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Katherine Lee – Urban Flea

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----- March 22nd, 2010 -----

Recently named one of GQ’s favorites, Urban Flea is an incredible blog that we love to read every day. We thought we would ask the brilliant Katherine Lee for a little background and her favorite unusual sources across the country. Make sure to click through and check out her site.

“As a former staffer at Domino Magazine (R.I.P.), I learned that design can and should be accessible to everyone.  Your home should be a vital expression of who you are, a place that really feels like it’s a part of you.  If your home isn’t the home of your dreams, you should be empowered to make those dreams come true, no matter your budget!  Design is design is design, and truly good design can make a world of difference.  My style is very eclectic.  I’m not a very matchy-matchy kind of gal. I like to collect pieces that have a soul; I know true love when I see it.  Usually, your first instinct is correct; although, I think it’s important to step outside the box and take some aesthetic risks.  Taste and design sense should be constantly evolving animals.  So don’t be afraid to push your limits, it’s how we grow!  On a personal note, design and interiors are what makes my world go round.  I’m always happiest and totally blissed-out when I’m out there discovering new designers, and featuring the beauty they have to offer on my blog Urban Flea.  I have boxes upon boxes of gorgeous fabric and wallpaper samples, and shelves chock-full of design books.  They’re like my children!  There’s something that gets filled up in my soul when I’m living in the design world.  My dream and ultimate goal?  To have my own decorating firm complete with a lovely little shop; that’s a long way off at the moment, but I’m always grateful to the wonderful and supportive design blogosphere, it’s truly an honor to be a part of.  Like I said, I love finding new and unusual sources that are budget-friendly; it’s like being an explorer of sorts, spelunking through the world of interiors.  And now, I present to you a few of my favorite secret sources!  Most of them are Chicago-based, but all of them have great and resourceful websites that cater to anyone and everyone. ”

1. Wallpaper from the 70s
The 1970s have a bad reputation; one that includes the abhorrent likes of avocado-green wall to wall shag and sparkly pink formica. (Blech!)  But there’s a different more intriguing side to the decade, namely, wallpaper.  It was an era that spawned some fantastic motifs, and the awesome online source Wallpaper from the 70s has made it their mission to revive some of those oldies but goodies.  And what goodies indeed!  And yes, they are super-affordable.  You can spend hours trolling through their humongous catalog of vintage papers, gleaning some great inspiration.  So head on over and treat your peepers to some vintage-glory!

2. Fort Pitt Furniture
This one is based in good old Chi-town, but there are similar ventures all over the country.  Specializing in high-end hotel furniture liquidations from the likes of the Ritz and the Kohler Resort and Spa, they are constantly acquiring great quality pieces for dirt, and I mean dirt, cheap.  Many of the items could use some reupholstering and refinishing, but the bones are always superb, and for such a low price, definitely worth the extra effort.

3. American Science and Surplus
Also a longtime Chicago-staple, the fabulously quirky American Science and Surplus carries a wide variety of the wonderful and weird for super-low prices.  I’m a fan of their little glass beakers and ampules for showcasing flower arrangements, it’s a fun and unexpected touch.  I also love their spiffy Radiometer Light, it has that great industrial/ mad-scientist flair that’s always a ripe conversation starter.  Their website is extensive and accessible, definitely head on over and check it out.

4. Nadeau
When I first walked into Nadeau’s gigantic warehouse, I swear tears of joy came to my eyes.  I was in super-affordable furniture heaven.  Since 1992, they have been establishing great relationships with artisans and suppliers all over the globe, but particularly in Asia.  Their wholesale-priced furniture is consistently of beautiful quality, usually handmade in solid and fine woods.  They also carry a big selection of accessories including mirrors, textiles, storage, and other little unique bits and bobs.  Their website is called “Furniture with a Soul,” and I couldn’t agree more.

5. Supermarket
A recent discovery of mine, the brilliant Supermarket seeks to “connect you directly with designers and the great things they make.”  Simple and perfect, don’t you think?  Supporting independent designers is a particular passion of mine, and Supermarket is a great expression of that mission.  They maintain very high aesthetic standards, and pricing is generally very affordable, depending on what designer you are looking at.  You’ll find everything from furniture to jewelry to art and lighting; you want it, they’ve got it somewhere in their impressive online inventory.  Swing by and feel the Supermarket love!

6. Lincoln Antique Mall

This amazing antique outpost has been around in Chicagoland for a very long time, with good reason.  I love nothing more than spending a rainy afternoon burying myself in their many many many vintage treasures.  They manage to find some of the best and chicest pieces I’ve seen in awhile, and very often will retool and update them to perfection.  Unfortunately they don’t have an online shop, but they do feature their wares on Craigslist.

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