Where: River West
521 N. Halsted St.
Price range: Objects and accessories start at $250; furniture up to $12,000.
Exclusives: Every item is handmade for the store.
Parking: Street parking on Halsted Street is a dicey proposition after 5 p.m., but look for flasher spots just south of the Iguana Café.
If the phrase “Western style” conjures up images of beamed ceilings, mounted antlers, and a Santa Fe–inspired rug or two, it’s time to visit Caste, a brilliant home store in River West that merges Montana with Metropolitan Home. The brains behind each piece in the space are business partners Ty Best and Brad Rowley, both 36, and both natives of the Big Sky State. Rowley manages the store in Chicago, while Best (an artist and self-taught furniture designer) designs the pieces in Missoula, where all of the furniture and accessories are handmade, down to the connecting dowels.
Caste, which means “pure and clean” in Latin, is designed more like a gallery than a typical retail space, with Best’s seasonally changing art installations as a backdrop. He encourages customers to linger and examine the craftmanship. “The pieces are all simple and refined, but each has a quirky personality. They evolve as you see all of the details,” he says. All the furniture is created from natural materials, from metals and porcelain to domestic hardwoods. Circular walnut side tables ($550 for the smallest size) sit atop curved legs that are treated with iron oxide to achieve a modern, grayish tone. Small tables are each created with a different hardwood top ($1,400). For one of the most stunning works, two cut pieces of olive wood sit atop hand-forged bronze legs to form a tall table ($11,300).
Linger and you’ll see that, overall, the traditional Western aesthetic has not been abandoned, just given an elegant twist. In place of the iconic bleached skull, the duo offer up “Dead Bird” sculptures ($220 to $500), which are not nearly as gruesome as they sound. Created flat with an extended wing out of wood or porcelain, the birds have a poetic quality about them. Not surprisingly, once a piece like that is gone, it’s gone. Best says he may produce a second edition of a piece with different materials or in a different size, but, most often, “we stick by the one-of-a-kind nature of the work.”
Photography: Eric Hausman