Doesn’t every city have its must-see decor and furniture stores? (If you are into that sort of thing, that is!) The design pilgrimage stores. Like ABC Carpet & Home in New York. In Chicago, I’d put Jayson Home as one of those stores and can you believe I’ve lived here 11 years and have never stopped by. They are upscale, but they have their annual warehouse sale this weekend with deals. They also have occasional flea markets. I’d highly recommend you visit Chicago, but if you can’t, you can shop Jayson Home on their website.
If you like this antique mirror look, you could easily create this look. With a picture frame with glass. Use milk paint or chalk paints on the frame, and Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Paint on the reverse side of the glass, then distress the Krylon paint.
Usually shopping lists for weekend errands look like this:
New hair dryer
But what if this was a Saturday shopping list:
Ethiopian coptic cross
Vintage Luke Razza ram pendant
Isn’t that a more interesting list? That was my list yesterday as I headed to Chicago’s Randolph Street Market. Usually I am not a “wee! buy all the thingssssss!” type blogger. Today’s post is more an example and a lesson about how it pays to know what you’re buying and what it’s worth at any point in time. Prices can rise when a vintage or imported item becomes more popular. If you’ve done your homework and you know something is a good value and you’ll love living with it, consider not passing it by. Especially if it’s a collectible that holds some value that you can re-sell later.
So, why these things? Two years ago I photographed a kuba cloth at Randolph Street Market that’s still stuck in my mind today. Most things I see, they’re forgotten the next second. You know when you feel so strongly you should get something? Just get it. I posted about that lost kuba cloth previously. Here it is:
Nice, huh? Two years ago this was $75-85. Today they had kuba cloth which was very different, which I also loved, but it cost much more now and I didn’t bite. Here’s a bit of it – it was very long, repeating this pattern:
I also didn’t get this because this pattern is really too strong to display in my home. It would likely stay folded up in a collection. Which is sad. These things should be seen and enjoyed and actually used. The mud cloth from a few years ago had a pattern that would have looked fantastic displayed in our house.
I did pick up a mud cloth with a pattern I really like. Here’s a glimpse of the pattern:
It might wind up as a throw over a futon in our basement, which is becoming a “man cave” media room with black, beige, metallic paints, and different patterns from around the world. There’s a chair that needs recovering and this would look fantastic on it, but I’m not sure I’ll have the heart to cut in to this.
The Ethiopian coptic crosses were a long shot. They’ve been on my want list for awhile. There’s a certain place where I want to set two. There are vendors at Randolph Street Market selling many global goods, so you never know what you’ll see. If you haven’t seen these Ethiopian coptic crosses before, they are these silver beauties here:
You can certainly find these coptic crosses online, but it’s always more fun to find something in person. Also I would think a well-made cross could hold value. I’d rather have that than yet another pair of sandals.
What’s a Razza ram? You ask? It’s this:
Photographed on Hanh of Life in Travel. The Ram is the sign of Aries and I’m an Aries, so this is why I like it. I wouldn’t blame you if you think it’s ugly. It’s not a gorgeous object. But styled up on Hanh, I see the potential. She has a knack for putting strong things together. See:
There was a Razza ram at Randolph Street Market a few years ago. That’s why I thought there’d be a chance one was there today. It was black and silver which I like even more than the beige and gold:
But, I did not get and did not FORGET.
I spotted one beige and gold Razza ram this weekend. It was $325. The tag you see up above is tagged on the Razza ram’s chain. $125 two years ago. Still a bite but it is vintage and collectible and re-salable. You see them on eBay and Etsy selling for these prices.
It’s like my own little global goods cornucopia – things from the Congo, Bangladesh, Morocco, Indonesia, and good ol’ salvaged tin ceiling tiles from the USA. You’ll be seeing more of some of these … a few DIY and “half-DIY” projects coming up …
So today I met in person a design idol! Martyn Lawrence Bullard was in Chicago, at the opening of the first PIRCH showroom here. I figured if it’s worth his time and brand to attend, maybe I should see it. And my copy of Live, Love, Decorate would be really sad without his autograph. Martyn delivered an autograph with penmanship as beautiful as the rooms he creates, and he was so gracious to chat with for a moment.
Beyond the celebrity star appeal of his clients and the Million Dollar Decorators show, Martyn’s work has inspired me to decorate more brave and bold. The pages of his book opened my eyes to bigger ways to use the things I find in India and other places we travel. Instead of buying all small tchotchkes, I now spring for impactful things that pack a punch of personality – like old, large pieces of painted and carved wood from Indian door surrounds. You can display big pieces like that on a wall, or build them into one-of-a-kind furniture.
