Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Anna Johnson

Anna Johnson is a name you might not recognize in the world of design, but she's been quietly making a name for herself amongst designers and collectors simply by virtue of her discriminating eye and excellent taste. Anna knows the nuances of every great designer, whether iconic or obscure, and her antique booths are a treasure trove of objects, art and furniture merchandised so beautifully that it is hard to walk away unscathed. I have eaten many a meal with this lady and even if it's 8 am on a Saturday, she always shows up looking like a combination of That Girl and Elke Sommers rolled into one. Welcome to the splendiferous world of Anna Johnson...

WHO As an extension to my work as a painter I sell vintage and modern antiques through my business, Studio A, located in my booths at the Edgewater Antique Mall and the Ravenswood Antique Mart. The objects shown here are at the Edgewater Antique Mall. My buyers include designers, dealers and collectors from Palm Beach, Miami, New York, Connecticut, California, Paris and, of course, Chicago. Thomas O'Brien and Nate Burkus come to mind. I recently sold a sleek, silvered pair of vintage candle holders that were gifted to shoe designer Brian Atwood by his mother.

Abalone mosaic and silverplated copper pitcher – Mexico - 1970s ($295)

Teak cheeseboard – Denmark – 1970s ($45)

David Anderson stainless steel cheese knife and cheese slicer – Norway – 1960s ($135)

Abalone and reticulated silver fish bottle opener – Mexico – 1970s ($145)

**Prices are 20% off through December 25.

THE GIFT An invitation to Tahoora in Chicago's Little India at 2345 West Devon Avenue where, on weekends, you can feast for $5 on Halwa Puri, a traditional Pakistani breakfast that includes a sweet and savory combination of sweet halwa, spicy chick peas, piquant chutneys, hot puris (in photo) and sweetly spiced chai.

Edgewater, Chicago, IL.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? I look for sleek, classic lines. Fussiness annoys me; although decorative flourishes can be transcendent as long as they're like stunning earrings on Audrey Hepburn. The elegant work of designers like Jean-Michel Frank, Gio Ponti, Maria Pergay and Gabriella Crespi can practically make me faint, but over-the-top designers like Serge Roche and Aldo Tura are also seductive. Nevertheless, great style interests me far more than provenance. My approach is eclectic; I like surprises that heighten our aesthetic experience. Pleasure comes from being receptive to challenging, beautiful color and shape combinations that enrich our daily lives.

If I were limited to owning one thing, I'd choose an ancient Grecian black or red figure urn. In his “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, John Keats distills the secret of truly fine design, food and living choices to their essence. To paraphrase: Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye need to know on earth.

My schedule is pretty full, so when I want something quick and nourishing, I slice queso fresco, place the slices between two small corn tortillas, microwave this for 45 to 60 seconds and then sink my teeth into this sumptuous treat.

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