Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview – 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 Life’s a beach for Barri Leiner Grant http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/07/lifes-a-beach-for-barri-leiner-grant/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/07/lifes-a-beach-for-barri-leiner-grant/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2011 18:14:27 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=30620

In the four-bedroom Lakeview apartment Barri Leiner Grant shares with her husband and two daughters, seashells, mattress ticking and weathered antiques commingle with crystal, velvet and silver to create a handsomer, more dapper beach aesthetic that reflects both her New Jersey roots and her professional experience as a photo stylist, entrepreneur and author of several books, most recently Jersey Girls: The Fierce and the Fabulous, which she co-wrote with longtime friend and business partner Marie Moss. The book is a scream – funny, vibrant and nostalgic with great recipes (Laura Plimpton & Martha Stewart’s Jersey Girl canned tomatoes), illustrated guides (How to Eat a Lobster), tons of ephemera and some (thankfully) Snookie-free celebrity dish. Flipping through its pages feels a bit like wandering around from booth to booth at a fantastic flea market, so I thought you guys might enjoy it. For more about Barri’s apartment, please check out my recent story in the Chicago Tribune.

Photo (top) by Chicago Tribune photographer Bill Hogan.

This canvas tote ($22), which is available from Barri and Marie’s company, M & B Vintage, would make the perfect beach bag or a great gift for the vintage enthusiast in your life.

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2011/07/lifes-a-beach-for-barri-leiner-grant/feed/ 1
Open House: Robert’s far East Lakeview apartment (far out!) http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/open-house-roberts-far-east-lakeview-apartment-far-out/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/open-house-roberts-far-east-lakeview-apartment-far-out/#comments Thu, 30 Sep 2010 02:44:22 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=27439

Many thanks to interior designer John Gray for suggesting I contact Robert Stordalen about his Lakeview apartment. “He has like 24 of those ceramic warriors from the Ming dynasty. His personal collection MUST be amazing.” John was right, and Time Out Chicago thought so too. I’ve included a few of my scouting shots, but please pick up a copy of my TOC House Call, Asian Invasion, to see the entire place. Thanks Robert!

I’d swipe the long, custom made, biscuit-tufted sofa. What would you swipe?

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/open-house-roberts-far-east-lakeview-apartment-far-out/feed/ 6
Open House: Barri, Alex, Emma and Quinn (part deux) http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/open-house-barri-alex-emma-and-quinn-part-deux/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/open-house-barri-alex-emma-and-quinn-part-deux/#comments Fri, 17 Sep 2010 04:19:33 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=27236

Whether she’s creating a charm bracelet for her company M & B Vintage, styling a room for a photo shoot or making a home for her family, Barri Leiner Grant knows how to make things beautiful. I featured Barri’s lovely four bedroom, three bath West Lakeview apartment last May, but I liked the bedrooms so much that I decided to give them their own post. Enjoy. Thanks Barri, Alex, Emma and Quinn!

Click here for past Open House posts.

Click here for Barri’s first Open House.

Click here for M & B Vintage.

Quinn’s room is darling. That might be the first time I’ve ever used the word darling.


Rubber ducky, you’re the one! This vignette is the very definition of the bees knees.

Emma’s bedroom is very cool. Wait and see, her first apartment will be perfect. (She’s already mixing patterns to great success).

Group like objects for maximum impact. It’s a cardinal rule and one Emma has learned at such a young age. She will speak the language of design fluently. (I speak it, but I can’t shake the accent).

Alex and Barri’s master bedroom.

I love the way this surface looks. It’s the kind of thing I just can’t pull off by myself.

I wonder if crabs are the new birds?

Alex’s mother painted this. Beautiful, isn’t it?

