Trash or treasure? The mind-boggling culture show that is midwest auction culture.

You’re eying a Spuds Mackenzie lamp, amid a table of buckles, glassware, a knife collection, and a bronze casting of three horses holding a glass ball…  It’s hot, smelly, and weird, but for some reason you are totally loving it.  One of the biggest shock-thrills of moving from the city to this small town was diving into the culture of the mid-west auction.


Ok, first of all there are a few rules

Rule #1 -Don’t act stupid

Rule #2 -Act like a badass

Rule #3 -Don’t get ripped off, or else then you’re stupid and also, not a badass anymore.

Let me explain- Ok, so there’s this friend C.K… He goes to an auction wanting to buy this pretty nice couch that he actually needs. S.H. another friend asks him “how much are willing to bid?”. “200 bucks”, says C.K..  Comes time for the auction, and the auctioneer asks “anybody want to start me off?” ” Two hundred bucks”, says C.K. confidently.  No one else says a thing. “SOLD”, says the auctioneer…

Boom!  C.K. broke all three… So what went wrong?

Auctioneers have tricks.  LOTS of them. Here’s a few I’ve noticed.

-The “this just sold on ebay for $2,000” – The thing you’re looking at is thrashed, not a first addition, or “unopened in the box” and definitely not worth $2,000!

-The “anybody want to start me off?” I once yelled “$100” at the same time as someone else yelled “$3,000!”  (The most embarrassing moment in my auctioning career, maybe my life! C.K.)  Wait a few minutes while the auctioneer says “$1,000?… $500… $100?… $50?”. Then quickly, without smiling raise your hand and say “YUP!” and start it off.

-The “Ghost Bidder”- This one is harder to spot (never, EVER! accuse an auctioneer of this), and really good ring runners know when they can get away with it.  The auctioneer points at you and says “30!” points somewhere else and says “40!” points back at you and says “50!” to which you quickly nod, out bidding “the ghost”.

-Also, I would add, decide ahead of time what price you are going to stop at, then confidently and quickly bid all the way up to that number like you’re never going to stop. You may actually scare them off early and get a deal!


Auctioning can be fun, heart pounding, and can actually yield some cool things!  Make sure to listen in on as many crazy conversations as you can. (most of the ones that come to mind are unprintable now that I think of it ha ha..) and try to bring a friend (it can be a waiting game!)


If you want to try auctioning out for yourself check out  Just put in your zipcode and you can check out tons of photo’s of treasure and garbage alike… Or if you live around here, check out Harman Auction. If you’re wondering, the Spuds Mackenzie sold for $125. I didn’t buy it.  And C.K… he waits for the low number nowadays.

 -Small Town Cool-

Photo’s by Jrandlefoto

The neo-farmhouse

I love the idea of a modern functioning farmhouse… The idea that a hard working, practical place, can still be modern, and beautiful.  Here’s a clean sunroom addition that I did with my brother in law Seth Huber for a local 2nd generation farm family.






I’d love to do a design/renovation of an orchard with barns into cabins or something that people could stay in a really modern style. Wouldn’t you? Like this one via-


check out 19 more cool barn conversions here.

Any one know of any local families with really interesting houses? I’d love to feature some! Hope you are all having some fun, getting some rest, and finding projects to do this summer!

livin la vida loca in Hillsboro,IL

-Small Town Cool-

Made in Hillsboro-Alien table by Chris Swed and Aaron Ruppert


Here’s a little peek into the underground creative scene in Hillsboro… Nearing completion, The “Alien” table, a project local Chris Swed designed and collaborated on with metalworker extraordinaire Aaron Ruppert.


Any of you guys seen dune? This just reminds me of that scene so hard…


Neato… Keep it up dudes.

50 year before and after! -the Tattered Threads renovation in Hillsboro


This is the 1966 Hillsboro, IL Old Settlers, almost exactly 50 years ago! (take a look at the far right storefront of the old Bremer building) -photo from the Hillsboro Historical society


Here it is about fifty years (minus a month) later. We’re starting the big job of tearing off all the nasty old tin face, and giving some fresh life to this old gal. Thanks to a facade grant from the Historic Society, and Tattered Threads, my father in law Stan Huber and I were able take this project up a few notches.


I noticed some unusual metal framing inside the awnings and decide to expose them, opening up the space above the door way. (notice the flowers in the structural beam that were covered)


We were also able to expose a window that was covered up leading to the apartments above. Soooo Exciting! I love finding original stuff.


Cutting the arched beams for the awning at my shop.




come on plywood… Beeeeend, but don’t break.



Very, nearly done.  in six months or so this beauty should be looking a little less shiny and a little more sure of herself.


I do love a good before and after… Copper is the new pink?

Photos by Brian Lee and the effervescent JRANDLEPHOTO (you know, reading Fancy Nancy to your kids can make you seem kinda smart and stuff.)





“Sweet” Renovation- A modern makeover of a cramped kitchen-B.Lee Carpentry

Meeting Hillsboro, IL residents Doug and Teri Sweet for the first time, we were fast friends. A retired train engineer and a daycare owner, they are a cool and calm mannered couple who love coffee and good conversation, food, and family. In short, totally awesome.


The Sweet’s brief was simply “open up the cramped kitchen, add a dishwasher and more countertop space”.  The result is a clean, modern update with a bespoke walnut bank of cabinets, light fixtures from Portland Oregon School House Electric, and small pallet of finishes.




Somebody found the secret mushroom spot!


Before and after!


Oak hardwood, subway tile, walnut cabinetry, white walls with white trim, butcher block counter tops.. All my favorite.


Another before shot.  It’s amazing what a change of a floor plan can do!



I love how the vintage table becomes so modern in a white on white setting.


Now we just need to get cooking! So thankful for this wonderful project and for people excited to support local artisans and craftspeople. See you soon friends! -Small Town CoolIMG_0568.jpgIMG_0561.jpg


Back with a splash! The many faces of the Pickers Market. by -B.lee and J.Randle

The Pickers market is back for the season! In searching through all the cool, collectible, odd, and industrial, the theme of the day for us was the characters and faces of pop, and American culture. So.. Here’s a little fun from the rainy first day of the Litchfield Pickers market. -photo’s by B. Lee and Jrandlephoto-



















Of course there was also mountains of cool, useable, and collectible stuff.  While shooting we bought a cast iron light fixture, a cream record, a cool vintage photo of the interior of a train, and a couple big meat sandwiches… Also, very tempted by a radical oscilloscope and box of amtrack mugs.




Definitely saw someone carrying this off later on..



I love this couch, cushion combo!


Double horse heads in brass.


Also, I wish that van was for sale.


So for all you people within driving range definitely worth the trip out to gawk, shop, eat and collect… Come on down next month and follow the market on facebook here.

Thanks for following us and please come back for more small town coolness from Montgomery County and beyond…

Small town Psyche-filming The Young Eyes in the Old Mormino building

In a past life I was a professional guitar player touring across the states with a few different bands.  Now in my second life as a small town party animal I’m back in the business of enjoying doing music… Here’s a little taste of our soon to be released album- Visit the bands facebook here…