Sunday, August 9, 2015

ReBuilding Exchange : a sustainable & educational Resource

Chicago has long been a great source for finding discarded building parts, given it's rich and varied Architectural heritage. 
Sadly- in today's Home Depot world, many of the great sources for rehabbers and remodelers have disappeared.
I used to find amazing Architectural Artifacts (Fireplace Mantels, Old TIles, Grates and Grills, etc. for sale at the "original" Maxwell Street Flea Market (the "new one" sucks for finding any such objects ) 
A store that was (I say "was" in the past tense - because IMHO - the store has sadly lost it's way...) Salvage One - used to carry many rebuilding finds and treasures - patiently waiting to be rePurposed
On the 3600 block of N. Southport, in Chicago, a small neighborhood storefront sold great -mostly wood Salvaged Parts for rehabbers. It's now a multi-unit Condo Building.
Jan's Antiques- a great resource that I've bought lots of Salvaged Painted Wood for Mirror Frames over the years ( in several locations) is now been relocated to a smaller space in Evanston.

An impromptu street spot on the 300 S. Sacramento Boulevard once randomly displayed "picks" that scrappers and salvage dogs had literally torn out of abandoned buildings on Chicago's Rough-and-Tough West Side- no longer around.

So it was with great pleasure that I stopped into the Rebuilding Exchange today and wanted to share what I discovered.

As you can see there are many "possibilities" here.....
some of the "raw materials"  are fairly priced-yet- 
I found other things, for example the Vintage Steel Storage Organizer(s) like the small dark gray one here- 
selling for prices equal to what you'd find at Architectural Artifacts Urban Remains- places that are known to Designers + Decorators + Architects for their UNcompetitively  priced "treasures"-they buy for pennies-on-the-dollar.

A cart-full of Amazing BURLAP COFFEE BEAN SACKS- waiting to be rePurposed!

Newel Posts? you're looking for Newel Posts are ya....?

Workshop that supports classes at The Rebuilding EXCHANGE
As you enter their extensive and multi-roomed warehouse you will discover a Rebuilding Workshop-available  for woodworking classes or other creative ways to incorporate salvaged materials into your next home improvement project.

Please visit this unique Chicago non-profit business and support their mission- to reuse and recycle-thereby creating not only a robust Green Economic business, but also creating jobs and keeping this material out of our already overcrowded landfills.

Rebuilding Exchange
1740 W. Webster Ave.
Chicago,IL. 60614

773. 252. 2234
Hours = Tues - Sunday @10-6pm

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Art Bars" © A Unique Method to Display Fine-Art + Photographs

Randall KRAMER © 2014 Kramer Design Studio

Hand-forged Cold-Rolled Steel Bars + Brackets & Straps combined to create a MODERN method of displaying ART!

 Against a Wenge-Wood clad wall(s) - these ART BARS really look elegant !

Randall KRAMER ©2014 Art Bars- Stacked atop each other

Order some today- from KRAMER DESIGN STUDIO- Chicago  
contact @

Knocked-Off! (and pissed-off as well!)

It's clear to me- that there are many, many folks - 
especially Interior Designers & Decorators- that do not respect Intellectual Property Rights.

Why is that? 

If as Designers- we are required to solve problems, and are paid for our creative problem- solving skills (and their execution- for an "idea" is meaningless- unless it's implemented, right?) do other Designers feel it's acceptable to STEAL someone else's ideas?
Cheating- yes....but more akin to STEALING, I'd say!

Knock-Offs - whether they are a Hermes Handbag- a Prada Purse or a Randall Kramer designed Interior Element- are amongst the lowest form of THEFT.

That's right- theft.

Know what they do in some countries when you are caught "thieving" ?
They'll chop off your hand.

OK- I'm not callin' for Sharia Law- in fact- I personally abhor that system of "Justice",
and find it Medieval and archaic at best.
But - I do know- that I am hired to create and execute ideas- and when someone else-
helps them-self- to MY ideas-and calls them his/her own- 
that's no different, than
Reaching-into-my-pocket-&-stealing-my-stash-o'-CA$H !!

