The front entrance of Sepia
Sepia’s Tones

We’ve applauded the imaginative and dramatic interiors that Gary Lee Partners created for Sepia restaurant before, and now the team is back with an elegant encore presentation. The Michelin-starred resto has taken over the former Maria Pinto boutique, directly to the north of its building at 123 North Jefferson Street, and will be offering the venue for private cocktail and dinner party events. I went to a celeb-studded preview tasting last night, and am happy to report that the space has been transformed into a versatile, sophisticated room that has the bones to adapt to anything from an intimate sit-down celebration to a rollicking reception. Lee’s design team preserved the handsome gray bamboo flooring and augmented it with a shimmering etched metallic wall, oversized Tony Duquette sunburst chandeliers, an antique pewter and wood bar from Argentina, and a phalanx of massive glass-tiled columns. Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s spread was as delicious as the design—my bouche was very amused by the cantaloupe-cloaked crab salad, sprawling buffet of house-cured salumi and locally-sourced cheeses, slow-poached salmon, and white-anchovy crostini. There is no charge to rent the space, but there is a (somewhat flexible) food and beverage minimum that starts in the neighborhood of $3,500.

A minimalist clock from Fly Bird

Independents’ Day

There is a new Chicago-based online shopping site dedicated to promoting small brick-and-mortar retail stores and helping them move sale merchandise out the door. The aptly named Little Independent (launched in June by Leslie Tweedie, the owner of Roscoe Village Bikes), consolidates a range of discounted goods in categories such as gifts & stationery, home furnishings, gourmet food & wine, kitchen & housewares, books & music, shoes, and clothing. There are no tacked-on fees for shoppers, and all items must be reduced by at least 10 percent. How does it work? Visit the site and browse by business or category, click on the virtual sales racks to see what’s available (this Alessi Walter Wayle wall clock at Oak Park’s Fly Bird caught my eye—it’s $58.50, down from $78), and you’re presented with buying and shipping options. There are already more than 30 stores participating, and that number is climbing daily.

An artist performing at Transistor

Transistor Transition

After almost two years in Andersonville, Transistor is changing the channel and moving to North Center, into the 3819 North Lincoln Avenue storefront formerly occupied by the Deadwax record store. Transistor isn’t an easy place to pigeonhole—owners and spouses Rani Woolpert, an artist and design consultant, and Andy Miles, a radio producer and writer—present a mixed-media bag of treats that includes retailing photography, artist-made furniture and lighting, cards, artwork, and books; presenting concerts and performance art; screening films, and conducting art and music classes. There’s always something interesting and thinky going on, and I’m stoked to see the new space when it opens tomorrow. An edgy contemporary art gallery focusing on up-and-comers, Mink & Arce, is opening soon in Transistor’s old space at 5045 North Clark Street.

Various plants for gardens

Garden Fresh

It’s been a climatically challenging season for area gardeners, with all the sweaty summer swelters and tree-tumbling thunderstorms, but Jayson Home & Garden wants to help you green thumbs get it together. Starting tomorrow, everything in its garden area will be on sale: Plants and lawn ornaments will be trimmed by 50 percent, and containers and pots will be 30 percent off. This is in addition to the ongoing up-to-50-percent-off floor model sale (both events are also online and run through August 15). In other Goltz Group goings-on, this Sunday is the monthly Artists Frame Service outlet sale, and Chicago Art Source has just mounted a group show of new works by gallery artists.

The Fritz Hansen Egg Chair from Haute Living

Haute Deals

Direct your town-car driver over to 222 West Kinzie Street, posthaste, if you’re in the market for luxe trappings but cringe at the thought of paying full price for them. There you’ll find Haute Living, and until August 10 the chic Shangri-la of home design is offering 20 percent off all new orders of its high-end goods, including storage systems, wardrobes, kitchens, interior doors, and furniture such as this scene-stealing Fritz Hansen Egg Chair (list price starts at $5,950). Vladimir Kagan, USM, Phase Design, and Fendi, are rarely, if ever, discounted, so now’s the time to shine and save some dime.

A man fishing on a lake at sunset

Coaster Contest

If you fancy yourself a Midwestern Tina Modotti or an aspiring Ansel Adams, have I got a contest for you. The Biodiversity Project and the Anheuser-Busch company are asking amateur and professional artists and photographers to submit striking images of the Great Lakes, now through August 14, and two winning entries will be used on Budweiser’s Great Lakes Forever beer coasters, posters, and promotional materials. This is the seventh year that Anheuser-Busch has partnered with the environmental group to brew up awareness and protect these freshwater resources. Dip into the rules and sail your pictures here. This is one of last year’s finalist photos, taken by Craig Brandt of Bartlett, Illinois in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.