And for good reason. The pickings are plentiful and easy to find locally, thanks to the area’s history and geography. In addition, there is plenty of space in this rambling city for dealers to set up shop for the large stashes of imported goods they snag.
Chicago’s roots make antiquing here intriguing. First came the immigrants from across the world, who settled here with family treasures and heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations. Then came the industrialists and entrepreneurs, who amassed remarkable collections of furniture, art, decorative accessories and jewelry. And then the innovations in architecture that originated here and made the city one of the most important design centers in the country also generated artifacts that would eventually be coveted by collectors.
Of course, plenty of collectors clamored for goods that couldn’t be found here, spurring Chicago’s dealers to scour European and Asian markets. Thanks to all these forces, Chicago’s antiques shops are well-stocked and well worth your own hunt. But perhaps best of all, given the more affordable nature of the Midwest, sources here are generally more economical than those on either coast, so it isn’t surprising to spot out-of-town dealers trolling the city’s stores for stock to resell in their own shops, or designers from other locales with clients in tow.
Here’s our select list of spots to get you started this summer.—Lisa Skolnik
River North and Gold Coast
Beverley R Jewelry
172 E. Walton Pl. 312.573.2200
Monday – Saturday 10 to 6
“Antique jewelry is for someone who knows who she is. She wants to stand out in a room,” says Stephen Forward, co-owner of this quaint shop off Michigan Avenue that specializes in antique and period jewelry, specifically from the 1800s and early 1900s.
COUNT ON FINDING: A veritable historical jewelry lesson, complete with necklaces, earrings, pins and other adornments, all evoking different time periods. The Forwards (Stephen's partner in gems is his wife, Beverley) have spent the past 10 years accumulating a collection of goods that includes cameo brooches, Victorian-era gold necklaces, Art Deco engagement rings, rose-cut diamonds and pieces with great historical significance such as a necklace from the English suffragette movement. But that doesn't mean that the pieces should be housed behind glass. While they'll only increase in value, the jewelry is still incredibly wearable, and much of it holds a distinctly contemporary feel. Each piece tells a fascinating story, so allow a few extra minutes to fully absorb the Forwards' wealth of historical knowledge.
WHAT'S NEW? As enormous necklaces and bold cuffs and bangles swagger down the runway, check out the shop's vast selection of statement jewelry. If some of the pieces look familiar, don't be surprised: Many of the designs actually provide inspiration for modern jewelry on the market today.
120 W. Kinzie St., 312.222.0102
4555 N. Ravenswood, 773.907.0101
Kinzie: Monday – Friday 11 to 5; Saturday 11 to 4. Ravenswood: Monday – Saturday, 11 to 6.
Both these showrooms sport an astonishingly broad selection of traditional 19th- and early 20th-century furnishings and decorative accessories culled from Europe and America.
COUNT ON FINDING: Pieces from virtually every historical period represented in the 19th century, running the gamut from dignified sideboards and gracious dining tables to genteel writing desks and leggy dining chairs—all in styles such as Georgian, Colonial, Regency, Federal, Sheraton, Chippendale, Jacobean, Louis XV and more. They also all happen to be utterly pristine yet perfect for today’s lifestyles—despite the fact that most pieces date from the mid-1800s to late 1900s. That means table heights are perfect for their intended functions, and beds are queen or king-sized; these furnishings owe their dazzling perfection to the expert restoration services by European-trained craftsmen who are on staff here.
WHAT'S NEW? Stock is edging into the 20th-century; Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, Mission and mid-century pieces have recently been added to the mix. Best of all, they have also been restored to the same exacting standards as the rest of the stock.
330 N. Clark St., 312.755.1266
Monday – Friday 10 to 6; Thursday 10 to 7; Saturday 10 to 5
This 23,000-square-foot emporium has everything for those enamored of an Eastern aesthetic, from a significant selection of fine-antique Asian furnishings and accessories for purists to Asian-inspired contemporary pieces developed for 21st -century needs.
COUNT ON FINDING: This emporium, recently relocated from a few blocks away, that now sports two full-size authentic period houses built-out inside to highlight different furnishing collections (one has Chinese styling and the other a British Colonial aesthetic). There are also astonishingly comprehensive caches of stock in several arenas, including superbly restored period pieces of every ilk from Thailand, Burma, China and Tibet for purists; colonial furniture as well as the finely wrought 19th- and early 20th-century European pieces that inspired it for Modernists; and
custom cabinets for pragmatists that use reclaimed Chinese wood and are designed to meet 21st-century audiovisual needs.
