Passing of the Guard
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things; of designer sales and clean-lined tips; of cabbage rose wallpaper and bling.” Well, coo-coo-cachoo: I was that Walrus for the past three years and change, and it’s now time to go back to the workroom, clean up my workspace, and hand over control of Domestica to new editor Gina Bazer (new to Domestica, that is—Gina [pictured here with me] has been writing about design in Chicago for decades, and knows her way around the scene like nobody’s business. She’ll be sharing the column with guest bloggers). This is my last column, and I want to thank the designers and decorators, the shopkeepers and auctioneers, the gardening and real estate experts, the artists and crafters, the curators and gallerists, and the publicists who keep it all spinning, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. Chicago is a great design town with so many interesting aesthetics and resources that there’s no need or excuse to set up your home to look like a layout in a big-box catalog. Shop around, have fun, and support small businesses when you can, or they’ll go away. I also want to thank Jan Parr for her support, editorial guidance, and myriad belly laughs, and of course all you readers. Keep in touch!
Judging by the number of girthy buggies I have to dodge on the sidewalks of Bucktown and Wicker Park on any given Saturday or Sunday, it’s no surprise that those westward barrios have become hotbeds for focused kid stores. Choosy children already have The Red Balloon’s crafty, sweet new space at 1940 N. Damen Avenue and Psychobaby’s edgy shop for the rock-and-roller stroller set; joining them this weekend is Chicago’s first outpost of the San Francisco–based Sprout, popping up in the old Grow storefront at 1943 W. Division. Pack a backup binky and head over on Saturday, April 21 from 10–7 for the organic-minded store’s grand opening party, featuring performances by Mary Macaroni, Little Miss Ann, and Mr. Singer and his Mighty Guitar. (I guess Cam’s Fizbo the Clown from Modern Family had a previous engagement?) There will be refreshments, and the first 50 customers (might I suggest one of these awwww-inspiring Lamby Cuddle Rugs, at $80?) get a goodie bag.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Saturday Audio Exchange (1021 W. Belmont Ave.) has some unorthodox business practices for a retail shop: It’s open only 14 hours a week, the owner doesn’t pay his salesmen on commission, and it happily accepts and offers deals on customer trade-ins. This year, however, the audio and home-theatre store celebrates 30 successful years in business, so obviously the tactics are working. Limited hours means beaucoup bucks saved on SAE expenses (savings passed on to consumers), no commission means no pressure and no product bias from the sales staff, and trade-ins cultivate a loyal customer base that is motivated to keep upgrading its equipment. Beginning April 21, the store is having a customer appreciation sale to mark the three decades of spinning turntables, speakers, television sets, and stereos out the door. Two hundred items will be offered for $30 each, additional $30 or 30-percent discounts apply to other new and used merchandise, and floor models have been slashed, from Saturday until April 29. This is something called a Tube Phono Preamp that can help you load LPs onto your computer and then record CDs with the warmth and authenticity of tube circuitry. I don’t know much about all that, to be honest, but it looks easy to operate, like a machine Scotty would use to beam someone up. Plus it’s pretty!
Geneva’s Simitree Home Furnishings and Consignments (524 W. State Street) is continuing its program of highlighting local artisans this Saturday, April 21, as owner/designer Heideh Fardi introduces the hand-turned wooden vessels of John Showalter. Showalter spins super bowls like this (and boxes, vases, serving dishes, etc.) from rich hardwoods like spalted maple, oak, cedar, birch, and walnut, and the pieces have a nice random, natural quality that complements modern environments. See more of John’s work on Simitree’s Facebook page, if you can’t make the opening.
The IQMatics contemporary furniture store in Schaumburg (168 East Golf Road) is doing some spring cleaning, and from now until May 6, it’s having a big floor sale. Expect up to 70-percent discounts on the clean-lined German, Italian, and Polish sofa beds, modern wall units, coffee tables, and dining sets the company has become known for handling since it set up shop in 2001. This inviting black leather sectional, for example, has been marked down to $4,999 from $7,999.
Doing the Dishes
Art Effect (934 W. Armitage Avenue) has welcomed back the popular Fishs Eddy line of dishware after an extended leave of absence from its shelves, and there are some colorful and whimsical new offerings you’ll want to check out, starting at $5.00. The Brooklyn company took its name from an upstate New York hamlet, and started retailing salvaged and close-out restaurant dishware in 1986. I remember poking around the NYC shop near Grammercy Park in the early 1990s, and thinking to myself, What a clever idea, this. I wish Chicago had something like it, because even though they are extremely cool and incredibly cheap, I really don’t feel like sclepping 50 pounds of diner dishes home on the plane. (P.O.S.H. granted that wish soon enough.) These days, Fishs Eddy produces its own line of retro-flavored tableware, such as these creamy ceramic colanders (seven-inch diameter, $20 each).
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