When Jef Anderson and partner Noel Eberline opened their storefront Yearbook on Forest Park's Madison Street in 2012, the design world was quick to take notice.
With features in Chicago magazine and Midwest Living, as well as shout outs in the New York Times Style Magazine and Crain's, the store has been celebrated for its signature vintage style.
Much of that style is the creation of Anderson, who designs engaging window displays each season and sources the store's unique mix of the almost-antique mixed in with carefully curated new items.
While the store continues to be a source of connection with the community, over the years, Anderson and Eberline have slowly and steadily built up the design side of their business.
Whether its creating catchy branding for the Village of Forest Park, coming up with a new look for home-town favorite, Brown Cow Ice Cream, or branching out into Brooklyn with a design of paisley walls and branding for Chef Anne Burrell's Phil and Anne's Good Time Lounge, the pair's business savvy and creativity have opened up a thriving side business.
Recent projects highlight the foray into the interior design field.
Obsessed Kitchen and Bar
One of the duo's latest projects is the interior design for Daniel Vogel's Obsessed Kitchen and Bar at 800 S. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park. The space was formerly the Kinderhook Tap, and with Vogel and his wife Trish requesting a fast turnaround, Anderson took stock of what he could keep and what had to go in the space. While doing so, he also wanted to create a real sense of place that could only belong to Obsessed.
With a commercial space, according to Anderson, interior design can be very similar to the work he does creating branding for businesses.
"My job here was to get visual differentiation from what was there when the space was Kinderhook," Anderson said. "To me, it felt like bridging the world of branding to a branded interior."
When Vogel brought the name Obsessed Kitchen and Bar over from his catering business Food Obsession, Anderson was tasked with coming up with an interior that fit the name.
"It was all about creating a sense of visual intrigue," Anderson said. "The point is to almost make it a little obsessive so people have to keep looking at something to figure it out."
To that end, Anderson chose four distinct graphic logos that pair with black and white photos to represent tools of obsession. An airplane propeller, suggesting speed, is represented with a photo of Howard Hughes in the cockpit of a plane. A paint brush sums up the obsessive style of Jackson Pollock, also featured in a photograph. A mountain climbing pick, coupled with photos of the summit of Mt. Everest represents the obsessive qualities necessary to climb tall peaks, and a ship's wheel is coupled with a photos of Shackleton's famous expedition of the Endurance.
Throughout the restaurant hang more black-and-white photos of obsessive people and subjects, ranging from Orson Welles to The Beatles to driving and dancing. Anderson coins the images, "famous obsessors and obsessions."
The repetition of groups of multiples from the photos to the circular light fixtures to the leather stools at the bar to the globes dotting the restaurant are also meant to keep the atmosphere lively with plenty of visual stimulation, feeding into the obsessive feel.
In the interest of turning around the space quickly, they kept the original terrazzo floor as well the tin ceiling but used color to help the space have a new energy. The ceiling was painted a high gloss ivory to draw the eye up and make the ceilings appear higher. A dark green paint scheme was replaced with a more lively blue.
Hemingway boyhood bedroom
In the summer of 2016, Anderson wrapped up an interior residential project with an unusual historic connection: the childhood bedroom of Ernest Hemingway.
A private residence, the Hemingway Boyhood Home is owned by Kurt and Mary Jane Neumann. Mary Jane was shopping at Yearbook when she mentioned a possible design project of the home's attic guest bedroom.
Anderson was intrigued, and followed up, knowing the chance to combine an interior based upon a historic icon was something he was uniquely positioned to do. When he was hired to plan the redo of Ernest's boyhood room, Anderson turned to Hemingway's entire life-span for inspiration.
He designed shelving to mimic the shelves he saw in photos of Hemingway's Havana home and commissioned a painting of Hemingway's boat the Pilar, to hang above the bed.
Anderson says of the room's décor, "I chose artifacts that harken to the different times of his life, rather than just focusing on his childhood. The Native American trade blanket and pillows speak to Hemingway's time in Idaho. Other items speak to what you might find in a Paris hotel."
Custom plaid drapes have a boys' school feel, and Anderson had a pillow made from Red Cross blankets used in World War I, knowing that the last time Hemingway lived in the room, he was recovering from his time post-war.
The Neumanns use the room as a guest room, so Anderson was careful to keep the feel comfortable and to shy away from anything to thematic.
"I didn't want anything to tie into any historical period or style," Anderson said. "It's like a boutique hotel space. This was a really rich project because this is where Ernest Hemingway grew up. To me, it was a real honor to work there."
Kinslahger Brewing Company
Last year, Anderson was brought in to help finish the interior of Kinslahger Brewing Company, a newcomer at 6806 Roosevelt Road in Oak Park. The owners were already working with an architect and developer to overhaul the 1920s-30s storefront, but wanted Anderson's eye to help them achieve a design that invoked a bar during the prohibition with a modern edge.
Anderson introduced zinc for the long bar top and designed a dramatic shelving unit that looks more like a piece of furniture than a utilitarian storage piece. A palette of charcoal greys and ivory gives the room an antique feel.
Anderson carried that over into finishes and furnishing. The walls are covered with anaglyptic wall covering, a raised paper that echoes the texture of the building's original tin ceilings. All of the bar stools are original Toledo stools, made in America, and the chairs were salvaged from a Firestone factory and restored.
Anderson designed a more than 20-foot long banquette and exaggerated the width of the folds to create a men's club look. He staggered black and white photography to create a sense of graphic interest without the added expense of more carpentry.
Unlike a typical interior designer, Anderson notes that most of his clients come to him looking for a particular feel in a space.
"We never try to impose a style on somebody that doesn't embody who they are," Anderson said. "If you're coming to me, you're looking for something more dedicated than just choosing furniture and a rug. We're a specialty design firm."
For Anderson, having the chance to exercise creativity works out well for both clients, the end product and his own enjoyment of the job.
"I thrive on doing interior projects when people give me the freedom to interpret an idea. I create a vision for people, if they have an idea of what they want and are open to ideas and trust."
Answer Book 2018
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