Design-obsessed people love to talk about their favorite places to get stuff and their favorite sources for expert services. Whether it concerns a cornice, a coffee table, a light fixture, or a sound system, there’s just something satisfying about giving a friend a good tip. That’s what the following pages are all about. Call it sharing the love.


Best Antiques

Reclaimed Showstoppers Revival
Interior designers and savvy amateurs alike flock to this treasure trove of vintage goods. Owner Mark Steinke’s impeccable selection of diverse mid-century and other period pieces-a 1970s Richard Himmel Lucite bench, vintage five-panel smoked mirrors-may lead you to load up a U-Haul and drive away happy.
1401 W. Irving Park Rd., 773-248-1211;

old world elegance Atelier Branca
Here’s your chance to channel the dazzling lifestyle of Alessandra Branca, whose clientele includes CEOs and movie stars. The Italian-born decorator says her shop is a place "where people can be surrounded by Branca designs, one-of-a-kind antiques, and other curiosities I’ve picked up in my travels."Expect to see inspiring juxtapositions-a French porcelain vase ($450), perhaps, with a set of mounted tropical insects in red shadow boxes ($500 each). European antiques rule, but there is also a generous sprinkling of Branca’s own textiles, lighting, and furniture. This beguiling curio cabinet of a shop will morph into a larger store with a new location in May.
1325 N. State Pkwy., 312-787-6123

the real deal Thomas Jolly Antiques
When we last spoke to Thomas Jolly, he had just sent off a shipment to the offices of big-shot interior designers Victoria Hagan and Mark Hampton. And Ian Schrager, the New York- based über-hotelier, had just bought a funky late-19th-century Venetian grotto chair from Jolly through, the selective auction site on which only a handful of Chicago dealers are represented. This made us feel lucky that we have this charming dealer here in our backyard, and that if we want, he will deliver a piece to our doorstep before we even pay for it.
124 W. Kinzie St., 312-595-0018;

best thing that ever happened to andersonville Scout
Ever since Larry Vodak opened Scout on Clark Street in September 2004, things have been hoppin’, design-wise, on that once-sleepy strip. His urban-yet-warm antique store, filled with cozy cottagey finds like green-painted dressers, charming old lamps, and large-scale farm tables alongside unusual industrial pieces and ’50s office and school furniture, is a must-stop for designophiles. Since Vodak arrived, a slew of other cool home shops have opened nearby, including Urbanest (5228 N. Clark St.), an Asian-infused home furnishings shop; Haus (5405 N. Clark St.), a decorative objects gallery; and White Attic (5225 N. Clark St.), a stylish painted-furniture store.
5221 N. Clark St., 773-275-5700;


walk-in design studio Urban Source
Jennifer Rossignuolo and Rose Tejeda-Navarre opened this walk-in design studio to give regular Joes access to wallcoverings, window treatments, and upholstery fabrics that were previously available only to the trade-but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter designers perusing the well-edited selection alongside the Joes. From hand-printed wallpaper to carved panels and glass-beaded walls, the options will torture you. But that’s what makes it so much fun. Says Tejeda-Navarre, "People will come in with one direction in mind and see what we’ve got and say, ‘Oh, my God! I didn’t know this kind of stuff existed. I need to think about this and get my head together!’"Once they do, the pros are there to help them execute.
1432 W. Chicago Ave., 312-455-0505;


Best Travel Finds

asian antiques The Golden Triangle
This block-long, 23,000-square-foot Asian emporium, recently expanded and relocated from a spot up the street, features Chicago’s largest collection of Thai and Chinese antiques. The gallery’s door opens into a fully furnished five-room 19th-century Thai veranda house, disassembled and moved here along with an astounding ancient terra cotta-tiled 18th century Chinese courtyard house. "We’re wood fanatics,"says co-owner Doug Van Tress, and he’s not kidding. You’ll see everything from an antique Chinese elm sideboard ($6,000) to a rosewood bench made of reclaimed Thai railroad ties ($2,200).
330 N. Clark St., 312-755-1266;


period swedish furniture Svenska Möbler

When Andrew Wilder opened Svenska Möbler in 2004, he brought something completely original to the Chicago design scene: the Swedish take on some of Europe’s best-known design periods, from Biedermeier to Deco. Swedish pieces are less ornate and the wood is lighter and warmer in tone than that of furniture built, say, in France during the same periods, and often features decorative inlays of darker wood, making it compatible with other-toned pieces. The scale, too, is smaller, making it ideal for urban dwellings. Wilder brought us something that refreshed our sensibilities-and our living rooms-and for that we are grateful.
516 N. Wells St., 312-595-9320;


