Bucktown / Wicker Park / Logan Square – Strange Closets http://www.strangeclosets.com people, homes, travel and stuff Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 Open House: Mary’s Logan Square 3-Flat http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/11/open-house-marys-logan-square-3-flat/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/11/open-house-marys-logan-square-3-flat/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2011 21:20:44 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=31000

Earlier this year I met Janet, a very talented interior designer who lives in a massive, gorgeous apartment in a vintage Logan Square 3-Flat. After I finished shooting Janet’s place, she introduced me to her upstairs neighbor Judie, a freelance photo stylist, and it wasn’t too long before I returned to photograph her equally amazing space (you can read all about it in last week’s issue of Time Out Chicago). Earlier this fall, I returned to the 3-Flat yet again to photograph the third unit – Mary’s apartment, which I also love and which has apparently changed very little since she and her late husband George bought the building in 1969. Prior to that, Mary, George and their three children lived in a nearby apartment that Mary’s parents owned, although they had begun searching for a more spacious home with modern amenities in the suburbs. Despite the supposed benefits, suburban life held no allure for Mary, who had grown up in the city and enjoyed taking the El downtown where she worked as an executive assistant for an import / export company. Unable to locate the right home in the suburbs, Mary convinced her husband to tour a newly listed 3-Flat in Logan Square that she’d always loved. “I’d wheeled the baby buggies passed that building a thousand times, and I wanted to see the inside of it,” Mary recalls. George and Mary toured the building and quickly realized that it was no ordinary city apartment. Each unit had a large entry foyer, gracious room sizes, four bedrooms and two full baths – ideal for their family. “Make them an offer they can’t refuse,” Mary recalls telling her husband. He did, and the couple lived there together until George passed away in 1997. Mary loves living there to this day. “I’ve always loved it. I just feel so comfortable here,” Mary says. “This is it.” Thanks Mary!

Mary has actually lived in the neighborhood since her parents bought a seven-unit building on Washtenaw in the mid-40’s. After World War II, apartments were hard to come by, and her parents wanted to make sure that Mary and her three siblings had a place where they could start out life with their spouses. At one point, Mary’s family occupied five of the seven units: her parents in the owner’s unit, Mary and her husband George in a unit and her three siblings and their spouses in the other three. Mary’s mother was such a beloved neighborhood figure that her likeness (silver hair with a bun) was included in this mural at Fullerton and Washtenaw.

Kachina dolls from Arizona.

Mary has owned this furniture longer than she has lived in the apartment.

Mary bought many of her Lladro pieces on layaway. 

Mary and daughter Kathleen. 

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Open House: Janet Friedman’s Logan Square place http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/06/open-house-janet-friedmans-logan-square-place/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/06/open-house-janet-friedmans-logan-square-place/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2011 21:54:32 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=30178

It was only after I’d finished photographing Janet Friedman’s brilliant Logan Square four-bedroom home that I realized that what felt like an hour had actually taken three. Artists and athletes often speak of a state of intense concentration when time seems to stand still, and I often experience the phenomenon when shooting places like Janet’s, which is chock-full of interesting antiques, decorative vignettes and lots of outsider and naive art. This state of consciousness or “flow” seems inherent when people concentrate intensely on an activity they love, and Janet told me that it happens to her when she decorates, which might explain why the interior designer and owner of JRF Interiors offers a fixed day-rate where she spruces up her client’s home using their own things.  Thanks Janet!

Click here for past home tours.

From my recent Chicago Tribune piece about Janet’s apartment. Tribune photography by Bill Hogan.

Have you ever seen anything like that silver screen? If I could swipe one piece in the entire apartment, that would be it.

Vintage automobile hood ornaments!

To add interest, Janet painted the wood table legs silver.

A deco light hangs in the original kitchen.

The second bedroom is located off the front foyer.

Janet created this art installation using vintage items and ephemera in her fourth bedroom / atelier.

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Open House: Sarah Polster’s place http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/03/open-house-sarah-polsters-place/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/03/open-house-sarah-polsters-place/#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2011 02:47:37 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=29857

Please check out my recent Chicago Tribune article, The Fixer-Upper, for the scoop on Sarah Polster’s amazing Logan Square place. Sarah and I first met when I photographed her boyfriend, Dan Devening’s condo in September 2008. Click here for Dan’s Open House. During the shoot, Dan mentioned that Sarah had a great place, and I hounded her pretty regularly for an invitation to see it. Two years later, I finally got the call to photograph her Logan Square owner’s unit last last fall, and the cornucopia of vintage and contemporary pieces was well worth the wait. Sarah has been busy since we first met. Her Cushion Chicago vintage business has grown its Etsy presence, and her booths have been a regular feature at flea markets such as The Vintage BazaarThanks Sarah!

