Al Simon
Rock This Book

I always meet interesting people at my friends Randee and Al Simon’s parties (she’s a talented artist and illustrator, he’s an optometrist who moonlights as a rockabilly Devil Dog…so there’s that), and at a birthday party for Al last weekend I chewed the fat with Chicago photographer Jennifer Greenburg, who had gifted the hep birthday boy with a copy of her latest book, The Rockabillies. This intensely researched art photo book is the result of Greenburg’s nine-year mission to document the lives of teddy boys and Bettie Page doppelgängers across the country who eat, sleep, and breathe the lifestyle. “All the people in the book are real, and photographed in their own homes with their own belongings,” she told me. “No art directors, makeup or hair teams.” The color-saturated portraits capture their swinging subjects in milieus that are inspirational and of interest to any mid-century-modern design buffs. Pick up a copy of the book locally at the MCA and Art Institute gift shops, Broken Cherry, Night & Day Vintage, and Wicker Park’s Marc Jacobs outpost. Greenburg’s original work is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and she’s represented by the Schneider Gallery in River North.

Items on display at White Birch Trading Co.


There is a funky fresh home store in town, and no, it’s not in A-ville, believe it or not. I stopped by White Birch Trading Co. on my way to a screening of Viva Riva! at the neighboring Music Box Theatre (an over-the-top African gangsta movie; good and sexy but violent as H-E-double-toothpicks), and came away impressed by its mix of vintage furniture, old and new accessories, fresh flowers and plants, and fridge-worthy stationery. Crafty local printer Belmont Design did the store’s logo and branding, and displays have a cottagey, summery vibe to them (think plaid pillows, oversized wicker baskets, and birdcage lanterns). White Birch is located at 3735 N. Southport, and is a welcome add to the neighborhood’s mix of shops and eateries.

Tile from Ephraim Pottery

Retirement Pottery

On five-year increments of employment at Ephraim Faience Pottery studios, artists are asked to create special, tightly limited anniversary editions that will be offered for only one year and then put to pottery pasture. For four of those pieces, including Paul McVicker’s double-glazed, crackled Enduring Inspiration Tile (shown here, 7 by 4 inches, $65), time’s up June 30, so order online or stop by the gallery before Thursday if you’re interested. EFP is a small, Arts & Crafts—minded business located in cute-as-a-bug Lake Mills, Wisconsin (about an hour west of Milwaukee, and they offer daily onsite demos‑road trip?). If you’re wondering who or what an Ephraim Faience is, the first word comes from the harbor resort town in Door County (where I happen to have spent all my formative summer seasons), and the second is a method of making glazed earthenware.

TVs on display

Russian Dressing

Jayson Home & Garden is interrupting its usual flea-market programming to bring you a large collection of Cold War–era Soviet television sets, picked up by Jayson buyers from a Belgian dealer on a recent shopping excursion. The streamlined tellies were discovered in a warehouse in Eastern Europe, come in original packaging, and retail for $98 each (there are 110, in case you’d like to make a feature wall). If the sock-it-to-me kitsch of these TVs gives you bad reception, don’t change the channel—there will be lots of other (mostly) Belgian goods, large and small, including silver bistro teapots and coffee urns, and antique furniture re-upped in vintage fabrics. Tune in to Jayson’s Petite Flea this Friday through Sunday, in-store at 1885 N. Clybourn Ave., or online.

A piece by Brenda Hesselberg at I.D.

One-Stop Styling

Vanguard lifestyle vendor I.D. Chicago has been operating for ten years now from a sunny storefront at 3337 N. Halsted St., retailing a clean collection of home accents and furniture, taking care of interior design and real estate brokerage needs, and providing on-site eye exams and au courant optical options. What’s next—a pie counter? If they do it with the classy finesse of their other offerings, I’ll take a big slice of yes, please. Baked goods probably aren’t in the cards, but I.D. is branching out into the contemporary art market with a showing of Chicago artist Brenda Hesselberg’s works on paper (here’s a sneak-peek-deet). Get in with the I.D. crowd at a reception tonight, 7–9 p.m.

A club chair from Half13

Winners’ Circle

I thought I’d follow up on some of the recent design contests I’ve mentioned, in case life blew you in a different direction and you didn’t make it to the parties and events to find out who captured the kudos. Last week’s Guerrilla Truck Show (a fun street party with perfect summer evening weather, great people watching, and the right mix of wackiness and high style) had three winners: self-taught Albuquerque furniture maker Damian Velasquez and Half13, his outdoor furniture line (here’s the Philly club chair, in blue powder-coated metal mesh); the Phlux Creative Lab, with its creative cupcake presentation; and Chicago designer Craighton Berman. And at the AIA’s Small Project Awards, held at Architectural Artifacts, 14 Chicago-area firms were recognized, with highest award status going to three: John DeSalvo Design’s Indiana Dunes cottage, Suski Design’s mid-century remodel in Glencoe, and UrbanWork’s eco-aware parking structure. I’m crazy for Brandon Pass Architect’s shape-shifting StillAction wall/desk, which you can see in action right here.