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/09/open-house-barri-alex-emma-and-quinn-part-deux/feed/ 1
Open House: Neil Goodman’s Space-Age Studiolo http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/08/neil-goodmans-space-age-studiolo/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/08/neil-goodmans-space-age-studiolo/#comments Thu, 05 Aug 2010 02:11:14 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=26627

Neil Goodman moved into his 860 square foot “space-age studiolo” ten years ago this week when his aunt Ann, the one-bedroom apartment’s first and only prior inhabitant, passed away at the age of 99. “When I first moved in I was conscious of the fact that a relative had lived in the space for over 30 years and that my grandparents must have long ago visited the very rooms I was now living in,” explains Neil. “Now I don’t think about it much except to sometimes marvel that there has been a family presence in the building since the year I was born.” Prior to moving into the mod Lake Shore Drive one-bedroom apartment, Neil lived in a Roman apartment with ancient exposed columns on a tiny medieval street behind the ruins of the Portico of Octavia in the Eternal City’s Old Jewish Ghetto. As an expat, the self-described maximalist and Italophile assembled a fantastic collection of ancient objets d’art, which he now displays alongside mid-century and contemporary furnishings and art pieces such as the Chromawall light sculpture created in 2006 by British artist Jeremy Lord. “It generates infinite combinations of thousands of colors,” says Neil. Although the sculpture’s ever-changing lights significantly impact the “feel” of the room from moment to moment, the combination of elements in the space make such a strong statement that it doesn’t overpower the space. According to Neil, his apartment functions as a personal living space, library and cabinet of curiosities representing a 2000 year span of western culture. Explains Neil, “I’m just as into the 1960’s and 70’s as the 1460’s and 70’s.

Thanks to Neil and also to Chicago Home + Garden EIC Jan Parr for referring him and telling me about his spectacular space.

Click here for past Open House posts.

A gilded bronze figure of Chronos. According to Neil, the personification of Time likely once held a scythe in his left hand.

The Chromawall is a programmed light sculpture created in 2006 by British artist Jeremy Lord.

British designer Mark Brazier-Jones designed this nickel-plated bronze chair in the 1980’s.

Neil picked up this 19th century Italian bronze piece on a recent trip to Rome.

Neil stumbled across the rare Mondrian screenprint (right) at a thrift store for a song; it will be included in Wright’s auction of Post-War & Contemporary Art in September.

“With the exception of the child’s photographs, which are pictures of my father as a boy, the portraits are not actual biological ancestors, but have been ‘adopted’ as family member over the years from various places,” says Neil. “I love portraiture and living with antique examples compels the contemplation of the past and the lives of others.”

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/08/neil-goodmans-space-age-studiolo/feed/ 23
Open House: Barri’s old-fashioned family apartment http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/05/open-house-barris-old-fashioned-family-apartment/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/05/open-house-barris-old-fashioned-family-apartment/#comments Fri, 14 May 2010 04:24:24 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=23928

Author, stylist and M & B Vintage co-founder Barri Leiner Grant sometimes feels like she was born in a different era, which isn’t difficult to believe after seeing the vintage splendor of the 4 bedroom, 3 bath Lakeview apartment she shares with her husband Alex Grant and two daughters, Emma, 13, and Quinn, 6. A mix of old and new furnishings and charming vignettes enhance the unit’s original moldings, built-ins and other original features. In fact, when building owner Nettie Katzenberg told Barri she was planning to renovate the unit before Barri and her daughters moved in nearly three years ago, Barri offered to help. What better way to preserve the apartment’s original details? Barri says she nearly fainted when she saw the pantry’s built-in shelves, so even though they had accumulated thick layers of paint that prevent some of the doors from shutting, she nixed plans to tear them out. “It is what it is what it is,” she says. Barri also accompanied the building super to Home Depot and Tile Outlet to pick out period-appropriate subway and hexagon tiles for the bathrooms, and she asked him to install her own vintage chandeliers.

“The most delicious part was that (Nettie Katzenberg) let me pick me own paint color, and that made all the difference in the world,” says Barri. “Renters should live like they own the place.”

Continued . . .

Living well is important to Barri, so when she first met her husband Alex Grant, she took it as a good sign that his apartment was far more put together than the average bachelor pad.

“He had boy things that I didn’t care about as much as he did, but that I really appreciate: really sleek pots and pans, good knives and good electronics,” says Barri. “It wasn’t that he was overly concerned, but he had a certain respect and interest in living well.”

