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

This Week’s Project

sp_chalkboardgrn_qt_lOnce Communication Central for the classroom, not to mention the scene of major algebra anxiety up there in front of the entire class, chalkboards are now for anywhere.  This is thanks to the cans of Chalkboard paint you can pluck from the shelf and brush on just about anything.

This week, I’m mixing it up a little with a plan to take said material and see how it performs and transforms three random items.  One’s an old vase from the basement, another is a salvaged Lack coffee table – half a Lack, really since it’s missing the lower shelf.  The third item to follow.

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.

Guest Project: Missy and Kirk’s Sears Mid-century Dresser

missy-and-kirk-compositeA gorgeous before and after by Missy, an English major who wrote up the project, and Kirk, who took the photos and whose visual stories – dont’ miss them – can be seen here. Thanks, M & K.

Found Item: 9 drawer mid-century dresser

Where: for $25 (picked up from Maywood, IL)


The Makeover: First, I was would just like to say how ridiculously flattered we are that Diana invited us to do a guest post!!  This is one of our favorite blogs and I giggled for about 10 minutes when I read the email.  Thank you for letting us put our project up here!

Kirk and I recently redid our bedroom, nothing fancy, but we moved some furniture around and put some new art on the wall, etc. and in order for everything to fit, we had to smoosh our two mis-mismatched tall 5 drawer dressers next to each other on one wall, very effective…but not so pretty (and also kept the bedroom door from opening all the way).  So we went a-dresser huntin’.  We first looked at new, which is just silly as everything new was way out of our price range.  Then Kirk sent me one of Diana’s make-over’s from a while back, a beautiful 3 drawer retro chest she updated with a touch of funk…and I was in love.  So we went shopping for mid-century furniture on ‘ye olde craigslist‘ and that very day we found our dresser.  We also happened to be picking up our chair and footstool that Diana reupholstered for us that evening, and told Diana of our plans to copycat her wonderful project.

progress_kirk_missyWe went with the golden oak stain and black semi-gloss enamel to coordinate with our existing furniture and sanded everything down  (favorite new toy = orbital sander), stained (two coats) polyurethaned (two coats), and painted (two coats).  We found the furniture makers stamp in one of the drawers and a little research told us that the dresser was made by Harmony House for Sears & Roebuck in their hay-day.  Our one indulgence on this project was the $40 natural cork contact paper I lined the drawers with because even after a good scrubbing, the drawers didn’t feel clean (we also had enough cork leftover to cover some coffee cans for plant cutting containers and enough stain and paint left for future projects: BONUS!).  Even so, we came in about $200 less than we would have with a comparable new dresser on the cheap, and this one is solid wood!  No particle board! Hurray for the refurb!


Materials: Dresser: $25, Minwax Wood Finish in Golden Oak $9, Minwax Clear Semi-Gloss Fast-Drying Polyurethane $9, Valspar Satin Black Latex Enamel $9 (all 1 QT), 4 Rolls Con-Tact brand Natural Cork Self-Adhesive Contact Paper (18 in. x 4 ft.) $39.96.  Total: $91.96.


Monday Live Dive Results


Encyclopedias, anyone?  Back from  the scouting trip–day one of the Winnetka spring clean up.  Today’s pick up was north of Tower Road. Tuesday’s will be north of Pine Street.  There was stuff to be had there, most of it fell into a few categories:
Kitchen cabinets
Doors and windows
Upholstered furniture
Hockey equipment & sporting goods
Boxes of clothing

Here are photos of some of the curb items.  These will give you an idea of condition and size in case you’re interested in making the trip this week.  I arrived at a little after 7 am, and the trucks were picking up by 7:30.

Couldn’t these have been donated?  An entire collection of patio furniture cushions.

img_32501Ditto for this crib.  Perfectly good.

img_3246Living room furniture for someone.



Weathered adirondacks.


Spring clean up aptly named.