The Found Life

The owner of a groovy Michigan antique shop fills his home with art and objects that get a second chance


Brandon and Lisa with their dog, Maya. A foundry cart serves as a coffee table.
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WHO LIVES HERE: Brandon Nelson, owner of the Three Oaks, Michigan, antique shop Ipso Facto (ipsofactoantiques.com); his wife, Lisa; their nine- and eleven-year-old daughters; dogs Maya and Pablo; and cats Peanut and Sadie.

THE DIGS: A beige ranch-style frame house just off Red Arrow Highway in Sawyer, Michigan, a short walk from the Lake Michigan shore. The home’s modest exterior offers no hint of what’s inside—a quirky collection of art and vintage furnishings, many of which eventually will be sold at Ipso Facto. “My house, my shop, my sensibilities in general are like this evolving pastiche of what I viscerally respond to,” Nelson says.

THE LOOK: A mix of classic mid-century designs, salvaged items, and art from different eras and cultures, by well-known artists and by friends. Nelson, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and drummer/percussionist with the band Squirm Orchestra, says his love of art and music profoundly influences his home’s aesthetic.

HEADS UP: The house is filled with masks and sculptures of heads, large and small. A ’50s-era carved-stone African head once owned by newsman Walter Jacobson is displayed in the living room beneath a circa-1940 painting.

FUNCTION AND FORMS: While Nelson calls owning an antique shop “the business of detachment,” certain household pieces will not be sold. They include a Mission-style desk that Lisa loves and some items displayed on it—heart-shaped stones collected on the beach by the Nelsons’ younger daughter and a maquette of a proposed sculpture for Arlington Park racecourse by former Art Institute professor Eldon Danhausen, with whom Nelson once apprenticed.

THE ART OF SALVAGE: The colorful oversized painting that takes up much of one living room wall, painted by an unknown artist on three four-by-eight plywood sheets, once hung on a fence near a building in the couple’s former Wicker Park neighborhood. When Nelson noticed the building was being torn down, he and a friend hatched a plan to save the painting. They succeeded in getting it off the fence but it was too heavy to carry. More than a year later, Nelson drove by the construction site and noticed the piece lying face-down in the alley where they had left it, covered with tire tracks. This time he didn’t give up. “It was meant to be,” he says. If there’s one thing the Ipso Facto owner knows about, it’s giving discarded pieces second chances.

 

Photography: Tate Gunnerson

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