ethnic artifacts Primitive

A trip to Glen Joffe’s 40,000-square-foot showroom of ethnographic home furnishings and adornments is like an exotic vacation without the jet lag. Offerings range from anthropomorphic wooden fence posts from the Gurage people of Ethiopia to bronze West African currency to the Five Elements library carved out of aged camphor wood in China. Mosquito spray not required.
130 N. Jefferson St., 312-575-9600;


french tabletop Le Magasin
Laid out in the sort of intimate room settings one might find in a French country home, Le Magasin is a shop where craftsmanship is celebrated-in everything from hand-picked cotton damask and jacquard table linens to Alsatian crystal, fine china, and antique furniture and candleholders. Owner Didier Milleriot, a Parisian expat who’s as elegant as his wares, will charm you with his passion for detail and provenance-as evidenced by the elaborate written descriptions he attaches to each item in his store.
 408 N. Clark St., 312-396-0030;


Best One-of-a-Kind

media systems Baumeister Electronic Architects
This firm-the only one in the area where both installers and programmers are in-house-just won the 2007 Home of the Year award from Electronic House magazine, a techie’s version of an Oscar. Baumeister’s crew can program a button on your car-key fob so your house lights go on, the AC kicks in, and your favorite music begins to play-all while you’re still sitting on the expressway. Perhaps even more important, these pros are there for you if something goes haywire (they have a 24/7 repair service with guaranteed response times).
5693 W. Howard St., Niles, 847-324-5077;


luscious textiles Maison Suzanne
"Coming out here is much less expensive than going to Paris,"says owner Suzanne Cahill of her shop, which is filled with furniture, textiles, and pillows in many styles, from fringe-covered to sleek. Cahill uses unusual European antique textiles, such as a Deco Dutch mohair you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, to transform Old World furniture into lush, dramatic conversation pieces. Don’t miss her antique needlepoint, Aubusson, and tapestry pillows.
479 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn, 630-469-0111;

metal work Milk Design
If you ever needed a good reason to take the stairs, Milk Design’s railings and staircases are it. The brainchild of self-taught artisans Joseph Colosi and Pawel Korczakowski, this fabrication studio specializes in sleek custom metal masterpieces that curve in strikingly original ways. If lounging is more your speed, check out their one-of-a-kind furniture, which includes the mid-20th-century-style steel tube Love Rocker sofa (yes, it actually rocks back and forth) or Ima plasma TV unit, an aluminum-faced credenza with a vertical wood attachment on which you can hang your TV.
 2133 W. Fulton St., 312-733-9053;

furniture restorers Bernacki & Associates
Give him your tired, your poor, your water-stained veneers. Bart Bjorneberg, director of conservation at this 20-year-old firm, will cater to your precious antique furnishings’ every need. Whether it’s for reproducing carved elements or restoring leather upholstery, this is where designers Alessandra Branca, Heather Wells, and Leslie Jones (and major collectors) turn. 424 N. Oakley Blvd., 312-243-5669; Art Installers Armand Lee "Honey, where should we hang the Hockney?"Do not touch that hammer! Call Rodney Crane, Armand Lee’s master art installer, who has a B.F.A., is an accomplished sculptor, and used to work for the Egyptian Consulate placing antiquities in museums. He positions objects with an artist’s eye for proportion and light, and you can pretty much assume that anything he hangs will instantly look better, even your old Sex Pistols poster. (He charges $66 per hour, including materials.)
840 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-455-1200;

historic fireplace surrounds Au Coin Du Feu
Is there a castle with a fireplace left in the entire Loire Valley.
A Louis XVI mantel of pierre coquillière ($36,000) sits just inside the door of this showroom, which offers the largest selection of antique European fireplace surrounds in the country. There’s a Louis Philippe marble surround with a molded cornice ($8,500), an 18th-century model in its original paint ($14,625), and photos of 500 more, chosen from the 3,500 mantels owner Mary Jeanne Reese has in a Belgian warehouse.
470 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-850-2655;


Best Going Green Stores


knock-’em-dead gardens Craig Bergmann Landscape Design
For more than 25 years, Craig Bergmann has consistently whipped up dramatic, innovative landscapes. He’s best known for a billowy, richly colorful look à la Gertrude Jekyll, but no two Bergmann gardens look alike. He’s one part plantsman-with a deep affection for what individual species can do if given a chance-and one part sculptor, combining shapes and textures into visually arresting compositions. 1924 Lake Ave., Wilmette; 847-251-8355;

new england coastal cottage style Seagrass
Life’s a beach at Seagrass. Owner Maria Smith is emphatic that her three-year-old enterprise is not a "lifestyle"store but rather a "life"store, because she can swiftly make over your entire humdrum, landlocked existence in her colorful, sea-sprayed style. Her array of covetable items includes everything from a reproduction of the wood-and-woven Orkney Chair ($1,599), a design born on a windswept Scottish isle, to a pair of nesting tables that look like driftwood ($495). Even better: Design services are free and Smith makes house calls.
895 Green Bay Rd.,Winnetka, 847-446-8444;

