Big Grass Bamboo Cinderella Story
What about all those, um, legacy prefabs scattered about the landscape? When they’ve outlived their original industrial uses, is the scrapyard the only option? The metamorphosis of a former auto body shop into a retail oasis shows the potential of recycling in place.
“I passed by all the time and edited it out of my view because it was such a dog,” John Hanesworth said of the abandoned ensemble of metal sheds that he and his wife, Duang, eventually converted to their Big Grass Bamboo retail store, selling indoor and outdoor furniture and patio accessories. The site is at the corner of Hildebrand and Beacon on the near North Side.
It looked ugly, but the garage doors suited the indoor-outdoor character of the product line, and there was ample outdoor space for patio display on a highly visible corner.
They hosed the buildings down to get rid of 30 years of grime, painted the metal an earthy light green, powerwashed and stained the concrete interior floors, removed a sheet-metal shade structure and replaced the asphalt paving with crushed granite. (They piled up the asphalt pieces to create a little hill landscaped with giant limestone blocks, plant materials and a pond.)
Working without an architect, Hanesworth made modest alterations to the metal buildings. He lined the garage door openings with pine and affixed awnings above them. He covered the concrete ramps with a boardwalk to create usable space. He enlarged a second-floor opening and dressed it with a window frame from Thailand. He added wood-plank treads to a metal interior stairway leading to a loft, now used to display bedroom furniture. Swags of fabric and suspended bamboo screens partially obscure the exposed roof trusses. Downspouts were cut short to empty into bamboo troughs and then into giant clay rainwater-collection cisterns from Thailand — Big Grass sells them as fast as they come in. A new metal mesh fence protects the outdoor merchandise from theft and vandalism but keeps it visible to passing motorists. A lot of them stop and buy.
Article courtesy of Mike Greenberg and www.incidentlight.com.