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Not Using That Garage? Consider a Tiki Bar

How an Oak Park interior designer cut down on wasted space by creating a retreat with island vibes.

Call it a luxury problem: Oak Park resident Jess Milburn was tired of the clutter in her three-car garage. Besides her family’s two rides, the space was filled with objects that her husband, a demolition contractor, had retrieved from historic downtown buildings, like vintage refrigerators, a morgue’s pendant light, you name it. Milburn, cofounder of the interior design firm North & Madison, came up with a fun solution: She cleaned out and transformed one-third of the garage into a tropical-themed site for year-round soirees. “I’ve always loved cool hole-in-the-wall bars in Hawaii,” she says. “So we thought, Why not build our own?”

Tiki bar
Photos: Martha Williams

Aimée Wilder wallpaper serves as a funky backdrop to the bar, with Serena & Lily wicker chairs and a butcher-block top rescued from a church. The designer’s favorite detail is the vintage Frigidaire that her husband jury-rigged to store kegs of Miller Lite and Ballast Point.

 

Shuffleboard table

An essential piece, the shuffleboard table is illuminated by a fixture repurposed from the house. Hawaiian posters and an ample collection of leis round out the look. “When people come over, they are required to wear a lei and drink out of one of the mismatched cocktail glasses,” Milburn says.

 

Garage exterior

Milburn spray-painted the exposed beams, added French doors, and put up a divider wall clad in wood siding. Some of her husband’s accumulated finds are now displayed alongside a few choice purchases, such as thrifted barware and an old-school cash register. “I wanted it to be an eclectic, random space that feels fun,” she says.

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