The Chicago Guide
Chicago is easy to love. First, there’s the famous Midwestern charm, which can’t be overstated and seems genetically wired in its inhabitants. People are just really nice here. Then, of course, there are world class museums, parks, parks, parks everywhere you look, and so many great restaurants we’ve barely made a dent in our checklist. And every year, it just gets better. Formerly off-the-beaten path neighborhoods, like Logan Square and Bucktown, are now front-and-center when it comes to Chicago’s new crop of hip watering holes, while old school haunts, like The Peninsula (one of GP’s favorites), are getting fresh, modern makeovers. As much as we love sharing everything new, though, we’re also rediscovering cultural institutions, shops, and restaurants that deserve newfound attention. It’s this uniquely Chicago mix, after all, that makes this city so endlessly exciting.
Ikram15 E. Huron St., Magnificent Mile | 312.587.1000
Ikram is an incredibly special store with everything handpicked by Ikram Goldman, the owner who is known for, among other things, having styled Michelle Obama. The sprawling space itself is pretty impressive, with a dedicated home goods shop, gallery, and cafe on the second floor. Same goes for the one-of-a-kind clothing, accessories and spectacular jewelry on offer from such lauded names as Lanvin, Manolo Blahnik, and Tom Binns. Also, come here to shop new designers you've probably never heard of before and fun collaborations.
Blake212 W. Chicago Ave., River North | 312.202.0047
Every time we find ourselves in Chicago, we head straight to Blake (it's actually one of GP's absolute favorite stores in the world). They stock everything from Rick Owens to The Row to Saint Laurent, and round it out with more mid-priced brands like L’Agence. The buyers have amazing taste; it’s hard not to fall in love with this place. Photo: Racked, Chicago
Brimfield5219 N. Clark St., Andersonville | 773.271.3501
With its fireplace, piles of wool blankets, tartan flasks, plus vintage camping equipment and furniture, this log cabin-like shop (named after owner Julie Fernstrom’s favorite plaid) is heavy on prep, in the best possible way. If the wall of tartan and flannel fabric inspires, re-upholstery services are readily available. And don’t miss the fully refurbished, 1970s airstream parked in back (kids go nuts for it…as do adults).
Penelope’s1913 W. Division St. | 773.395.2351
Not counting department stores, it’s not often we find a shop where every member of the family is guaranteed to leave happy. For husband-and-wife team Jena Frey and Joe Lauer, the trick is to stock their Ukrainian Village boutique with cool, well-designed lines that they themselves want to wear—A.P.C, Me and Arrow, and Sessun for women; Brooklyn Tailors, Mollusk, and Norse Projects for guys; plus a small but mighty selection of beauty-shelf staples from Herbivore Botanicals and Plant. And while there isn’t a ton for kids, the stuff that’s available—Petit Bateau onesies, Hansel from Basel socks—is all pretty much perfect.
Asrai Garden1935 W. North Ave., Wicker Park | 773.782.0680
After picking up a gig at a local florist’s, college dropout Elizabeth Cronin fell hard for the craft and at 23, went out on her own. Over the 15 years she’s been in business, her space evolved into a goth-ish, fairy tale nook for everything from jewelry (Catbird, Ariko, and local Sarah Shikama are just a few standouts) to home décor (Santa Maria Novella candles, Leah Ball pottery) to vintage taxidermy—all deftly mixed with the fresh blooms that started it all. Photos: Dan Paz
P.O.S.H.613 N. State St., River North | 312.280.1602
Come to this deliberately cluttered mom-and-pop (located in the historic Tree Studio building) for all the benefits of antique shopping, without having to deep dive for the good stuff—here, piles of vintage hotel silver salvaged from European estate sales sit next to 1950s maps found at local flea markets. And while everything on display is good, it’s the tiny kids corner—packed with books, serving sets, and vintage toys—that’s arguably the main attraction. Fair warning: Serious collectors have to be quick on the draw as much of the offering is one-of-a-kind.
Chalk Boutique2611 Prairie Ave., Evanston | 847.424.0011
One might expect to find a shop of this stature in the center of town, but this Evanston gem values discreet comfort above flash…though you’d never guess that judging by the edit alone: Balenciaga, The Row, and Carven are just a sampling of big-name labels dotting the pristine, all-white showroom. What’s more, owners Carrie Kane and Sharon Watrous, are big believers in nurturing emerging talent, so expect some under-the-radar finds, too.
