A home away from Humboldt House | Space | Chicago Reader

A home away from Humboldt House 

The owner of the popular shop has an open-door policy at her well-appointed cottage.

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Patrons of Humboldt House—Claire Tibbs's vintage-modern home store along the California corridor, between Division and Augusta—and visitors to "the Beach House"—her own Humboldt Park abode, so-named because of its location on Beach Avenue—are likely to discover similar things upon crossing either threshold. For one, the 29-year-old businesswoman and home owner has a well-defined interior design style. Both spaces are appointed with vintage leather sofas, Turkish kilim pillows, Acapulco chairs, geometric mirrors, and friend-made ceramics—many with a boob theme. ("There are boobs everywhere!" Tibbs says.)

click to enlarge The living room of the house that owner Claire Tibbs has dubbed "the Beach House" - KERRI PANG
  • The living room of the house that owner Claire Tibbs has dubbed "the Beach House"
  • Kerri Pang

For another, she has a particular knack for creating environments that are warm and inviting rather than sleek and showroom-y: "[I] like things to be well made and for the design to speak for itself and to speak strongly . . . but I also want a [space] that's comfortable, and I want things to look like people live there," she says. Her pit bulls, three-year-old Lady Bird and nine-month-old Squid, are right at home in both places. And she hopes patrons, guests, friends, and roommates (she rents out the Beach House's two downstairs bedrooms) feel the same.

"I have always been a collector of vintage and enjoy the hunt and the find," explains Tibbs, who worked in the art world and restaurant industry before opening her shop in 2013. "But I like finding special things and sharing them with other people."

click to enlarge The sun room in Tibbs's master suite - KERRI PANG
  • The sun room in Tibbs's master suite
  • Kerri Pang

During a recent tour of her residence—a two-story cottage, painted gray with a teal door—the concept of sharing came up a lot. Atop the stairs on the second floor, a cozy guest room welcomes folks who need to crash for the night. Just beyond that is Tibbs's bright and airy master suite, featuring a vaulted ceiling, exposed beams, a midcentury-modern fireplace, and a seating area for friends to gather. "Most of my friends have keys. A lot of my friends are here when I'm not," Tibbs says. "It's a really active house."

click to enlarge Tibbs's bedroom - KERRI PANG
  • Tibbs's bedroom
  • Kerri Pang

She bought the place three years ago, attracted by its location (only about a mile from Humboldt House), outdoor spaces (including a fenced backyard with room for seating and a firepit), and the opportunities it presented for entertaining. "I thought I was looking for a fixer-upper, and then you learn what that could mean," she says with a laugh. The Beach House didn't require a gut rehab, but Tibbs has tackled several substantial projects since moving in: taking down walls, stripping away faux finishings ("sponge paint, hot glue, fabric in strange places"). She even has a souvenir to show for her efforts: while demolishing the sunroom with a crowbar, she fell into a nail and now has a new dimple in her cheek.

click to enlarge KERRI PANG
  • Kerri Pang

Among her most beloved items in the house are a sofa set by Brazilian designer Percival Lafer, Moroccan rugs ("I have certain rugs—you just look at them and want to weep"), and various pieces by some of the 100-plus Chicago-based artists carried in the shop: paintings, candles, wall hangings, various boob-adorned vessels . . .

"Humboldt House is always full of people I know and love and things I know and love," Tibbs says. "That's what I like about this house too."   v

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