Home Tour / Daniel + Tes Davison

Daniel and Tes are friends from when they used to live in Atlanta and Daniel is the brother of Kate, who's home I posted a few months ago. Daniel and Tes always had the best style in every home they've had. As I've known them over the years, this home is the most minimalist and best curated space I've seen from them yet. They recently moved to Chicago for Tes to pursue her PhD and have made this apartment their home real quick. Daniel is an insanely talented video director and editor and you can see some of his work here


Photos by Kyle Wheeler

I adore this typewriter. Daniel got it for me for Christmas last year. I spend so much time writing on a computer, sometimes it is really nice to type things up on this. I use it a lot actually, for writing letters to friends, journaling, and musing.

My mom gave me (Tes) this antique steamer trunk, and the Ferris wheel erector set my grandfather built.

My mom gave me (Tes) this antique steamer trunk, and the Ferris wheel erector set my grandfather built.

We call this piece of furniture the “yellow thing.” It was one of our first major furniture purchases after we got married. We found it at Atlanta’s Lakewood Antique Market (when it still existed!) and fell in love. It is from Mongolia and was purportedly used in a kitchen as a countertop ­ it has wonderful marks and dings, and the color is also original. When we first bought it we lived in a 900 sq. ft. apartment and the kitchen had no real countertop, so that is what we used it for as well! The white mirror on top is a beautiful antique that my mom gave me.

Our bedroom is really basic, and we like it that way. We would prefer not to have this cord exposed, but hey, we rent here. This bedspread is from Pendleton Woolen Mills, and the painting is an original piece by my brother, Steve Hash. He gave it to me when I graduated with my B.A. (yeah, it took me 11 years to finish that up).

Our coffee table is an old cart from a factory in Philadelphia. I found it on Craigslist and I won’t tell you how much (little) I paid.

Daniel always wanted a Stereoscope so I got this for him for his birthday a few years back. The person selling it didn’t realize that it is from the Paris 1901 World’s Fair!

I love these chairs in our living room. They are vintage Burke’s. I found them on craigslist for a ridiculous price. At some point I will have the cushions recovered (or find the time to do it myself).

We love our dining set. The table was made by our old friend Aldo in Philadelphia. He scavenged the wood from a church that was being torn down in our neighborhood (Northern Liberties) and welded the legs. The benches are made from beams that Daniel scavenged in the surrounding area, and he and Aldo assembled them.

Daniel made this desk himself. The map is from Future Maps in the UK and really beautifully done, it is magnetized so that Daniel can map all of his travels through the years. I got it for him for his birthday this past year.

This is one of Daniel’s original pieces of art. It’s really old. He made the frame out of salvaged wood when we lived in Atlanta.

Daniel’s grandfather’s brass knuckles.

Tes’s opium bottle collection.

These three hang in my office, and each has a special spot in my heart. The top is a very old wax mold of Aristotle. I found it in a junk shop years ago and bought it for like $1. That was before I went back to school for Philosophy. The middle painting is one of my absolute favorite things. When I was in Athens, Greece in 2003 (a trip with Daniel and friends) the trash collectors had gone on strike and so the streets were filled with trash ­ and of course we all went digging around in it for treasures. We weren’t the only ones scavenging, there were some locals with wheelbarrows trash picking to try to re­sell the goods. I saw this piece in one fella’s wheelbarrow and convinced him to sell it to me for 2 euro. I packed it around Europe and then home - totally worth it. The bottom photo is another all­time favorite. I found it at Lakewood Antique Mart in the outside vendor area in boxes of junk set out for folks to pick through. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it was cheap. I feel like it is perfect in my office, it captures my ever constant pensive mood when working. I didn’t find out that it is a photo of James Joyce until one day in a meeting with one of my favorite philosophy professors at Temple University, Kristin Gjesdal - I was looking around her office and spotted the exact same photo on her bulletin board and asked her about it. Somehow it became even more special after that.


