This fall, Joel Klaff and John Diekmann, the design duo behind Workroom (1906 W. Belmont Ave., 773-472-2140; http://www.workroominc.com/), are opening the doors of their innovative drapery and upholstery studio to the public. Diekmann describes the operation, which formerly sold mostly to the trade, as "an intimate, friendly design resource center that makes couture quality available to a larger audience." A retail space will carry fabrics (from $30 per yard), flooring, and a full line of "hard" window coverings, such as Mecho solar shades and wood shutters, as well as a line of modernist furniture, which is still in development. Call before popping in; hours are a bit unpredictable.
Evan Lewis has always been a hands-on kind of guy. "When I was ten I made model sailboats, in high school I was into cabinetmaking, in college that became metal sculptures, and then I got into wood furniture again," he says. Eventually these interests meshed, and now Lewis creates fine buffets, chairs, and other furniture from steel, copper, aluminum, bronze, and other metals. This past May, he opened a 1,300-square-foot showroom (3368 N. Elston Ave., 773-539-0402) to display his work and make it accessible to the public. "I wanted people to be able to walk in and buy things instead of having to place an order," he says. On the floor recently, a copper and steel two-drawer Bombay chest ($11,700) and a spectacular bronze buffet table mixed it up with more affordable occasional tables, vases, chandeliers, and sconces, all with strong silhouettes and beautiful patinas. And though many of the pieces are inspired by the curves and decorative elements of the French Baroque, the simplicity of the metal keeps them from being ornate. "Metal has an immediacy to it because you can weld it to anything you want," Lewis says. "You can stretch it, add to it, form it with hammers. It’s not like a piece of wood where you cut it into an eight-foot board and you’re stuck with it."
"We look for furniture that was built to last and not put together with glue and spit," says Marlene Rimland, an interior designer and owner of Redefined Design (773-472-1225). Along with fellow interior designer and business associate Christopher Campbell, Rimland scours flea markets for castoffs most of us would ignore and transforms them to suit modern sensibilities. Recent successes: tired old armchairs painted and upholstered in a subtle silvery fabric; a dilapidated 1950s credenza refreshed with new doors and a stunning deep-wine finish; and a 1940s bench reupholstered with a whimsical striped fabric. Rimland and Campbell search out pieces with strong lines and high-quality hardware. "You wouldn’t put good hardware on something that’s not worth it. It would be like going to the finest tailor and having an outfit made from fabric that costs a dollar," Rimland says. The partners share a deep respect for skilled craftsmanship. "You can’t find these pieces anywhere today, which is sad because they have more character and are much better quality than most of what is out there," Campbell says. View some of their pieces at Pauline Grace (1414 N. Kingsbury St., 312-280-9880; http://www.pauline-grace.com/).