Craig’s Tiki Hut

published Aug 28, 2012
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Name: Craig Shimala
Location: River West, Chicago, Illinois
Size: 990 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; Owned

Most people tend to shy away from labeling themselves as hoarders, but Craig has made the fact that he “doesn’t throw anything out” a central part of his aesthetic. Showcasing an impressive collection of vintage nautical-themed knick-knacks, Craig’s cozy Chicago apartment manages to embrace the collector within, while managing to remain uncluttered without. From a wall full of used concert tickets to a vintage baitbox stuffed to the gills with colorful trinkets, Craig’s worked hard to make this home an extension of himself.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

As one of the earliest members (third employee to be exact) of the Chicago-based company Threadless, Craig’s spent nearly a decade surrounded by some of the best designers and artists in the city. With a mission to create his own unique space, he’s covered his walls with local art, posters, stickers, and illustrations that bring a refreshing personality to his home. From the vintage toy boatwreck in his planter to the toy octopus arms embracing a picture frame, every detail imbues the place with a sense of whimsy. Everything tells a story.

Craig’s mixed his penchant for thriftiness with a few key pieces of high style, all the while using the apartment’s open floor plan to his advantage. The office area is built into the cabinets off the kitchen and the brightly colored sofa functions as a divider between the living room and the walkway leading to the kitchen. A fantastic sea foam green wall, with hand painted Mio wall tiles, is a striking centerpiece on the living room’s back wall – the perfect backdrop for his colorful vibe. From the collection of vintage matchbooks to the giant video signage from his family’s old business, the apartment is a treasure chest of found items just begging to opened and explored.  

The backdrop for this fun collection of Chicago-found trinkets is the city itself.  Located in River West, his deck has an unobstructed view of the downtown Chicago skyline. The eastern light, pouring in through the dining area’s tall windows highlights the apartment’s open floor plan, while bathing the apartment’s plant-lined walls, shelves and tables with generous amounts of light.  With a bit of ingenuity and thoughtfulness, Craig’s managed to turn this sunny highrise apartment into a place with soul and a real sense of humor.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style/Inspiration: I’d say I have an old California surf vibe. I really like all things 60’s tiki, surfing-oriented or nautical. My cousin got me into the tiki stuff about 10 years ago and I’ve been addicted ever since.

Favorite Element: The view.

Biggest Challenge: It takes me a while to decide on things. Hence, the paint swatch that’s been on my bedroom wall for months now. I was looking for a couch for about 6 years because I wanted the perfect bright colored couch. So I guess I like to drag my feet until what I find is exactly what I want. Finally after about 3 years I think that almost everything is about set.

What Friends Say: “There are so many knick-knacks everywhere!” & “You should do interior design.”

Biggest Embarrassment: The paint swatch that’s been on my wall for a couple months! If I had known I would have painted it earlier but finally I think I’ve got the right color down now and all I need to do is buy the rest of the paint and finish it. When you own a place you’re always wanting to change things and make things better.

Proudest DIY: The chalkboard photo wall in my entry hallway. I just bought chalkboard paint for the background and then wooden floor boards from Home Depot to construct the frame around the paint. The wire hangers are from West Elm and I think are actually for holding up drapes but they work just as well to hold up photos. I also like doodling things that interact with the photos behind it, it makes for great conversation. People like looking at photos I’ve taken and I don’t mind looking at them either!

Biggest Indulgence: Well, this isn’t anything design oriented but I’m thinking of redo-ing the air conditioning and maybe even the entire HVAC system. Thats what you do when you’re a homeowner, ha.

Best Advice: Make it unique. When I was looking for places to buy I felt as though everything looked the same or that it was picked right off the pages of Pottery Barn or something. In my home I feel like I’ve done something different here.

Dream Sources: Sprout Home, Flea Markets, West Elm, IKEA

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Couch: Macy’s
    • Stacking side tables: IKEA
    • Painted Wall Tiles: Mio
    • Plants: Sprout Home
    • Rug: Design Within Reach
    • Black Chair: IKEA
    • Bookcase: Crate & Barrel
    • White center table: IKEA
    • Large pot: IKEA
    • Hanging Lantern: Pottery Barn Kids 
    • Old wooden boat: Kane County Flea Market
    • Chicago Dog: Delicious Design League
    • Monsters: Threadless
    • Squirrel: Threadless t-shirt
    • 20,000 leagues under the sea prints: Kevin Dart
    • Illinois Print: Frank Chimero
    • Hawaii Print: Frank Chimero
    • Various Tiki Mugs/Vases: antique malls and flea markets


    • Table: IKEA
    • Eames Eiffel Chairs: Craigslist
    • Rug: IKEA
    • Plants: Sprout Home
    • Vintage Radios: Flea Market and ebay
    • Door Mat: Sprout Home


    • White desk light: CB2
    • Chair: CB2


    • Sign: Family business (used to own an old video store)
    • Vintage projector: My grandma’s basement
    • Old film reels: My grandma’s basement
    • Bed: IKEA
    • Dresser: IKEA
    • Vintage paraphernalia: Flea market and Crown Point Antique Mall

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks, Craig!

(Images: Elizabeth Gilmore)

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— Elizabeth Gilmore