Click here for past Open House posts.

Please check out Dan’s gallery Devening Projects + Editions.

I have an old wood worn box painted a similar shade of green, which I think Sarah might love. I’d hate to see it go, but I would be tempted to trade it for that geometric planter. Check out Sarah’s inspired use of the vintage levels.

The sofa is from Jayson Home + Garden. She bought it one of their annual sales and scored a killer deal. The deals are out there folks.

The second floor TV room / family room / den.

The second floor TV room / family room / den.

TV shelving stylishly arranged.

The second-floor landing / office.

Salt and pepper shakers – perfect for Sarah Polster. How I wish they made Tumeric and Garlic Powder shakers.

The second-floor master bedroom.


14 is the answer.

Kitchen shelves stylishly arranged.

The back porch. Three seasons of bliss.

Click here for Sarah’s vintage shop Cushion Chicago.

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Open House: Michael and Jill’s Wicker Park duplex http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/11/open-house-michael-and-jills-wicker-park-duplex/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/11/open-house-michael-and-jills-wicker-park-duplex/#comments Fri, 05 Nov 2010 03:58:15 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=26942

Jill Birnbaum’s friends were perplexed when they first spotted her Merchandise Mart sample sale splurge – a Barbara Barry blue powder slipper chair that didn’t match a single thing in her apartment. She ignored the naysayers. “All part of the master plan,” explains Jill. “Next came the rug, then the brown velvet sofa, the Asian armoire and the Noguchi coffee table.” Jill had cut her teeth in hospitality design working on projects like the Opryland Hotel and the Palmer House Hilton, so she knew what she was doing. Of course, the plan changed a bit to accommodate life’s circumstances. Model airplanes weren’t on Jill’s radar, for example, but she took it in stride when she fell in love with Michael Maremont, a real estate agent with Premier Relocation who collects them, and the planes looks good high displayed high atop the kitchen cabinets in the couple’s three bedroom Wicker Park condo. “Design is always changing,” says Jill (now Birnbaum-Maremont). “Through innovation, great spaces are achieved.”

Click here for past Open House posts.

As an agent with Premier Relocation, Michael sees some pretty spectacular homes. Please check out Dennis Rodkin’s recent interview with Michael to discuss one of his company’s hottest real estate listings, a David Adler designed home in Lincoln Park.

Jill’s favorite shops: Primitive. Kara Mann. Pavilion. Lenny & Me Home. Modlife. 360See. Gift shop at the Art Institute’s new Modern Wing. The Ark. ABC Carpet & Home. Modern Anthology.

The image of the Burmese fisherman hanging above the sofa was a wedding gift from Shonna Valeska who studied photography under Richard Avadon.

The art was a wedding gift. “It’s not napkins, its paper towels” by Stacy Searcy.

Michael’s planes (which are self-explanatory).

This room looks fantastic. I’m now solidly pro sectionals.

Jill and I first met when she entered her outdoor roof in the My Favorite Room contest. My photos don’t do it justice, so check out Chicago Home + Garden’s story for a better look of their fantastic urban oasis.

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Open House: Dave’s World (Logan Square) http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/06/open-house-daves-world-logan-square/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/06/open-house-daves-world-logan-square/#comments Fri, 18 Jun 2010 04:24:26 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=25419

Thanks to Chicago Home + Garden‘s Domestica blogger Bradley Lincoln for introducing me to his friend Dave Albin, who has more living rooms than any guy I know. A contractor by trade, Dave meets with clients in the downstairs parlor, plays music in the adjacent bonus room, watches TV in the upstairs lounge area and naps on the daybed in the nearby sun porch. In fact, Dave recently admitted that, off the top of his head, he couldn’t be sure of how many sofas he owned! Not to mention that the second floor, formerly a separate unit, had its own kitchen when Dave first bought the space. Dave re-imagined the kitchen as kitchenette, which can easily be expanded if a future owner wants to convert the building back to a 2-flat. Removing the fire pole from Dave’s attic bedroom suite to the second floor office would also be easy, but who would want to? It’s just one example of Dave’s colorful creativity.

Continued . . .

In Dave’s world, framed art wraps around the corner, piano innards hang as a wall sculpture and the guest bedroom has a beaded doorway in lieu of a door. But wait, there’s more! In addition to the ingenious solutions and eccentric collections, Dave’s an artist and art enthusiast. His own work covers an entire wall in the back stairway, and his extensive collection, which includes alley finds and outsider art, hangs throughout the house. One of Dave’s pieces, a tall framed black and white collage of a nude woman, leans against the wall in one of the downstairs bonus rooms. In fact, the bright yellow room’s only furnishing is a red leather dental chair, so the room looks more like an art installation itself, perhaps a giant Cornell shadowbox, than it does a place to actually hang out. Which begs the question, does that red dental chair count as a sofa? Thanks Dave!

