Like many young couples, Ryan Lange and Emily Belden were looking for inspiration while deciding how to renovate the bedroom of their South Loop home.
That inspiration finally came from a quick glance at a jar of change.
"We'd been looking up options and were thinking about being green when I said we should just tile the floor in pennies," Lange, a entrepreneur and self-described design freak, says.
Belden wasn't completely on board at first, but before she could put her two cents in, the project off and running.
"I came home one day and found a small corner was done, so I thought 'I guess we're doing it,'" she recalled.
Thus began four months of painstaking work they dubbed "pennying," which involves laying down a special glue that acts like grout and individually placing the pennies heads up on the floor of the 380 square-foot room.
It turned into a nightly form of relaxation for the pair — accompanied by "Spotify Premium and pinot noir" — but it does have drawbacks. Handling that many dirty pennies turns your hands pitch black. But all in all, they consider it time well spent.
"Once we were halfway done, we were kind of over it, but I knew it was something that one day we could look back and laugh at it," Lange said.
An estimated 59,670 pennies were used to completely cover the floor, which was then sanded down to a shiny copper sheen and cemented in with a clear coat as smooth as a sheet of glass. They spent close to $1,000 on the project, which made for a lot of trips back and forth to the bank for more pennies. And created more than a few odd glances from the tellers.
"After we told them what we were up to they started tracking the project themselves, and I was always passing my iPhone through the glass window to show them pictures," Lange said.
Within the bulk of pennies came some rare finds — a 1944 WWII 440 steel penny that was created due to a copper shortage, and a 1873 penny featuring an Indian head instead of Abraham Lincoln. Both pennies are worth enough money to pay for the project, but they also ended up on the floor.
"It's turned into a fun party game where we challenge our guests to find the rare coins," Belden said.
The couple has been posting the photos on their social media accounts and created a blog called ThePennyFloor.com about the project.
"A friend pointed out that thousands of people have now seen the inside of my bedroom, which kind of creeps me out a bit," Belden said.
And in case you're wondering, they're buying their home, not renting, which means no pennies lost in the form of a deposit check if they decide to move.
The number of pennies on the floor were updated after the Lange and Belden redid the math and discovered there were more pennies than they had initially estimated.