Field Trip: MSI Smart Home

Smart House
Touring the smart house is like walking through the pages of Dwell. Clean, green pre-fab design on the outside.  Inside, plenty of eye candy. And as you walk around, the obvious question floats through the three levels:  how much does all this cost? The green-coated tour guide quoted a price of $450,000 for the house, not including the lot or the furnishings.  Not attainable for most, but the smart house demonstrates ideas large and small that make perfect sense for use in any home, such as watering the plants with grey water and using a kitchen composter.

What I found most eye-catching and inspiring is the use of local designers and sources.


Chicago artist Ted Harris designed the lighting above the dining room table. These are made from motorcycle parts.

smarthouse3A lamp made from found parts by Harris sits on the night table in the master bedroom.

smarthouse4Steel dining room table by midwesterner John Steel.



Locally made, eco natural lounge furniture by Verde Design Studio.


Out in the garage, work and storage bench from recycled wood.



Upstairs in the nursery, art work by muralist  Jeff Zimmerman.


In the kid’s bedroom, birch bed donated by Grow-modern Organic Kids on Division.  Flor carpet tiles, which are also used in the office here:


And red Flor tiles in the entryway.



Strange Closets Open House


One afternoon in March, Tate Gunnerson, publisher of Strange Closets, came over to shoot some room photos and hang out with us.  Every Thursday, Tate publishes an Open House tour of a home in Chicago, and I feel honored to have been the subject this week.  Don’t miss it –here’s the permalink.

Thrift Rules

In the dictionary of thrift, here’s a new entry:  Thriftgeek – def. cool, retro and inexpensive. Used as a noun or adjective, Thriftgeekiness resides and can be  experienced in a new store in downtown Evanston.

thriftgeekThriftgeek has been getting great press since it’s opening in late April, and while this write-up may seem like recycled content, that’s as it should be.  A fun retail spot in this tumbleweed economy is reason to celebrate and spread the news. Good to know it still travels fast, even to the dog beach, where I first heard about it.

From a trip there Monday, here’s a look at the good goods collected by founding geeks Susan Ganem and B.J. Negrete.

thriftgeek furniture

thriftgeek dishes

Marked Sold, this 9-drawer chest is nearly identical to Missy and Kirk’s beautiful makeover.thriftgeek 9 drawer chest

thriftgeek painting

thriftgeek array

Ellen, a musician who’s voice is a ringer for Terri Hemmert on WXRT, modeled the earrings.

522 Davis Street, Evanston 60201

Stuff from the Big Swap

Richard van Genderer
Illustration by Richard van Genderer

The goldilocks thing about Saturday’s Big Swap event was its just-right size.  Not too small, not too big to browse through it all and have the chance to talk with the vendors.  Many would be showing again at the Randolph Street Market series. They brought a choice representation of their inventory that was priced to sell.

70's lamp

Mid-century modern of course. Heywood-Wakefield dining room sets, tapered leg coffee tables, swag lighting.

ballerina mist

Having more than enough dishes didn’t stop me wishing for these.  They are a 1954 set called Ballerina Mist in the Baby’s Breath pattern.  The manufacturer, Universal Potteries, made dishware patterns for distribution in supermarkets.

folk art window

A folkart painted window.

Eric and Kurt

An interesting mix at the sale were the individuals who set up shop and swapped extra household contents for some cash. Kurt and Eric, who live in a high-rise  in Lakeview, were pleased with the outcome of their sale.

May Day Weekend Roundup

flickr photo by wasabicube

Like the opening sequence of the Simpsons, the clouds are scheduled to move on, and one day soon we’ll catch a glimpse of blue sky.


From the oeuvre of posts on Craigslist, it looks that garage sale season has officially opened in neighborhoods around the city.

boxes1May first is also a heavily-trafficked move in/move out day, as Chicagoans choose a change of scenery from their apartment windows. Take a new route home or out to get coffee and you might find something useful or a piece awaiting your rehab.


Saturday, the Chicago Antiques Market rolls out the asphalt carpet for celebrity shoppers like you and me at the Swap Meet in Soldier Field. Shout out to Ally, who sent a reminder of the event.  I plan to make the scene, along with blogger Green Cricket.  The doors open at 7 am and close at 3.  What’s up for you this weekend?  Meet you back here on Monday and we’ll swap stories.

Working On…


I’m thrilled(!) that the retro chest was featured this week in Apartment Therapy.  It’s the most clicked-on project to date and one of the most successful in end results.

And speaking of two-tone redo’s, this weekend, Missy and Kirk will be wrapping up their chest rennovation and will post the before and after here midweek.  Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Today I’ll be wrapping up Project 25: porch table. Here’s the small sample board I played around

Having a stressful day?  This shell thing is most helpful for restoring sanity.

Live Dive on Monday 4/27


Wondering if it’s worth making the schlepp to Winnetka for its annual Spring Clean-Up?  That makes two of us.  Actually, make that four of us, and readers Pauline, Joshua and I will be shopping the Winnetka parkways next Monday, April 27.  Along with a good find, we hope to give you the lay of the land in case you’re planning to dive in yourself. The clean-up week in Winnetka run from Monday through Thursday, April 27 to 30.

Join us next Monday on Twitter , starting at 7 a.m., and see who gets to ride in the front seat first.