Leif's Mid-Century Heritage Collection

House Tour

Name: Leif (+ cats Bella & Mia)
Location: Edgewater — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,500 square feet
Years lived in: 5

Leif's love of mid-century furnishings is the first thing you notice when you walk into his apartment. Over years of thrifting and scouring craigslist, Leif has slowly put together a home that is homage to that iconic era of design. A complementary addition to Leif's collection of mid-century designs is his vast assortment of Cathrineholm enamel dinnerware, which is also a nod to his Norwegian heritage.

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After becoming inspired by a friend's mid-century home, Leif decided to make over his own apartment. As a seasoned thrift store shopper, Leif jumped into the scavenging process, hitting local antique shops and flea markets in addition to trolling eBay and craisglist. Occasionally, drastic measures were taken for a bargain — like the time he drove to Pennsylvania to pick up a piece he got for a steal on eBay.

While flipping through a vintage magazine, Lief discovered an ad for the same set of Kent-Coffey furniture he has in his bedroom. The owner of Wall to Wall Framing, Leif framed that ad as well as other ads that relate to his collections.

And what a collection it is! In addition to the mid-century furnishings, Leif has a vast collection of Catherineholm enamelware. What started as a simple gift from his parents has grown into a large collection. His passion for the colorful enamelware even led Leif on a trip to Oslo for a special exhibition — the poster and brochure for which are framed and hanging in the hallway.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I had no particular sense of style in my home prior to how it looks now. I would say that I'm more on the thrifty side of mid century modern/Danish modern. I have used eBay, craigslist, garage sales and thrift shops to find the pieces in my apartment. I've been thrifting since high school and it's still in my blood, so I have a difficult time spending a lot of money on things.

Inspiration: My main source of inspiration came from my friend Mike Rice when he lived in Minneapolis. When I was there to visit him, I absolutely loved his home with its mid century modern furniture and designs throughout. He took me to several of his favorite antique shops in Minneapolis and it really opened my eyes.

Favorite Element: My Cathrineholm collection. My parents gave me my very first item, a blue fondue pot that belonged to my grandmother many years ago. I didn't think much about it until my visit to Minneapolis to see my friend Mike. While antique shopping with him, I saw a bowl with the same exact lotus pattern on it as the fondue pot. That was the beginning of my collection. My dad was born in Norway and came to the United States in 1958, so all of these pieces kind of represent my Norwegian heritage, which I'm extremely proud of.

Biggest Challenge: Definitely the kitchen. When I moved in, the kitchen in this apartment was a disaster. The floor was covered with that terrible old rust colored linoleum with the brick pattern and there were two different types of cabinets with two different wood tones. Also, the stove was placed next to a wall in the kitchen, so that wall was completely covered in layers of grease. I painted all of the cabinets white and put new hardware on to unify them. I also made a new cabinet and placed it between the wall and the stove. It took days to scrub all of the walls down before painting them. The biggest thing I did was completely take the old floor out and I laid a new sub-floor and put the yellow and green linoleum tile down.

What Friends Say: Friends say that my place is a very comfortable space to be in and it's a place where they can come in and put their feet up. Even though I have a lot of things in my apartment, people say that it all seems to work well together and makes it very cozy. My best friend Erin even says it's "groovy".

Biggest Embarrassment: I have a couple. Right away, people notice that I don't have any plants in my apartment. This is because my two cats eat or chew on every plant and flower arrangement that I bring into the house. I was recently informed by someone that you can put a small amount of vinegar in the water when watering your plants and that will keep the cats from bothering them, so I will try that. Also, since I have two white cats that shed a lot, it's very difficult to keep the cat hair situation under control. The last embarrassment would be my outdoor deck. I haven't fully figured out what I want to do out there. It's kind of an eye sore now but a project in progress.

Proudest DIY: I would have to say the kitchen. I love how it looks now compared to how it was before.

Biggest Indulgence: In August of 2008, at the last minute, I booked a flight to Oslo, Norway for a week. The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo had an exhibition showcasing the life works of Grete Prytz Kittelsen (1917- ), the enamel artist and designer of the Cathrineholm items that I collect. The show was closing at the end of August, so I decided to go before it closed. I got to hang out with the curator of the exhibition, Widar Halen, and he let me browse through all of the files and personal things that he had been putting together for the show for the past 10+ years. I went to many flea markets and antique shops in Oslo, where I bought some rare pieces for my collection. I also participated in and was interviewed by a film crew that was shooting a documentary about Grete Prytz Kittelsen and her designs. Definitely worth every penny!

Best advice: Do your research. If you don't have the money to buy that expensive piece of designer furniture that you love at your local antique store or auction house, there is always something else out there that is just as nice for not as much money. Find out what you like and search your local thrift shops on a regular basis and keep your eyes open for items on craigslist and eBay. Also, if you have a vehicle, be willing to drive to pick something up that you find online. I found the two 5 foot tall Danish modern floor lamps in my back room on eBay for very little money (no one bid on them since they were a local pick up only), but I had to drive to Pennsylvania to pick them up. I look at it this way, I got two lamps that I absolutely love AND I got to go on a really great road trip all by myself to a place that I've never been before.

Dream source: I would love to go back to Norway with a lot of money and buy many of the things that I saw in the antique shops and flea markets there. It was Scandinavian design and Danish modern HEAVEN!! I would also love to travel to Palm Springs (never been!) and go to the antique shops there and check out the mid century modern ranch homes for inspiration.

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Resources: As I've stated before, I love thrifting throughout the city of Chicago and any place that I travel to. In order to find those good pieces, you have to hit the thrift shops on a regular basis. I love going to antique shops as well. My favorites in Chicago are the Broadway Antique Mall and the Edgewater Antique Mall, both located on Broadway in the Edgewater neighborhood. I'm at both of these places at least once a week. My favorite antique shop outside of Chicago (so far…) is A Ok Antiques located in Valley Junction in West Des Moines, Iowa. Most of the pieces in my home have come from eBay and a few have come from craigslist.

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Thanks, Leif!

Images: Jason Loper

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