Douglas and Anne Dowd, like many young, hip couples, had a certain aesthetic in mind for their home. They liked the bold, graphic Mid-Century Modern look. But there were certain obstacles.
For one thing, they only had so much money. There was a thornier problem, too: how could they, in good conscience, purchase items made by workers in slave-like conditions, or in ways that wasted resources or would ultimately add to the landfill load?
What Refind Home offers, says Doug Dowd, 34, is "eco-friendly" without being beige: modern, with appealing graphics and contemporary colors. "We have a mix of vintage pieces – furniture and accessories – in the store. Some are in 'as-is' condition, some have been rewired, refinished or reupholstered. But the rest of the business is entirely made-in-the-USA products, crafted in an eco-friendly way."
Dowd and wife Anne, 32 (described by Doug as "eight and three-quarter months pregnant" with their first at the time of the interview) have done all the research the socially-conscious shopper could want, and share an eye for visual and tactile appeal.
"We pick what we would want in our own place," says Doug.
"When we first got our condo, we had to do research and go to so many different stores to find sheets, blankets, furniture, lamps. And when we wanted to know where they came from, how they were made, how the workers were treated and compensated – stores often just don't know. But we do."
He points to a big lime-green throw pillow, covered in a sophisticated slubby fabric with piped edges and a fun sketch print of a Vespa. "For example, that pillow is manufactured in the Midwest. It's zippered and washable – that's what we would want, so that's what we look for. It's also made out of recycled plastic soda bottles. It's comparable in quality to pillows in design stores in the $200-$250 range, but here it's $68. The company also manufactures on demand – we order, they make what we order – so there's no waste."
Refind carries just about everything needed to furnish a home and do it with style, right down to picture frames – they carry some made of reclaimed antique barn wood – and candles. Clean-burning beautifully-scented soy in silk-screen-printed reusable glass containers – designed to be kept and enjoyed as drinking glasses – are made entirely in the USA by Skeem, and a second line of soy candles and bath products from Bright Endeavors; the latter are manufactured by adolescent mothers in the very nearby Austin neighborhood of Chicago, in a program designed provide the young women with a path to permanent employment. Bowls, trays and cutting boards made by local artists add an attractive touch – including glass dishes featuring recognizably "Chicago" images made by Oak Park artist Kiku. There are tables of and carts of all sizes from Chicago Salvage Works, reclaimed from older pieces. There are even soft blankets, in striking woven-in-designs, made sustainably; the thread used to weave them is made from the cuttings left over from the manufacture of cotton undershirts.
The Dowds, who grew up in Oak Park, opened Refind Home there the first time, at 139 S. Oak Park Avenue.
"That space was a little smaller than we needed, which became apparent one month into the lease," said Douglas. "Then we saw this place (the new store at 7511 S. Madison in Forest Park) and it all fell together. Forest Park has such a great business community, and the shopping traffic here is phenomenal! Even our best customers from the Oak Park store tell us they love it that we moved here."
Those customers, he says, are a good mix of Oak Park and Forest Park residents, but also a lot of people from the north side of Chicago.
"What we are competing with," says Douglas, " are all those shops in the Andersonville neighborhood, which have gotten really expensive. Forest Park has everything: good shops, good restaurants, and parking."
Refind Home is open Wednesday through Saturday 11-6 and Sundays noon to 5.
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