An occasionally updated chronicle of estate sales in the city and suburbs of Chicago.

"It's such a guilty pleasure..." Lynne Stiefel, Pioneer Press

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Highland Park Mid-Century Modern

Not every estate sale is the result of a death or bankruptcy. Sometimes, people just decide to start new lives. Like the former owner of this place.

It was the only Modern house on a quiet, tree-lined street just a few blocks from the lake. It must have been built sometime in the late '60s or early '70s, and had a cantilevered front deck and bright colors picking out the trim. Driving up to it, looking for the address, I kept saying, "Please be it, please be it, please be it." It was.

A phalanx of well-kept older women greeted me at the door. They seemed slightly befuddled at all the hubbub and commotion, as though this was their first time doing something like this. Maybe it was.

The house had an unusual layout. The first floor was small, made up of a single room, and might have been reserved for entertaining. It had big windows looking out onto the backyard, and seemed to be the kind of place that encouraged wearing caftans while serving smart cocktails and listening to Burt Bacharach 8-track tapes. This spiral staircase rose up just inside the front door. Yes, that's orange carpeting on those risers.

The stairs led to a galley kitchen at the top. The windows on the left overlooked a good-sized front deck. "Imagine hauling your groceries up here," one of the women said as she followed me up. That room just ahead was an artist's studio.

The house was filled with artwork, and apparently it all originated here. The former occupant was an artist, and had decided to leave the country. "She has a passion for Nicaragua," another woman told me -- they seemed to be everywhere, which made taking pictures a touchy proposition -- "and all the art is for sale."

Here's an example, which I rather liked. It's from her "Nicaraguan Strays" series, and priced at $1900. The artist also painted nudes, and yet another woman told me, "You can see faces in them." I assumed she was talking about more than the faces of the models. "The longer you look the more you see."

I fell in love with this house. It needed work -- some of the wall colors were a bit exuberant -- but it had dozens of great touches like radio/intercoms in the walls and dark wood beams on the second-floor ceilings. It's too bad the bedrooms were closed off, because I would have enjoyed nosing around in them.

This Lightolier fixture hung at the top of the spiral staircase. It seemed to be calling my name, but the $1700 price tag didn't say a thing.

This is back downstairs, in the party room. I'm pretty sure those are Nicaraguan baskets lined up on the shelves. They're actually quite beautiful, but I can understand why she'd leave them behind. Where she's going, there's sure to be plenty more.

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