The Nest Issue: Stuff and How to Have It | Feature | Chicago Reader

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Mark and Jeri Webb's collections include—but are far from limited to—vintage travel postcards, wooden deer heads, antique Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, outsider art, religious iconography, and the old wooden shoes that hang like crown molding around the perimeter of their kitchen. "It starts with one," Mark explains, "and then there's another one, and before you know it— "

"You have them hanging on the wall," Jeri interrupts.

Hanging 3-D objects on the walls is just one of the ways in which the Webbs maximize the display possibilities in their 1,600-square-foot Lincoln Square cottage. To keep things interesting, they create odd juxtapositions, vary heights, and group like objects for maximum impact. Their collection of wooden snakes, for instance, frames the doorway that leads from the foyer to the living room.

Out of respect for sensitive guests, the Webbs keep religious iconography like crucifixes and altar candles upstairs, in the master bedroom. "If you want a tattoo, put it someplace where not everybody has to look at it," says Jeri, who travels the world searching for new products as the director of stores at the Field Museum. (Mark's a museum guy too: he works as production manager for the Adler Planetarium.) "You don't want to offend anybody."

But circumspection didn't stop them from putting a life-size African statue of a nude man on a tree-stump pedestal and placing it prominently between the kitchen and the dining room. "By putting him up that high you really get to view him in his entirety," Jeri says. "I love the surprise of that." —Tate Gunnerson


Jeri: "It’s literally a plastic Christmas cookie tray with a dome over it. Inside there’s a voodoo box that’s from, Ghana maybe, and then there’re two little beaded animals from India. All three of those things have beads on them—repetition of pattern."

Mark: "The platter has little beads on it too."


Jeri: "This friend of mine had this very used Raggedy Anne. She said, 'You know, I was in this thrift store and I saw this for 25 cents, and it just looked like it had been so well loved.' So the next time I saw one, I thought, 'You know, OK, I can’t just leave this here. Because what’s going to happen to it? Nobody’s going to want it.' Then I started collecting the ones that were missing an arm or they didn’t have any little outfit left anymore. Some of them are quite hideously deformed, and some of them are actually quite nice. For a while, I was kind of refurbishing them and selling them, but who has time for that anymore? That collection has really stopped. I don’t try to pursue that, because, I don’t know, how many do I have? 50 of them? That’s enough."


Jeri: "The clogs are sort of about my roots, my family having been farmers in the old country. I don’t know anything about them, but I’m an earthy person. When I started off, I only bought ones that had been worn. So you get the sense that somebody’s foot has been in this shoe, and they went out and worked hard."

Mark: "Almost all of them are French. We looked for them in the Netherlands, but we couldn’t find any."

Jeri: "You’d think those Dutch people would have left some shoes behind, but as it turns out, they didn’t."

Mark: "I think we’ve stopped with the wooden shoes. We might buy another one if it was really good, but we’re not actively seeking them anymore."

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