best sources for Green Verde and Greenmaker
Al Gore to aisle four. These two destinations are local hot spots for sustainable design. Check out Verde for stylish biodegradable, low-VOC furniture and fabrics (translation: They don’t give off nasty gases that can make you sick). If you don’t think low-VOC sounds sexy, the beguiling T-sofa ($3,000) will quickly change your mind. At Greenmaker, the only dedicated green building-supply store in the state, you can check out a gleaming array of environmentally sensitive bamboo flooring ($3.95 per square foot) and zero-VOC paints (starting at $29.95 a gallon) and gawk at a mock-up of a custom, all-green kitchen.
Verde, 2100 W. Armitage Ave., 773-486-7750; Greenmaker, 2500 N. Pulaski Rd., 773-384-7500;


Best Go-To Stores

When it comes to cutting-edge design, these are the go-to stores. They have forward-thinking owners who curate, rather than simply stock, their merchandise, whether it’s new pieces from well-known manufacturers, the latest reissues from iconic 20th-century designers, or items by up-and-coming people you’ve never heard of.

3337 N. Halsted Street

I.D. might be the only boutique in the world that carries both eyeglasses and furniture. The Prada frames are fab, but what we really get excited about is the extensive selection of furniture from Blu Dot and Bensen, as well as the store’s latest acquisition: the Milan-based Quodes Collection. 

Orange Skin
223 W. Erie St.

Orange Skin has the perfect blend of Jetsons-worthy accent chairs, such as the ones shown below, and well-made,more down-to-earth (yet still ultra-modern) staples, such as the popular, low-slung Hamilton sofa by Minotti.

301 W. Superior St.

At this gallery-like store, you can get a floor lamp designed by Mariano Fortuny in 1907 that still looks amazingly modern today, or a couch that contemporary whiz Karim Rashid designed for Zanotta in 2007 (the Koochy, shown here). It also has a great selection of housewares and coffee table books.

Morlen Sinoway
1052 W. Fulton MKT.

Morlen Sinoway’s atelier is the place to get hot-off-the-press reissues from mid-20th-century masters like Hans Wegner, and the latest designs from contemporaries like the German duo Jehs+Laub and the Danish company Gubi. Sinoway is also a furniture designer.


Best Favorite things picked by Designers

Gary Lee Gary
Lee Partners;

  • Pagoda Red (1714 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-1188;, for Asian antiques.
  • Vivo Upholstery (1528 W. Adams St., 312-226-7779) is absolutely the best for furniture reupholstery.
  • Douglas Rosin Decorative Arts and Antiques (730 N. Wells St., 312-337-6556; and Elements (741 N. Wells St., 312-642-6574; for accessories for practically every project we do.
  • A Lamp & Fixture Shop (3181 N. Elston Ave., 773-866-0220) for lampshades and for rewiring or fixing a broken lamp.

Jessica LaGrange
Jessica LaGrange Interiors;

  • American Science & Surplus (5316 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-763-0313; for flasks, beakers, and other cool stuff.
  • Laidlaw Art Fabrication and Restoration (320 N. Damen Ave., 312-226-6950; They can fix, refinish, or recreate anything: a missing dining chair, a chandelier chain, a dining table leaf-they’re awesome!
  • Lamp Shades Inc. (4041 W. Ogden Ave., 773-522-2300) for cheap lampshades.
  • Davis Imperial Cleaners (3325 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., 866-267-4560), the best in the city for cleaning slipcovers and drapes.
  • Anthropologie (1120 N. State St., 312-255-1848; for housewares; good for teenage girls’ rooms.
  • Colori (2243 W. North Ave., 773-252-4923; for eco-friendly paint.

Denise Antonucci
ASI Interiors;

  • Al Bar Wilmette Platers (127 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette, 866-823-8404; for replating everything from old silver platters and flatware to freshening up door knockers.
  • Blue Flowers Fine Linens (773-286-3083), a custom linens company-the owner has fabrics from all over Europe. She will come to your home to help you design bedding, towels, or whatever you need.
  • Mariani Landscape (Lake Bluff, 847-234-2172; The people here are great, whether it’s for the design-concept phase or for redoing a garden.
  • Anna’s Mostly Mahogany (531 Bank Ln., Highwood, 847-432-9151; is a little-known place that has great antique pieces from old estates.