Merz Apothecary17 E. Monroe St., The Loop | 312.781.6900
Stepping in here is the closest thing to time travel. Peter Merz opened this North Side institution in 1875 to resemble the European apothecaries his customers were missing, and other than moving to a bigger space in the 80s, it really hasn’t changed much: Holistic remedies and herbal tinctures (rounded out by a massive selection of vitamins and supplements) are displayed in their original antique jars, while natural skincare and beauty products from modern day favorites like Dr. Hauschka, Klorane, and Jao line the shelves. There’s also an equally well-stocked Lincoln Square location.
Humboldt House1045 N. California Ave., West Town | 312.785.1442
Owner Claire Tibbs puts a lot of love into staging the beautiful range of vintage modern furniture, ceramics, textiles, and jewelry as a series of vignettes, making this sprawling space that much easier to navigate. It also means you get a pretty convincing preview of what, say, a retro brass bar cart or Hans Olsen leather chair might look like in your own home. On a smaller scale, the selection of local-designed jewelry, home goods, and apothecary items is as easy on the eyes as it is on the wallet.
Notre118 N. Peoria, West Loop | 312.888.2248
Spotlighting what they describe as “well-built, aesthetically driven goods,” the guys responsible for this Andersonville menswear standby have nailed the elusive not-trying-too-hard vibe. The shop offers a thoughtful mix of luxe lines (A.P.C., Common Projects, Steven Alan) and classic standbys (Filson bags and Red Wing Heritage boots), but what sets them apart is their penchant for seeking out unique collaborations, like exclusive knits from S.N.S. and a sizable selection from the Barbour x White Mountaineering line.
Salvage One1840 W. Hubbard St., West Town | 312.733.0098
Navigating this colossal salvaged furniture and décor warehouse is actually surprisingly easy, especially if mid-century modern is your design sweet spot. Inventory is updated pretty much daily so no two trips are alike. Conveniently, they also offer carpentry services at the on-site workshop, making this an excellent resource for decorators and designers. Plus, the lush courtyard is an easy sell as a popular special event and wedding venue.
Space 519200 E Chestnut St., | 312.751.1519
In just a few years, owners Lance and Jim have made a name for themselves for their impeccable taste, and for bringing otherwise-unknown designers and brands to their shop on North Michigan. Their tastes run the gamut from post-pop ceramics by Seletti, to tongue-in-cheek stationery, to Building Block tassel bags, Rachel Comey trousers, and Markus Lupfer sweatshirts: In their words, “it’s a general store that’s anything but general.” In the beauty department, find everything from Binchotan charcoal masks, to the full range of goop clean skincare.
Sprout Home745 N. Damen Ave., West Town | 312.226.5950
It’s true that here you’ll find all manner of fresh flowers and gardening tools—they’ll even help black thumbs figure out how to revive dying houseplants—but it’s the custom terrariums that make the original Sprout Home a must-see (there’s a second location in Brooklyn, NY). In addition to botany-related workshops and wedding florals, professional garden-design services (there’s a mini nursery in the back) are also available.
Wright1440 W. Hubbard St., West Town | 312.563.0020
This fabled auction house’s claim to fame is organizing modern and contemporary design shows that have the power to bring seasoned collectors to their knees and inspire novices to start investing. In addition to a gallery and consignment department, the Chicago location is home to the Wright Now showroom, which houses globally-sourced décor, furniture, and fine art that can be viewed by appointment.
RR #1 Apothecary814 N. Ashland Ave., West Town | 312.421.9079
Housed in what used to be a 1930s apothecary (thankfully, the original wood paneling was left untouched), RR#1 Apothecary is one of those stores that you’ll have a hard time leaving empty-handed. On offer: a dizzying array of candles, teas, and soaps, as well as kitschy prank gifts, tea towels, and novelty books. It’s pretty ideal for picking up a last minute something for the hostess, they'll even gift-wrap your selection right at the counter.
Broadway Antique Market6130 N. Broadway St., Edgewater | 773.743.5444
Chicago antique malls are the stuff of mid-century modern legend, and BAM is the crème de la crème. At 75-vendors strong (most with a focus on Art Deco, Mission, and Mid Century modern design), it’s got something for everyone. Furniture, clothing, accessories, costume jewelry—all of it blessedly organized so there’s little need to dig. And as locals will tell you (or more likely, not tell you) the semi-annual sales are epic.
