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Don’t buy it—build it!

Whitney Gaylord's Logan Square graystone is filled with custom-designed furniture from her shop, Maker

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If everyone were as skilled as Whitney Gaylord, Ikea might go out of business. Gaylord, who moonlights as a librarian at the University of Chicago, is the talent behind Maker, a custom furniture company offering everything from tables to beds to lighting, all of it built from wood and other materials sourced from the Chicago area. When Gaylord needs a piece of furniture, she imagines what she wants and then creates it.

She and her husband, Thomas Peri, purchased their Logan Square graystone over a year ago, and the second-floor unit needed a total overhaul. So they rolled up their sleeves and began the transformation, which included gutting the kitchen, replacing fire-scorched floors with new wood, and outfitting the space with a combination of handmade and thrifted furniture. The bookshelves that dominate the living area are the most recent installation; they took about a month's worth of weekends and cost $500 in materials. They provide a sleek, built-in look and consolidated the couple's book collection, which was previously spilling into every room of the house.

The stunning bench and dining table are also Maker-made ($300 and $1,600 retail), composed of black walnut slabs sourced from Horigan Urban Forest Products, which mills felled trees from city parks and local forest preserves. Gaylord paired the set with four vintage chairs that she picked up on Craigslist for $20 each. In the guest bedroom, you'll find yet another wonder: a custom-made queen bed made from reclaimed Douglas fir ($750 retail). My favorite part of the guest room is the punchy vintage map, scored at Urban Remains at a "big discount, because of the slight tear somewhere north of the Rocky Mountains," Gaylord says.

One of the most intriguing components of the main room are the ethereal paper panels that cover the side windows. Created by Natalia Hayes, who was Gaylord's roommate at the Art Institute, the translucent paper brings light into the house at different times of the day and provides a whimsical "view" where there was once a neighboring brick wall.

Visiting Gaylord and Peri's home was truly inspiring—and makes me want to add a few more power tools to my Christmas wish list.

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