When a local television station descended upon Leggy Bird Designs this week to film interviews and b-roll for a segment, the four women who own the shop knew that one of Libertyville's best-kept secrets would be out.
Faithful customers know that the store's inventory is switched up on a regular basis, and those customers keep that inventory a secret so they can get the best items.
"We would like to be a destination for designers, but they don't tell anyone about us," said Laurie King, one of the owners.
Leggy Bird Designs opened in November 2010. The business offers Carani and Lidstrom's interior design and architectural work—they design places like houses and boutique hotels—along with a shop that features a rotating collection of antiques, repurposed decor and furniture, costume jewelry, glassware, vintage barware, and other unique pieces.
The shop started as a conversation between King and Vicki Lidstrom. Lidstrom and Carani had been doing design work above Carani's garage. They called King and suggested possibly opening a store just for the holidays.
"This store (at 406 N. Milwaukee Ave.) had been sitting vacant," said King. "We said, why not open for Christmas?"
Lidstrom suggested they should instead open a studio behind it and make it a place that several people—Lidstrom, King, Carani, Kelly Murphy and a former fifth co-owner—could share.
"Literally from the idea to opening was three weeks," said King.
The women immediately went to work putting the shop together, painting in 45-degree weather and accepting assistance from passers-by who stopped to help them move items into the shop. It was such a whirlwind that they didn't buy the cash register until the day the shop opened.
"In that economy, you didn't have to make a lot to make it," said Carani.
Even now, the women split the business-related expenses, and they take turns working shifts.
What is Leggy Bird?
The shop is an energetic environment with four women who treasure their camaraderie and friendship.
"People say there must be drama. It's a drama-free zone," said King. "We will not wear you down. We'll crack you up."
"It's just a happy environment," added Murphy. "It's beautiful here."
That attitude is also characteristic of the items the women seek out or design for Leggy Bird Designs.
"There's a different feel when you walk into our store," said King. "We've taken the time to find the really special stuff."
The women go on buying trips together, scouring places like antique stores and estate sales.
"Everything is one-of-a-kind," said King, adding that the women look everywhere for new items. "It's a constant search."
King, for example, found a treasure trove of items at a shuttered school in Michigan while visiting a friend. Though many things had been "smashed and trashed," King said, she was able to pick up an interesting science poster and some science class accessories. One of those tools, a tall glass cylinder, now holds old badminton birdies and is for sale at the store.
Elsewhere in the shop, old bowling pins were used as legs for a footstool.
Just where do these ideas come from?
"From my wacky brain," said King. "There are no rules. It's whatever I come up with."
Carani, who was an ER physician for 23 years, designed her own house about 13 or 14 years ago. She said she'd wake up in the morning with a floor plan in her head, and she'd sketch it out before leaving for work.
When she met Lidstrom, "there was just this synergy."
It's a synergy that all four women share.
"It's like when you allow the synergy and the creativity from everybody, it's exciting," said Lidstrom.
One of her favorite pieces was a sofa that King covered in sheepskin for Wisma. King embroidered what she saw as a definition for a sofa on the back of the piece: "Sofa - A nice place to land at the end of the day."
Lidstrom said she also liked a piece that King made that was on the sales floor for just four hours: a starburst-type mirror that used old shoemaker forms. They called it the "shoeburst mirror."
King located a large, folk art wooden pig that Carani used in a doctor's office to make it a more "homey" environment for kids in an exam room.
Murphy is the store's "finder," Carani said.
"She finds incredible pieces," said Carani.
Murphy showed pictures of some 1800s Russian wolfhound statues she located that were used in a home design project.
"I will only bring into the store something with a major 'wow' factor," said Murphy.
The store is switched up just before every First Friday event in Libertyville. If items don't sell, Murphy says there's a box of items that were "voted off the island" that are then donated to charities like St. Vincent de Paul or The Haven.
"I compare it to almost gambling," said King. "We've had some good bets, we've had some bad bets."
But they've also had some very happy customers. Last fall, for example, they participated in a charitable program for The Haven, decorating an apartment for one of the women. They repurposed some items to give the apartment a Leggy Bird feel.
"The girl started crying when we unveiled it," said King.
The women aim to leave customers happy.
"Our projects are warm, inviting and happy," Lidstrom said of the design portion of the business. "So many of our clients cry and say, 'I never thought I would live in a place like this.'"
That's what Leggy Bird Designs is about, King said.
"I think it's a happiness."