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

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


Friday, January 29, 2010

An Even, and Odd, One Hundred

Our Viva la Niles! sale, below, is the 100th post to make its appearance here at Estate Sale Stories.

Whether you've joined us for one post, all hundred, or somewhere in between, you have our most sincere and non-sarcastic thanks. Remember, your scraps of attention make this all worthwhile!

Viva la Niles!

I love Niles. Not only is it uber-convenient to Estate Sale Stories World HQ in Rogers Park, but it's one of those '60s-'70s suburbs that almost everyone else turns their nose up at. But behind those front doors with their geometric cutouts live some of the swingingest swingers there ever was.

The moment I walked in, I dropped my keys in the first bowl I saw.

I can just picture myself relaxing here after a long day at the office, a tequila sunrise in one hand and a Benson & Hedges Menthol Ultra-Light 120 in the other, waiting patiently for our nation's Bicentennial to arrive.

The view from there certainly is... overwhelming. You better know down deep in your heart those mirror tiles are going to look kick-ass when you put them up, because it's going to take a sledgehammer, a hazmat suit and a mess of stitches in the emergency room to get them down.

Is there a rumpus room downstairs? You bet your subscription to Penthouse Forum there is!

There's a bit of Vegas excitement waiting as well.

I'm not arguing with this slogan, but I can't imagine anything less creative than playing slots. I mean, isn't that what zombies do when they're not dining on human flesh?

In the morning, after a long night of slots and party games with the neighbors, this breakfast nook would be the perfect place for some scrambled eggs and a screwdriver, easy on the OJ.

Then it's into the bathroom for a quick faceful of cold water before heading back to work.

Why yes, this is the Cadillac of bathroom vanities.

Why don't you have a seat and a smoke while I get dressed?

This jacket is about as rumpled as I am hungover, which ain't much. In fact, we're both still in great shape and ready for action. Have a drink waiting for me when I get home!

Purchased: Men's vintage corduroy jacket, $5.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ravenswood Repository

Live any place long enough and you'll accumulate a lot of stuff. But approach your acquisitions with even the slightest degree of purpose or passion, and you can really leave behind some impressive collections.

Take these long-reach grabbers, for starters. For most people, one is plenty. For those who want even greater convenience, one on every floor, or even every room, might be understandable. But this many? (There are twelve.) I have to wonder what you're grabbing at, and how incapacitated you are, and if you ought to be grabbing for that to begin with. Just sayin'.

Sidebar: If I didn't already live in a house blessed with more than enough furniture, this sideboard rotting in a basement corner would have come home with me. And then promptly had its drawer and door handles swapped out for something less... white.

The basement featured shelves and shelves of VHS tapes. And not the recorded-at-home kind either. There was a time when this many VHS tapes represented a great wealth of choice and possibilities.

Now they're just old technology looking for an eco-responsible method of disposal. But truth be told, I've got a few shelves of DVDs at home, too. And since going to this sale, I've been thinking about this collection, and my own.

I don't watch my movies all that often, and I don't think this person did either. But here's why I've got my DVDs, and why I think they had their VHS tapes: there's a feeling of security that comes with knowing I could watch my favorite movies at any time. No matter what happens or how bad things get. Come hell or high water. (Though not electrical failure or all-out apocalypse.) There's some comfort in that, I think. And comfort, wherever you can find it, is worth something.

On our way upstairs (where there's an even more impressive collection) let's stop in the dining room for just a moment.

And admire the grace and beauty and mid-century fabulousness of this light fixture hanging over the table. Stay for as long as you like. Our tour will resume at the next photo as soon as you're ready.

Most of the upstairs was your typical estate sale hot mess: cluttered bedrooms filled with a random assortment of books and furniture and linens and clothes and what-not that no one in particular was really interested in.

But there was this one room, used only to store slides, that kind of made me die a little inside.

Because here was a whole lifetime's worth of trips and vacations and pictures of the kids at Christmas.

Despite the looker photographed here, no one was interested in these.

But if I was independently wealthy, and didn't have a job to go to and a blog to keep up and a book to write, I would have taken all of them home, and looked through the carousels and figured out something worthwhile to do with this fantastic wealth of memories.

I hope someone did. Or does.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Lady in the Leopard-Skin Coat

Occasionally I'm asked how I manage to take so many photos at estate sales. Don't people notice? Aren't they bothered by it?

In over six months of doing this blog, however, my picture-taking has been commented on only a handful of times. (And for those occasions, I have a few cover stories that never fail to bring the conversation to a rapid close.) The truth is, most people are just too busy shopping to care what someone else is doing. Or even if they're being photographed themselves.