Best Designers

the devoted modernists Richard and Barbara Gorman
When Barbara and Richard Gorman opened the doors of Manifesto in 1986, storefront showrooms were practically nonexistent. "Everything was locked up in the Mart,"says Richard, an architect by trade. So he and Barbara, an interior designer, decided to open a true atelier, where they could work and showcase their favorite vendors under one roof. At first, they dealt only in authorized reissues of modern designs from 1890 to the late 1940s (the store’s name was inspired by the socio-political manifestos of designers of that era, including Le Corbusier). Over the years, while they’ve added more contemporary Italian lines like Promemoria and Giorgetti (which they carry exclusively in Chicago), their aesthetic remains the same: unadorned lines that achieve their warmth through rich materials and finishes. "We’ve been married 25 years and we rarely argue about design direction,"says Richard. "We’re not trendy. We just like good, classic modern design that doesn’t distract you with a lot of smoke and mirrors."
755 N. Wells St., 312-664-0733;


fabric king Greg Fishman
If there is a great equalizer in the Chicago interior design scene, it is Fishman’s Fabrics. DIY-ers and professionals alike come here for everything from Merchandise Mart remnants to basic solid-colored cotton twills from the store’s private label. There’s a reason for this: Fourth-generation owner Greg Fishman stocks his 10,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse with fabrics from the same mills where big-name textile companies buy theirs. He used to carry those labels, but about two years ago decided to start tracking down the most in-demand textiles himself, importing them directly-and charging his clients less. How does he know what’s hot? "I listen intently,"says this unabashed trend-follower. "A designer will say, ‘I’m looking for a corduroy, and I’d like it in ten colors,’ and then I will go and find what pond I should fish for it in."He has distributors around the world, from Poland to Ireland to Japan, and currently has about 45 interiors fabric lines to choose from, mostly in natural fibers like wool and silk, and a new organic cotton line that he has dubbed Orgasmic Organic.
1101 S. Desplaines St., 312-922-7250;

rug czars Oscar and Sarkis Tatosian
It may be their grandfather’s rug store, but it’s certainly not your grandfather’s rug store. When Sarkis and Oscar Tatosian took the reins at Oscar Isberian Rugs, a business their family started in 1920, Ronald Reagan was president, they had six employees, and their warehouse held 1,000 rugs. Today they have 50 employees, three locations, and 10,000 rugs. "We put more money into rugs than our accountant advises,"admits Sarkis. "We are out there hunting all the time,"says Oscar, describing the hands-on approach that sets them apart from other Chicago dealers, and listing Pakistan, India, Nepal, Armenia, and Afghanistan as their hunting grounds. Top interior designers count on them for everything from 18th-century Persians to modern designs woven in Jaipur. "This is not just a business,"says Oscar. "It’s who we are."
122 W. Kinzie St., 312-467-1212 (also in Evanston and Highland Park);


tastemaker Caroline Scheeler
Over the past few years, Jayson Home & Garden has become the pride of our city’s design scene, with even design snobs comparing it to Manhattan’s ABC Carpet & Home. Whom do we have to thank for this? Creative director Caroline Scheeler. Thirteen years ago, a few credits away from an interior architecture degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she accepted the position of buyer at Jay Goltz’s "messy gift shop"(her words). She stocked the store with overstuffed sofas and French antiques (a look she believes is coming back); she pushed for a gardening department; she wooed Mitchell-Gold, a furniture manufacturer whose pieces are synonymous with attainable elegance (and who helped put Jayson on the map), and then she made room for even more fashion-forward lines, such as Oly Studio and Verellen, along with her own invention, Jayson’s Vintage Glam line of refurbished period furnishings. What she does most masterfully is the mix: Asian with Regency, petrified wood with pony skin, and now, her latest passion: Belgian antiques. "It’s just part of the evolution,"she says.
1885 N. Clybourn Ave., 773-248-8180;

light master Gregory Kay
Gregory Kay, founder of the country’s premier modern lighting showcase, Lightology, is an illumination rock star. A master electrician who began his career wiring roller discos in the ’70s, Kay has won nearly every one of the lighting industry’s top awards for design. Interior decorators and architects across the country depend on him to winnow what’s next and what’s best from emerging technologies the world over. Lightology’s showroom displays more than 12,000 light fixtures in its 20,000-square-foot space, from LEDs and monorail systems to chandeliers to contemporary indoor and outdoor lighting, and many are Kay’s own creative designs. He credits much of his success to, of all people, the man who created the pulsating dance floor in Saturday Night Fever, Paul Gregory. "He taught me the magic of lighting,"says Kay of his mentor. "Now things come to me in my sleep. I’m always trying to do something that’s never been done before."Still, he can’t resist one homage to the past: The Lightology showroom features a re-creation of Travolta’s old dance floor. White suit optional.
215 W. Chicago Ave., 312-944-1000;