One of the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute
Tiny Baubles

You have only until January 8 to witness the beginning of a new Chicago holiday tradition, the decorating of the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute. I love descending into the bowels of the museum to examine these marvelous little jewel boxes in their chambers of darkness, and was a little taken aback to hear they were going to be tarted up for the Yuletide season. But I have glad tidings: the halls were decked with the same degree of restraint and authenticity that Mrs. Thorne employed when the 68 tableaux were originally constructed in the 1930s. Petite period pieces arrived from master craftsmen in Italy, Germany, South Africa, and across America to add a little twist to six rooms. (Very little, actually—blink and you’ll miss some of these embellishments—the experience is akin to an urbane Where’s Waldo?) The sole tannenbaum stands in the Victorian drawing room and is based on the photo of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in front of their tree; the photo responsible for popularizing the German tradition of hacking down an evergreen and hauling it inside for a few weeks in December. My favorites are the cheeky touches added to the mid-century California hallway—can you spot the ceramic Otto Natzler and the wee abandoned dreidel?

A unique chair designed by Gaetano Pesce

Riot on the Set

I saw the new James Brooks flick How Do You Know over the weekend (with Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, and Paul Rudd; elevated mildly out of rom-com predictability by appealing performances and stylish New York settings, but not really worth cutting into your holiday baking time for), and walked out of the theatre with one thing on my mind: Where have I seen that chair before? God knows, it’s tough for anyone or anything to garner attention when sharing screen time with Reese’s chin and Owen’s nose, but this carnival-striped Gaetano Pesce chair and ottoman combo manages to pull it off in spades. It’s from the Up5 series originally designed in 1969 and reissued in 2000 by B&B Italia, and is available locally through Luminaire. The scene-grabbing seat comes in several other fabrics, and was inspired by a rounded female form, burdened by that ball-and-chain footstool, which makes it a pretty perfect piece to dress the set of Wilson’s well-meaning-but-still-kind-of-douchey pro–baseball player character.

A marble bowl from Munamie

Hey, Mickey

Dozens of customers and friends turned out last week to sip tequila, snack on homemade salsas, and celebrate the opening of stone sculptor Miguel “Mickey” Mayla and his wife Jamie’s new Northbrook studio, Munamie (the moniker’s a mash-up of their names as well as a play on mon ami, my friends!). Mickey, a Mexican native who came to this country as a teenager, shows his onyx and marble bowls, lamps, platters, and pedestals at a lot of local art festivals during the summer, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen his polished, seductively striated pieces before. The couple will open the studio periodically for more parties, so put yourself on their mailing list. Or you can always make an appointment to see inventory or talk about commissioning something special by calling 312-498-5538 and emailing

The interior of 3rd Coast Cafe

Raising the Barr

In the 1990s I spent hours and hours loitering over caffeinated beverages and lofty beakers of Weissbier at the Gold Coast coffeehouse and wine bar 3rd Coast Café, nestled into the ground level of a vintage apartment building at 1260 North Dearborn Parkway. The place was a magnet for art students, musicians, arrivistes, and trustafarians, and there were frequent clove-cigarette-scented gallery openings, readings, and concerts to hit up. I hadn’t been over there in years, so it was nice to see that the joint is still an ardent supporter of the arts, and is currently featuring the metal musings of Riggs Barr. Some of the organic, leafy mirrors and wall pieces are quite different from previous work I’ve seen of this versatile, affable furnituremaker and sculptor (he shows some tables and cabinets at Urbanest, if you recall.) Most of what Riggs does is custom, but stop by the show for ideas on what you can have him make for you. It runs until about January 10; after that you’ll need to make an appointment at his Fulton Market workshop.

Candy jars from Architectural Artifacts

Salvage Fun

Unearth additional discounts at Architectural Artifacts during the end-of-year sale, where owner Stuart Grannen has whipped out his Magic Marker and slashed prices again this week on items in his 80,000 square feet on inventory. Everything was previously reduced by 25 to 75 percent, including new shipments from a buying spree that have been arriving almost daily. As an added holiday treat, you can also take half off of everything that’s in the online store, including these versatile Argentinean carameleros—glass and steel display cases used originally for selling candy. Chicago Home + Garden featured one years ago as the springboard for one of those fun “What would you do with…?” designer inspiration pieces, and I bet some of you are still thinking about that and have the page tacked up on your mood board. Why not treat yourself? This sturdy 16-jar example is ready to stash all sorts of toppings for your next pizza party (okay, some ideas might be better than others), and is on sale for $1,600.


Photograph (3rd Coast CafÉ: Bryan Barr,