At Home with Katrina and Mike

Katrina Van Valkenburgh has lived in Chicago for 25 year and her husband Mike Newman for 26 years. They live in a house in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Mike, an architect, runs an office out of the first floor.  The couple say that they didn’t intend to stay in Chicago when they moved to the city from Boston, but somehow, they never left. Katrina and Mike have lived in their current home for 13 years.

They say they feel at home in their house. and that when they first found it, they knew it was just right for them.” The second story which is nearly completely open plan is where they spend most of their time. They say they are almost always in the same room together. Mike and Katrina’s house is completely covered in ivy the summer, which is magical in it’s own way. It reminds me of the ivy covered walls from The Secret Garden, which was one of my favorite books as a child. They say that the house is alive in the spring and summer and that it changes through the seasons. I though it was interesting that Mike described the house as alive and that you really feel the “green” living in their house. I really struck when Katrina mentioned that they used to cut the ivy back at the windows, but that they now like to let it grow across the windows and that it feels like living in a tree or a tree house. It made me want to paint one of the windows in their second floor living space to try to capture a bit of that treehouse feeling. Katrina says that she’s feel grounded at home and though home makes everything possible Mike says that his sense of home comes less from the place of home than it does from sharing his home.

Special thanks to Stefano Vita for use of his music in the audio recording.