Dave’s La Porte, Indiana weekend getaway is just as sweet and will be featured in the Summer 2010 edition of CS Interiors (on newsstands in July). Dave’s selling some of this things. Click here for photos and email him if interested (albin720 at aol.com).

Click here for past Open House posts.

Dave made this pendant light himself using an inexpensive milk glass vase.

Sliding doors conceal the kitchen when not in use. Smart I tell you!

Dave made the most of every space, even building in a seating area on the back staircase.

The man, the myth, the legend. Thanks Dave!

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Open House: Martha and Ben’s Lower Level http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/05/open-house-martha-and-bens-lower-level-2/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/05/open-house-martha-and-bens-lower-level-2/#comments Mon, 31 May 2010 05:12:17 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=24572

When Martha Muholland and boyfriend Ben Chappell moved into their Wicker Park ‘duplex down’ apartment, she was excited about having a lower level to decorate. True to her formal southern roots, the Kentucky native decided to stage the first floor as a more formal receiving / guest area. The lower level serves as the couple’s private quarters, and they play music, watch TV and sleep in what Martha calls a “70’s-style chill pad.” Martha covered the unattractive industrial carpeting with layers of vintage rugs, and repainted an ugly red accent wall black. A black leather sofa anchors the room, and paired with Ben’s musical instruments (a keyboard in one corner, string instruments in another) and low ceiling heights, the space feels rock star cool. (Smoke is the only thing missing). Fittingly enough, a vintage toy horse behind the sofa once belonged to one of the members of local band done good Smashing Pumpkins. In contrast, the spacious adjacent bedroom is quiet, simple and cozy with white walls and linens serving as the backdrop for Martha’s trademark vignettes.  Click here to see Martha and Ben’s equally gorgeous upper level.

Click here for past Open House posts.

Martha’s mother

I love this closet.

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Open House: Martha and Ben’s Wicker Park place http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/05/open-house-martha-and-bens-wicker-park-place/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/05/open-house-martha-and-bens-wicker-park-place/#comments Tue, 18 May 2010 05:25:13 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=24307

Martha Muholland and Ben Chappell’s taxidermy-filled 1800 square foot Wicker Park apartment feels simultaneously rustic and refined, serious and playful. Incorporating both her Kentucky roots and her urban now, the stylist / designer / decorator mixes lucite, mid-century modern and antique pieces with one-of-a-kind finds such as the red leather upholstered chair, which sits under a vintage Andy Warhol lithograph (which hangs under a stuffed Dahl Ram head). Naturally! Or at least Martha makes it feel natural, not to mention effortless. Since moving to Chicago to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002, Martha’s career has taken off. In addition to freelance styling gigs, Martha assists interior designer extraordinaire Michael Del Piero at her Bucktown boutique, and earlier this year, she was featured in Mix Mistress, which appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of CS Interiors, and Apartment Therapy. I thought you might enjoy the scouting shots I took last fall. The apartment also has a different but equally amazingly designed lower level, and I’ll post those photos at a later date.  Thanks Martha and Ben!

Click here for past Open House posts.

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Open House Sequel: KitchenLab’s Nick and Rebekah make dinner in their Chicago apartment http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/08/open-house-sequel-kitchenlabs-nick-and-rebekah-make-dinner-in-their-chicago-apartment/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/08/open-house-sequel-kitchenlabs-nick-and-rebekah-make-dinner-in-their-chicago-apartment/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2009 05:50:12 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=12437 3794071289_4ee9cb05ac_b

I’ve got several deadlines to meet this week, so please forgive this abbreviated Open House.  It’s a sequel of sorts, as I featured Nick and Rebekah’s Michigan farm house back when summer was still groggy but awakening from its winter slumber.

While the KitchenLab founders spend weekends in the country, they maintain an apartment in Wicker Park for use during the week.  When I arrived the windows were open and Nick was prepping dinner, a delicious white fish served with caprese and cucumber salads.  Eloquent though I am, “yum” is all I got.  The couple have lots of exciting things happening, so keep reading for more information on that front.

In the meantime, the foodies were gracious enough to provide their delicious cucumber salad recipe for your culinary pleasure.  Thanks guys!

Click here for past Open House tours.

Continued . . .


