Tim Mazurek invites readers of his blog into his kitchen, and he invites us into the rest of his home.
Talking about the notion of home is nothing new for 34-year-old Chicago native Tim Mazurek. He started exploring the idea of the domestic space as “a place where small revolutions can happen” a few years ago as an M.F.A. student at Northwestern University.
In part, it was this interest that inspired Mazurek, a full-time academic adviser at DePaul University, to launch a food blog, Lottie + Doof (named after his grandmother and food spelled backward), in the fall of 2008. Recognizing two types of food bloggers at the time—generally speaking, urban foodies and mothers who wanted to connect with others by writing about the meals they prepared for their children—Mazurek opted to insert himself in the conversation as another kind of blogger: an out gay man who lives with his partner and loves to cook and entertain. “I knew that [at first] people reading the blog had different experiences than I did,” Mazurek says. “They were from rural areas and super Christian, and I think there’s something interesting about them continuing to read my blog. There’s some leveling off that happens there.”
While his readership has grown sharply—garnering an average of 3,000 hits a day—and his blog focuses more on the meals prepared than gender politics, he still keeps that initial intention in mind. “I think about hosting as an interesting thing that happens in the home that has potential for [producing challenging] conversations around the table,” he says. The same could be said for his blog, which has become an avenue for collaborating with a variety of people, including interviews and recipes from musician Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear and fashion designer Sophie Buhai of Vena Cava.
So when he and his partner, Bryan Morrison, a Northwestern employee, decided to purchase their first place together in Oak Park toward the end of 2009, Mazurek had already given plenty of thought to what he envisioned for his own living space. Biting into a freshly baked rum-raisin scone, peering through his black-plastic-rimmed glasses, he recalls his particular requirements: separate rooms conducive to entertaining, a sizable working kitchen with a dishwasher and plenty of natural light for photographing his food for the blog (not to mention maintaining mental sanity in the winter). In addition, after spending the last five years in a cookie-cutter Wicker Park apartment, Mazurek had his eye on vintage apartments that would suit his mix of antique and contemporary furnishings and accessories.
After only a few months living in their spacious one bedroom, the home appears nearly complete. The dining room accommodates a long, light-wood table (a remnant of Mazurek’s thesis project and the only piece of furniture he’s ever built) along with a vintage wooden dresser that hides extra kitchen utensils and doubles as a buffet.
Dinner-party cocktail drinking starts at the opposite end of the apartment, away from the kitchen, which means Mazurek can keep his mess quarantined away from the guests. “I wanted to have cocktail parties since I was seven or eight years old,” he laughs. “My grandmother would have friends come over, and I would make them cocktails by putting pear juice and orange juice together.” The small kitchen suffices but has room to evolve to suit the couple’s needs. It was the one room that they wanted to have a hand in remodeling.
The juxtaposition of neutral tones and natural elements mixed with shiny surfaces—a running theme in the apartment—particularly comes to life in the sitting room. Disco balls and gold planters rest on the windowsill while water-buffalo vertebrae and animal figurines adorn the mirrored coffee table and bookshelves.
Just as the palette is subtle, appreciating the beauty of the space, not to mention Mazurek’s quirky sense of humor, requires an acute attention to detail. Take, for example, the antique fishing rod in the corner of the bedroom, the Abe Lincoln book resting on the floor in the living room and even the ceramic sconces that throw V-shaped shadows on the wall as if a flock of birds is taking flight. You won’t find a family photo on the walls, but much of what appears simply as art or random decor serves the same function of calling to mind significant people in their lives. For instance, a necklace designed by a friend hangs next to framed prints in the living room, and a needlepoint lighthouse picked up at a thrift shop reminds them of Morrison’s grandmother from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.
“There is all of this hidden meaning in our space which we are happy to reveal when someone asks about a particular item or oddity,” Mazurek says. “They become story starters. I think everyone does this to some extent; we just push it a little more.”