As it turns out, Alex’s stylish mother helped him decorate, and she also had a lot to do with his gentlemanly manners, which won Barri over in no time flat. Barri and Alex were married in New York City (her hometown) last New Year’s Eve, and Alex has settled in to life in the apartment. Barri gave up her office closet so Alex would have a place for his clothing, and she gave up a portion of the room for his large, flat-screen TV, but don’t worry! Despite the concessions, this “man-room” is still very pretty. Although Barri clearly exerts a stronger influence on their home’s decor, Alex doesn’t mind. In fact, he’s kind of old-fashioned himself. In addition to his sweet and sturdy traits, Alex calls Barri “doll” and their dog Rocco “fella.” One thing’s for sure: Barri and family think living in a big, light-filled vintage apartment is pretty swell.

Click here for past Open House tours. To refer a house, e-mail me (strangeclosets at yahoo).

Barri and her daughters enjoy roasting marsh mellows in the wood burning fireplace. As you know if you read the post, the original mantel and moldings were big selling points.

Barri paired these vintage Baker chairs, which “lived their lives in a fabulous Lake Shore Drive apartment” with a new dining table. The pattern has faded into a soft grayish color, but Barri says its original orangish brown tone would been a real commitment for the original buyer, because the distinct pattern means they were custom and very expensive. How cool that Barri receives the dividends of that investment to this day!

A gift from her friends at Chicago Home + Garden.

“This is my heaven,” says Barri of the built-in bookshelves.

Barri recommends having an objective set of eyes look at things like furniture arrangement and art placement. For example, she was thrilled when her friends Dan and Natasha Spencer, who own The Art of Installation, made suggestions about where to hang art throughout the house.

Good friend Nate Berkus also visited and helped Barri push furniture around until they found the right place for everything in the new apartment. “Maybe the chairs that faced each other in the old house belong in the bedroom in the new house,” says Barri, whose desk they used as a dining room table in their last apartment.

This is Barri’s office, which the family now calls the “man-room.”

To create an inspiration wall behind her desk, Barri applied cork sheets, which she then painted the same color as the other walls.

Barri and Rocco

Barri bought this Carter Kustera painting from Jonathan Adler as a gift for Alex. That is one lucky dog.

Check out Barri’s charm bracelet business M & B Vintage.

Because there is only one unit per floor, the exterior stairway makes the perfect mudroom.

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/05/open-house-barris-old-fashioned-family-apartment/feed/ 8
The Flipside: One Building, Two Units, Two Results http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/02/the-flipside-one-building-two-units-two-results/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/02/the-flipside-one-building-two-units-two-results/#comments Sun, 21 Feb 2010 21:47:54 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=21039

Life is full of interesting coincidences. For example, when my brother Kevin decided New York City wasn’t his cup of tea in 2003, I offered to help him find an apartment in Chicago and ultimately, he decided to rent a one bedroom unit in Lakeview. Kevin only lived in that apartment for one year, which is too bad, because a few years later, former Open House star Decorator Dave Hopkins moved into the unit across the hall, and who wouldn’t want a neighbor like Dave? The other day I found my 2003 scouting photos and was struck by the difference between the two units.


Dave (left) and Matthew (right) from last fall’s spectacular subterranean dinner party. Matthew was the subject of one of 2009’s most popular Open House tours.

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2010/02/the-flipside-one-building-two-units-two-results/feed/ 7
Open House: Rich and Noelle’s Christmas (Two) Story http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-rich-and-noelles-christmas-two-story/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-rich-and-noelles-christmas-two-story/#comments Mon, 21 Dec 2009 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.tategunnerson.com/?p=651 3069974933_71b15e3d9a

Hello folks.  I ran this post on December 4th, 2008 (which was Noelle’s birthday), and ’tis the season, so here we go again:

Today I’m going to tell you a good old fashioned Christmas story, a tale so unlikely you may think I’m pulling your leg. Speaking of legs, what’s a good Christmas story without the much beloved leg lamp from the movie A Christmas Story? Those are only a few of the ingredients you need to spin a good Christmas tale. In fact, the process is a lot like making the perfect eggnog recipe; certain ingredients are required to make it unassailable (like booze).

So here’s my recipe for Christmas bliss:

  1. The Christmas Story Leg Lamp – Check
  2. George Bailey – Check
  3. Noel (or Noelle in this case) – Check
  4. An elfen workshop – Check
  5. A man with a great big laugh who delivers Christmas cheer (but all year) – (That’s Rich) – Check
  6. An evil scrooge (That’s me) – Check
  7. Eggnog – Triple check

Continued . . .

