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

Greg Stevens

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

That’s an important storage location now that he has 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, an array of furniture, decorative pieces, paintings and plants greets shoppers looking for a specific piece or maybe a complete makeover of their homes.

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

“The warehouse is filled to the rafters with beautiful stuff — lamps, chairs, paintings,” Abrahamson said of the various items he has obtained from trips to markets in Europe and throughout the U.S. “I love texture and layering and color that all works 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 got into different things and started the business to stage special events for big organizations and companies in Chicago.”

Abrahamson did work for the Museum of Science and Industry, the Lyric Opera, and Arthur Andersen during its time in Chicago. “We would build all of 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 that.”

Eventually, RJA Design was doing some product design and interior design business. “I’ve been lucky enough to go all over the country and do homes and stores for companies like the Four Seasons Hotels.”

Before opening his latest storefront, Abrahamson had a small space in the Past Basket at 200 S. Third St. in Geneva. And he’s not a newcomer, having grown up in St. Charles and spending most of his life in the Tri-Cities area.



Though he admits the new store would not be considered “a starter shop” and that his clientele tends to be high-end, Abrahamson wants everyone to feel comfortable visiting the store to see what it offers.

“None of us are 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 deliberate, though those may be too broad of terms, and the word ‘quirky’ could scare off some people,” he explained. “I also like the terms comfortable and layered because I love modern and I love traditional, and you have to really know what you are doing to mix them.”

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

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

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

Thankful for theaters

COVID and other illnesses created havoc for theatergoing the past few years, but many more people are feeling confident with their vaccinations and getting out to enjoy what the area offers in great musicals, concerts, plays and other acts.

We took in “The Sound of Music” at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora during the holidays, and it reminded us what a great experience it is to see an excellent musical in a full theater.

As such, many are back to keeping an eye on what’s being offered across the area.

Elgin Community Arts Center is promoting its spring season with events the likes of “Close to You: Music of the Carpenters” Saturday, Feb. 11, and the Batavia Fine Arts Centre is pitching various shows, including the April appearance of “Naturally 7,” an a capella group that has garnered excellent reviews across the country.

We know the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles has a steady stream of concerts and the nearby Steel Beam Theatre provides interesting plays in a quaint setting. Other entertainment and smaller venues throughout the area feature this sort of community and children’s theatrical events.

As for the Paramount Theatre, 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 already have Feb. 10 marked on our calendar for that show.

The Copley Theatre across Galena Boulevard from the Paramount also schedules interesting plays and music performances.

The McAninch Arts Center on the campus of College of DuPage is consistent in staging top-quality shows. The center showcases 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 exhibits are your cup of tea, keep an eye on what the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles, Water Street Studios in Batavia and the Geneva Center for the Arts are offering. Baker Community Center in St. Charles has an interesting free program called Wednesdays@One as well as Saturday Night Lights shows.

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

Restaurants get their week

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

Geneva is finishing up its Restaurant Week through Sunday, Jan. 29. Participating restaurants have special pricing deals for diners. Complete menus of participating restaurants are on the website.

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

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

St. Charles has scheduled its Restaurant Week for Feb. 20-24, promoting a 15{f32667846e1257729eaaee80e922ba34a93c6414e9ad6261aff566c043b9e75d} discount that week at participating restaurants.

Batavia’s is generally held in March, but I have not seen a schedule posted as of yet.

Preps make the grade

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

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

But his career path started by working his way up from officiating intramural games in college and then youth sports leagues in his community.

Along the way, he began officiating 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 quite like the Friday night games — and the scrutiny from the media wasn’t as intense — and the referees would get together after games for pizza and a beer. It was just really fun.”

It was nice to hear, considering I devoted much of my career to the high school sports scene as a sports writer 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.

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