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222 W. Kinzie St.; 312-329-9000, haute-living.com
If the name doesn’t tip you off, the $18,900 crocodile-embossed leather sofa will: Haute Living is the Jimmy Choo of furniture stores. And while Chicago certainly has its share of high-end furniture retailers, this new boutique located in a refurbished 4,000-square-foot warehouse space in River North positively oozes luxury. The exclusive Chicago retailer for the line of furniture from Fendi, the famous Italian fashion house, Haute Living is the brainchild of Jeffery Smith, a modern-design-loving businessman whose travels took him all over the world—and then back to Chicago with an idea: to open a store featuring all of the cool manufacturers he’d discovered abroad that weren’t available in his hometown. In addition to goods from Fendi Casa (including the aforementioned mock-croc sofa and a $16,000 Swarovski crystal chandelier), he imports Binova kitchens and Rimadesio sliding doors and closets (both Italian), and new furniture by Vladimir Kagan, a living design legend whose mid-20th-century pieces are collected by Madonna and Tom Ford.
CUSTOM FURNITURE MAKER
Paul Schulman Design
1316 W. Winona St.; 773-989-9074, paulschulman.com
Home renovation, survivors will tell you, is a painful, iterative process—which may be why Paul Schulman’s thoughtful approach to making custom furniture is winning legions of fans around the city. Schulman, and his small team of fabricators and carpenters, have been working in Chicago only since 2000 (he had a similar business in Milwaukee before that), but the boutique outfit has solidified its reputation for top-quality design, millwork, and installation. Schulman pulls away from the pack, however, in his fanatical attention to detail. Interior designer David Hopkins recalls Schulman’s meticulous work in a recent collaboration on a custom-made rift-sawn red oak table. “He had to submit 15 finish samples before we were happy with it, but he did it cheerfully,” says Hopkins, of Interior Elements in Lincoln Park. Schulman, 40, is unabashed about his geekily enthusiastic, hands-on approach to executing a design or building from scratch. “If someone decides to go with us,” he says, “they’re going to be inundated with phone calls.” You don’t have to be an industry professional to hire Schulman and his crew, but you might have to compete with designers for his time—Schulman is loved by stars such as Nate Berkus and Tom Stringer.
Lucy Rose Design
1922 N. Damen Ave.; 773-278-2282, lucyrosedesign.com
If you think English design is all chintz and roses, then hie thee to Crosell & Co. in Bucktown, march upstairs to the Lucy Rose Design wallpaper and upholstery atelier, and let Anglo transplant Lucy Rose Singh set you straight. Bringing in luxury fabric imports from Britain, Singh is the exclusive U.S. distributor for most of the lines in her show room. “All along, English design has taken its cue from landscapes and gardens, but the 21st-century British look is a more sophisticated, stylized way of looking at flora and fauna,” she’ll tell you. Then take a look for yourself. We guarantee you’ll love Rapture & Wright’s utterly fresh and modern bird-and-butterfly pattern hand-printed onto linen and Celia Birtwell’s whimsical, fashion-forward designs, which Singh has used for the shop’s roman blinds.
There are countless painters around town that can do the basic spongework to make your kitchen replicate a villa in Tuscany. But if you are ready for something more modern or have your heart set on a look that, God forbid, involves metal leaf with an antiqued treatment, Bill Borman is the faux finisher to call. Borman and his team at DesignRed create hand-painted masterpieces that rival intricately detailed wall-paper; some of their most drop-dead gorgeous work is chinoi-serie murals involving birds, trees, and flowers. In fact, the designers here seem capable of anything: from the fabriclike Fortuny pattern stenciling to transforming flat surfaces into rich and textural faux bois that truly fool the eye.
826 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-477-2256
You may turn red asking for the “Just Blo Me” service on the menu at Blo salon and spa, a cotton-candy pink space on the garden level of an Armitage Avenue walkup. But close your eyes and make the words come out, because it happens to be one of the best deals in town. For $20—significantly less than you’ll pay at like-minded high-end salons—you’ll get washed and conditioned, then blown out section by section for that smooth look only a professional with a heat gun can achieve. The service takes less than 30 minutes, making it perfect for those lazy mornings. Conveniently, the salon opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays, and there’s free coffee on hand so you’ll wind up feeling as perky as you look.
814 N. State St.; 312-787-3416
Anyone can hem your work pants or shorten the sleeves on a suit jacket. But where would you go if you wanted to move the darts on a Richard Tyler evening gown? Maria Tesseris, the head seamstress and owner of the Golden Needle, gets the nod from the city’s neurotic fashion types—which is the kind of recommendation you want when handing over a $10,000 dress. Tesseris’s special talent is understanding fine-garment construction, so in the event of a deeply invasive alteration she can take something apart and put it back together without ruining the integrity of your special piece. Tesseris closes shop on Mondays and takes off the entire month of August for a European-style long vacation, but regulars know better than to go elsewhere in the interim.
Andrea Liss of Hannah Handmade
Call 800-670-6703 to make an appointment; hannahhandmade.com
In the Evite era, it’s nice to see an invitation designer doing things the old-fashioned way. Andrea Liss—who began her Evanston-based invitation and design studio Hannah Handmade in 1991—forgoes high-tech machinery and impersonal assembly lines in favor of creating pieces by hand. She and a small staff use uncommon materials such as metal, suede, embroidered silk, and leather in projects that have run the gamut from invites branded into wood, to re-created circus posters silk-screened onto canvas, to custom neckties with pertinent info woven into the fabric. Because of the intensive fabrication process, jobs cost upwards of $3,500 and take six to eight weeks minimum to complete. But if you’re looking for a showstopper before the event even happens, the process is worth the wait. Just ask guests of Michael Jordan’s 40th birthday party, who received Liss-designed invites made from faux basketball skin tied closed with suede. Liss opens her studio for appointments only.
COUTURE DRY CLEANER
Davis Imperial Cleaners
3325 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.; 866-267-4560, davisimperial.com
Chicagoans with couture dresses in distress have been known to take their soiled finery all the way to New York City to have stains removed at Madame Paulette, the legendary dry cleaner on the Upper East Side. But those in the know entrust their best garments to Davis Imperial Cleaners, a 51-year-old family-owned business on the far Northwest Side that takes a serious, technical approach to restoring delicate fabrics, leather, and furs. Take in a red-wine-stained blouse, and the staff will interview you about the conditions of the offending incident, analyze the garment’s weave and age, and inform you about possible shrinkage before starting work. The service doesn’t come cheap (cleaning a cocktail dress, for example, starts at $65), but Davis will pick up and deliver, and regulars attest that the work is as good as you’d get from Madame Paulette at about a third of the price—even before factoring in the cost of air travel.
Photography: (Image 1) Courtesy of Fendi Casa; (Image 2) Anna Knott