Vintage shopping in the Grand Avenue Design District
This former industrial hub has blossomed into a vintage, salvage and modernist-inspired furniture destination.
Mixing vintage, modern and modernist-inspired new pieces and home accessories, Post 27 may be the most aesthetically pleasing shop in the Grand Avenue corridor. The shop’s fantastic natural light and uncluttered space show off items that suggest an urbanite with great taste—an expression of a lifestyle—rather than a collector following rules. An industrial stool ($155) and a vintage Stow Davis mahogany credenza ($1,400) share space with a reclaimed wood floorboard table ($900), Color Story credenza by Lapel ($2,400), screenprinted pillows, vintage Frank Stella–designed Lincoln Center Festival ’67 poster ($300) and signed prints by Chicago artist Cody Hudson ($50). Angela Finney-Hoffman (who runs the shop with husband Barkley Hoffman) believes in promoting the ’hood as a new design hub; she’s planning the first Design Harvest (October 2, 3) on Grand Avenue, an event she describes as “an aesthetically pleasing street festival.” 1819 W Grand Ave (312-829-6122).
MCM Grand Showrooms/Uber Modern
Brandon McCleskey and Andrew Weissmann ran a smaller version of their modernista spot for six years before expanding into its current home in a former machine shop (they use the walk-in vault as an office). Between a handsome industrial space, an eye for unique (primarily) midcentury-modern pieces, on-site restoration and refinishing, and a monthly live jazz soiree, the duo’s gallery of 100 percent vintage, accessibly priced furniture and lighting is a magnet for style-conscious Chicagoans. Don’t expect modern icons, however: The duo tend to go for odder items such as a complete swinging walnut Italian bar set with stools ($6,500) and chairs by Milo Baughman ($4,500), with some Danish modern ($750–$2,800) thrown in the mix. “We’re trying to make sure that everything we buy is something people are not going to see somewhere else,” McCleskey says. 2219 W Grand Ave (312-666-3376).
If you still associate this spot with rows of slightly rough furniture ripe for restoration, you might be in for a shock. For now, the four-story shop still boasts finds such as old Prairie Style stained-glass windows ($300–$400), church pews, and Sonotheque’s low-slung seating and shell chairs ($600 each), but designer Davide Nanni says the store has a new mission. “Upcycling is our future,” he says. The shop’s designers take old materials and recombine them in bold, new ways for a custom-built, sci-fi salvage aesthetic. That includes seating made from the base of an airport seating row ($5,500), school-chair seat backs and a massive wooden joist removed from the building itself. Right now, the shop is showing a massive chandelier (“A Tribute to Thomas Edison,” made from discarded industrial light bulbs, a wine barrel and copper tubing, $5,000) and a pretty far-out upcycled desk—for an aesthetic reference point, see Simone’s in Pilsen, a bar executed by Salvage One designers. 1840 W Hubbard St (312-733-0098).
Martha Torno and Tom Clark were gaga about midcentury modern before Wallpaper magazine helped popularize the look in the late ’90s. The pioneering shop opened in 1991 in Wicker Park before moving four and a half years ago to Grand Avenue, where it now carries furniture, lighting, art objects and a smattering of jewelry—all from the ’40s through the ’70s. The store is at the top level of Chicago’s modern shops, with collector-level pricing for flawless items: a Gehry cardboard “rocking chaise” is $4,500. But its greatest asset might be the product background that its well-informed proprietors can provide for beautiful but lesser-known pieces such as a VKG lounge chair ($5,800) by Bauhaus-influenced designers Hendrik Van Keppel and Taylor Green. 2100 W Grand Ave (312-243-5706).
With a showroom, large warehouse and new sister store (see Bldg. 51, below) all within walking distance, Urban Remains is a hub for architectural details recovered from buildings slated for demolition or renovation. While the warehouse store features a room of metal doorknobs, a rack of vintage signage and dozens of heavy doors, the Grand Avenue showroom is a bit like an anteroom to the Smithsonian, where rusty garage signs and grocery-store doors feel like a scattershot collection of historic relics from everyday life. Its showroom, oddly, doesn’t have tagged pricing, but its well-organized website picks up the slack with more than 7,000 artifacts categorized by type or era—reaching back to the mid-19th century. Owner Eric Nordstrom says the showroom grew out of a desire to let fly-in buyers see Urban Remains items in a better light, a move that already seems to be paying off. “We had two individuals from Texas come in and spend over $20,000,” he says. Warehouse: 410 N Paulina St; main showroom: 1819 W Grand Ave (312-492-6254).
This Urban Remains spin-off is “kind of like a museum environment but contains hundreds of items from Chicago’s best buildings, including pieces from Sullivan and Wright,” Nordstrom says. The concept grew out of Nordstrom’s ambitions (“I’ve always kind of wanted to have a museum”) and the desire to have a space as organized as his website—but with better views. Previously, when tour groups or buyers would arrive to see UR’s pieces of history they’d first glimpsed on the Web, they’d end up viewing them in a dark corner of the second floor of his Paulina warehouse. Embarrassed to be showing a half-a-million-dollar Wright collection in such a cramped space, he came up with the larger appointment-only space in Bldg. 51 to better display his unique items. You’d be hard-pressed to find a richer trove of historic artifacts, like a Palmer House stained-glass window ($3,200) or a seat-end figure from Detroit’s Fisher Theatre ($595), for sale under one roof. 1818 W Grand Ave.