- Isa Giallorenzo
This used to be [part of] a barn near Springfield," says George Schaefer, one half of the duo behind Norman Leigh Design, pointing at a piece of wood. "Look at this nail," he says, reaching into a box. "You can’t find this anymore."
Both Schaefer, 40, and his partner in life and business, Leigh-Anne Riebold, 36, feel strongly about preserving history and the environment—something they do masterfully with their pieces of home decor.
"Coming from a construction background, I've always worked with wood, and it's what I know the most about," Schaefer says. "I specifically had an interest in working with reclaimed wood someday, because for years while renovating houses I watched so much material get thrown away and wasted. When Leigh and I first started building our vision for Norman Leigh [the name is a combination of his middle and her first name], using reclaimed materials when possible was very important to both of us for a number of reasons—including keeping lots of usable material out of the landfill and also preserving the history of the material we are salvaging."
The couple find many of their materials in dumpsters, and often hit up contractors they've gotten to know. "It's a win-win because we get material to use and the contractor doesn't have to pay to empty his dumpster as often," says Schaefer.
The bulk of their work comes from custom projects, but for those on a tighter budget they have products such as plant stands, serving trays, and wall art ranging from $20 to $300.
Even though the duo get their materials from the past, their aesthetic is decidedly contemporary: "Something that is important to us is that our pieces feel current and have a modern/refined edge to them as opposed to feeling too 'rustic,'" says Riebold. They're clearly a hit with the local market:
"Our business has grown incredibly, especially over the last three years," she adds. One of the reasons we love being in Chicago is that people here have a real appreciation for the maker movement and the work and time that goes into our craft." Norman Leigh Design, 3641 S. Morgan, first floor, 312-857-4733, normanleigh.com. v