(From left clockwise) the owners, Stuart Grannen and Eric Nordstrom; Mongo Home’s new vibe; a shop vignette
WHERE 1753 N. Damen Ave. 773-486-6200 mongohome.com
PRICE RANGE As low as $50 for a small curiosity on up to $10,000 for artwork or statuary.
GETTING THERE Street parking on Damen Avenue comes on a wish and a prayer. Best bets are St. Paul Avenue or Willow Street. Or take the Blue Line el to Damen Avenue, and walk north to the store.
HOURS Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Last fall, the owners of the salvage stores Urban Remains and Architectural Artifacts opened a home décor boutique called Mongo Home. The former competitors, Eric Nordstrom and Stuart Grannen, mined the two parent stores for antiques that were gorgeous, shiny, ready to go—and expensive. As a result, Mongo Home had one of the city’s shortest retail life spans: After three months, the owners shuttered it around the holidays. “The original impression that everyone got was ‘Cool concept, but you’re out of your mind with the prices,’” says Nordstrom.
They’ve recently reopened with lower prices and a less polished, more industrial vibe. “My forte is giant things, but it doesn’t work for everybody,” Grannen says. “It will be more approachable, more affordable, and just as fun—but on a smaller scale.”
This time around, Nordstrom is largely taking the curatorial reins to give the space a rugged feel. “For example, you could use an old workshop table as a harvest table or put explosion-proof sconces from old factories in a loft,” he says. Expect Mongo version 2.0 to stock more midcentury modern furniture and lighting, architect’s tables, and multidrawer cabinets, as well as furniture and accents from Argentina. Nordstrom, a history buff, plans to bring pieces from salvaged hospitals and historic buildings around town. Find studio lights from the former CBS building (from $195), illuminated “Aisle” boxes from salvaged theatres such as the Nortown and Lawndale (from $495), and original doors ($395) from the Continental and Commercial National Bank building—the latter, one of Daniel Burnham’s last commissions (it is being partially gutted). “Everything will have a history to it,” Nordstrom says. “I don’t like having items that just have a price and dimensions.” He plans to import the informative style he uses on his Web site, urbanremainschicago.com, where he adds as much detail as possible on each piece: who made it, the year it was created, and where it was salvaged. “I like the more academic approach.”
For the overall vibe, trust that there will be an eclectic mix of the functional and the wacky. “Eric and I both have twisted visions that we’ll bring to it,” Grannen says. “I don’t know that either of us is that hip or sophisticated that we could pull off a Metropolitan Home or Dwell kind of look. [We] supply the stuff, and the next person can coordinate it with what they’re doing.”
Photograph: Kendall Karmanian