Geneva’s RJA Design Interiors mixes modern, traditional for a ‘quirky and deliberate’ aesthetic

by AryanArtnews
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Geneva’s RJA Design Interiors mixes modern, traditional for a ‘quirky and deliberate’ aesthetic

As a collector of unique furniture and art, Richard Abrahamson is grateful to have a 5,000-square-foot warehouse near Northwestern Delnor Hospital in Geneva to store his wares.

It’s an important storage space now that he’s been operating the RJA Design Interiors store at 415 W. State St., in the front part of the Riley’s Medical Supplies building, for the past three months.

In the 2,200-square-foot retail store, a variety of furniture, decorative pieces, paintings and plants greet shoppers looking for a specific piece or perhaps a complete renovation of their homes.

The store is in a constant state of change, as Abrahamson brings something from his full warehouse almost every day. Sometimes it can be as many as 10 new pieces.

“The warehouse is filled to the rafters with beautiful things — lamps, chairs, paintings,” Abrahamson said of the various items he acquired from trips to markets in Europe and throughout the US. “I love texture and layers and color all working together to make a beautiful room.”

Abrahamson has been part of a process of creating beautiful rooms since he started RJA Designs in 1992, years after studying at the Art Institute and working as a painter.


“I decided I didn’t want to be a starving artist,” he said. “So, I took on different things and started the business of staging special events for large organizations and companies in Chicago.”

Abrahamson did work for the Museum of Science and Industry, the Lyric Opera and Arthur Andersen during his time in Chicago. “We would build all the sets for the events,” he noted. “They were extravagant because when people had a lot of money, they went extravagant and it was fun to do it.”

Eventually, RJA Design engaged in product design and interior design. “I’ve been lucky enough to go around the country doing houses and shops for companies like the Four Seasons Hotels.”

Before opening his newest storefront, Abrahamson had a small space in the Past Basket at 200 S. Third St. in Geneva. And he is not a newcomer, because he is in St. Charles grew up and spent most of his life in the Tri-Cities area.

While he admits the new store won’t be considered an “entry-level store” and that his clientele tends to be upscale, Abrahamson wants everyone to feel comfortable visiting the store to see what it has to offer.

“None of us were born Rockefellers,” he said. “You have to learn it, because style is learned.”

When asked to describe his design philosophy, Abrahamson paused and offered a few different terms.

“I like to call it quirky and intentional, even though that might be too broad of a term, and the word ‘quirky’ might put some people off,” he explained. “I also like the terms casual and layered because I love modern and I love traditional, and you really have to know what you’re doing to mix them.”

That’s essentially what Abrahamson looks for after completing in-depth interviews with potential clients to get to know them—and for them to understand what he’s about.

“Anyone can make a beautiful room, but to make it yours, it has to reflect you,” he said. “Let’s say for example you collect stones, we need to find a place for those stones.

“In general, we are the guides for you, to put you in a direction that is correct and ultimately create a comfortable and lovely place.”

Grateful for theaters

COVID and other diseases have wreaked havoc on theatergoers in recent years, but many more people are feeling confident with their vaccinations and are going out to enjoy what the area has to offer in great musicals, concerts, plays and other performances.

We took in “The Sound of Music” at the Paramount Theater in Aurora over the holidays, and it reminded us of what a wonderful experience it is to see an excellent musical in a packed theater.

As such, many are back to keep an eye on what’s on offer across the area.

Elgin Community Arts Center promotes its spring season with events such as “Close to You: Music of the Carpenters” Saturday, February 11, and the Batavia Fine Arts Center hosts several performances, including the April appearance of “Naturally 7, “‘na capella -group that has received rave reviews across the country.

We know the Arcada Theater in St. Charles has a steady stream of concerts and the nearby Steel Beam Theater offers interesting plays in a quaint setting. Other entertainment and smaller venues throughout the area offer these types of community and children’s theater events.

As for the Paramount Theater, its next offering in February is “Into the Woods,” an interesting Steven Sondheim musical that takes a different look at the Grimm’s Fairy Tales of our childhood. We have already marked February 10th on our calendar for that show.

The Copley Theater across Galena Boulevard from the Paramount also schedules interesting plays and musical performances.

The McAninch Arts Center on the campus of College of DuPage is consistent in presenting top quality performances. The center is showing an Andy Warhol show through much of February and it has “South Pacific” on its Broadway in Concert series schedule for April 16.

If smaller shows or exhibitions are your cup of tea, keep an eye out for what the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St Charles, Water Street Studios in Batavia and the Geneva Center for the Arts have to offer. Baker Community Center in St. Charles has an interesting free show called [email protected] as well as Saturday Night Lights shows.

We are lucky to have it all, and lucky to start getting to some of these things. Sure, we might be asked to wear masks again if a certain kind of COVID decides to go wild, but it’s better than being told our favorite places are closed.

Restaurants get their week

All our towns these days embrace a Restaurant Week, usually in January and maybe late February after the Valentine’s Day business has cooled off.

Geneva completes its Restaurant Week until Sunday 29 January. Participating restaurants have special price offers for diners. Full menus of participating restaurants are on the website.

At last glance, there were 24 participating restaurants. Almost all are located in the heart of downtown, except Altiro Latin Fusion on Anderson Boulevard and Rookies Geneva on Kirk Road.

More information about the week’s specials is available by calling individual restaurants or the Geneva Chamber at (630) 232-6060.

St. Charles has scheduled its Restaurant Week for February 20-24, promoting a 15% discount that week at participating restaurants.

Batavia’s are usually held in March, but I haven’t seen a schedule posted yet.

Preparations make the grade

One thing really resonated as he listened to former college football and NFL official Jim Lapetina of South Elgin talk about his career at a recent Tri-Cities Exchange Club meeting.

Granted, Lapetina has worked some excellent professional and collegiate games in his career, including five Ohio State vs. Michigan collisions when he worked as a Big Ten official on the field and in the replay booth.

But his career began by working his way up from intramurals in college and then youth sports leagues in his community.

Along the way, he began observing high school sports events, with the goal of eventually working a state final in football.

“The high school sports level was my favorite,” he said. “There was nothing like the Friday night games – and the media scrutiny wasn’t as intense – and the umpires would get together after games for pizza and a beer. It was just a lot of fun.”

That was nice to hear, as I have devoted much of my career to the high school sports scene as a sportswriter and sports editor and later as a sports freelancer for the Daily Herald.

I didn’t have anyone, or the time to go out for pizza and beer after a game. I was busy compiling box scores and writing stories for the next day’s paper.

[email protected]

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