Park Ridge furniture maker taps into Shaker history
Philip A. Kralovec is the owner of Shaker Furniture and Handworks in Uptown Park Ridge. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:12AM
PARK RIDGE — The recently-restored “Indians Cede the Land” mural now hanging in the Park Ridge Public Library features the touch of a local woodworker.
Philip Kralovec created the replica door frame bearing the word “postmaster” to be similar to signage that hung below the large mural when it was housed in the city’s post office from 1940 to 1970.
“I was very pleased and proud to be involved in that,” said Kralovec of Shaker Furniture and Handworks in Uptown Park Ridge.
Since setting up shop at 7 S. Fairview Ave. in 1991, Kralovec has been the jack-of-all-trades for his furniture business.
He crafts wooden pieces, manages sales and keeps the store tidy, doing whatever it takes to keep business booming.
Prior to turning a longtime hobby into a career, Kralovec had worked for the National Restaurant Association in a different area of expertise: single malt scotch and beer.
“It’s been a very gratifying move for me,” he said of opening Shaker Furniture and Handworks.
Kralovec’s Shaker specialty store debuted at a time when celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby had embraced the collectible furniture, he said.
Today his is the only Chicagoland-area store offering authentic, custom-finished Shaker reproductions of dining room tables, rocking chairs, bookcases, clocks and more. He also designs and creates one-of-a-kind pieces.
“If you have a vision, Philip can make the piece,” said Brenda Whitenack, of Park Ridge, who said she “treasures” her unique wood furniture.
Kralovec said all furniture in his store is constructed in the U.S. “with “solid, indigenous (and) responsibly-harvested wood.”
While most other stores primarily carry furniture made of oak and cheery wood, Shaker Furniture and Handworks also sells furniture from various maples, black walnut, quarter-sawn white oak, Eastern white pine and American elm trees.
Most of Kralovec’s customers are from across the Midwest, though he’s delivered Shaker-style rocking chairs overseas to Germany and Switzerland.
Kralovec, who got a degree in History, recalled studying the Shakers in college. A religious offshoot of the Quakers, the Shakers of the late 1700s were early pioneers of equality between men women and gave up their worldly possessions to live communally. Furniture, in one sense, had been one of the sect’s claims to fame. Modest and without ornamentation, the Shakers’ work reflected their lifestyles.
“Their reputation for excellence was out there,” Kralovec said.
Arlington Heights resident Laura Thill, a repeat customer of the Park Ridge woodworker, said: “We have always been drawn to the simplicity and straight lines that the Shaker design offers.”
From Kralovec’s shop she has furnished her family’s home with rocking chairs, beds, coffee tables, a dining room table and chairs, a couple of book cases, a china cabinet and a dresser.
“We don’t have a large house,” Thill explained. “But lack of space doesn’t mean one’s house can’t feel spacious. By taking the custom route, we could ensure the furniture fit our spatial and design needs.”
With more homes trending toward sleeker looks with granite, glass, and stainless steel, wood furniture had held its own.
For Kralovec’s customers, wood creates a natural look that is both timeless and complementary, not to mention cozy.
“Wood is a wonderful way to bring warmth into a home,” Whitenack said. “It is so very versatile.”
“When friends visit our home, they often describe it as both warm and modern,” Thill added. “That’s exactly the look we are going for.”