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Penny floor at Square One

Re-create the penny floors from this South Loop bar.
By Jessica Herman |

Owner Ron Vaisman is speaking literally when he mentions “pinching pennies” in reference to his bar’s signature design element. The bathroom floors at Square One (1400 S Michigan Ave, 312-786-1750) are composed entirely of pennies—25,500 of them, to be exact. “I wanted a contrast [with the black subway tile] and something with an antique-ish feel,” Vaisman says. “I couldn’t find what we were looking for with copper tiles, and I said how I wanted it to look like old pennies…that’s how we came up with it.” How to do it: First determine the amount of sheen you’d prefer in your coins. Soak them in a cup of Coca-Cola to remove the oxydization, or, if you prefer the variegated look of Square One’s floor, leave the rolls of pennies from the bank as they are, with a natural variety in shininess. Level your concrete or use a flat surface such as plywood as your foundation. Then set each penny down one by one, securing with super glue. Carefully apply black grout in all of the open spaces; the black provides a nice contrast to the copper-colored pennies. Top off the pennies with a little less than a quarter-inch of acrylic to preserve the surface, leveling off to prevent air bubbles. At Square One, it took four people about a week to complete the floor. “Two-hundred fifty-five dollars for a copper floor people talk about all the time isn’t that big a deal, but you do lose a week of your life,” Vaisman says. His work seems to have already paid off: Not only has the floor garnered the attention of many customers, it’s also inspired this issue’s cover.

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