A few years ago I shared one of Cher’s homes that Martyn designed (he’s decorated several for her and his book tells the stories) – an Indian fantasy home. It’s very much how I want our apartment in India to feel:
I’d like to fill our Chennai apartment with carved wood, large artwork by Indian artists like sculptures and paintings, neutral colors and lots of pattern both subtle and bold. It’s a pied-à-terre – an occasional “second home” – so it should feel like a vacation spot. My vision is for it to be a creative space where we can promote the work of Indian artists and craftspeople.
This is Cher’s bathroom with its wood jaali screen cabinets and the carvings in the tub surround that look like Taj Mahal carvings:
You can see a global mix of Moroccan, Indian, Chinese, Syrian and Egyptian in this home. Check out my Cher Indian Fantasy post for more photos of its rooms.
Another element that’s inspired me is the use of large textiles as a headboard, like this antique Egyptian wall hanging in a bedroom Martyn designed for Ellen Pompeo:
My master bedroom needs a refresh and we have a silk Indian carpet that I should hang like this. I had hung it over the bed like this in a previous home. The rug – being silk and light color and it wasn’t inexpensive – we don’t want to put it on the floor. So it’s unfortunately rolled up in storage. We should be able to live with beautiful, quality things! Hanging carpets on walls is a perfect solution to enjoy them while protecting them from muddy paws and snowy boots.
So you may know Martyn Lawrence Bullard. But what’s PIRCH? Well … it’s a showroom store open to the public that carries quality brands of appliances and plumbing for the kitchen (indoor and outdoor) and bathrooms. Here’s a few shots of things I liked – even the soap was beautiful!
It’s hard to tell from the photo but those silver and gold circles scattered about were like little bowls mounted on the wall, a cool idea:
Is it sink basin or sculpture? Both:
This is a world where even the soap is beautiful. These were like geodes:
These baskets were so shimmery. I wanted one for the Indian-Moroccan closet sitting nook I’m finishing this weekend. But to be honest, I have far more fun hunting things like these down while traveling overseas than buying them at a retailer near my house – that’s too easy! I think I’ve found beaded baskets will be a hunt on a future travel to Africa (or, Bali?):
My style is more global so I was drawn to things with that look.
From their website, here’s a kitchen with a nod to Chinese hardware on a cabinet. Love this:
In our area of Chicagoland there are plenty of places to see brands like Wolf, Sub-Zero, Thermador, Miele, La Cornue, Rohl, Kallista, Lacava, etc. So what’s different about PIRCH? Well, in most showrooms you can look at the product, you can get the specs, you can hear the sales pitch. But do you get to see the product in action? Do you get to see how water flows? Do you get to feel the hardware in your hand? I think that’s an often-overlooked but very important element – the hardware should “fit” you. Do you get to experience how sensitive and powerful the range is, how it handles from searing meat to bringing a huge pot of water to boil? Most of the time, no. But when you buy a car you get to drive it around first. When you’re investing in a kitchen or bathroom renovation, shouldn’t you be able to see products in action first? When I walked into PIRCH, I could smell food cooking!
When we renovated our master bath, it was the third most expensive purchase we’ve ever made, really. It cost less than our mortgage, less than my graduate degree, but much more than either of our cars. Thankfully we like the result and over seven years since, it has proven its functionality for our needs. But we didn’t get to try anything beforehand. And our difficult experience with a contractor made us shy about doing more major renovations. PIRCH delivers “end-to-end” – they will even install. Getting all needs from one source is a very compelling idea.
If you’re newer following along here, you might not know about our apartment in India – it’s half-finished and on hold until we can give it hands-on attention. The kitchen is done but two bathrooms are not. I’m certain we’ll be shipping stuff over from the U.S. because we found it too difficult to source what we want within India. We’re not connected to the design and construction industries there and we have very limited time. So I keep my eyes open in the U.S. for things to ship to India. At PIRCH, I got obsessed with this for one of the bathrooms:
The bathrooms are tight, so our sink vanities need to be nearly non-existent, really. But small size doesn’t mean I don’t want big style! I loved this – love the natural wood element, the proportions, the gold plumbing pipe, even the patterned texture under the basin which I didn’t notice until I crouched down to get a better look at the plumbing design. I appreciate that little detail because you can see it when you’re, you know, sitting in the bathroom.
I think the benefit I’ve gained from studying designers like Martyn Lawrence Bullard is that it doesn’t matter that I don’t have the budget to hire them – I can still live with big style, unique style. In fact you can build something like the vanity shown above. I’m not above DIY’ing, as you can see in this blog. You just need the vision, the idea. Let yourself dream, and dream big. Then, figure out how to make the look happen within your means.
I tumbled from the dimness indoors out into the sunlight, reeling on 4″ wedge heels. My head felt light and like it was spinning. I was intoxicated! Do you ever get a high from seeing beautiful and inspiring things?
