puerto Rico had an enormous influence on how Feece decorated their home. Before, most of her paintings were done in beige and grey; now the walls are covered in bright colors.
In Puerto Rico, Feece also learned about Santeria—a merger of west African religion with Roman Catholicism—in particular the practice of building altars. She's filled her Chicago home with little altars, made from antlers, feathers, small figurines of rabbits, religious icons (including one painted by her mother), and objects she's found or salvaged. There's an element of spirituality to the altars; Feece sometimes uses them for meditation.
"It's interesting how Santeria uses images," she says. "You take an icon of the Virgin Mary and you build her a home."