Robin Richman2108 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown | 773.278.6150
With its almost exclusive focus on lesser-known European lines (tiered dresses by Tsolo Munkh, Elena Dawson separates, Guidi boots), this Bucktown shop has been a hit with the avant-garde crowd since the '90s. The airy, welcoming space is really more gallery than store, which makes sense since the buy is largely of the architectural and one-off variety.
Eskell2029 N. Western Ave., Bucktown | 773.486.0830
Kelly Whitesell and Elizabeth Del Castillo, the founders of this Wicker Park standby, are known for their trend-driven, yet somehow totally timeless sensibility, which is perfectly reflected in the boutique’s easy-to-navigate layout and eclectic buy (Judi Rosen denim, knits from Barcelona-based Yerse, and In God We Trust charm necklaces). And while the eponymous house line might skew a little young for some, for the right girl, the racks of retro-tinged dresses and printed separates are a sartorial goldmine. The apothecary, however, is a sure bet for just about everyone—think, D.S. & Durga fragrances and Qualitas candles.
Greer1013 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park | 312.337.8000
After years of putting her MBA to good use as an ad exec, Chandra Greer left it all behind for more creative pastures and never looked back. Greer is the kind of stationery-slash-gift shop you can pop into in a hurry and emerge with the perfect present (say, a Xenia Taler trivet or Lucia candle) or time permitting, pass an afternoon perusing the artfully cluttered displays. All the usual suspects—Rifle Paper Co., Delfonics, Ferme a Papier—are well represented, as are less-known indie makers like Antiquaria and Tiselle. Don’t miss the house line of miniature just-because cards, aptly called Civilettes.
Moncler33 E. Oak St., Magnificent Mile | 312.361.8573
Maybe it’s because it’s so damned cold in Chicago in the winter that the Moncler store here is one of the best in terms of selection. The Italian brand is famous for making winter outerwear, even big puffy jackets, look good.
Barneys15 E. Oak St., Gold Coast | 312.587.1700
Going to Barneys in Chicago is kind of a spiritual experience. To start, the buyers at this branch are incredible at finding pieces that you often won’t find anywhere else. A huge plus, because Chicago tends to be more conservative, is that you can actually find runway pieces, as they tend to disappear lightning fast in New York or Los Angeles.
A New Leaf312 S. Dearborn St., The Loop | 312.427.9097
With 30-plus years of experience, and three locations in the city, A New Leaf has become a Chicago mainstay florist. Their arrangements, many of which include gorgeous exotic flowers, are available for delivery or pick-up. This shop in the Loop is only open weekdays, but early (8am). The other two shops are both in Old Town and open seven days a week. A New Leaf also has an awesome event space in Old Town with an outdoor courtyard and open, airy interior with exposed brick and cool industrial details.
Jayson Home Chicago1885 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago | 800.472.1885
This beloved vintage furniture/décor/botany mecca was a major contributor to making the Chicago goop Pop the experience it was. Somewhat rare, Jayson Home designs floral arrangements that are as exceptional as their furnishings. Perusing the shop's bright space is always an inspiring experience, but you can also order flowers and plants from their online store for delivery in the Chicago area.
Credo1659 North Damen Ave., Wicker Park | 773.698.8163
This progressive, impeccably curated natural beauty boutique stocks a wide range (more than 100) of nontoxic brands from around the globe, including top skincare and makeup products from de Mamiel, Ilia, Kjaer Weis, Kypris, RMS, Tammy Fender, and our very own goop by Juice Beauty. The original shop debuted in 2015 in San Francisco and quickly gained a huge following. Sister locations have since opened in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and here in Chicago, where there is an exclusive Tata Harper spa, much like the other locations.
Circa Modern1114 N. Ashland Ave., Ukranian Village | 773.697.9239
A former architect and auctioneer, respectively, Jared Peterson and Don Schmaltz partnered up to open one of Chicago’s best furniture showrooms in West Town. This is the kind of place where American, Scandinavian, and Italian mid-century modern designs attract interior designers and new home buyers from around the city. You’ll find Eames chairs, Arne Jacobsen flatware, and more obscure finds (there’s an Alvar Aalto tea trolley, for instance), but it’s a good idea to browse the website before making an appointment at the store: Some may not be ready in the showrooms, but a quick call or email ensures that whatever you’d like to see is brought from the warehouse to the shop for your perusal.