This year, the Museum of Science and Industry’s Smart Home was designed by Larry Vodak, owner of the Andersonville antiques shop Scout ( It’s a perfect pairing, as Vodak’s sure-handed, stylish way with salvaged pieces from libraries, universities, and other institutions is right in line with the recycle/reuse mantra this exhibit espouses. Working only with donated materials, Vodak got very creative—here are some ideas to try at your house. Smart Home is open through January 8, 2012.

Smart Home kitchen
Steel lab cabinets from the University of Chicago, repurposed in the kitchen

To put that distinctive Scout stamp on a kitchen David McNulty ( created three years ago for Smart Home’s debut, Vodak used a few coats of slate-gray paint on the wood-veneer cabinet surfaces and replaced the original upper cabinets with a set of brushed-steel ones from a University of Chicago lab. “I can also find similar cabinets in maple for a different look,” says Vodak, who has recently started working with clients on kitchens, incorporating vintage finds into the designs. Like the idea of metal, but prefer to go shiny new? McNulty suggests a custom-made aluminum cabinet for its lighter weight, finished with a gunmetal gray or bronze tint.



Smart Home dining room

Vodak collaborated with local artist Ted Harris on the rugged beauty hanging above the dining table. Harris put defunct fluorescent light tubes in an aluminum sling and attached them to a steel rod lined with dimmable LED bulbs, though any eco-friendly bulb could be used. “People think the tubes are providing the light, but they actually act as a sort of lampshade,” says Vodak. The fixture can be made in smaller sizes; the eight-foot model shown here is $1,995, available through Scout.



Smart Home bathroom

Vodak turned the design of the master bathroom over to Lucy Minturn, co-owner of The Fine Line ( For a gritty yet warm effect on the floor, she used Eccologie brick, which is recycled from torn-down Chicago buildings and then cut into 3/8-inch-thick tiles. You could also use this tile for an exposed-brick look on your walls.


Photography: J. B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago