Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Bookshop is dangerous.
It’s likely to pull you in from the pavement, lure you to its soft couch and envelop you in walls of stylish tomes. Don’t count on leaving anytime soon.
Coffee table books on art design and architecture are the antique crystal salt cellars that sit untouched in my cupboard; simply being able to admire them occasionally suffices. One of my recent discoveries at the store, Francesca Gavin’s Creative Space: The Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators, took me inside the inspired studios and lofts of urbanite artists from Berlin to Tokyo. Refreshingly different from the prototypical interiors book, it replaced over-styled, polished vignettes with chaotic but inspirational spaces. Gone were the calabasa lilies arranged in clustered vases. The fluffed pillows and antiseptic floors. These were real, gritty, messy, colorful homes with stacks of dusty books in corners and armies of plastic toys on shelves. Requisite guitars, easels (and other tools of the trade). Crayola pictures and Polaroids on fridges. The artwork of everyday life.
One exception was Corliss Elizabeth Williams, who adorned a dress form with a coral-colored vintage garment—seemingly anointing it the work of art in the pared-down living room. She confessed that most of her furniture was from Craigslist (which I appreciated). I was impressed by how she averted a haphazard jumble of antiques and instead created a minimalist statement—clean, purposeful and subdued (while decidedly cheap and easy). And as with the other subjects, Williams’ personality came through in her tableau.
Thumbing through Gavin’s book allowed me to appreciate my home’s messy zones, scratched wood floors and quirky touches (the Knight Rider doll being the one that springs to mind). Though I suppose until I get that book deal (or I dunno, take up painting), I may have less of an excuse.