Who lives in this West Village home of swimming pool cool?
You know those friends, who, when you compliment them on their sweater, whip off the bargain price and where they got it from? That’s Uncle Mike. But his deals come in the form of swimming pool railings, decorative tiles, furniture and fireplaces.
Mike Grajewski — owner of Uncle Mike’s Place at Grand and Paulina, the funky kind of little corner eatery I love — is a man who hears a different drummer. And marches. Resourcefully. Affordably.
When his neighbor put up a wrought iron fence, Mike put up one made with scrap-yard offerings. He erected it to accommodate a lamp post that once lit up Midway Airport. Really. And, believe it or not, it actually looks like it belongs here. (The front door, by the way, is a storefront door given to Mike by a friend.)
The former union sheet metal worker bought the West Village apartment building in 1972 when he was 20. He and his wife, Lucy Grajewski, now the director of a blood analysis lab at St. Joseph Hospital, moved in when daughter Mai Lynn was 1. This was long before there was scrap-yard fencing or ivy climbing nearly to the top the three-story building — or windows. The temporary fix back then: beer signs to cover the gaping openings.
Today, unlike then, you won’t see your breath in the living room when it’s cold out. The beer signs are gone. Real windows — and protective railings (but that’s a whole ‘nother story and there are myriad wonderful ones here) — cover window openings. And a gorgeous electric fireplace holds court too. Another bargain story, but this one’s Lucy’s (with the inevitable parentheticals from Uncle Mike).
“And that chest. Tell me about that chest,” I say. “I was driving around Racine [Wis.]. I got it at a yard sale for $50,” Mike says. The oak door? Antique shop near Lake Street. Oak trim? Salvage One. The beautiful maple floor? Mike had a yen for the white maple of a gymnasium floor. He finally found a place in Wausau, Wis., that milled the maple right there. So he rented a truck and picked it up himself.
Funny, I didn’t get a very clear story behind this ostrich egg sitting atop their kitchen cabinet. But I did get this from Mike, who, by the way, cooks a mean Filipino breakfast (head to Uncle Mike’s Place on Grand Avenue if you don’t believe me):
“Say you were a caveman and you came across a cave. Would you just go into that cave or bring whatever you could find and bring it back into that cave? That’s what I’m doing. When you go someplace and see something and it’s eyecatching, you bring it home.”
And now: It’s slide show time . . .
|Make a Smilebox slideshow|