The Nest Issue: Stuff and How to Have It | Feature | Chicago Reader

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Sandra Soss has cultivated her approach to decor since she was a child, but it was only four years ago that she learned the word for it—bricolage. Soss came across the term in a word-a-day calendar, defined as "something constructed by using whatever materials happen to be available."

The phrase sparked an epiphany, she says: "That's how I live my whole life." Inspired by the calendar page (which she kept), Soss made bricolage her living as well. The former buyer and "visual merchandiser" for an independent retailer now sells her finds, as well as original creations like hand-embroidered cameo buttons, through two shops—Bricolagelife and Daisy Chain Vintage—on She also blogs at

Soss's three-bedroom Lincoln Square apartment is jam-packed with curios recent and old, modern and country, industrial and handmade, culled over the years from thrift stores and rummage sales. But if the components are the results of happy shopping accidents, each placement is painstakingly intentional. They "all go together when I get them home," she says, forming a kind of museum of the mind, a catalog of personal history, emotions, and inspirations. Cabinets teem with small dolls, built-in bookshelves by the fireplace house a sizable collection of American art pottery. She transformed a cramped bedroom into a cozy workshop with surplus retail shelving, on which she keeps vintage cameras, fabrics and notions, and art supplies.

Soss doesn't collect things for their monetary value. "I'm compelled by aesthetic or nostalgic appeal," she says. "You see a piece and you know if it's something you want to look at forever." —Katherine Raz


"This is a stack of Ikea wooden CD storage drawers. I glued pieces of maps from an old atlas on the drawer fronts with some words and small images cut out of books and magazines I kept for making collages. I used a bundle of vintage wooden yardsticks and rulers I collected and wanted to display to finish the side and top surfaces."


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