Designer Christopher Gentner has opened a retail River North showroom after more than 20 years crafting custom metal furniture and architectural elements for high-profile designers and showrooms (Holly Hunt, Donghia, Soucie Horner, Doug Levine, et al) out of his 10,000-square-foot shop on the southwest side. Gentner, a native New Yorker who arrived in Chicago via the Cleveland Institute of Art, is having an open house bash tomorrow night from 5–9 at the store, which is called simply Gentner and is located on the second floor of 228 W. Kinzie Street, in the shadow of the Mart. In addition to heavy metal, some of the 25-or-so pieces on display incorporate glass, wood, upholstery, and/or leather, as seen here in this knobby-kneed Corliss chair, and all are available for purchase. Occasional tables are in the $2,000-price range, chairs will run you about $6,000, and sofas are floating around $20,000.
When Haute Living (222 W. Kinzie St.) opened its doors five years ago next month, I was impressed with the beautifully displayed selection of luxe modern furniture, lighting, and rugs, but I was convinced I’d never find anything in my price range. That ginormous glittering crystal Fendi chandelier in the window and the fur throws gave me the impression this was a shop for rock stars and mob wives, not People Like Us. Au contraire, my friends, because over those five years owner Jeff Smith has made an effort to discover unique designs and the work of emerging talents at a wide (well, wider) range of price points. Sure, you can still find bedazzled showstoppers to give Liza Minnelli goosebumps, but you can also find smartly functional products and home-design systems that look like a million bucks but won’t break the bank. HL is having an open house tonight from 6–8 to celebrate its recent partnership with just such a company: the Connecticut-based Box Kitchen, which makes straightforward, adaptable kitchen systems at an accessible price. The collection is comprised of modular boxes fitted to hold appliances, cookware, and flatware, fronted with a wide range of colored laminates or wood veneers and kitted out with top-drawer hardware. Box Kitchen founder and principal designer, Christine Ingraham (who also happens to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s great-granddaughter), thinks of this as an alternative to a custom kitchen. A small cookroom can be finished for $8 to $15K, on average, and consultants will be on hand tonight to show you all the budget-friendly options.
Every year, Room & Board launches new product lines that the company trumpets in a handsome, hefty catalog. The 380-page 2012 edition just dropped and the store’s floors have changed to highlight fresh products, as wont to be, but this year R&B added something new to the annual events: a behind-the-scenes video that shows fans a bit of what is involved in the creation of the catalog. It’s no September Issue, mind you, but it is amusing to watch the 22 stylists and crew scurry around like worker bees hopped up on Red Bull to a twangy, Mellencamp-ish soundtrack. When I’m looking for sturdy, comfortable and classic pieces, I always think of Room & Board, but they also have a selection of contemporary, distinctive designs like this glass-topped Dunn coffee table ($499 to $799, depending on options). Stop by the store, or order a catalog right here and check out the new goods yourself.
Last year, Virtu gift shop and paperie celebrated ten years in business (2034 N. Damen Ave.), and I’m happy to say it ticked that up to 11 this month, making it a veteran of the city’s fine craft dealers, as far as I’m concerned. In appreciation, gratitude, and an ardent desire to make some shelf space for all the great new tableware, jewelry, letterpress cards, and other stuff owner Julie Horowitz Jackson has coming in soon, she has reduced everything in the store by at least 11% for the month of January. In 11th-hour news, she has increased that discount to 25% for the fall Orla Kiely collection, 50% for Latico wallets and picture frames, holiday items, and Lollipop and Whitney Smith ceramics. These are cake stands by Whitney, and they’ve been marked down to between $21 and $77.50. If you can’t get over to Bucktown in the next few days, shop online and enter undici in the comments section for the same deals.
The Vintage Touch
During the summer months, antique and vintage dealer Paul Degen exhibits regularly at the weekly North Shore Flea markets that Melissa Sands organizes in Highwood; during less clement climates he takes his fun fares to indoor markets and pop-ups. This Saturday he’ll be having a trunk show (you can even buy the trunk) at A Touch of Vintage in Logan Square (2506 N. California Ave.), from 7–10 p.m. Degen has a clever eye for picking up quirky merchandise—expect steampunk-scented old cameras, film projectors, and typewriters; kitschy matador and owl paintings; board games celebrating TV shows like Full House, and promotional items from liquor companies. I’m in more of a deaccessioning mode at the moment, but I hope to stop by to say hi to these nice folks and have some drinks and snacks.
If your New Year’s resolution was to get electronics better organized, Crate & Barrel can help you out in the family room. Alert the media, because from now until February 5 they are offering 15% off all consoles, leaning storage systems, TV stands, towers, etc. This Sloane Espresso 44” shelving is reduced to $339 from $399.