Designy Mom: Climb Aboard!

Urban Design No Comments »
Amtrak's writing residency program wants to restore some of the glamor and adventure of train travel

Amtrak’s writing residency program wants to restore some of the glamor and adventure of train travel

By Krisann Rehbein

Against nearly everyone’s advice, I recently took my family on an overnight trip on Amtrak. From the minute we arrived at Union Station, I was vindicated. Unlike airlines, Amtrak called for seniors and people with young children to board first. Within ten minutes of arriving at the station, we were led by a liveried attendant to our private sleeper car, which extended to the back of the train car with windows on each side, long, couch-like seating, and little fold-down tables for coloring books and juice boxes. It was lovely.

For a small-space aficionado like me, the cars are brilliant. The closet was only six inches deep but contained a small bar that extended outward from the back and could hold a family’s worth of winter coats on the three wooden hangers, happily provided. My gigantic purse fit into a little notch in the bottom and the shelf on top safely stowed an extra pair of shoes. The concave space between the closet and the window contained a small shelf that was perfect for some wine and all the complimentary bottles of water.

Many of us owe our romantic notions of train travel to Alfred Hitchcock. Watching a sunglasses-clad Cary Grant sit opposite Eva Marie Saint in the dining car and order a Gibson martini is hot. The clever and slightly dangerous verbal seduction that follows is enough to lure us all to sleeping cars, or the fantasy of them. And yet we all know that that was then and this is now. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: In Donut Terms

Chicago Looks No Comments »

IMG_7722Vincent Uribe and Anna Mort of LVL3 gallery were hosting hArts for Art, an annual silent auction and benefit raffle.

What made you want to benefit Arts of Life? How did the auction go?
Anna: Every year we do a benefit to help us support our programming at LVL3 while also providing some support for a local nonprofit that we feel strongly about. Vincent recently started working for The Arts of Life as arts coordinator so it seemed like the perfect fit to incorporate both of his jobs into one event.

You recently celebrated your fourth anniversary. Where would you like to see the gallery in its tenth year?
Anna: We want to continue supporting artists and helping them establish successful careers. We are excited to expand as well as open up an online store in the near future. The thought of a second LVL3 gallery location is also a nice dream to have. Read the rest of this entry »

A Great Lake, Two Zoos and a Mies: Flatmade Gives Old Posters a New Life

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Flatmade posters are reproduced with care and fidelity

Flatmade posters are reproduced with care and fidelity

By Sarah Rogers Morris

A few months ago, I started noticing a series of smartly designed posters that reminded me, just as this glacial metropolis threatened to break my spirit, that Chicago is a great city. The posters showed up in my Pinterest feed and I found them on the walls of private residences and businesses. Featuring pithy phrases, bold, expressive graphics, abstracted forms in vast swaths of unmodulated color, and a modernist typographic language, the posters identify, describe, and promote Chicago’s greatest cultural and recreational assets—Lake Michigan, the public library, Lincoln Park, the Museum of Science and Industry and more. Was this a clever ploy—perhaps dictated from on high by Rahm—to assuage those suffering from Chicago’s mid-winter malaise?

Not quite. In fact, the posters are the result of the Chicago Cultural Communication Project, an urban renewal initiative launched more than half a century ago. They remained relatively obscure until 2009, when John-Paul Wolforth, a graphic designer and art director, founded Flatmade and set out to resurrect them. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Layer Like an Olsen

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Emily Davis was out thrifting with her boyfriend in Logan Square.
What’s the secret to such cool layering?
Channel the Olsen twins. Don’t be afraid of bulky materials or to mix different patterns and textures. I love my oversized, draped coat with a draped sweater paired with skinnies.
Will you keep wearing neutral shades this spring?
I will definitely keep wearing neutral shades into the spring. I tend to wear all black all year round, but add bright colored lipstick for spring and summer. Morange and Heroine by MAC are my current favorites.
What’s your favorite item in this outfit and why?
I love this coat! It’s super warm and big enough that I can wear bulky sweaters under it on cold days, but the open front makes it perfect to wear with dresses on cool spring days. Read the rest of this entry »

Design 50: Who Shapes Chicago 2014

Design 50 3 Comments »

joe-mazza-brave-lux-chicago-ne-3121676318-ODesign is the watchword of a wave of makers for whom it defines the very act of creation. This is a new and thrilling turn. A generation or two ago, to design meant something rather closer to “decorate”: one engineered the world, but one designed a needlepoint pattern. Today, design describes a broad and ever-expanding swath of human activity. We design objects and services, experiences and interfaces, infrastructure and superstructures, meals and microchips, commercial images and hidden meanings. Even our democracy turns out to be a designed product; pundits have suggested that the President is a Design-Thinker-In-Chief.