Like this woman. Here she is in the bathroom, gathering up some gently used health and beauty aids. You might think I was following her around. Actually, she just had an uncanny ability to get in front of me, no matter where I went.

Here she is again in the kitchen, assessing the quality of some pots and pans, oblivious to the fact that I'm happily snapping away.

And finally, in the pantry. It's probably a good thing that no one notices or cares what I'm doing. It's their inattention that makes this blog possible. But it's your scraps of attention that make it all worthwhile.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lincoln Square Light Fixture Mystery

There was a mystery at this estate sale that has perplexed me since mid-October (when these photos were taken) and that you may ponder for all of 15-20 seconds before going on with the rest of your day. We'll get to it in a moment. But first, a few of the odd finds I found.

As the package says, these "over glasses protectors" are ideal for racquetball, handball, baseball and basketball. Also for getting your balls kicked in by the local bully when you show up wearing them.

John Hornor Jacobs is a good friend and a good writer, as well as a reader of this blog. Recently he commented that these old Macs might be worth a bit of money if they work. That seems a long shot, however, since I've never known an Apple product to actually do that. (Oh, snap! Send your angry emails here.)

Somebody...

... liked...

... chipmunks.

Now on to the mystery. This lighting fixture caught my eye.

As did its upside-down twin on the filing cabinet nearby.

And their black counterpart. Why?

Because I'd seen them before, at a yard sale about a month earlier. Is it possible these are different light fixtures, even though they're identical to the first three? Perhaps. However, it seems more likely they're the same ones, bought at one sale in September, and on sale again in October. Strange. Weird. Even a little creepy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Politics and Pleasure in Glenview

This Glenview split-level combined two great American obsessions: politics and the pursuit of pleasure. Let's take a look.

By the time I arrived, there wasn't much left in the living room, except for this kicky carpet and that whorehouse floor lamp against the wall.

The house was cleverly designed around a central staircase, with landings that headed off in different directions. This little mezzanine looked out over the living room and entry way. It would be a pleasant place to sit and relax while you waited for other things to happen.

Perhaps in this master bedroom. It was a stunner -- take that any way you like -- with custom-built cabinetry covered in gray Formica. If I'm not mistaken, this is the room where Sonny Crockett seduced Mrs. Huxtable while the cast of Dynasty looked on.

I don't know if these newspapers were tucked between the mattress and the platform bed, or if they made their way here as part of the sale.

A lot of them were really old. For newspapers. People born during this era are definitely not old.

When people finally get all their news from some kind of screen, I wonder what they'll save after big events like these?

After seeing the Jack-and-Bobby-tragedy headline newspapers upstairs, these glasses in the kitchen made a lot more sense. It could just be a rumor, but they say the image our slain 35th president actually makes cold drinks taste better.

They also explained these TV Guides I found on one of the lower levels.

But it was this basement bar/rumpus room/pleasure dome that made the biggest impression.

Officially this area was off-limits, but one look at that rock wall and I knew I had to break all the rules. (Who's that in the mirror?)

That stained-glass window was lighted from behind. You'll think I'm being sarcastic or ironic when I say this, but I'm not: Talk about a touch of glass!

This built-in sauna was just off to the left, and I can think of no better place to sweat out this fall's election results than right here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Edgewater High-Rise

Buildings forty, fifty, even sixty stories high line Chicago's lakefront on the north side. (And the south side, for that matter.) I've always imagined life in one of them would be different, somehow better, than on the ground.

This two-bedroom unit was on the 32nd floor. Large enough for a woman on her own, with a little extra space for guests.

It was comfortable and elegant, self-contained but not isolated.

The view was excellent -- skyline and lake -- with no building right next door to intrude on her enjoyment or privacy.

She enjoyed the finer things in life.

Her collection of silver and crystal came out of the cabinet regularly. She loved to entertain, and her friends loved coming over.

She wasn't opposed...

... to a good drink...

... from time to time.

Like a lot of us, she hated being caught unprepared.

She cared enough about her health to try the latest fad advertised on late-night TV. Even though she knew it was probably nonsense.

And while she certainly wasn't the girl she used to be, her appearance was still important to her.

That's why she swam and exercised regularly in the pool downstairs. Those light foam weights had her friends confused, until she explained that they were for use underwater.

She loved clothes, and shopping, and looking her best.

She was independent. There were power tools in the linen closet, and if a hem needed repairing she could take care of it herself, without resorting to the dry cleaners downstairs.

She appreciated the glow of candlelight.

And the sound of bells.

And things that could fly, high above the city.
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