I stopped by a place that I’d heard about for years – Primitive in Chicago. They have antiques from cultures around the world but primarily from Asia and Africa, and they collect old and new pieces that were originally used by the people intended to use them. They aren’t things made to sell to tourists, and they’re maybe not even for enthusiasts like me. These are things for people serious about collecting and willing to invest. I would think of it as, people purchasing these things are not “getting” or “having.” They are becoming the caretakers of objects that have already survived for many generations – taking care until another generation takes over the responsibility. Yes, these are objects that bring some responsibility.
I unfortunately don’t have the, uh, assets necessary to become a caretaker right now. Despite that, I felt at home there. I just moved about very carefully. I think no matter what resources we have available to us, it’s important to see the very best. This gives you a bar to measure with, when you seek pieces in your price range, you can look for the best that you can afford. In these places, you also see things combined unexpectedly and dramatically. Wandering around there was an experience. An event! There was one room, which you’ll see, where I could feel my body and mind affected – just like when we visited temples in Thailand and Laos – and that’s when the intoxication began.
So enough with the words. Here are a few items I saw, and why I wanted to remember them with a photograph …
To say I “saw” this white marble statue isn’t quite right. More like I was entirely captivated with it, like Krishna was real and playing the flute only for me. (And you know, Krishna was a flirt with the ladies!) The carving is so sinuous and there was some extra unseen element, like he is really alive under the surface. It doesn’t carry through the photo here, but standing before him, you expect that if you touched him, you’d find the marble veins in his body are warm. And you expect his fingers will start tapping that invisible flute.
I’m not a crazy person. I’ve seen a lot of Krishna statues. There’s something about this one. Primitive’s website has more detailed photos.
This set of cabinets:
Cropped close so you can see as much detail as possible in 500 pixel width! And there were two sets of these cabinets, can you believe? They are from the 19th century, Gansu Province, China. They’re over 6.5 feet wide and over 8.5 feet tall, quite a presence. I found them on Primitive’s website where you can see a lot of close-up photos of the details on them. Take a look: Cabinet 1 and Cabinet 2.
Shiva lingam stones:
The repetition here made a mesmerizing display. It was a dark room full of gold-painted niches. I lightened the photo a bit so you can see the intricate carving on the wood. It was quite an experience to be in a room surrounded on all four sides with this effect. The Shiva lingam stone occurs naturally in this shape in only one river in India, and it’s sacred to Hindus. Some people write of these stones emitting a vibration and an energy. I hadn’t yet heard of that when I was at Primitive. But you know, I felt like they were undulating when I was in the room! But they were not moving at all. People might be drawn to these, as I was, and not understand why.
How the light touched this bell:
The light perfectly highlighted the detail on the bell. It made me think we should use light in our home more artfully.
The Buddha Room:
I sensed I would be rudely interrupting sacred space if I photographed too far inside the room. I felt a trance take over in there. Now, I don’t meditate and didn’t think I was a particularly spiritual person. But something happens when I’ve been in Buddhist temples. I can’t put words to it. This room had the same effect. I’m a person who, wherever I am, am always thinking of where else I could be. But in these temples, there is nowhere else to be.
As it was in the Buddha Room.
The door leading into the Buddha Room, shown in the photo above, is very low. I am 5′ tall and was 5’4″ in tall wedges that day, and had to bow my head walking into the room. You enter with reverence. Our antique South Indian main door to the India pied-à-terre in Chennai is the same – you bow your head a bit to step into the apartment. And I hope someday the India pied-à-terre is also an experience and an event to visit.
I liked the idea of these bells strung above the entrance to the Buddha Room:
Mix of cultures:
I most liked the brave blend of objects from various cultures together. Chinese furniture, especially, mixes really well with styles from other cultures and countries, as shown above.
What this is, I don’t know, but I couldn’t stop staring at it:
It’s made with rusty nails and metal shards. It feels like a warning of some sort. What draws us doesn’t have to be the usual idea of beautiful. It can attract our minds and make us wonder. Who? Why?
I felt at home there, because so many things were familiar that we have in our home: Chinese cabinets and chairs, Tibetan prayer wheels, Japanese maru obi, Burmese rain drums, red lacquerware boxes, bronze temple bells, jade and bronze Buddhas. Of course they have the best of the best examples of these pieces. Primitive inspired me to think about how to make the things I already own more theatrical, more uncommon, more like an event to live with them. I haven’t treated them that way, or seen them that way. But then began the intoxicating swirl of ideas … and now I can see …
NOTE ABOUT COMPANY NAME: I’ve seen on Yelp and elsewhere some people are offended by the company’s name. That it’s degrading to refer to these cultures and their creations as primitive. The company’s name was adopted long ago and perhaps they had a different merchandise focus then. Maybe it’s too difficult and expensive to rebrand. I don’t know. My reference to primitive is that sometimes things can affect our bodies and minds on a primal, primitive level.