The Martini’s met fifteen years ago when they both worked in the Christmas industry, Noelle as a meeting planner and Rich as a sales rep. Eventually Rich founded his own holiday decor company Holiday Bright Lights and Noelle became a sales rep for another holiday company Midwest of Cannon Falls.*

After a long courtship, the couple married on December 30th of 2006 and after years living in Roscoe Village, they bought a newly rehabbed home in Ravenswood with a large living room, kitchen and a basement workshop suitable for the North Pole (the home’s mechanicals run overhead so Noelle’s workshop has a very low ceiling, but nobody who works there seems to notice. Hmm.)

Not content at people chuckling incredulously and punching them in their arms when they share their unbelievable story, the couple bought a dog last year and named him . . . ready for it . . . George Bailey. Big Bailey (as I affectionately dubbed him) just turned one on December 11th, but he’s already heavier than Jimmy Stewart.

Continued . . .

So whatever winter holiday you suffe . . . celebrate, enjoy the next few weeks (eggnog my friends). And check out Rich’s company Holiday Bright Lights. They have the best prelit artificial Christmas trees (according to the catalog they could fool Mother Nature herself and while Mother Nature doesn’t agree with me, I do agree with her in this instance – a rare truce). Rich’s goods are also available through Hammacher Schlemmer and Frontgate (and are now lighting the Mag Mile).

The Martini’s are an old-fashioned kind of couple who work hard but have a wonderful life with many close friends and family. And Christmas isn’t just a business for them – they clearly love it, laughing as they tell stories and discuss the different holiday trends. Noelle mixes vintage Christmas ornaments with an assortment of past holiday favorites for a home that’s warm and festive without feeling overdone.

And about that literally unbelievable story of theirs, as it turns out the family has a propensity for name games. Rich’s sister’s name is Marguerite. That’s right, Margarita Martini. They called her Double Shot. And Noelle’s college roommate (who is temporarily crashing with them while her fiance explores St. Louis***) is named Joelle. Noelle and Joelle. So it’s all true (maybe).

Click here to see past Open House tours.
And email me if you have a cool home or know somebody who does (and preferably who also knows you) – strangeclosets@yahoo.com.

That’s Noelle’s engagement ring. Cool huh?

The family room off the kitchen.

That’s me – such a cyclops.

Hello there George Bailey. I met you only twice, but I do love you.

You too Small Fry

The tub is a mustard-y color. It’s an unexpected but perfect choice. I so envy people with this kind of talent.

Noelle’s workshop

I love the paneling – breathtaking.

If you’re still reading, I put this little jingle together (remember – you heard it here first).

‘Twas the night before Christmas
In the just rehabbed house
But rest was not forthcoming
No time to read Proust**

The stockings were wrapped,
Boxed and shipped with care
Because Holiday Bright Lights
Guarantees you a festive lair

(Pretty good jingle for a scrooge huh? Am I right?)

* Unverified sources say the cross-company romance caused an uproarious clamor in the famously cut-throat Christmas industry, but the much-in-love couple accomplished what few couples are able and forged a happy ending to their corporate Romeo and Juliet story.  I would imagine.

* * Pretend this rhymes

* * * Home of the World Famous Tourist Destination the St. Louis Arch (Brought to you by friends of the St. Louis Arch)

Add to Technorati Favorites

Is that gum on your shoe? Yea, you should try to get that . . . well it’s going to get all over everythi . . .huh? . . . yea, use this gum scraper to kind of . . . yea it should scrape the gum . . . well it’s a Tully brand gum scraper but . . . I know, but it’s like Kleenix . . . oh it’s not gum? There’s nothing there? You’re not even WEARING shoes? Sorry my bad . . . but since you’re already down there, just fill out your email address to get on my mailing list. I won’t share it or sell it, and you’ll only receive an e-mail once per day (or as some people might write, one e-mail per day). If I don’t update, you won’t get an e-mail. When that does happen you will of course be very sad and wonder why you’re feeling glum, but then you’ll figure it out and race home to the computer, your heart racing, hoping my e-mail has arrived. So that’s what that’s all about.

