Chicago Tribune. January 2, 2005
All About Eva ; A life of collecting at home and abroad is reflected in an Andersonville condo
Look around Eva Niewiadomski's apartment and you will know the story of her life.
A goddess statue from Thailand. A bedroom set from a local antiques store. Collections of decorative birds from Eastern Europe. Niewiadomski grew up in Humboldt Park before her family moved to what she says was a "good Polish, Greek, Irish, Italian neighborhood" on Chicago's Northwest Side. Her parents are Polish immigrants who worked hard and taught their children to make do with what they had.
After putting herself through college, Niewiadomski spent four years as an accountant followed by 15 years at Quaker Oats, most recently in product development for snack foods. As a veteran meetings facilitator, she under-stood how a stimulating, colorful space could add spice and creativity to a group meeting.
While at Quaker, she converted a large closet into a "creativity room" where co-workers could meet and brainstorm. In November 2002, after leaving Quaker, she opened Catalyst Ranch, an expanded version of that creativity room and perhaps Chicago's most unusual meeting and special-event space, used by such Fortune 500 companies as Pepsico, Unilever and Wrigley.
Catalyst Ranch's large, vibrant rooms offer abundant sunlight, unconventional furniture and a jamboree of toys and art. Niewiadomski's apartment in Andersonville has the same sweet, quirky look.
Drawn to Andersonville for its ethnic diversity, she found a neighborhood of well-maintained buildings. Her twobedroom condominium is filled with a delightful blend of vintage and ethnic furnishings.
"I have very few new pieces," she says. "Most things are really old, either refurbished or original. I picked up almost everything in my travels or at local markets. Most of the art is ethnic."
Her knack for putting things together enabled her to mix styles easily. In the living room, wicker couches mingle with armchairs from the '40s and '50s.
When she moved in, the apartment was half furnished. "But I wasn't worried about getting it all done in a matter of a month," she explains. "I slowly build up the pieces and, of course, after 15 years of collecting, you retire certain things. It becomes a jigsaw puzzle of switching things around."
Every year she has taken a big trip. Her travels have taken her through most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Hong Kong, Thailand and Brazil. "I've lugged and shipped some amazing things," she says.
Her dining room rug was shipped from Greece. Vases, bowls, glasses, a tea set, collections of puppets and flutes and much more hail from every corner of the globe. "I love things that are unique," she says. "It was always about things you couldn't find in the U. S."
What doesn't come from abroad was found in local antiques shops. In a corner of the living room is a turn-of -thecentury rocking chair Niewiadomski says she "dragged home because it was in such horrifying condition."
Refinished with the help of her father, it is now a "nice, solid piece," she says. "My dad and I took apart every spindle and numbered them so we could remember how to put them back together. My dad's got this interesting technique when the varnish is really old and dried-he doesn't believe in using chemical strippers. He takes broken pieces of glass and uses the sharp edge [to scrape], and it comes off with a highly polished finish. Then we restained it, put it back together and he reupholstered it for me."
Decorating her bedroom was another family affair. After years of living with off-white walls, Eva decided she "wanted to play around with color and would practice in the bedroom." She painted the room orange because "I love orange and didn't have orange anywhere else in the house. So I bought tangelo for the ceiling and a Chinese red that's a little more orangey." Her father painted the ceiling, her mother consulted on color.
Eva used a design element from an Indian sari bedspread to create a pattern and hand-painted it around the ceiling of the room. "I created a stencil out of cardboard with an X-Acto knife and then I hand-traced the arch with the stencil and filled in the rest of it by hand," she says.
Always busy with a project, Eva's now pondering what to do with the apartment's two ceiling fans. "I want to either paint or cover each blade with a Mexican art form," she says. Whatever she decides, it surely will be done with her inimitable light touch and unerring eye for whimsy.
Kitchen: 1940s distressed kitchen table-Sandwich, Ill., Antiques Market; Belgian lace curtains by owner, fabric-Vogue Fabrics, Evanston; 1930s green corner bookcase-Chicago Antique Centre, Chicago; Mexican folk art wall hanging-Evanston Ethnic Art Fair. Sunroom: Filipino wicker couch-Raphia, Miami Beach, Fla.; 1940s drapes - Antique and Resale Shop, Chicago; Indian mirror pillow on couch-Dragonfly Collections, Chicago; red silk and silver work pillow on couch-Cassona Home Furnishings, Chicago. Living room: Filipino wicker loveseat-Raphia, Miami Beach, Fla.; antique Irish chest-Sandwich, Ill., Antiques Market; Mexican yarn and Afghan bag- Edgewater Antique Mall, Chicago; antique lamp-Brownstone Antiques, Chicago. Bedroom: hat boxes -T. J. Maxx; wrought-iron bench-Chicago Antique Centre, Chicago; Mexican placemats sewn onto pillows-Pier One Imports; pink and orange pillow -Cost Plus; chenille pillow-Open Air Market, New York City; Indian turquoise pillow-Dragonfly Collections, Chicago; antique Afghan wall hanging-Edgewater Antique Mall Inc.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Subjects: Antiques, Collectibles, Interior design
Document types: Feature
Column Name: INTERIORS
Text Word Count 1047