Daniel and Tes Davison



TD/ Currently working towards her Ph.D in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. After years of denial and working in more creative fields she finally gave in to her nerd-side and maintains that even the philosophical life is rad.

DD/ Music video director and editor. Sometimes a drummer.



TD/ Born in Sisters, Oregon | Raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

DD/ Born and raised in Douglasville, Georgia.


Current Town:

Chicago, Illinois.


Favorite Book:

TD/ I hate the favorites game because I can never pick just one, esp. when it comes to books! I also never find time to read anything fun anymore, I haven’t read a “new” novel in a long time. Anyway, a few are: East of Eden, Narcissus and Goldmund, Hatchet, We Need to Talk about Kevin (I just couldn’t put it down), Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and everything else written by Nietzsche.

DD/ A Peoples History of the United States, Man on a Raft, Walden.


Favorite Movie:

TD/ Dumb and Dumber, The Princess Bride, Dr. Strangelove, Pierrot le fou, The Red Balloon, Roman Holiday, Casablanca.

DD/ Fargo, Deadman, Donnie Darko, No Country for Old Men


Favorite Band:

TD/ Blonde Redhead, Portishead, Radiohead. As for non-head bands: Isis, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Fever Ray.

DD/ Radiohead, Wovenhand, Puscifer, Deftones, Hope Sandoval, and godspeed. 


Favorite TV Show:

TD/ I don’t care much for TV, but Seinfeld always wins. Twin Peaks, Sherlock Holmes (the British 1980’s series). 

DD/ Twin Peaks


Favorite Restaurant:

TD/ Hattiesburg – Leatha’s BBQ | Atlanta – Taqueria Del Sol | Philadelphia – Barbuzzo | Chicago – Longman and Eagle, Publican Quality Meats, Mary’s Grocery.

DD/ Atlanta - Daddy D’s BBQ | Philadelphia - El Camino Real | Chicago - Publican Quality Meats. 


Favorite place you have traveled to:

TD/ We’ve both done a lot of traveling, Daniel more than I. One of my favorite places I have ever been (still) is the Amalfi Coast in Italy in 2003 with a pack of amazing friends. New Zealand is also at the top of my list, D. and I went there on our 1st year anniversary. Thailand, well, Thailand is simply fantastic, the Phi Phi Islands in particular. I also always adore a simple trip to Mexico or Puerto Rico – I was born to be near the sea with a taco in one hand and a cerveza in the other. Paris is my favorite city, I don’t care how cliché it is, and Berlin is also supreme in my book.

DD/ New Zealand, The Alps/Switzerland, Yosemite Nat’l Park


Next destination on your list to travel to:

TD/ I would like to go to India, Africa, China or South America – but I’m known for saying I’ll go pretty much anywhere anytime.

DD/ A deep trek and camping trip in the Andes in Chile. 


What you like about your city:

Chicago rules. We were extremely hesitant to move here (we just relocated from Philadelphia about 8 months ago), the only reason we came is because of the University of Chicago. Our other option on the table was Southern California, which made the idea of moving to the middle of the country even more unattractive. But we went for it, and we unanimously agree that Chicago is one of the best and most overlooked amazing cities in the country. It is beautiful, clean, has tons of art, music and great food. But the best part about Chicago is the lake – it is spectacular! We go jump into it or just sit by it almost every single day if the weather permits. The winter here almost killed us, and will probably almost kill us about 7 more times before we leave, but we are happy with the decision to come. Chicago rules.


Reason for moving into current home:

It is big (2 offices are a must), affordable, in close proximity to the University, and has concrete floors, white walls, vintage details and lots of windows. We really didn’t have much to choose from here in Hyde Park, a lot of the apartments available when we were moving were old and gross with creaky floors and either loud babies or loud college students. We got lucky when the University had a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, recently renovated apartment in one of the buildings they own which is rented to graduate students only. We won’t live here long, but it was a nice score for the first year. We are actually currently under contract on a 2 flat property in Pilsen - stay tuned for that renovation project. 


