2014 – Luxe Source – “Shop Owner: Stuart Grannen”


Procuring unusual relics from around the world, shop owner Stuart Grannen is intent on saving the best of the past for a chance in the future.

I often think that I was put on this earth to find antique objects and give them a new purpose,” says Stuart Grannen, founder of Chicago-based Architectural Artifacts—an 80,000-square-foot mecca of abandoned relics and salvaged treasures. “Giving an old piece a new lease on life really motivates me.” As a child, the New Jersey native accompanied his parents—both history aficionados and American antiques collectors—as they cased shops, museums and galleries, and once he even purchased his own piece: a stained-glass window, which he bought at the age of seven. “As my parents would buy pieces, I’d also see all of these items that I personally liked,” he says. “After a while, I thought, ‘I could make a living out of this.’”

An eclectic array of unique and unusual finds can be found in Grannen’s three-story showroom, including crystals from a lighting factory in Buenos Aires.

An eclectic array of unique and unusual finds can be found in Grannen’s three-story showroom, including crystals from a lighting factory in Buenos Aires.

While he valued their influence, Grannen chose to buck his parent’s traditional style in favor of more unconventional finds—eventually creating his own definition of historic preservation. “I love using antiques as objects of beauty and bringing new life to old things,” he explains. “For instance, a terra-cotta façade ornament that may have once resided on a building can now be a piece of art.”

A chandelier from a Chicago theater hangs amongst the many other antique finds.

A chandelier from a Chicago theater hangs amongst the many other antique finds.

Opening his storefront in the Ravenswood corridor in 1987, Grannen initially set up shop in a 100-year-old structure, which today has expanded into the adjoining buildings, and has filled the showroom with such unique finds as a 20-foot-long iron table weighing in around 3 tons, chocolate vats recovered from The Hershey Company and cast-iron molds of 15 different instruments. “I’m an acquirer,” admits the travel enthusiast, who sources from such varied places as an auto shop in a suburban high school and a European cathedral. “I like to own pieces for a period of time and then find a better home for them.”

Striving for a balance between beauty and quality, Grannen hopes to find purpose beyond each object’s original intention while still maintaining its history. “The past should be honored, respected and held up in great esteem,” he says. And with the pieces Grannen discovers, he does just that—weaving together a narrative of both past and present.

Images Courtesty of Cynthia Lynn

—Taryn Bickley