That may be an overstatement but, to be sure, design is no longer an afterthought. At this cultural moment, design has come to embody both the capacity for creative vision and the means of realizing it. Newcity’s 2014 Design 50 entries celebrate this cultural shift. For the second annual issue, we’ve sought out Chicago’s most respected—and most promising—designers from across industries. They are visionaries and doers. They are Chicago’s top creatives. And, though it was not a criterion for selection, they may just be among Chicago’s best-looking. (F. Philip Barash)

Design 50 was written by F. Philip Barash, Ariel Hainline, Brian Hieggelke, Paul Kulon, Brook Rosini and Marla Seidell. Photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Pictured above:
Top floor left to right—Ross Wimer, Dave Mason, Kevin Krueger, Kelly Komp, Katherine Darnstadt, Andy Eltzroth, Michael Catano, Nick Butcher, Nadine Nakanishi, Matthew Hoffman, Cody Hudson
Bottom floor left to right—Gary Lee, Brenda Bergen, John Tolva, Renata Graw, Zach Borders, Ernie Wong, Pat Natke, Helmut Jahn, Iker Gil, Brad Lynch, Alisa Wolfson, Maria Boustead

All photos were taken at Liska + Associates in Chicago.

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Designy Mom: Don’t Climb on the Art!

Designed Objects, Furniture, Interior Architecture No Comments »
Toddler parkour in progress.

Toddler parkour in progress.

I didn’t know who Donald Knorr was until a few days ago. The modernist architect was a native of Chicago and studied at Cranbrook, where he earned the respect of mentor Eero Saarinen. At Saarinen’s urging, Knorr entered a chair into a design competition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It took first place. Today, a single one can sell at auction for thousands of dollars. This is the chair my daughter was ready to start jumping on when I caught her in the act.

My two year-old and I have been housesitting for vacationing friends while our kitchen is in the middle of a gut renovation. Our friends’ home is the embodiment of their exquisite taste: each room is a showcase for objects and furniture of important design. They also have two children ages three and five and, over the years I’ve seen these little humans behave with reverence for the things around them.  I consider it a parenting triumph that toddlers can live in harmony with high design.

This does not match up with my own domestic experience. Our living room has become a Parkour course for toddlers.  I’ve come to terms with a two year-old using our mid-century sectional sofa as a trampoline. I don’t allow her to put her shoes on the furniture, but that is the only gleam of civilization in a climate of savagery. She broke both of the leather arms on our Milo Baughman lounge chair by using them as a swing; we replaced the arms and carried on.  The truth is that people with kids shouldn’t have anything too nice. If they do, they soon will not. Our home is perfectly lovely but most of the furniture was bought with durability in mind. Our dining table is entirely covered in Formica, by design. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Sleek in the Supermarket

Chicago Looks, Fashion No Comments »


Jacqueline Hoover was walking down Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.

Who is your favorite designer and why?
Favorites include Ralph Lauren, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of The Row. I admire Ralph Lauren as a businessman and a designer tremendously. He began his career selling neckties in Neiman’s and continued to build a multi-billion dollar empire based on his vision of the American dream. Balmain and The Row are fashion houses that continue to excite me each season and respect pure craftsmanship and sophistication.

How did you compose this look? How long did it take you?
You caught me as I was running to Jewel, so nothing too complicated! Read the rest of this entry »

Human Interface Design: Shove It in Your Mouth

Designed Objects No Comments »

beauty smile trainerYou know what’s hard? Smiling. And you are probably doing it wrong.

I know I am. As a child, I struggled with smiling. A doting relative would approach me, wielding a camera—which in those days was an actual thing—with the hope of immortalizing some idyllic childhood moment. I would tense up, my face contorting into a ghastly mask: eyes soul-dead, lips ghoulishly retracting to cover my teeth. Aunts and uncles would flinch, my parents would worry that perhaps I suffered from a physical or emotional deficiency, my brother would insist I was an alien.

These days, I’m not doing much better. Read the rest of this entry »

Unwrapping the Mummy: Chicago’s Hotel Boom Starts with an Architectural Thud at the Godfrey

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The Godfrey Hotel

The Godfrey Hotel

By Paul Kulon

The creation of a building is rarely a smooth process. Public opposition, zoning regulation and especially the loss of financing can severely undermine a project. The newly opened Godfrey Hotel in River North is an example of a prolonged construction saga. Now that the building is complete, it faces a new set of challenges, mainly competing with other hotels. The Godfrey Hotel is just the first to debut in the local booming hotel market. Unfortunately for the Godfrey, its architecture is unlikely to be a convincing selling point.

Before it was the Godfrey Hotel, the building was designed to be an outpost of Staybridge Suites, a hotel chain targeting extended-stay and corporate guests. The project lost financing during the recession and construction stalled in 2008. The building was wrapped in a white protective fabric, earning it the name Mummy of River North. The building came back to life in 2012 when the investment firm Oxford Capital Group took over the venture. The original Staybridge Suites design was adopted because it was in an advanced stage. The building was rebranded as the flagship of a new boutique hotel brand targeting young social travelers who are in Chicago to experience the city’s culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: the Hat Says It All

Chicago Looks No Comments »
Model Kevin Cuttino was shopping for furniture in Bolingbrook. He wore his hat as a headline.
What does having “swag” mean to you?
Swag to me is an urban way of being handsome, uniquely styled, suave and a fashion leader.
Why so much swag to come to Ikea?
You always have to represent yourself with style. And I’m not just because I model; it’s a rule that I love to follow. You never know who you may meet, who you may see or what opportunities you may run into. This occasion proves my rule. Read the rest of this entry »