When I was commissioned by Tracy Hickman to design these shelving brackets- all I was told was that I should make em out of Steel- and they should look "like-this" (holding her fingers apart to show the steel bars width) and I designed and drew several unique solutions- all of them different and striking- yet- this is the design that Tracy and her client selected for this home in Hinsdale.

There are ALWAYS- lots of design-solutions.

And- that is why I am always bothered- that a "designer" can be so unoriginal- that they COPY another persons Design(s)- and think- that it's OK?! Don't even call yourself a "designer" then- if that's the case- just call yourself an "assimilator" or a "idea-stealer-like-Pinterest", rather than a Professional Designer (or Decorator).

Please don't steal. It's unethical- UnProfessional - and if caught doing it in ISIS-controlled Syria / Iraq - you may find your "reach"...........shortened slightly !

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Finding a BRASS PLATER in The Greater Chicagoland area

112 inches long by 22" wide by 33" tall

This is how big of a part Imperial Plating Company 
of Chicago can accept to be Brass Plated.
Mid-Century-Modern Brass Plated Fireplace Screen © KRAMER DESIGN STUDIO 2014

There are fewer and fewer Metal Platers left in Chicago these days.
Chicago, at one time ("back-in-the-day") had so many Metal Finishing and Metal Fabrication Companies that it rivaled (and surpassed)  Detroit and Los Angeles.
Most of the business has gone to Asia and Mexico.
The remaining companies that do Brass Plating are so overwrought w/ Regulations- 
mainly from The EPA- that they can no longer afford to stay in business.

One of the more toxic chemicals known to man- Cyanide- is used in Brass Plating, 
so it is important that it be used and stored and disposed of properly.

Furthermore- the larger the "part" that needs to be plated- 
the larger the amount of liquid being held in a plating tank- 
and the larger the tank - 
the larger the Environmental "risk" incurred.

I've used Imperial Plating twice now- for Decorative Fireplace Screens, and both times the results have been superb. 
Not only the final product- but dealing with people as kind and thoughtful as 
John Griffin- the Sales Manager @ Imperial Plating Company.
John made sure to cover all his bases- understanding that the Fireplace Screen I was to have plated was NOT just some part- and truly "got" how much of my heart and soul went into the fabrication of this Fireplace Screen.

Brass Plated Fireplace Screen with demountable Screen + carved foot detail © Kramer Design Studio-2014
John and I discussed details as minute as the the direction of polishing after the part was plated, and how my client requested NO LACQUER to be sprayed after polishing- something they automatically do to a Brass-Plated part. We also discussed the risk of the plating filling in the holes in the the 10mesh screen I used- so I had to "engineer" a 
"demountable-screen-system" to make this work. 
None of these details seemed to ruffle John's feathers at all- 
a consummate Professional Businessman.
Brass Plated Fireplace Screen with demountable Screen © Kramer Design Studio-2014

So, remember these dimensions the next time you need to get sumpin' expertly 
BRASS PLATED in-and-around-Chicago- 112 inches long by 22" wide by 33" tall,
if it's smaller than that- they can take care of you !

Feel free to tell 'em "The Man of Steel" sent ya!

Imperial Plating Company
7030 West 60th Street


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Black Oxide Finish on Cold Rolled Steel = H O T !

A GREAT look for finished Steel Furniture and Interior Elements 
that's been around for Nuts & Bolts,
Guns and other tools forever, is one that I recently explored for 
The Fine Custom Furniture,Interior Elements and Lighting that I Design and Fabricate.
Black Oxide- Cold Dipped- by Expert Metal Finishing, River Forest,IL.
The finish almost looks like an Oxidized Bronze !

