Matt Puchalski set himself up early for a career in the arts, working as a framer at a nationally renowned studio in high school and enrolling at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. When his workplace unexpectedly went out of business, 20-year-old Matt shrewdly bought up the equipment and customer list, set himself up as the sole proprietor, and decamped to the safety of his parents' basement, where he balanced his coursework with the demands of a small-business owner. Matt's determination and hard work paid off, with streams of repeat customers and corporate clients paving the way for three subsequent business expansions and the company's current success.
A far cry from the shop's humble roots, the current studio shows off the talented staff's technical skill with projects such as a framed flat-screen television or 75-gallon aquarium. Technicians touch up and bring to life faded photographs with restoration projects, and the store's designers craft stunning framing compositions that decorate homes, corporate offices, and even the walls of the White House.
Now that he no longer has to juggle frame crafting and school with the rigors of owning his own business, Matt has time to return to his art, employing brilliant splashes of color to create impressionistic depictions of the stately granite structures, glistening skyscraper lights, and active volcanoes along the iconic Chicago skyline.
Walter E. Smithe's huge showrooms contain more than 500 collections of high-quality designer furniture and home accessories, stocking brands including Drexel Heritage, Nourison, Hancock and Moore, and Bradington-Young. Fill a brass-trimmed vase ($119) with flowers, pencils, or wishes, or keep winter moisture stylishly contained in a hand-painted umbrella stand ($99). Walter E. Smithe's selection of four-legged pieces includes an Ontario end table ($299) and a Louise chair ($599). Most products come with impressive warranties, including a 10-year guarantee for every cushion on the comfy Kayla sofa ($1,749).
In 1908, Madison and State became the numerical zero-markers of Chicago’s new street system, making the corner where they intersected the new epicenter of city commerce. On nearby Wabash Avenue, the company jumped into the furniture game the same year, selling home furnishings built by skilled local craftsmen. More than 100 years later, the shop still buzzes with that original energy, connecting customers with the finest home furnishings from more than 50 manufacturers. The fourth-generation family business has migrated from the city center to five suburban locales, where showrooms display gleaming hardwood tables, towering entertainment centers, and elegant leather couches. Along with accent pieces and kid-centric design items, each Toms-Price location also offers special services such as furniture refinishing, reupholstering, and moving help. On-staff interior designers can also lend their eye to design projects, artfully arranging rooms and selecting the color schemes, fabrics, and wax doll heads that best bring out the inner you.
Century Tile helps dress naked or aging floorboards with a sweeping selection of more than 10,000 carpet, tile, hardwood, and laminate options. Disguise trapdoor entrances to vampire sleeping spaces with 3/4-inch solid-oak planks ($3.59/sq. ft.) to prevent nosy houseguests from disturbing an undead roommate’s daytime nap. Or opt to cover kitchen floors with durable, low-maintenance Terra Stone vinyl tile ($2.99/sq. ft.) or Allure Foundation laminate flooring ($1.59/sq. ft.), which provide a sturdy stage for impromptu break-dance competitions. Appalachian Trail broadloom carpeting ($2.49/sq. ft.) adds cushion to rough foot highways, and random-length linear glass-mosaic tiles ($11.98/sq. ft.) add a pop of color to barren backsplashes and bathrooms. Oasis ceramic wall and floor tiles ($1.99/sq. ft.) or Raja porcelain tiles ($1.99/sq. ft.) can add accents to homes.
Threaded with dramatic marble patterns or shimmering quietly in zinc, Precision Stone Designs' countertops are eco-friendly and backed by a one-year warranty. Slabs of granite, marble, quartz, and engineered stone—all available in about 200 colors—await choosy renovators, as does 3D design software that helps homeowners realize their design dreams. Technicians typically install countertops and cabinets themselves, but industrious customers can opt for customizable DIY packages.