Chi-City and the New Stuff

Sometimes I don't know if there is anything much better than being a designer and seeing new product. Especially when that new product makes your heart beat so quickly that it basically leaps into your throat. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Not all new product gives you those first encounter jitters. Some collections can leave you in that awkward middle ground of feeling like you have to say it is "nice" (when, let's be honest, "nice" isn't really the nicest of compliments) and wondering if the designers took too many drags from the peace pipe before sending these ideas off into production. Anyway, if there is one thing that design has taught me, it is that you can really never say "never".  That might be one of my favorite parts about my job- the opportunities to be constantly surprised by people's innate creativity and translation of concept to creation.

There is the opportunity of being presented with a given setting and facing the challenge of creating an end result that is the perfect blend of the client's desired vision and your aesthetic.  There is the "recycling" of styles. So many items that were old are new again, but with a fresh twist. That dijon colored mohair that adorned your grandma's rocking chair would look dated if  translated literally straight from the era. But now, in 2012, are we seeing mohair and dijon (maybe not in that combination, but you see where I am going) making a comeback? The wearabiliy of mohair is so practical!  That bright yellow/dijon color is so punchy! And, not having lived through the 1970's, this can legally still be considered new to me. On the other hand, I have been looking through design magazines with my mom and I say "Ooooo flame stitch"  simultaneously to her "Ewwwww flamestich". Tomato- Tomaato. Anwyhoo, I digress. All I really wanted to tell you guys is that I have had a fun couple weeks Ooo-ing and Ahh-ing over new product. From reps presenting spring lines to a couple days spent down in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart and beyond, I have a reenergized vision for spring and, as always, am looking forward to the creativity and inspiration that is bursting from every corner.


















This new rug collection was pretty awesome. I'm pretty much always a sucker for blue and white. Some of these would be amazing in a beach house with white washed floors or a funky living room.I can almost hear the breeze rustling the beachgrass, feel the sun on my face and  the taste of sea salt on my lips...

Speaking of sea salt, how awesome is this soap?

And, if you cannot get by the ocean, this was a pretty nice place to swim a few laps while visiting Chicago.

These are the windows from the pool room at the InterContinential. I loved this design... color palate and all. I also thought it was pretty awesome how they lit the architectural elements. It was a nice way to emphasize the space and detail of the room which might have otherwise been over looked.

While in Chicago I also took some time to go back to my Swedish roots in Andersonville. I popped in the Swedish American museum and picked up a couple of these little little Christmas tum-tums (I know it's May, but one isn't at the Swedish American museum every day...).


As I was in the neighborhood, I also popped in Brimfield where they were all about making what is old new again. I think some of you might have had a heart attack to see what they were selling, as you probably sold it at your local rummage sale in 1990. Nevertheless, it was great.

Yep, those are tuna cans. I was at the Merchandise Mart on Thursday and in the lobby they had all kinds of can sculptures. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was a little afraid if I sneezed I might set into motion the world's largest domino can exhibition, so I skedaddled on upstairs.

I used to work at the Hinson Showroom at the Merchandise Mart as a summer intern during the summers after my freshman and sophomore year of college at Michigan State. To say it felt like no time had passed is an understatement. It was as if time stood still. I remembered every twist and turn in the building, recognized faces and felt a little bit like the 2004 version of myself. I was sporting my thick tortoise rimmed glasses, so I felt a little incognito (a la Julian in Adam Sandler's "Big Daddy" movie).  One of the new showrooms that totally wowed me was Jean de Merry showroom on the 18th floor. It pretty much knocked my socks off with the pure beauty of the items. I snapped a few pictures, but they really do not do the space any sort of justice.



As always, it is a pleasure to walk around another design center and learn about new sources, see new product and meet wonderful people. After a long day trekking around the mart, I went to go and check out the model showcase homes for the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Michigan Avenue. Wow. Located in the limestone clad Farwell Building, which has always been one of my favorites along the "Magnificent Mile", the residences are in a newly created 40 story high-rise that is connected to the lovingly restored 11 story original building.

Hands down, I thought that the best unit was put together by local Chicago designer, Frank Ponterio. For taking on the smallest unit, it had the most personal and intimate feel. They almost needed to resuscitate me after I encountered the mosaic floor in the powder room. There were personal touches, surprises that made you think twice and the reinvention of classic design elements. Basically, everything that gets me really excited! This space was elegant, yet really livable and as a testament to the effort involved into creating such a personal space, we were told that the unit sold fully furnished. Below are a few quick snap shots of the space. The last three photos are from L.A based designer, Julia Wong, who created the vibe of an urban sophisticate meets laid back California glam and Javier Martin Muriel, out of Spain, who created a luxurious clean and contemporary environment. The last photo is of awesome light fixtures in the lobby.




