The Art of Being Artful

Intrigued by word of the vast and deep collections in Linda Crispell’s Highland Park home, I ventured her way to find out how one can pick up bride-and-groom cake toppers here and an old herb drying rack there—and avoid becoming the décor equivalent of the cat lady.

Yes, my friends, it can be done. And Linda, a collage artist, has pulled it off beautifully. The result, a home that is both joyful and artful.

Here’s how she does it.

Putting on a stoic front: The exterior of Crispells’ ivory-colored home with its red brick chimney and neat, black shutters tells only part of the story that unfolds inside. That part of the story is about strong foundations and handsome backdrops to a life filled with rich tales, creativity, eclectic collections and a lot of love.

While the collections of alabaster eggs, toy typewriters, candies, little chairs, birds and wedding cake toppers charm throughout the home, they—thanks to the Crispells’ deft editing—do not overwhelm. They just delight.

And the house (like Linda and her family) makes you feel happy—as though the world is just full of possibilities.

Creativity: In the family room, self-portraits done by Linda’s children—Madeline, 15, and Ben, 11—hang in either end of a cabinet that once held notices and bulletins in some church. In the master bedroom, a large painting of a cake-topper bride and groom that her husband Gar created for an anniversary present in one afternoon hangs opposite the bed.

In the living room, there’s a painting of a nude done by Gar’s father, Roger Crispell. Linda’s collages and little muslin dolls and feathers-cum-art pop up all around.

One of my favorite tales: When Madeline was in the second grade, she heard of the need for art supplies in some city schools and the efforts of Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick to fill that need. So for her birthdays then and since, Madeline asks for art supplies—and then donates them to Fitzpatrick’s cause. This story was told as I asked about the myriad artworks that grace the walls here, some by Fitzpatrick.

Love: In the den (which sounds way too stiff for this room that holds a small desk made by Linda’s grandfather for her mother, collages by Linda, Gar’s collection of small canoes and Native American miniatures) are collections built on each of the Crispells’ wedding anniversaries. Collections of wooden toy plane propellers Gar has given Linda—one each year.

Each a little piece of sculpture, lying on a table like treasures unearthed in some archaeological dig. A cup sits nearby filled with old darts, their feathered ends showing off varying shades of brown, each given on different anniversaries to Gar from Linda.

Reuse, recycle, repurpose: These three Rs are at the heart of all the charm in this house. In the flea market treasures, in the estate- and demolition-sale finds, in the art. And after telling me how their dog Buddy came from another family to become a member of theirs, Madeline realized, why, even Buddy was repurposed!

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