Subscribe in a reader

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-rich-and-noelles-christmas-two-story/feed/ 13
Open House: Interesting people, good food and spectacular decor at Dave and Jeremy’s holiday party http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-holiday-blessings-at-dave-and-jeremys/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-holiday-blessings-at-dave-and-jeremys/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2009 07:29:17 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=17927 4163806348_de3eebca43

When I received my invitation to attend the dinner party my friends Dave and Jeremy hosted at Dave’s Lakeview apartment recently, I marked it on my calendar and went about my business.  What I didn’t do was worry about it in any way, shape or form, which felt very nice.  For example, I didn’t once fret about what to wear because none of their friends seems to care much about such trivia.  Nor did I worry about who I’d wind up sitting next to at dinner, because past guests have struck me as intelligent, interesting and kind people with open minds and open hearts, so I was pretty sure I’d have fun.  And because the cuisine has been delicious without fail, I skipped the pre-party debate about whether or not to eat a snack (just in case).  What remained in the absence of even the slightest worry was a pleasant quiet certainty that whatever the exact circumstances, a lovely evening full of conversation, laughter and even amazement was all but assured.  (If you don’t believe me, take a closer look at the pure joy on Dave’s cousin’s Rhonda’s face in the above photo as she takes in the spectacular holiday decor).


I first attended one of Dave and Jeremy’s dinner parties last summer when they transformed the building’s narrow gangway into something that felt more like a charming alley in an Italian village (but squinting made it easy to imagine I was dining in Tuscany).  Then last October, they created a swanky supper club in the building’s unfinished basement.  So I was excited to see what they had cooked up for their recent holiday party and happy when Dave announced dinner would soon be served.  Dave once again directed the guests to the basement, and we dutifully marched single file out the front door and down the steps.  There were people in front of me and behind me in the dinner march, but I could hear the gasps of pleasure as people at the front of the line first beheld the more than 600 vintage ornaments Jeremy had hung one by one.  And then I gasped too, because illuminated by the warm glow of holiday lights and softened by cream floor to ceiling drapes on both sides of the long dining table, the basement was spectacular.




This dinner was particularly special for me.  I sat between one of my best and oldest friends (and the second person I met when I moved to Chicago back in 97), the lovely former Open House star Miss Janis and one of my best and newest friends (and one of the first people I met when I started Strange Closets in 08), the Found co-founder and Ebay photo dealer Albert Tanquero.  Everywhere I looked, I saw amazing people I’d met in the past year: Albert’s partner, former Open House star Jim York and Matthew and Craig, and Scout owner Larry Vodak and Mariano and Kathy and of course, Dave and Jeremy and their friends.  Drunk as I was with happiness and dazzled by with the sparkly glass ornaments suspended above the long table, the entire scenario felt like a dream.


After dining on salad (apples and radishes), dinner (gnocchi with squash and brown butter sauce) and dessert (bread pudding with pears and cabernet ice cream), the party gradually moved back upstairs to the living room where I finally had the opportunity to chat with Dave’s lovely upstairs neighbor Janet, who said she couldn’t believe how fortunate she was to have met Dave and Jeremy.  Which seemed to be the prevailing sentiment of everyone from his cousin Rhonda to his new roommate Aaron.  Before I knew Dave and Jeremy well, I thought it was a good sign that so many amazing people wanted them to be part of their lives.  But now I just feel honored that I’m at least a little part of theirs.  Thanks guys!

Today’s Design Tip!

Sorry, I almost forgot.  For those seeking a design blog takeaway tip, consider hanging ornaments like so to create an unexpected and glamorous holiday environment.  You may find that you leave them up well into the new year.  Apparently, it’s kind of easy, albeit time-consuming, painstaking and back-breaking.  That kind of easy.


For inquiries about Dave Hopkins’ interior design work, please contact Dave Hopkins at haring222@aol.com.



Aaron (left), Aaron (center) and Albert (right)





Hey Miss Janis



Meet Aaron Miller, a designer at Lakeview's Jonathan.









