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Primitive: DesignDestination in Chicago


Whenever I go to Primitive at 130 North Jefferson Street in the Fulton River District of Chicago, I wonder what to call it.

A store? A showroom? A meditation site?  A museum? A party palace?

It’s all of those places and more.  For me it’s like taking a trip to an exotic destination.

The four-story 31,000 square foot showroom, filled with authentic, museum quality objects from all over the world is an education, an adventure and a marvelous source of home furnishings.  The collection includes furniture, artifacts, textiles and jewelry  from exotic and far-flung locations.

From the first moment you step in on the 1,000-year-old stone floor and see a Balinese structure you will be enchanted, gaining a snapshot into cultures far away.

One of my favorite spots is the second floor Buddha room that recreates a Himalayan temple where Buddhas are for sale.  While feeling like a monastery, it is available for rent.  Clearly an exotic spot for dinners or cocktail parties, it appeals to me. I’m wishing I’d get invited to a party in this venue.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a commercial space that has such a spiritual vibe. It’s almost mystical at times making me feel like I should whisper.

Just outside the Buddha room is a giant lingam, which is believed to create positive energy. The lingam is a large stone that’s smoothed naturally in an Indian river.   Visitors can pour water over the stone and make a wish.  I’m here to report that the recent wish I made has come true.  Guess it works.

Another favorite room is the library on the main floor.  Filled with books, spirit spouses, furniture and artifacts, it’s the kind of space I’d love to spend the afternoon.

There’s lots of attention to detail, like the carved walls by each elevator entrance, the mix of merchandise that includes African movie posters, Japanese woodblock prints, jewelry, textiles, and massive pieces of furniture. They also produce products—candles, purses made from kimono remnants, and even furniture to complement the artifacts.

The owner, Glen Joffe, does informational video blurbs   that I have found quite interesting.  Here are links to three: Ghanaian Movie  Posters, Spirit Spouses and Indian Bronze Statue Depicting Ganesha.

Another great spot to go in Chicago for this kind of shopping experience that exposes you to different cultures and the artistry that is in all of us is Golden Triangle.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Georgia Gietzen
    Feb 21, 2011 Reply

    How have I missed this place? Looks fascinating! I love poking around places like this in search of a “treasure”. Hearing a lot about this area of Chicago because of a few restaurants that have opened there (can’t think of them now – Sepia?). Anyways – will put on my “to do” list one of these trips! Thanks.

  2. posted by
    Feb 21, 2011 Reply

    You’d love it. And yes, Sepia is across the street. Avec is around the corner.

  3. posted by
    Margaret Cheff
    Feb 21, 2011 Reply

    Went to Sepia’s with Smiths a couple years ago and had a fabulous dinner…would LOVE to combine a great meal there again followed by a visit to Primitive across the street. Might feel like I’d died and gone to Heaven!

  4. posted by
    Ann Stevenson
    Feb 23, 2011 Reply

    Kudos to your ability to find the unusual and interesting in the midst of everyday living and then share it with us. My curiosity is peaked about “spirit spouses”—do you know the story behind this tradition? The topic could make for some very humorous conversations!

  5. posted by
    Feb 23, 2011 Reply

    Hi Ann,
    The spirit spouses part is quite interesting. Go to the end of the post and click on the link that says spirit spouses. This will take you to a YouTube video that the owner of Primitive did on them. I think you’ll be fascinated.

  6. posted by
    Mariecris Inalisan
    Jun 17, 2011 Reply

    Great post! That floor really looks durable and shiny. That was really amazing. Can’t help falling inlove with article. Such an interesting and informative one.

  7. posted by
    Jun 20, 2011 Reply

    Thank you.  Primitive is absolutely one of my favorite places to visit and shop in Chicago.  Worth going to see if you are able.   

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