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Right: Oil paintings and etchings of the English countryside accompany an English antique pine bench at RJA Design. Left: At Figaro, one of 20 independent galleries in Vintage Pine, glass mermaid candleholders and other French antiques
Antique French cabinets, English botanical prints, mirrors with exquisite gilt frames. These are the kinds of treasures that interior designers seem to effortlessly unearth for their clients, but that recreational shoppers can have trouble tracking down on their own. One place that makes it easy is Vintage Pine (904 W. Blackhawk St., 312-943-9303), an 18,000-square-foot mother lode of antiques and other idiosyncratic finds that’s accessible to pros and amateurs alike.
Opened in 1979 on this quiet industrial street just off Goose Island as an import resource for French and English pine furniture, Vintage Pine has evolved over the years to include everything from antique crystal chandeliers to table linens, garden stoneware, and other European furniture and decorative objects. The vast selection attracts such interior designers as Nate Berkus and Tom Stringer, who visit regularly to inspect the constantly changing inventory.
The space also hosts 20 independent galleries, each chosen to offer unique wares. Some-like Reza’s Rug Gallery, where you’ll find richly colored, expertly restored antique Persian rugs and European tapestries-offer just a sampling of what that store stocks at larger locations elsewhere in the city. Others are mini showrooms for importers, such as Della Terra’s Katherine Surpless, who sells handmade Italian ceramic plates, pitchers, and lamps and can custom-order entire place settings.
Porcelain cachepots (right) in the main showroom. Vintage Pine’s owners make frequent trips to Europe to fill the space with French and English furniture and accessories.
For everyone at Vintage Pine, the process of tracking down one-of-a-kind items is a labor of love. Co-owners Sallie Miller and Debby Matt make frequent expeditions to France and England, where they rummage through antiques warehouses in search of pieces that speak to their passions. Miller favors English pine buffets and armoires, some of which she displays in her own home. Matt has a soft spot for gilded Louis Philippe mirrors and French commodes.
To round out their inventory, Miller and Matt scour Parisian gift shows and snap up French table linens and accessories, as well as silk greenery and floral arrangements imported from Belgium and Holland. The two also enjoy finding new uses for old pieces. They’ve refurbished antique English woolen-mill worktables-perfect for large dining rooms-and put wrought iron Parisian balcony grates to use as bases for glass-topped coffee tables.
A browse through Vintage Pine’s galleries will turn up as many unexpected finds as the main showroom floor. On a recent visit, antique botanical prints, maps, and fashion illustrations at Barclay Square captured our attention, as did a Louis XV three-drawer commode at Ile de France. Both galleries offer custom services-framing and hanging at the former, expert furniture restoration at the latter.
At V. Amsterdam, an Art Deco blown-glass lamp (left) and a reupholstered velour couch. A vintage Victorian brass plate holds two perfume bottles (right).
At Figaro, new owner Jeanne Steen offers an intriguing selection of 20th-century French fashion prints. You’ll see collectible works by Dior artist René Gruau and delicate stenciled Art Deco pochoir prints. Steen acquires many of the antiques, accessories, and fabrics in her shop with the help of Figaro founder Pascale Remy, who has returned to her native France. Besides prints, the gallery offers marble-topped Parisian bistro tables and wine-themed accessories. A first-edition Babar print makes the perfect baby gift, while brightly colored bedspreads made from vintage Provençal fabrics complete a bedroom.
Interior designer Elizabeth Maxon, who runs the home accessories boutique Elizabeth House in St. Louis, recently opened a gallery by the same name at Vintage Pine. Here she stocks a sampling of her luxurious and romantic custom bedding, upholstered chairs, and antique French beds. Adjacent to her gallery is V. Amsterdam, where a striking pair of 1930s marble lamps shares space with antique occasional tables and a petite ivory leather pouf from the 1950s. Lamps are owner Marilyn Vogel’s specialty; she likes to find French and Italian pieces that can be rewired and adorned with one of her custom-made lampshades for a unique look.
Vintage Pine’s galleries also include Wallis-Mitchel, where you’ll find examples of custom designed and bejeweled hammered-metal countertops and kitchen islands, crafted by a married couple who also create fanciful, brightly colored lampshades and bedding. They share their gallery space with interior designer Lori Wallis, who displays contemporary decorative mirrors, plates, and accessories.
Elizabeth House is the Chicago outpost of a St. Louis–based boutique that carries vintage French beds and chandeliers from the early 1900s, among other pieces.
At Spencer Antiques you’ll see everything from a Victorian bamboo hall tree to a Regency mahogany side cabinet. The nearby Antiques and Fine Art Gallery carries everything from antique leather-bound tomes to vintage leather club chairs. For shabby-chic Swedish and French painted dressers, tables, chests, and chairs, plus sparkling crystal chandeliers and sconces, check out Brooke James Ltd.
Once you’ve found the perfect settee or set of French dining chairs, visit the nearby showroom Off the Bolt (1333 N. Kingsbury St., 312-587-0046; offtheboltfabric.com) for upholstery ideas. Owner and interior designer Norene Fremont, who divides her time between Los Angeles and Chicago, opened her fabric shop to offer to the public the kinds of luxury fabrics typically available only to the trade.
Choose from sumptuous silks, wools, and chenilles at discounted prices, and secure Off the Bolt’s referral services to have the fabrics made into custom designed bedding or draperies. With or without the help of an interior designer, you’ll be shopping like one.
photography: Matthew Gilson