Arts & Culture » Space

Greg Burhop's game of barns in Pilsen

A south-side spot simultaneously acts as an unofficial art gallery and an official battleground for board gamers.

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Maybe you've stumbled into Greg Burhop's apartment during an art walk. Or maybe you've couch surfed in one of his lofted bedrooms. Or maybe you've attended his board game night—and played Knock Down Barns, the game he invented. Whatever the incentive, Burhop's space is built for communal gatherings, and he has many.

A fourth-generation Evanston native, Burhop relocated to Pilsen in 2009 (he continues to work for his family's seafood market, Burhop's Seafood, located in Hinsdale and Glenview). The apartment was chosen for its large floor plan, 14-foot ceilings, and expansive white walls, on which he showcases art in an unofficial gallery setting. Artists are invited to exhibit work on the second Friday of each month, coinciding with the Pilsen Art Walk.

Loftlike yet cozy, the apartment has vines draped from the kitchen ceiling, an impressive board game collection, and a charming half pitbull named Puck. Most of the furniture comes from Craigslist. The "digital leopard-print" sectional? Craigslist Score of the Year 2009. The 200-pound, foot-thick butcher block? Craigslist Score of the Year 2012. Burhop's bedroom is sectioned off with a wall he constructed from reclaimed barn wood (also Craigslist). "Barn wood has this nice weathered look that you can't really achieve unless you've got wood that's been outside for many, many years," he explained.

Burhop uses reclaimed barn wood for more than privacy. A board game enthusiast, he's dreamed up his own, called Knock Down Barns. With a build-and-destroy objective, opponents erect structures and do battle with marshmallow-like "demolition barrels." It's Jenga meets Battleship meets dodgeball.

To make the game, Burhop, well, knocks down barns. "With a small truckload of that barn wood, I can make hundreds of games," Burhop said. "I realized the games were going to come out gorgeous using old, weathered barn wood. It's not easy to work with, but it's well worth the effort." (Visit knockdownbarns.com for a demo.)

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