The Crispell family abode is filled with eclectic stuff
by Kathy KaplanAs students at the University of Michigan, Linda and Gar Crispell didn’t have much money and so they bought furniture at local antiques shops. “While we shopped at the Ann Arbor antiques mall out of necessity, we discovered our love for collecting,” says Linda, a collage artist and antiques dealer.
Humble things like Pez and snow globes began to attract them. “We found these everyday objects made an impact, a nice graphic,” explains Gar, general manager of American Girl Place in Chicago.
Twenty five years later, Linda and Gar are passionate collectors of the sort of things most people either don’t notice or simply take for granted.
A delightful mix of flea market finds, junk-store treasures and found objects fills their cozy North Shore three-bedroom home. Items chosen for their unique or historical features became more than what they were intended to be.
Toy metal typewriters, croquet balls, sea glass, cucina dolls are viewed as accessories and displayed as clusters of colour or texture. “When I look at the brides and grooms (that usually sit atop a cake), I look at them as a series of black and white and they create a pattern that a piece of art might create,” explains Gar. Similarly, a grouping of little metal souvenir buildings from around the world (Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, etc.) becomes a reflective element that as a collection feels like a single piece of sculpture.
As their collections evolved, so did their respective talents. “I’m great at going into antiques malls or junk stores and spotting something that has been tossed into a corner,” says Linda. “I bring it home and Gar can immediately figure out where to plug it into the house,” she adds.
Gar, who studied fine art in college and whose parents were both artists, says, “Even though I have the formal degree, I consider Linda more of an artist than I am now. She has a very good eye and an innate sense of what’s interesting or colourful or unique.”
Deciding how to display and move things around is Gar’s task. “My experience in retail (Gar has worked at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s) translates into merchandising the house,” says Gar.
Linda considers herself quite lucky. “I’ll go to bed and then come back down in the morning and he will have rearranged the room in such a way that never occurred to me. My friends all want to borrow him.”
But a week later the room may be completely different.
With all they have, the Crispells are careful to avoid clutter. Much is kept in storage only to be displayed periodically. “We will pull things out because it’s now the right colour or it feels right" says Gar.
But no one takes this house too seriously. The ever-changing landscape reflects its owners’ sense of humour and casual approach. Nothing is precious or untouchable. Linda feels the lesson of “collecting ordinary objects is that you aren’t putting importance on material goods.”
The Crispells’ two children have embraced their parents’ avocation. Once a month the entire family visits the Grayslake Flea Market. Deke, 10, loves vintage toys and food icons like Big Boy and Green Giant, and thinks that collecting is fun. Lulu, 14, collects junk jewelry and vintage purses, and has recently become interested in political memorabilia.