Adding a "grain" or texture w/ a Heavy Duty ScotchBrite made all the difference!
Rich warm yummy dark brown/black color- enhanced by graining w/ a ScotchBright
The Company that I resourced is in an area of the Western Suburbs of Chicago- just off of North Avenue- between 1st Ave. and 15th Ave.
The Industrial Park area is "technically" River Forest- but has about as much in common w/ River Forest as Cicero does w/Chicago.
Expert Metal Finishing is run by Gus Garza and his Partner from Poland-Jerzy Kozik.
They do have a "lot" charge- which is more than I'd like it to be- but- comparing the time and labor and chemical requirements to do the job in-house, it certainly is a worthwhile Finishing Option for Steel.
The only downside is that they "automatically" want to oil the part you bring- after being oxidized- so it won't rust. I had wanted to either clear coat w/ a Matt Clear PowderCoat-
or use a Hot Wax hand rubbed finish- which must be maintained over time. Getting them- to "understand" this- and to execute- was 50/50.

One of the challenges I face in interfacing w/ Industrial Materials and Processes is that often- They will want to do something a certain way- because - "thats-the-way-we-allways-do-it"
which I find- not always what I want.
And- since I'm paying for the work to be done- shouldn't I be able to get my metal left WITHOUT OIL?
I think so.........
Anyway- if you are looking to get a  warm rich finish on Steel- try:

Expert Metal Finishing

2120 N. West Street
River Grove, IL 60171

Need Steel? Osorio's Iron and Metal,Chicago,IL.= Service with a Smile!

Square Steel Tubing @ 1.5" Square @ OSORIO'S IRON WORKS,CHICAGO,IL.
Shopping for Steel can sometimes be a Pain-In-The-Ass.
It's certainly a "Commodity" item. 
Not that Brand "A" is any better or worse than Brand "B".
Steel is Steel.
Yet- if a small fabricator or individual's looking to buy- one length of this, and another length of that- cut in half please (to fit in my Van) - the "rolled eyes" look is certain to appear from the often crabby Steel Man.
Au Contraire- Mon Fraire
......certainly NOT the case @ Osorio's Iron and Metal in Chicago.
When you walk in the door - you are greeted w/a friendly "Hola" by either Jazmina, Angelica,
or Oscar. If they don't have what you are looking for- they will gladly help to source if for you.
For example- Cold Rolled Steel- also called 1018- isn't an off-the-shelf item.
No Problemo.
Jazmina will make a call to her supplier- and be able to provide the material for you w/in a day or so. Same thing for Stainless Steel.

They primarily support the Ornamental Fence Industry- all the small shops in town that make gates,railings and other "wrought iron" that you commonly see- but never pay attention to.
BUT- they are also "used to" Artists, Furniture Designers, and others who aren't pulling up in a PickUp Truck ready to load a 20 foot long piece of Steel.

Osorio's is a recommended Vendor-  as well as someone I "like" to do business with (&you will 2 !)
Bandsaw they use to cut 20 foot lengths to fit in your Vehicle @ OSORIO's 

Osorio Iron & Metal
4515 W. Thomas
Chicago,IL. 60651


Hard to "find"- Easy to work with!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Custom Wire Bending in Chicago

Chicago is a great town in SO many ways & one of them is the network of Sources and Resources that exist here. One of those Sources is a company that is instrumental to the Display + Visual Merchandising Industry, a company that bends wire in very imaginative ways. Recently I was assigned to source out a company that can do wire-bending on a Production level, as well as assist to develop "sample(s)" or prototypes.

                                       Chicago Wire Design did not disappoint.
Worktable where all the "magic" occurs

Overview of Main Workroom with print of project in foreground

Bending a bracket that The Shop Foreman designed "on-the-fly"

Roberto has been working for many years at Chicago Wire and now runs the Company. He deals with all sorts of creative types- from designers to engineers.They can and do produce display racks, floral display armatures, lampshades, and a huge variety of wire bent items.

Chicago Wire Design
1750 N. Kimball Avenue