Albert (left) and Jeremy (right)



Jim (left) and Kathy (right)



Albert (left) and Janis (right)









http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-holiday-blessings-at-dave-and-jeremys/feed/ 14
Open House: Al and Sue’s http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-al-and-sues/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-al-and-sues/#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2009 03:31:37 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=17691 4081542375_7c591a13d9

During a recent gathering of friends at the Drake Hotel’s Cog d’Or bar, Richard Norton Gallery’s Susan Klein Bagdade held out her wrist and asked me if I could discern which of the three light green bangle bracelets she was wearing was made not from Bakelite but from a non-flammable version of Celluloid called cellulose acetate.  I touched each before admitting that I couldn’t even hazard a guess.  To contrast, by their sheen alone, Sue could tell the difference between Celluloid and Bakelite from across the room.  In fact, Sue wrote the book about mid-century costume jewelry.  And as the icing on the cake, it was that book, Mid-Century Plastic Jewelry, or rather the idea of that book, which prompted Sue to contact her future husband Al Bagdade, an acknowledged antiques expert and columnist who along with his late wife Susan wrote more than seven guides to collecting pottery, porcelain and toy trains.*

“You go to enough shows and pick up enough things, you get a handle on what it’s worth,” explains Al, who makes his living as a dentist, albeit one with an all-consuming passion for antiques, especially quimper, a style of pottery made in Quimper, a town in France.  When he realized he’d become quite knowledgeable about the subject – and many others – Al started writing books and price guides, and eventually, he and his late wife Susan even hosted a HGTV show The Appraisal Fair.

“I loved being in front of the camera,” Al recalls fondly.  “It was like making love to a beautiful girl.”




Sue was part of the production team on The Appraisal Fair, so she immediately thought of Al when she decided she needed feedback about her book idea.

“Nobody had collected what I collected,” says Sue.  “So I approached Al, and he said ‘absolutely you should do it.'”  Sue went to Border’s, wrote down the publisher of every book in the general category that appealed to her, and she sent a query to several, including Schiffer, who asked her for a proposal, which she provided the following week.  A week after that, Sue signed a contract to write her book.

“Then the reality hits you,” recalls Sue.  “Oh my God, I have to write a book?  I don’t know how to write a book.”

But she soon learned, spending many nights and weekends researching, interviewing and writing.   When she finally finished the manuscript she asked Al to take a look at it.  Cue the musical montage of Al and Sue driving through the countryside and checking out new antique shows.  As you might expect, love flowered unexpectedly and soon the two were engaged to be married.  Sue’s book Mid-Century Plastic Jewelry was published in 2005.  It’s a gorgeous, entertaining book, and she’s happy with how it turned out.

“If you want to read the book, it’s a good story,” says Sue.  “And if you want to look at pretty pictures, they’re there too.”




Sue and Al were already together, although they hadn’t gotten hitched, when I first made their acquaintance last November.  Sue and I were chatting about antique stores, and she asked for any suggestions where she could find a large cabinet to hold her extensive jewelry collection.  She’d seemed a bit perplexed about how she and Al would ever combine their very full, adult, quite differently decorated households.  As you can imagine, the antique freaks both had extensive collections (he’s a little quimper; she’s a little art deco).

I was intrigued by the concept of merging two, quite different households, so I asked if I could see the place after they moved in together, and she agreed.  Apparently things went swimmingly.

“We’re kindred spirits,” she says grinning, when I finally photographed the newlywed’s merged apartment several weeks ago, although they say they’re grateful for the help of their good friends.  Sue’s Richard Norton co-worker Shawn Marsh helped them organize the shelves to showcase their very different objets d’art, and interior designer Larry Boeder spent some time working on layout.  The two bedroom, two bath unit easily accommodates their edited collection, and both say they like the mix.  “Larry and Shawn did a beautiful job,” Sue says.

Al and Sue use the expansive second bedroom as an office, and it was gorgeous at dusk, warmly illuminated by old-fashioned incandescent, the neon from Al’s Al’s Diner sign and even the purple-pink sky outside.  There’s room for both of them to work, but Al and Sue would rather have fun antiquing through the Midwest.




“If there’s a couple weekend when we don’t do any antiquing we go through withdrawal,” says Sue.  “It’s what we absolutely love to do.”

“We always come back with cartons full of stuff,” adds Al.

