A sky-blue awning looms over the maritime mural that flanks the entrance to Svea Restaurant, where a homey dining room hosts meals of traditional Swedish cooking. Swedish limpa bread, fried potatoes, and pancakes sate breakfast cravings, and meatballs and salt pork fill the plates of brunchers, lunchers, and Scandinavian longshoremen.
Transistor’s love for local art and music is immediately evident when patrons enter the store’s Lincoln Avenue space, with visitors greeted by an eye-pleasing mélange of books, records, electronics, and musical instruments, many with Chicago connections. Deep-pine-green walls bear paintings, photographs, and prints by locally based visual artists, as well as silk-screened gig posters from bygone local shows. Books from Chicago arts-and-culture publishers such as Continuum and Taschen delve into film, photography, music, and other forms of creative expression. An ample stock of vinyl and CDs by indie-rock, punk, and classic-rock artists pairs with high-quality sound equipment, such as turntables and headphones from Numark. Regular in-store live performances by area musicians are dutifully recorded and posted on Transistor’s website, also home to a regular podcast featuring music curated by an eclectically minded five-person crew of store DJs. Periodic classes in skills such as oil and acrylic painting, home recording technology, and basic photography help transform art lovers into artists.
When you walk into Sifu Design Studio & Fine Yarns, you won’t find a quiet room simply housing yarns and fabrics. Instead, you’ll walk into a communal space where crafters of all ilks socialize during themed knitting circles, browse handmade crafts from local designers, or further their skills in instructional classes. Something is going on nearly every day of the week. Weeknight classes allow students to learn how to make shawls, mittens, and socks while sipping on BYOB wine, and during the studio’s sci-fi night, the staff screen a movie while guests work on their latest projects. Crafters also can refurnish their stocks of supplies and yarn from the expansive selection, which features a variety of hard-to-find specialty tools. The shop also has a range of vintage products, garnered through its trade-in program, which offers store credit for clients who trade in unused yarn, old tools, and vintage knitting patterns such as booties for claw-foot tubs.
The creative team of framers and decorators at Foursided stocks stacks of creative greeting cards and paraphernalia. The self-described "frame nerds" do more than cultivate a collection of stationery by planting paper seeds in nearby printing presses; they also place prints and objects into frames and furnish homes with original pieces by a handful of favored artists. Staffers also buy and sell vintage flash cards, puzzle pieces, and letter tiles harvested from a variety of objects.
Owner Todd Mack has worked in framing for 20 years, and he draws on his vast experience when custom mounting a broad spectrum of pieces. Vintage and recycled frames, archival framing, and shadow boxes are a few of the options available. Mack's interest in shadow boxes makes perfect sense to visitors who take a look at his own art, which assembles found photos and objects in forms that aren't always 2-D.
On HGTV's Urban Oasis, interior designer Vern Yip ornamented a luxury apartment with prints gathered from Foursided's expansive collection. In that collection, colorful shelves of letter blocks, maps, corks, baby-doll heads, and harmonicas turn personal, nostalgic objects into stylish new decorations. Candles, jewelry, and books round out the gift selections.
Once a month from April to October, more than 100 vendors gather under one roof for one purpose: to sell one-of-a-kind items. This is Vintage Garage Chicago, a fair that specializes in antique and retro merchandise. As visitors meander through the space, they can visit Zzouzi Vintage for colorful frocks and designer purses, Richard's Fabulous Finds for men's apparel, and Estate Chicago for Victorian and Art Deco jewelry plucked from the space-time continuum.
Nadeau characterizes its furniture as "with a soul" because it's true artisan work: handcrafted from wood rather than mass-produced from gasket pylons. Showcase fine china and live gerbils in a mahogany regal glass-door cabinet ($372), or in a hefty, finely trimmed narrow bookcase with drawer ($197). Or, display a new moving picture box on a bobbin leg console table ($116). Furniture comes in a myriad of stains and colors, and many pieces are one-of-a-kind. Nadeau's ever-changing inventory includes a variety of sturdy dining room tables and chairs. Prices and selection may vary due to rotating inventory, but pieces are always fully assembled and ready to welcome any tuckered torso or mound of toothbrushes.