We’re moving! As new members of the Logan Square community, we’re talking with some of our favorite businesses about why they love their neighborhood. Follow the progress of our new mixed use commercial retail and loft apartment, Logan Certified, on our blog. We’ve renovated and refreshed Logan Certified from its humble beginnings as a food and liquor store and have space to rent. The building had fallen into disrepair on the outside, but upon exploration, we found many salvageable elements and of course kept the “bones” of the building, a crucial component of our favoring adaptive reuse over the generally more wasteful demo/rebuild cycle. Our next featured new neighbors are Damaris Aquino-Sanchez and Fernando Sanchez, owners of Antique to Chic, a vintage furniture restoration and retail outfit on Diversey avenue. The store also sells house-made candles, and some of the best vintage glassware in Chicago. Don’t forget to check out our other interviews in this series with The Dill Pickle, Boulevard Bikes and Bric-a-Brac.
The Sanchezes opened their shop about a year and a half ago, combining a passion for upcycled furniture and a killer eye for hidden treasures. Entering the shop my gaze immediately wrestled between the restored vintage vanity (unfortunately for me marked: SOLD) and a charming bar cart. Peppered throughout the store are the couple’s dish and glassware finds, each a savvy pick with just the right amount of fun detail harkening to an era before plastic ubiquity—a delicate gold rim, a blown glass cactus perched on the bottom of a margarita glass (we purchased a set of these obviously). We also found out its twin had ended up at Fat Rice—of course! Damaris’ candle creations are inside some of these glasses, solving the “single shoe” phenomenon that renders some really cool glassware unsellable. If one of the candles should run dry, the couple insists on providing a refill free of charge. It is details like these that take Antique To Chic from a place to buy great, affordable upcycled furniture, to a place with a lot of heart. Read on for a look at how they got their business started, where they find their pieces, and what they enjoy about running a business together.
HOW DID YOU START YOUR UPCYCLED FURNITURE BUSINESS?
Damaris Aquino-Sanchez: I studied Interior Design at Harrington College of Design; he was in remodeling. I had been doing a little bit of upholstery out of my house and selling it online. He told me, ‘let’s do something bigger.’
Fernando Sanchez: We started it as a hobby, but the interest from the local area was great—people were loving what we were doing. We started upcycling more furniture, and then we got into the candles.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE PIECES THAT YOU WORK WITH?
FS: We do a lot of estate sales and flea markets. We go picking in other states—we’re always traveling. We go with an empty truck, not realizing that we’re going to come back with a full one.
DAS: A lot of people bring us stuff!
FS: If the pieces are excellent—like this chair [gestures to a chair with beautiful brocade-like embroidery] was wrapped in plastic for sixty years. The plastic was horrible and brittle. When I took it off, it looked amazing. This is the original fabric from the 1940s.
ANY OTHER FAVORITE FINDS?
DAS: We have two chairs that my cousin found on the side of the road. We re-upholstered and re-painted them, and then sold them. They were all scratched up and abandoned, but we brought them back to life. They’re beautiful chairs.
FS: We’re really into upcycling. I hate to see old chairs go to waste. Since she’s the designer, she picks all the colors. She really has a vision, when she sees something that’s totally destroyed. I’m just the handyman that brings the vision to life. We really make a great team.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO MAKE UPCYCLED FURNITURE?
DAS: What they make now is not high quality. The bones of items like this chair—they’re good. I don’t like seeing that in the dump. Some people think that having things like that in their homes is going to be really expensive. But if you paint it or sand it, you can have a nice apartment with vintage finds that doesn’t cost you that much.
FS: We really don’t like to see stuff thrown away. If it’s 60 to 100 years old and you get rid of it, you’ll never see it again. But by repurposing it, adding fabric and sanding or staining it, you have a chair for another 100 years that’s going to be excellent in your home.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU WHEN YOU’RE WORKING?
DAS: I like good bones. At Harrington, it was more architecture based, but the instructors were very into clean lines and the romance of certain pieces. I went to Europe, and over there everything is amazing. It really stays in your mind. Especially Paris—it’s too beautiful.
FS: When I do upholstery, everything has to be exact. If I don’t like it, I’ll tear it apart and I’ll start all over again. We had one little round coffee table. We ended up doing it like four times.
DAS: Cause you didn’t like how it looked!
FS: If I don’t like it, I can’t sell it. I want it to be perfect.
DAS: He’s learned a lot. He’s learned chair caning. We do weaving and laminate on pieces. We just learned by taking little classes here and there. The upholstery he learned from a master that’s been doing it for 50 years.
