A mini art studio for kids at Colori
Colorful Play Date

Bucktown’s Colori Eco Paint Boutique has an all-day, jam-packed open house and workshop going on this Saturday, July 31, with events and talks planned around the theme of green design and activities for kids. Owner Michelle Quaranta will be bringing in furniture and toy maker The Land of Nod; eco-consultant Cecelia Ungari, The Green Mama; Harmony Haus painting services; and a rep from Genesis Art Supply, who will kick off the day’s activities with an 11 a.m. talk on safe art supplies for the whole family. Diane from the Go Get Your Smock! arts education program will be hanging around from 11 a.m. till 4 p.m. to lead children ages three and up in creative artistic endeavors, so bring the kids and dump them off with Miss D while you consult with the design pros, debate coats of many colors, and develop a plan of attack for creating safe, fun play spaces at home. The doings are free, but please RSVP here.

A silo in Andersonville, painted like the Swedish flag

Anderson Village People

It’s no secret anymore that the far northside strip of Clark Street hovering around Foster Avenue has one of the most condensed and consistently interesting collections of home design stores in Chicago, and this weekend is the perfect time to head over to the neighborhood to visit established favorite shops, check out all the new kids on the blocks, and take advantage of some Swede deals during the Summer Sidewalk Sale. From Friday until Sunday dozens of local businesses will be serving up a smorgasbord of curbside bargains at this eagerly anticipated annual event. I’m itching to rub elbows with shoppers at Brimfield, Room Service, Marguerite Gardens, Patina, City Olive, Foursided, and lots more of my other local haunts to see what they’ve pulled out of their hats (and back rooms) for the occasion. Clothing stores and restaurants are getting in on the action as well, so why not go ahead and make a day of it?

A white, minimalist dollhouse

Hüsker Doings

While you’re taking advantage of the sidewalk sale, schedule some time to tour the calm, cool, and collected design exhibit at the Swedish American Museum, “17 Swedish Designers,” up now through August. The touring show is based on a book of the same title featuring 17 female designers who have exhibited at Stockholm’s Gallery Pascale, and is sponsored in part by IKEA Schaumburg. It’s a delightful look at the state of contemporary Nordic design, which, from the looks of these mostly small-scale glass, ceramic, fabric, and metal objects (some furniture as well, and each woman has between three and ten items on display) strikes me as reductive, clean-lined, and often whimsical. Eva Schildt’s stripped-down dollhouse is pictured here. The museum’s gift shop will be participating in the sidewalk sale as well, with deals on books, vases, tiles, cookery, and clothing.

Orange, 1960's style sofa

Getting Mad

The cool cats of AMC’s Mad Men are back, thanks be to God, and a lot has changed with the gang for season four. Don’s out on his own and barely civil to Betty, who’s shacking up with a silver fox; the upstart ad agency is operating out of cramped quarters; and Peggy got herself a smart new hairdo to go with her newfound assertiveness. What hasn’t changed, however, is the costuming and set design that gets early 1960s home and office life spot on. (That and Joan’s impossibly aerodynamic curves—those are still on display as well.) Design Within Reach has partnered with the series to sponsor a contest with the grand-prize winner getting DWR furniture and accessories inspired by Mad Men (to the tune of almost $10,000 in retail value, including the Raleigh sofa pictured here). Like it? Live it. No purchase needed to enter or win, so sign up for a chance right here.

Patrons at the book fair

Books of Love

The 26th annual Newberry Library Book Fair cracks open tomorrow, from noon till eight, and will continue its best-selling with daily chapters through Sunday. This is the place to get great deals on volumes of used books in 70 categories, including an area of rarities and pricey first editions. But mostly there are recent novels, celeb bios, cookbooks, kids’ books, and art books, and mostly they are priced at less than two dollars. I used to walk away with back-straining armfuls for next to nothing—it’s really the place to be if you have some decorating-with-books ideas in mind, which seems to be on-trend right now. And think beyond the top of your coffee table—why not make some bold bookish moves by stacking them as pedestals for vases and sculpture, running shelves of them up around your ceiling as an alternative to crown molding, or even painting the covers crazy colors and filling bookshelves with them as art, like my buddy Dave Albin did in Pepto-Bismol pink.