If you are in downtown Chicago, go to check out the show house would be a fun way to spend an hour or so one afternoon. The other units are awesome as well, I just didn't want to be paparazzi-extraordiniare (and, um, my phone died). They also have a 20 minute video about the entire preservation project, which really hits on the passion and energy put into creating the modern day living spaces.  If those weren't enough reasons to get down there, the money from ticket sales goes to the Art Institute. In a day an age in which the arts rely so heavily on donations that might be reason enough!

One of the perks of driving to Chicago was that I was able to hit up some places that weren't exactly in walking distance. Taking a few last minute suggestions I hit up some new places on our way out of town. They were pretty... magical.


Alright, I am off to delight in this beautiful Saturday! I hope you all do the same... enjoy!

Road Trippin'

This winter Scott and I “hibernated” and took a little time to ourselves. Taking a breather from an overbooked fall calendar recharged us for what are always the busy months going into spring and summer.  Well, it seems spring has arrived. To kick off the week I rose early and drove down to Chicago for the day to check out a new project.  On Friday morning we hightailed it to Charleston for a weekend destination wedding for one of Scott’s oldest friends. While busy, this week has given us some exciting new work challenges, a couple days to soak in the creativity and inspiration of one of my favorite cities and some seriously amusing laughs with our friends.

Let’s start in the Windy City.   Earlier in March my oldest (actually, my first!) friend, Megan, called me to tell me that they had bought a house in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago and asked if I would come down and check it out.   With one day to get in and figure out the immediate priorities for the project, it was  decided that our planning process needed to be set into motion. With a one year old daughter and a house currently in original condition, it was obvious that the sooner we could get access from the current owner to bring tradespeople through the better. For all things that create dust, fumes and large messes we are going to try to contain it to the one month  of “grace” time. Meaning there is one glorious month of new home ownership and current rental overlap. Let the games begin.

There are a couple signs I am getting older. The first being, that in the cold winter months I actually now do the “hibernate” (note above paragraph)  to prepare myself for spring and summer and all that accompanies these jammed packed months.  Another sign might be that my favorite programs are now on public television and public radio (what up, Diane Rehm!). I also enjoy getting up early on Sunday mornings to watch CBS Sunday Morning. The musical intro that kicks off the show gets me so excited that I actually downloaded it as my ring tone (note: getting older).  Making no exception to my newly embraced old lady habits, I made myself two travelers of coffee and hit the road bright and early, switching between captivating programs on NPR and BBC. Thanks to Sirius I was provided with 5 hours of uninterrupted coverage of some of today’s most pressing and not so pressing issues. Next thing you know, I will be citing stories from my Reader’s Digest subscription and sharing my high hopes of winning the Publisher’s Clearing House.

When you take a road trip solo do you feel like when you’re in the “zone” you experience driver camaraderie? I do. In between listening to such burning issues as a woman’s right to choose and to the bird flue I found myself building made up connections with the cars with whom I was sharing the road. Examples being:

a)      The Tailgater: Middle aged woman with fairly conservative bowl haircut  who will. Not. Get. Off. My. Rear.  Her tactic was the “plow”. She did not relent, just kept pushing through at the consistent speed that gives the other drivers no other choice but to veer over into the right lane. Not only is this speed demon sporting a pretty conventionally lackluster hairstyle, she was driving a station wagon. A powder blue station wagon. Filled with wheelchairs. If this isn’t a strong sense of irony, then I don’t know what is.

b)      The Considerate Rebel. My buddy on the open road. His inherent good taste and style was apparent as we were driving the same vehicle. He has just taken his the extra mile by adding some seriously blingin’ rims and tinted windows  (so, looking back on this, I guess I am just assuming my twinsie was a dude). The polar opposite of tailgater, Considerate Rebel would hold back and let me merge when I was fast approaching a slow moving semi.  How thoughtful. We had come so far together, as he showed up early on in my drive, and when I exited at the Northfield exit off I-94 and he kept going and I said goodbye to my pseudo chum.

I rolled in right in time for a quick bite and then we got down to business in the new house. I have to say, I LOVE original condition. First of all, it is a blank canvas and secondly (almost most importantly) you are not paying a higher price for someone's taste. I especially love original condition in the older homes as they typically have some good bones, character and lots of opportunity. I especially, especially love original condition when the client is willing to take some risks, add a little humor and a trait of the unexpected. All things really play nicely in a home that is traditional in style, but with the right approach can be a the perfect place for an active and lively young family to play out their lives.

And, when a project comes with a baby that looks like this....

And two pups that look like this....

It's pretty hard to resist!

After another bright and early morning I headed back to Michigan. I did take the opportunity to stop in a Chicago auction house that I knew was having an upcoming auction on my way out of the city. Also, ever wonder what lies beyond the walls of the antique malls that dot I-94?  After being lured in by some strategically placed billboards, I decided to pull over and take a look. While I did not find anything that I had to have, it was a nice way to break up my drive home. I got home just in time to put my feet up, watch the State game and pack for Charleston. I cannot wait to share some of the photos I took that left me feeling refreshed and inspired!