WHAT’S NEW? Pieces that take gloriously ravaged slabs of wood salvaged from Thai rainforests or old British railroad tracks, such as a stash of rosewood ties that came from a rail system between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, are a specialty here. The creations play to the individual strengths of the wood, leaving some bare and polishing others, then pairing them with metal bases to forge idiosyncratic dining tables and desks or leaving them as is to become benches, tables or stools that stand on their own. During the last two weeks of August, visit an amazing sidewalk sale that slashes the prices on some pieces by as much as 70 percent.
Lincoln Park and Bucktown
2062 N. Damen Ave., 773.276.9600
Tuesday – Saturday 11 to 6; Sunday 12 to 5, or by appointment
This oft-used source for design mavens—from collectors and decorators to Hollywood set designers—has a new Bucktown home that sports a precious and novel mix of items that won’t disappoint.
COUNT ON FINDING: Furnishings, art and collectibles ranging from the late 18th century to the newly hot 1980s, but the mind-set here is “anything goes, as long as it’s great design,” says co-owner Daniel Popuch. Thanks to his discerning eye, only exceptional items make the floor. Find 20th-century Venetian mirrors that get frothier the older they are and lighting of every ilk, from drippy chandeliers to handsome lamps. But special pieces that come and go (and quite quickly, at that) can range from a courtly William and Mary oak library table or a stately mid–19th- century American secretary to cushy leather 1930s club chairs or a romantic bow-front chest. If you’re looking for something specific, ask. “You never know what’s in our warehouse,” Popuch adds.
WHAT’S NEW? Popuch’s latest finds include a respectable collection of framed 17th- and 18th-century maps of Asia; a matched pair of cerused oak chests from the 1950s by Chicago designer Sidney Simon; a muscular wrought- iron and bronze settee with a pair of matching chairs from the 1940s; and a cool little 1940s maple and aluminum watchmakers bench.
1714 N. Damen Ave., 773.235.1188;
902 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847.784.8881
Monday – Saturday, 10 to 6; Sunday, 12 to 5 on Damen Ave.
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 to 5 in Winnetka
Specialists in rare and unusual Chinese antique furniture and artifacts, Pagoda Red mixes Asian antiques with contemporary art. Owner Betsy Nathan frequently travels to Asia to search out high-quality antiques with a singular style for locations in Bucktown and Winnetka.
COUNT ON FINDING: Unusual examples of 19th-century Chinese furniture, Chinese deco carpets, delicate miniature Japanese Buddhas in their own gilt cabinets, antique lanterns, collections of bound-foot slippers and large-scale Chinese cabinets with original lacquer and hardware. The vast collection also includes 18th-century altar tables, chamber beds, rootwood furniture, limestone fu dogs and antique containers for planting indoors and out.
WHAT'S NEW? The scholar’s garden behind the Winnetka gallery continues to evolve—it is an ideal setting for Pagoda Red’s wide assortment of meditation stones and 18th- and 19th-century Chinese statuary. New additions include a three-foot-tall boulder that was originally a column base and is now repurposed as a fountain and a nine-foot-tall Ming limestone threshold with elegant lines and five subtle bats ornamenting its opening. The bats symbolize the five blessings: longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue and an easy, gentle passage.
904 W. Blackhawk St., 312.943.9303
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 to 5; Sunday, 12 to 5
What’s in a name? At Lincoln Park’s Vintage Pine, the stock is much broader than the name suggests. The warehouse overflows with a strong selection of antique and custom furniture from the English and French countrysides as well as European decorative accessories and tabletop. While the Vintage Pine collection is at the core of the floor, some 20 dealers set up mini-storefronts on the perimeter of the showroom, seamlessly blending wares.
COUNT ON FINDING: Armoires, farmhouse tables, French antique gilt mirrors, mirrored French hall chests and 19th-century English chests of drawers. Alongside the antiques, find custom-made pieces handcrafted from vintage English pine.
WHAT'S NEW? Loads of classic dark English oak and old timber-top pine tables, as well as Parisian opera tables and chairs, all from a new European shipment. Hailing from potteries in the south of France, Anduze pots in ivory, Provençal yellow, blue and green are perfect for outdoor planting. Indoor/outdoor tables, in black or brass finishes, are space-saving choices for city patios.