Design origins:

TD/ Daniel and I definitely both really like the vintage and antique vibe. Both of us have collected weird things since we were kids, dumpster dove, shopped at thrift stores, estate sales, and antique stores etc. for as long as we can remember. I think this plays quite a large role in how our home décor aesthetic has developed for each of us respectively. We like things with character. We don’t like to shop at mainstream stores and have what everyone else has in their home – this isn’t something we even consciously stay away from, it’s just how we naturally go about it. I don’t look at home décor blogs, I don’t read home décor magazines, I pretty much just do what I like. Often I see things that inspire me, but I don’t seek ideas out (say, on pinterest) unless I am having trouble with a particular space. My mom always kept our home immaculate and well-organized, I have her to thank for the minimalist side of my design aesthetic, and my dad likes anything different, old, weird, and collects things – I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of those two. I think traveling and being inspired by different cultures also plays a role. Lastly, I am the craigslist queen – I find the best vintage shit all the time for ridiculous deals - it’s all about knowing how to search.

DD/ I’ve been a collector of found treasures for as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager, I used to go out at night with my mom and/or sisters when our town had a “throw anything away day”, and we’d come home with a bunch of rad stuff. During this time I also constantly explored and rummaged abandoned houses and factories. I usually used what I found in some sort of mixed media collage or art project. I think that period was the defining moment when I realized that I really liked old, worn, and unusual objects. They have stories, they’re like little windows into the past. When Tes and I got married, we went to estate sales pretty much weekly, and filled up our house in Atlanta with way too many treasures, furthering my appreciation for the old, worn out, industrial, primitive. When we moved to Philadelphia, we downsized greatly. The first place we moved into was a tiny studio apartment. This marked the most recent change in our design appreciation and aesthetic: minimalism. We’ve continued to shed pieces of our collections as we’ve moved around (6 times in the last 4 years!) and are finally getting close to an actual place of minimalism. I’m not really interested in ever being full on minimalists, though. We’re too nostalgic and like our relics too much.


Favorite or most meaningful piece in your home:

TD/ My favorite things are always connected with memories. The Ferris wheel erector set in my office is one. My grandpa Sim collected antique sets and built them himself. By the time I was in my late teens he had a ton of them on display in a room in his house in Estacada, Oregon. When he passed away many of them were put in a museum. My mom gave me this one as a keepsake. I love the cube on our wall. Daniel brought that home one day when we lived in Philly, he had found it on the street, and we decided it needed to be hung up. I love the plaster deer head on our living room wall, we got that in Greenwich, CT a few years back. I also love our dining set - handmade by our friend Aldo and Daniel. 

DD/ I love our curio cabinet in our living room. It contains lots of little treasures that we’ve collected over the years. Whether it be the brass knuckles that my grandfather gave me when I was a kid, or the antique taxidermy baby alligator that Tes got me from a flea market in Berlin, each piece has a story. I also love my office. It’s bright and open, and is very minimally decorated. I made my desk out of wood that I grabbed from a 100+ year old house that was being torn down in my neighborhood in Philly (dining room benches are made of wood from the same house).


Biggest challenges with your space:

Walls. We lived in a huge, open loft in Philly and had grown quite accustomed to the open space. This apartment is all broken up into rooms, and it took some adjusting to figure out what should go where in the new space – but it works. Also, the kitchen sucks! It is updated and nice, but has no character, and again, is enclosed by walls. 


Dream house and city:

TD/ I have three, 1) A modern but rustic cabin in the mountains which is made almost entirely of glass. 2) A flat in Paris or Berlin. 3) A modern, concrete home in Puerto Rico or Mexico, walking distance to the beach. At some point I plan on having at least one of the above in addition to my U.S. home-base. 

DD/ Cabin in the Alps and/or a concrete home in the caribbean, with a treehouse guest room. I’ll take both.

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