For a midcentury-modern furniture collector, Homewood is where the heart is | Space | Chicago Reader

For a midcentury-modern furniture collector, Homewood is where the heart is 

Kelly Caldwell makes a passionate case for living in Chicago’s south suburbs.

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Longtime Homewood resident Kelly Caldwell has a bone to pick with Chicagoans who give short shrift to the city's south suburbs. "I get annoyed with north-siders thinking we are a bunch of tasteless hillbillies," says the 57-year-old midcentury-modern furniture collector, who's lived in the Homewood-Flossmoor area since 1970.

"People say, 'Why do you live so far?' And I think, 'Far from what?' I mean, I'm very close to where I live. You can see the Sears Tower. We're 26 miles from the Loop!"

click to enlarge Kelly Caldwell - KERRI PANG
  • Kelly Caldwell
  • Kerri Pang

The promotional slogan for Homewood—a former whistle-stop farm town turned recreational destination surrounded by five golf courses—is "You're in the Right Place!" "The community was built for people to come out to the country clubs. They would have summer homes out here," Caldwell says. Now the diversity and affordability of its housing stock—"From Mad Men to modern," the village website declares—frequently lands Homewood atop lists of the most livable suburbs. "It's incredible," Caldwell says. "And the bang for your buck is even better!"

The taste level is high in his modest two-story home, which he bought in 1988 and has slowly renovated by hand ("everything except the drywall"). Each room is impeccably furnished with modernist treasures sourced from all over Chicago, the midwest, and beyond. As a collector—and one of the administrators of the popular Mid Century Modern Chicago Facebook group, which currently has close to 7,000 members—he's not about to divulge his sources. But stories? He'll happily share those.

"I've always been into older items," Caldwell says. "I grew up in a house that looked like Abe Lincoln threw up all over it. And then being a kid of the 60s, we had a next-door neighbor who had really, really nice modern furniture, and I was always kind of envious. . . . I always liked that look."

click to enlarge Each room of Caldwell's house is furnished with modernist treasures sourced from all over Chicago, the midwest, and beyond. - KERRI PANG
  • Each room of Caldwell's house is furnished with modernist treasures sourced from all over Chicago, the midwest, and beyond.
  • Kerri Pang

When he bought his home 28 years ago, Caldwell couldn't afford new furniture or decor, nor did he want it. So he started hunting around for MCM designs. A former job driving a van for a phone company left him a lot of downtime, so he'd make frequent stops at resale shops, garage sales, and the like. Favorite finds include a dining room table by Italian designer Gio Ponti sourced from an Indiana thrift store ("I recognized the legs, but the top looked like it was Formica. Then I checked the tag!") and a side table by American designer Edward Wormley that was "just beat to crap" before he completely refinished the piece.

click to enlarge Caldwell's cat is of more recent vintage than his furniture. - KERRI PANG
  • Caldwell's cat is of more recent vintage than his furniture.
  • Kerri Pang

"It's like a drug," he says of furniture collecting. "If you really get bit by it, you become obsessed. I've been late to go somewhere because I'm like, 'There's a resale shop!'  "

And anyway, he's hoping more friends will get out his way and see what the bedroom community has to offer. "When people come out here, they say, 'Oh my God! This area is beautiful.'  "   v

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