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


Weekend Diving Opp

photo by nikki1810 on flickr

One more for the spring diving calendar is the city of  Highland Park’s clean-up days.  As far as I know, there are no tales of the big score affiliated with the clean- up, but the four dates for pickup are all on Saturday, which is convenient for anyone who may still be employed with a 9-5 job.   Might be worth the trip, even if you wind up at the downtown movie theater that shows second runs. Or the Dairy Queen.

Here’s a map and the dates of where the Saturday pick-ups will occur.  This info is also published on the city’s website here.


For resident who receive normal service on Mondays: April 25 will be the special spring pickup date.
For resident who receive normal service on Tuesdays: May 2
For resident who receive normal service on Thursdays: May 9
For resident who receive normal  service on Fridays: May 16

To recap the dates posted this week, we have:
Winnetka Clean-up days from April 27-April 30.  I’ll be Twittering a live dive on the 27th.

Hippie Christmas Season:
Loyola ends May 2, commencement weekend on May 7-9
UIC ends May 9
The Art Institute ends May 11 with commencement on May 16
DePaul ends on June 12
Northwestern spring quarter ends on June 12. Commencement on June 19
U of Chicago ends June 12 with convocation on June 12-14
Kendall College (a nice saute pan?) winds down on June 19, graduation on June 20

And Highland Park Spring clean-up Saturdays:
April 25
May 2
May 9 and
May 16

Guest Project: Patio Table


Though she’s defected to a town north of here, GreenCricket blogger Beth still has her heart (and family) in Chicago and drives down often. Last weekend, she could be seen scoring a chair at the N. Elston Village Discount.  She’s found that salvage opportunities are also plentiful along the winding roads in her neck of the woods.

Here’s one of Beth’s recent finds and her fantastic makeover.


The Before: A rusty patio table frame found by the side of the road one snowy afternoon near Madison, WI.


The After: A cleaned up table with a coat of fresh green paint and a worldly reversible table top.  To do this, Beth–well, actually her husband Nate–measured and cut a piece of MDF to drop into the top frame.  Then Beth glued a map of London on one side and Paris on the other.  As she says, “It’s perfect for happy hour on the porch. Feeling like a pint?  Use the London side.  A glass of Bordeaux?  Then Paris it is.”  A thick coat of poly resin gives it a waterproof finish.  Thanks, Green Cricket.  We’ll be over around 6.

Highly Recommended

furnituredoctorHeavy doses of  Trader Joe’s style humor lurk on every page, but ask any woodworker or refinisher what’s a good source for tips and advice on restoring furniture, and they’re likely to reference this book.  My neighbor Ann first mentioned it one Saturday morning while we stood admiring the table she and her carpenter-slash-furniture designer had just refinished. When she matter of factly explained how to tell lacquer from shellac, I went home and found the book on Amazon.

It’s a source for basics – what to do with a tack cloth or how to rub on stain- info you can’t find in the size 4 font on the Minwax can.  It covers more expert subjects, too, such as making your own stain solution, wood bleaches and ways to thin paint.  I found the chapter guide to furniture styles straight forward and demystifying.

For those who know his work, author George Grotz is the go-to physician for all things antique and in need of a maintenance .  The cover of my book advertises him as the “Author of From Gunk to Glow,” and with his steady stream of books, I get the picture his hayseed humor belies a smart marketer along with furniture expert.  Before turning off the expressway into Vermont, Grotz some years in advertising on Madison Ave.

A Note About a Very Good Idea


Everyone knows our landfills should be on a diet.  Coming very soon, we in Chicago will have a way to curb their heaping appetites for the large stuff of rehab projects and teardowns.

It’s called the Rebuilding Exchange, an energetic nonprofit market for recycled building materials—-flooring, doors, lumber, bathtubs, appliances and remodeling components with a nice patina and a low price.

This week and next, the exchange is in the process of moving to a new warehouse on West 47th Street, and when complete, cause for celebration! They have lots of ways to join them in the fun and the sustainable diet part:

Come to the Grand Re-opening Party. and since you’re coming, donate a silent auction item or service

Donate your materials from a rehab project, like kitchen cabinets, trim, appliances, bathtubs and sinks

Buy some materials for your next project, a like new furnace, wood stove, refrigerator and stove

You can track the progress of the move and see all that the Exchange has to offer on their blog.

Scenes From a Mall


Along Ridge Road in Wilmette is a showplace of quirky things old, shiny, handmade, one of a kind—you name it.  Touring the collections, it’s clear many of the items were once treasured possessions, the good stuff for Sunday dinners and birthday presents. Others were everyday artifacts from the  kitchen cupboard and top of the dresser.  Still others fit a category all their own, the attractively curious, or curiously attractive, depending on how you feel about an alligator handbag with the head still on.

As you go from booth to booth at the Heritage Trail Mall, the universal question is on display, too:  Who collects all this stuff?


The atmosphere is undoubtably feminine, but the retailers there should never be described as north shore ladies-who-lunch and then go shopping.  Rather, they’re curators of times when big table lamps were popular or everybody carried a plaid thermos to the game.  With a trendy eye, they dust off and polish up some worthy (and sometimes valuable) bygones for recirculation.


Among the vendors are designers, downsized shop owners and passionate shopper-collectors.  Many regularly shop the weekly city auctions and  weekend flea markets in nearby towns like Grayslake and Kenosha.

These vintage wool blankets and throws are $55 each.


Birds as the new botanicals?  Two in a set of nine prints from the 18th century.

Here’s a set of  dried herb botanicals.


Part of the curious collection.


Samantha Stephens and Louise Tate signature wear.  On the left is sheared mouton. On the right is black persian lamb with a fur collar.  Both jackets are in excellent condition.


When you make the trip to the mall, don’t miss one of the most popular booths that features religious icons —Virgin Mary statues, creches, all sizes of crucifixes and Buddhas.  Of course the collector is Jewish.

Heritage Trail Mall
420 Ridge Road
Wilmette IL 60091

Eco Artistry

While in Scout on a Saturday morning, I was thrilled to meet local artist designer Bladon Conner. In a former life he was an architect, but Conner now revises found furniture, chairs and table, into pieces that seem to build on their history. He’ll take a found metal table, add a scrap piece of lumber as the top, then laminate it with an architectural photo or image of some local graffiti. His work fits well into the urban industrial aesthetic of Scout, and Conner had stopped in to deliver some of his pieces. Among them was a memorable old metal office chair that he’d reupholstered with a piece of herringbone tweed jack from a thrift shop.

Conner was probably the first person I’d met who admitted some of his raw materials came from the alley. His designs often start with nothings, like a discarded metal table frame, waiting room chairs, old cast off lumber. Then he does cool things to them that very much define reclaimed design in my book.

Along with Scout, Conner’s work is for sale at Haus in Andersonville.  It’s been featured in TimeOut Chicago, Chicago Home,  design blogs, and if you have 4 minutes and 42 seconds to spare, check out his interview with Phil Ponce on Chicago Tonight.