Ever been to a winter lodge in 1940s Scotland? Neither have we, but we think it might look something like this year-old store. Plaid is owner Julie Fernstrom’s muse (the store is named after her favorite tartan), and it covers everything from pillows (made from vintage wool skirts and men’s shirts, $75) to antique barber’s chairs ($695)—all of which Fernstrom upholsters herself (she’ll tartan-ize your own pieces, too). But lest you liken Brimfield to a cracked-out Ralph Lauren, rest assured there’s plenty of kitsch to keep the mood playful: We love the red lanterns ($34), the plaid metal thermoses ($27) and the basement “man cave,” as Fernstrom calls it, filled with masculine midcentury gems, including Blatz pint glasses ($12) and an immaculate Grundig Majestic stereo ($795). 5219 N Clark St (773-271-3501).
“Our store is for someone who likes to hunt for something, to spend some time,” says co-owner Tim White. “We’re not going to make it easy for you to find something.” That’s an understatement: Because Brownstone buys entire estates—the good with the not-so-good, and covering pretty much all eras—the 17-year-old store is the indoor equivalent of a hoarder’s garage sale. Nightstands sit atop dressers, which sit atop tables, which are also adorned with vases, photographs, mirrors…you get the idea. To take it all in, you need to make a trip around the store at least twice (say hi to Isabella the cockatoo as you do). If you’re patient, you can find gems, including a gorgeous Art Deco vanity ($285) and matching highboy ($275), and an awesome electric fan ($30). 5234 N Clark St (773-878-9800).
Owner Paul Lechlinski got a crash course in midcentury furniture and architecture while restoring his 1959 Robert Alexander home in Palm Springs, California (nice, huh?), and he pours that knowledge and love of ’50s–’70s modern design into his well-curated store. All of his furniture has been refinished to its original wood or reupholstered with period-appropriate fabric (including a pair of 1949 blue-striped Edward Wormley side chairs, $995). Room Service also stocks plenty of affordable accessories: We love the European hand weights from the 1930s ($75), the ’50s Sascha Brastoff enamel on copper plate ($95) and the shop’s courtyard filled with plants and pots for sale. 5438 N Clark St (773-878-5438).
Owner Larry Vodak is the ultimate champion of Andersonville’s vintage row: He persuaded White Attic’s Terry Ledford and Brimfield’s Fernstrom to move in next door, he buys from Brownstone, and he calls Foursided the best store in the city. Vodak’s confident in touting his competition because Scout has its own strong brand (Vodak’s 27 years in advertising help). Vodak fills his shop with vintage items from the 1910s to the 1950s with a few common themes: “interesting proportions, great lines, great bones,” he says. “I know this sounds kinda Shirley MacLaine–ish, but things [I buy] have lived a good life. And we’re giving them another life.” Standout old-soul items include an enormous walnut storage cabinet from the University of Chicago’s geology department ($6,800), a Paul McCobb Planner Group 20-drawer dresser ($1,895) and a red button organizer made out of fruit crates from the ’40s ($275). 5221 N Clark St (773-275-5700).
Flashy turquoise, grassy citron green, blinding white—strong colors catch your eye the moment you walk into this store that specializes in painted and completely refinished furniture (mostly storage items such as dressers, credenzas and desks) from the early 1900s to the early 1960s. Owner Terry Ledford, who picks out all the pieces, knows about the power of color: For 13 years, he worked for Ann Taylor and Banana Republic, where color-focused displays change every six weeks, and Ledford does the same at White Attic. Turquoise, he says, is a surprisingly versatile color, and it does wonders for a ’40s mahogany four-drawer nightstand with original brass hardware ($415). Not everything is painted, however: Sometimes the original wood is just too beautiful to cover up. 5225 N Clark St (773-907-9800).
OTHER TOP SHOPS
A cute yellow Formica and chrome ’50s table ($80) shares space with tragic ’80s puffy couches and VHS tapes. Prepare to hunt. 5404 N Clark St (773-271-9382).
This vintage store that also offers custom framing (or is it vice versa?) is worth checking out for its plethora of old-school flashcards, picture frames made from salvaged midcentury materials and oddities such as freaky clown cookie jars from the ’40s ($95). 5061 N Clark St (773-506-8300).
At this sparse store, industrial pieces meet country charm: Barn doors serve as tabletops and a gray wood cabinet from the home of Al Capone’s doctor gets a zinc top. 5137 N Clark St (773-334-0400).
Rooster and owl figures pop up at every turn at this country shabby-chic shop full of Buffalo and Syracuse mug-and-plate sets, weathered patio furniture, shoe forms and other knickknackery. 5634 N Clark St (773-506-0406).
WORTH A SIDE TRIP
Just based on sheer volume of inventory, you can’t beat Edgewater’s behemoth double threats, Broadway Antique Market (6130 N Broadway, 773-743-5444) and Edgewater Antique Mall (6314 N Broadway, 773-262-2525). Two-story BAM is packed with everything under the midcentury sun: jewelry, clothes, designer and non-designer tables, chairs, couches, vases, art, lamps and more. EAM has more of the same in a smaller space, but with less furniture, more decades of the 20th century covered and slightly more reasonable prices.