Just in time for the newly reinvented Antiques, Garden & Design Show in Chicago, The HighBoy shares a few beautiful and beloved stops for visitors eager to soak in the city’s unmatched design-centric treasures. Catch The HighBoy at the show, April 17 – 19, at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
You can’t go far in Chicago without stumbling upon an architectural gem. The cityscape was crafted by legends including Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and continues to be re-energized by modern-day stars such as Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano.
The city of big shoulders also flexes some impressive design muscle, with shops and boutiques from international names competing with sole proprietorships. If you go for the weekend, bring your walking shoes, and your biggest carry-on in which to stash your new treasures.
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Built in 1895 by famed architects Daniel Burnham, John Root, and Charles Atwood, the Reliance Building in the city’s Loop is a prime example of the Chicago School architectural style—and a national landmark that now houses Kimpton’s Hotel Burnham (1 W. Washington St.), a 122-room boutique hotel with views of Chicago’s storied State Street. If you prefer modernist design, check out the Langham Chicago (330 N. Wabash Ave.), housed in Mies van der Rohe’s steel-and-glass IBM building constructed in 1971.
Start your day in Oak Park, Chicago’s near-western suburb and home to an extensive array of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Take a guided tour of his home and studio (951 Chicago Ave., Oak Park), then round the corner for a walking tour of Wright-designed homes lining both sides of Forest Avenue.
Grab a quick bite at the Red Hen bakery (736 Lake St., Oak Park), then drive a few more blocks west to Forest Park to hit some home décor shops. On Madison Street, with views of Chicago’s Willis Tower to the east, you’ll find preppy accents at Yearbook (7316 Madison St., Forest Park), a boutique with enough vintage-inspired tableware, rugged wool blankets, and masculine antiques to style a Ralph Lauren catalog.
Just down the street, stop into the Forest Park Emporium (7345 Madison St., Forest Park) to hunt for vintage treasures before heading to Moss Modern Flowers (7405 Madison St.), a well-curated little cabinet of curiosities featuring air plants resting amongst archaeology-inspired objects and Asian furniture. And to get your first dose of mid-mod for the day, venture a few blocks farther down the street to Refind Home (7511 Madison St.), where vintage furniture mingles with kitschy lamps and hip gifts.
Back in the city, you’ll wish that you brought a larger carry-on bag—or could travel home in a U-Haul—when you see the remnants and relics saved from gutted or demolished Chicago buildings at Salvage One (1840 W. Hubbard St., Chicago), and the Paris flea-market-like collection of modern and vintage furniture at Jayson Home (1885 N. Clybourn Ave.), a perennial favorite of design magazine editors nationwide.
For more portable keepsakes, skip the Magnificent Mile’s mall-accessible brands and, instead, head north to Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. Stop first at Brimfield (5219 N. Clark St.) for more flea-market-inspired offerings. Then be sure to hit Scout (5221 N. Clark St.), a chic “urban antique shop” that stocks vintage art and accessories, and mid-century modern furniture.
Celebrate your many unique finds over dinner and drinks at North Pond (2610 N. Cannon Dr.), a charming, seasonally oriented restaurant housed in an Arts and Crafts-style building constructed in 1912 as a warming house for ice skaters.
If you’re visiting Chicago anytime but during the winter’s deep freeze, it’s worth it to rise early on Sunday and take a walking tour or boat tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). (There are lots of tour operators, but for the very best experience, spring for the CAF’s expertise.) You’ll get a crash course in the city’s architectural history from the expert tour guides while motoring down the Chicago River.
If a tour isn’t your thing, head to brunch. The city is known for its restaurants, after all, and it takes its brunch seriously. Try, well, just about anything at Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner (820 W. Randolph St.), the more accessible sister location to her award-winning restaurant, Girl and the Goat.
The museum scene in Chicago is a diverse one, with several small institutions offering engaging immersions into cultural artwork and history, but your trip really wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave.). Regularly cited as one of the world’s best art museums, the Art Institute offers everything from iconic pointillist masterpieces by Georges Seurat—admired by Ferris Bueller and his pals during their whirlwind tour of the Windy City—to bronze and terracotta wonders from the Byzantine and Etruscan cultures. But design lovers shouldn’t miss the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Constructed between 1932 and 1940, these 68 dollhouse-sized rooms offer design inspiration galore, with tiny reproductions of European and Colonial antiques set in meticulously appointed interiors.
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In a skyline regularly refreshed by the works of many architectural greats, be sure to pay particular attention to some of the longest-standing façades, such as the Rookery (209 S. LaSalle St.). Designed by Burnham and Root in 1888, and featuring a redesigned lobby completed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905, the building is a bright, airy example of the benefits of design collaboration.
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Don’t miss walking through Chicago’s The Golden Triangle. It’s like hopping on an international flight and ending up anywhere in the world. Owners Douglas Van Tress and Chauwarin Tuntisak have transformed their 18,000-square-foot warehouse into a collection of “villages,” each with its own distinct aesthetic inspired by origin and time period and each with an appeal all its own.