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Chicago has no shortage of vintage furniture shops. Yet when Julie Gathman opened up Casa Couture in Roscoe Village, she set out to give dated secondhand pieces a new look. Her eye for uncovering potential in retro styles has made her boutique a popular go-to among Chi-town’s design lovers. Read on to see why her shop is a must on your shopping tour of the windy city .
Hi Julie! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an Aries. My favorite color is purple. I love sushi. Elephants are my favorite animal. I like baseball. I do yoga. Musically I am drawn to solo male artists. I’m addicted to chocolate.
Where are you from and where do you currently live?
I grew up in Arlington Heights. After leaving Illinois three times to move out of state and twice to live abroad, I have settled down in Lincoln Park in Chicago.
What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?
I love Lincoln Park for so many reasons!! It’s hard to pick just one thing, but the most awesome of all the awesome things about my neighborhood are the doors on the houses and buildings. Chicago is so historical and I love all the old doors in my neighborhood. Sometimes it’s the age of the door that draws me, other times it’s the carvings or the vintage color. Twice now I have had a color custom made based off the inspiration of a door I saw in my neighborhood — it makes me feel like I’m bringing “Old Chicago” back to life on furniture!
List the top 5 places you go locally to discover hidden treasures.
I typically travel out of state to find my treasures, but if I stay in the area I love to go estating. Estate sales are not only fun for picking, but it also allows me to go inside someone’s home. There are so many amazing houses in Chicago and I love getting the chance to go in and see what’s behind closed doors!
As a kid, were any of your toys and clothes hand-me-downs? Stories please!
I am a middle child and growing up with two sisters, it was closet warfare. I’d steal a shirt out of my sister’s closet only to find that she already had one of my shirts hanging in it. It was definitely survival of the sneakiest.
Today, how often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? What is your modus operandi? Any personal tips you’d like to share?
I go picking every week. It’s one of the perks of my job and I have loads of fun doing it! Aside from just redesigning pieces for the store, I also personal shop for furniture for my clients. I love hunting great pieces.
Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster? If so, what was it? And where is it now?
The very first piece I worked on was a table that I found on the street. My best friend and I were on a walk and we spotted it. After refurbishing the table, I sold it to a woman who has since become one of my best clients.
Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
People always ask me if my house is full of fantastic furniture pieces, but truthfully I only have two of my own pieces. Refurbishing furniture is my art and my legacy — I will be survived by it, so I want it out in the world!
What is your most cherished thrifted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess? What’s the story behind it?
My most cherished secondhand object is my cat. She is a purebred Himalayan with the most beautiful blue eyes and since she is a rescue, I refer to her as my used cat.
Do you create/make things? What are you working on these days?
I wish I had more time to make things. When I was young I used to draw up blueprints for ideas I had and my dad and I would create my inventions. I also used to sew. I find cross-stitch very therapeutic.
Oh, on the by and by, what’s your day job?
It’s funny because I love my job so much that I forget it’s a job. I am a one-woman-show as far as the store is concerned, but I literally never feel like I work. I guess I’m one lucky girl.
The Short List
Casa Couture Furniture
3256 N Damen Ave, Chicago, Illinois