FS: He’s my Yoda. He’s got an amazing eye. With prints, everything has to be centered. Like with these French chairs. There’s a lady, a house and a little dog. I did one once, and he was like ‘that’s horrible,’ and it was the best thing I had ever done. The dog was too low, so I went ahead and did it again until I got his approval. We get a lot of compliments over how the prints are done and how the lines are even. I’m very meticulous.
HOW DID YOU START MAKING CANDLES IN VINTAGE GLASSWARE?
DAS: We have a lot of glassware; we’re obsessed. But we’d find some sets with only one glass left. And we were like, ‘We have too many of these. Maybe we can do something with them.’ We got into candle making just so we could fill the surplus of glasses.
FS: We do a variety of scents. Right now we’re doing fifty different scents and ten different colors. For winter we had Peppermint, Candy Cane, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie. My favorite is Antique Sandalwood.
DAS: For the spring we’re starting with Gardenia, for the summer we do more fruity stuff; Watermelon. I like Fig Tree the most. I had never smelled it before I started doing scents. We’re tired of vanilla, but people ask for it [laughs]. Vanilla’s everywhere.
Some of Antique to Chic’s house-made candles, a great use for single pieces of glassware that were previously unsellable
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO LOGAN SQUARE?
DAS: I’ve lived here for a long time. I’ve lived on the Northside all my life, and I moved by the McDonald’s in 2010. He moved over here because we got married. He liked this area, so we just stayed. We love it here.
FS: There’s a diversity of people here. I was raised here, but I left when I was 16. I lived in Florida for 20 years, and then came back. I was on the Southside when we met. It was boring over there. Here people are friendly. Everybody says ‘hi’. We know a lot of the area business people and they give us advice. That’s what really brought our store up: listening to people.
DAS: The people at Cafe Con Leche really helped us out. I’ve known his wife since I was little. They always plug us.
HOW DO YOU THINK ANTIQUE TO CHIC HAS SHAPED THE COMMUNITY IN LOGAN SQUARE, OR VICE VERSA?
DAS: The Chamber of Commerce told us that there were too many bars being opened, and he was really glad that there was a store coming in here. When we moved to this location, they were like ‘oh this corner looks so much better!’ The corner store owner even asked if we could take it over and make it pretty. [laughs]. And I was like, ‘no we have too much work to do right now!’
F.S.: We have a lot of customers that come in and praise us for having a local antique store so they don’t have to go further out. And comparing our prices to everybody else, we’re really affordable. We’re not trying to be super rich. It would be nice. But we understand the cost of living.
WHAT ARE YOUR THREE FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IN LOGAN SQUARE?
DAS: We like to eat.
DAS: It’s nice to have all of this variety within walking distance. In the summer, we love to take walks everyday.
FS: We enjoy the farmer’s market.
DAS: We actually got showcased there last year. We did really well so we’re gonna do it again this year.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
DAS: Well, I don’t know if he enjoys it [laughs]. I’m not here usually. I own another business, a daycare. First Steps Home Childcare. I’ll come in and tell him ‘this looks nice,’ and then I’ll leave and he can do his work by himself.
FS: Yeah, she’s the designer—she’s always designing.
DAS: Every couple of days, I’m rearranging the furniture.
AT HOME TOO?
DAS: Oh yeah, at home too [laughs].
FS:—But we learned to get along.
DAS:—And we push each other’s buttons. Now he knows that it’s all about the details. Before he was like “Why do we have to do all this?!” [laughs].
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOUR DAYCARE?
DAS: I used to work in finance, but I lost my job during the mortgage crisis. My family has been in daycare for 50 years. So I decided to open another daycare. It’s been seven years and we’re doing very well. We’re one of the better home daycares. That’s what they tell me. It’s not me saying that! [laughs] I’m thankful we get good reviews. And our parents are always talking about us with all the Logan Square moms.
FS: They really cater to the kids. They get immaculate breakfasts. Berries, pancakes; everything’s made fresh. All the staff are CPR-trained. Spanish and English is taught; and ASL as well. We emphasize behavior and calmness. There’s hardly any crying there.
DAS: We work very hard with the parents. If we see something a little off, we’ll talk to them right away. Kids know what’s happening at all times. People think that they’re not listening because they’re kids, but even babies are listening. You have to keep calm.
When I was in France, I also checked out a few daycares through an internship. They teach how to eat in different courses really early on, so they open their palettes really quickly. And everything is very polite. They really emphasize manners from a young age. When you come in, you have to say ‘Bonjour.’ We teach our kids that: please and thank you so they can get it down pat and be polite individuals later on! [laughs]
ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD?
DAS: We’re just glad that somebody is talking to us. We’re excited to share how we did this, cause you know, it’s been hard work. It’s been very, very hard work.
FS: We really appreciate Logan Square residents because they’ve really helped us out. Buying and bringing us stuff all the time and thanking us for putting this place here. It’s been going really nicely and we really appreciate it.