Al’s always on the lookout for quimper, and Sue still finds interesting Bakelite jewelry pieces for her collection.  And she needn’t have worried about not having room to store her furniture; Sue found found the perfect storage piece at the Allegan Flea flea market several months ago.  You might say everything just kind of fell into place.  Thanks Al and Sue!


Click here for past Open House tours.









































* Here are Amazon links to a few of the seven books Al and his late wife Susan wrote:




http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/12/open-house-al-and-sues/feed/ 7
Open House Dinner Party: Decorator Dave and Jeremy’s subterranean supper club http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/10/open-house-dinner-party-decorator-daves-subterranean-supper-club/ http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/10/open-house-dinner-party-decorator-daves-subterranean-supper-club/#comments Mon, 26 Oct 2009 07:12:41 +0000 http://www.strangeclosets.com/?p=15610 4045815382_4a75b9e0db

The typed invitation for Dave and Jeremy’s most recent dinner party, which I attended last Saturday evening, advised guests to be punctual and to wear comfortable shoes, and I arrived as instructed to find his spectacular apartment filled with a very attractive, cosmopolitan crowd of people speculating about Dave and Jeremy’s machinations anxiously as they eyeballed one another’s footwear.

The suspense was short-lived, however, because at the dinner hour, Dave ushered everybody through the small kitchen, out the back door and down the stairs into his Wrigleyville courtyard apartment building’s unfinished basement.  Having been to a magical party Dave and Jeremy threw in the gangway between two buildings last summer, I was expecting something special, but I was not prepared for the atmospheric subterranean supper club that awaited.

The holiday light strings’ warm glow and the increasingly debaucherous party shenanigans made the dirty concrete, exposed pipes and general decay feel like a 20’s era Speakeasy, with the exception that all substances ingested were legal (or should be) and we now have penicillin.  The lighting made everybody look sexy, which reminds me of the old adage, “overhead lighting ’tis the devil’s preference.”  And don’t even get me started jabbering about the way Dave and Jeremy lined up identical vintage porcelain sinks to serve as the base of the buffet table.  There’s something about the iconic porcelain pieces assembled and displayed in such a manner that reminded me vaguely of that era’s propaganda / advertising imagery, and whether the couple arranged them so consciously or subconsciously, the overall effect was pitch perfect for the mostly zozzled design-minded partiers.

Continued . . .


But none of that matters without the right mix of people, and if it’s true that you can judge a man by his friends, Dave and Jeremy are as cool as I had suspected.  Guests included friends old and new, including former Open House stars Matthew and Craig, interior designer Laura Soskin, artist Michael McGuire (who’s represented by Andersonville’s Las Manos Gallery and Scout) and Agent Gallery owner Mariano Chavez and his girlfriend Kathy, who urged me to chuck it all and move to Paris if that’s what I wanted, which made me love her instantly.

At one point, Dave’s cousin Rhonda and I were having a lovely conversation on his back porch when she remarked that she thought mid-century and industrial enthusiasts shared a certain friendly sensibility, which rang true to me, certainly of the party-goers I met that night, a diverse group that included a marketing consultant, a writer and a couple like-minded designers who wondered out loud which of Dave’s amazing things we’d steal.  Rhonda’s comment also gave me a flicker of hope that those of us who love the salvaged and the industrial, who covet Dave’s lights, sinks and other objets d’patina are not sheep following a trend but the first connoisseurs of a genuine movement.  But I doubt it.

Thanks for the inspiration Dave and Jeremy (and the dinner).

Please visit Apartment Therapy to see Dave’s former Andersonville apartment.


Yet another use for vintage pedestal sinks. How many does that make?







These cupcakes were yum frickin' yum.




This photo (by Matthew John Rice) gives me so many sudden ideas.


Although to be sure, Dave is appreciated.


A guy named Dean with designer Laura Soskin.


Mariano, Kathy and Matthew


(Clockwise from approximately 10:30 p.m.: Matthew, Craig, Laura and Jan)



And Dave doesn't have a TV show why exactly?


Dean, Laura and Dave a split second before their incineration.


The unforgettable Elizabeth Krueger and boyfriend Brent Sanders.


Dave, Matthew and artist Michael McGuire




Panoramic by Michael McGuire

http://www.strangeclosets.com/2009/10/open-house-dinner-party-decorator-daves-subterranean-supper-club/feed/ 12