Recipe for Vietnamese Cucumber Salad (adapted from David Tanis)

Four Cucumbers

Cane Sugar or Agave Nectar

Fish Sauce (available at most Asian Groceries)

Mint (fresh, several sprigs)

Thai Basil  (fresh, several sprigs)

Ginger (1-2 tsp. finely chopped)

Fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)

Serrano peppers


Peel and seed cucumbers, slice into ½” rounds.

Place sliced cucumbers into bowl, add salt (approx. 1 tsp. or to taste) several grinds of pepper.

Add cane sugar (1-2 tsp.) Note: Size of cucumbers dictates spice additions, do to taste.

Add several splashes fish sauce, to taste.

Mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Wait 10-15 minutes while cucumbers begin to sweat.

Add chopped ginger

Add thinly sliced Serrano peppers, (remove seeds and veins for milder taste)

Juice two to three limes over salad, stir well.

Place in fridge to chill.

Just before serving finely chop thai basil and mint (several sprigs of each, or to taste)

Mix herbs in salad just before serving.

It’s me again.  Go make that for your oochie-poochie, and I predict much luck for you both.  😉





















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Open House: Interior Designer Hilary Bailes Town Home (Update) http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/01/open-house-update-interior-designer-hilary-bailes-town-home/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/01/open-house-update-interior-designer-hilary-bailes-town-home/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2009 09:57:46 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=2591 3219605278_69e1708b82

Interior Designer Hilary Bailes and her daughter Margo starred in one of the earliest Open House tours, so I was happy to be invited back recently.  

What do you think?  She’s incredible, isn’t she*?  She has a very distinct perspective – a bit Emma Peel, a bit Bubble Gum Pop, a bit Va-Va-Voom!, it’s an extremely unique voice.  If that’s not your thing, I’ve seen some portfolio photos and she can do pretty much anything (and I can’t not mention that British accent).

To read Hilary and Margo’s story, click here.

And to visit Hilary’s website, click here or call 773-489-7100.










* Thank God I proofread this.  Instead of saying “She’s incredible, isn’t she,” I wrote “She’s incredible, isn’t ME.”  Can you imagine how embarrassing that would have been?

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Open House: Kevin’s Bucktown Transformation http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/01/open-house-kevins-bucktown-transformation/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/01/open-house-kevins-bucktown-transformation/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2009 06:17:36 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=2353 _dsc46311

Change is in the air; that much cannot be denied.  It was especially apparent this week at Dr. Kevin’s Bucktown single family home.   After living in the three story contemporary house for nearly 20 years, the good doctor recently decided that it was time for a change, spurred in part by the end of a long-term relationship and more fundamentally, the desire to shake things up, to move closer to his best friends and to start a new chapter in life.

But bigger changes are underfoot as well, changes that impact the world.  I arrived to photograph Kevin’s house last Tuesday, January 20th at 10:30 a.m., moments before President Obama was sworn into office.  A bit disappointed that I’d somehow forgotten about the inauguration when scheduling our appointment, I was relieved to see that Kevin and good friend / interior designer Laura Soskin were already watching the historic event.  Unlike most shoots that start with a tour and some conversation, the three of us sat around the small kitchen TV transfixed by the peaceful transfer of power.

After the ceremony concluded and the pundits started gabbing, Laura began moving things around to prepare for the shoot.  The good interior designers are artists; they see the world in a different way than the rest of us.  People like Laura cut through our home ideologies, caring about what makes sense, what works, not what we’ve always done (and often never liked).  We all need to reevaluate things from time to time; just because the family photos have always hung above the fireplace or the red pillow has always been on your your bed  doesn’t mean that they work in that context.

Continued . . .


For the good designers, anything is possible and small changes can lead to a happier life, a more optimistic future.  Laura Soskin is a good designer (read my past interview with her here).  I’ve never heard her mention money or success, but I’ve heard her mention how much her clients love their home, how a few small changes made them happier.

That’s why Kevin hired Laura; he needed a fresh set of eyes to help him re-imagine the decor and make the home more appealing to today’s buyers.  With Laura’s help, what was once cluttered and a bit dated has become stylish and sophisticated.  To Kevin, it feels like a new home.  “Sometimes I wonder if I should stay,” Kevin confessed a bit wistfully while giving me the tour, but then he smiles and it’s clear that he’s ready for something new; he’s just glad that he’s enjoying the space again and that his last impressions will be positive ones.

As I began to shoot, I noticed a digital key chain with President George H.W. Bush’s image.  Kevin purchased the key chain years ago, amused that it counted down the remaining days, hours and minutes of the Bush presidency.  By the time I noticed it, the digital screen was blank.  It’s time for a new era . . . for Kevin and for all of us.  Mission accomplished.














Time's up - Bush digital countdown keychain now just keychain


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