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Suite Sixteen

With this issue, we turn three. It’s a time when toddlers explore their world, and we have certainly been doing this on our pages over the past three years as we have brought you the area’s most current, original and thought-provoking projects in residential, commercial and industrial design.

But like every toddler, we have a healthy appetite for exploring the world around us to find its most entertaining and intriguing offerings. And those offerings are the greatest resource our design community has—namely, those who are pushing old boundaries, exploring new concepts and making a difference with their work.

So each year, we allow ourselves the luxury of reveling in our discoveries, and showing off our latest ‘finds’ with our annual ‘Suite 16.’ Individually, they may be architects, designers or artists. Yet collectively, they’re innovative, unconventional, daring, visionary and perhaps a touch iconoclastic.

We think of this feature as our birthday present to ourselves, and you. Happy Birthday!

ARCHITECTURE

WHY WE LOVE HIM:
Huffman, who founded Vertu at age 28, calls himself a lead architect. Given the fact that he often does every aspect of a project himself, the vague title makes sense. For a current home renovation and addition, he’s overseeing the GC but also building the millwork and cabinetry in every room himself. He says “it gives me quality control over the end result,” but in fact it allows him to use his many talents, which range from master carpentry to high-concept design. He has developed and executed projects that range from installations and set design for two local non-profit arts groups (the issue oriented M5 Artist Collective and the dance and performance group The Seldoms) to commercial buildings and custom residences, and has a long list of awards to attest to the excellence of his work. Though he sums it up simply, saying “Our holistic approach to project delivery enables us to be a single source for architecture, design and fabrication,” the myriad abilities and experience he brings to the table are impressive.

WHAT HE’S DONE:
Huffman, who grew up on a farm in Ohio with a father who was both a carpenter and farmer, developed a love for a spare design and a strong work ethic early on. Though he earned two architecture degrees–a BA from the University of Cincinnati and a MA from The Southern California Institute of Architecture–he hasn’t stopped broadening his horizons and has also earned Professional Practice, Green Technology and Business Administration certificates and is a licensed interior designer as well as architect.

 

JOEL HUFFMAN

VERTU
1040 N. HALSTED ST.
CHICAGO,IL 60622
t.312.255.8590
vertuinc.com

INTERIOR DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HER:
Rao is so avid and earnest about design that it’s hard for her to peg her work to any specific style or vein. “I lean towards modern, but I also like to integrate things that are organic, funky and chic...or maybe add in something classic or baroque. And I’m not afraid of color,” she says in a rush of words. The descriptives are all-encompassing, but don’t reveal her real talents, namely the ability to analyze her client’s wants and needs, and a knack for forging meaningful client-designer relationships. “I’m good at walking into home, helping a client articulate their style and translating it into the space,” she observes. The warm and ebullient Rao is also good with people, and reasons astutely “it’s important to have a good rapport with your client. That way their personality will come out in a space.”

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
Everybody has to start somewhere, and for the aspiring interior designer that usually means working for a pro with more experience. Rao did for a bit in her native Cincinnati after earning a BA in interior design from the University of Dayton. But when she headed west in search of a bigger pond, she landed a sales and design job at Ligne Roset and quickly realized what they don’t teach you in design school is “sales skills, which give you the ability to sell a project,” she says. From there, she jumped to Luminaire for the sheer educational experience of “working with 80 significant lines.” Eight years ago, she went out on her own and has had a constant stream of projects to keep her busy, including the home of hot Chicago artist Francine Turk, whose iconic charcoal drawings were featured in the filmed in-Chicago romantic comedy “The Break-Up."

 

MIA RAO

MIA RAO DESIGN
1626 W. ERIE ST.
STE. 230
CHICAGO,IL 60622
t.312.850.4841
miaraodesign.com

INTERIOR DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HER:
A can-do mind-set and intense devotion to visual surprise make the uber-creative Wertepny singular and enchanting. When someone tells her ‘you can’t do that,’ she will find a way to make it happen —to stunning effect. She’s wrapped doors in leather; hidden iPod docks in Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs; recycled shredded inner-tubes as ‘shag’ carpets and wall-hangings; put floor tiles, wood and upholstery fabric on ceilings and carpet on walls; turned old cannedgood lids into kitchen backsplashes; sliced a huge redwood root up into a series of side tables; turned a prosaic stairwell in a four-story home into a site-specific artwork with tiny ‘climbing men’ scaling its entire height; and is always trying to dream up the next intriguing thing to try or improve. For instance, when she was at the airport recently, “I was looking at the Terrazzo floor, started thinking about what else I could do with the stuff and tripped. And when I was flat on my face, I noticed how poorly it had been installed,” she laughs. But this creative junkie always puts her clients’ psyches first in her designs, which are uncluttered, refined, comfortable and meaningful. “It’s important that they be surrounded with things they find inspirational or love. That way they become emotionally connected to their space,” she explains.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
“I was the six-year-old re-organizing the towels in the linen cabinet ‘my way,’ and from that point in my life I had my eye on the big prize...becoming an interior designer,” says Wertepny, who was raised in small Chicago apartment but always dreamt big. She earned an interior design degree from the Harrington College of Design, and worked at Mary Cook & Associates for nine years doing commercial and residential projects nationally. Doing a model for The Montgomery, the prestigious Chicago condominium project, earned her rave reviews, and inspired her to strike out on her own four years ago. “I wanted to do more progressive, cutting edge design and push the envelope a little more,” explains Wertepny. It also gave her a chance to spend a month volunteering at a school for orphaned children in Tanzania in 2007, which has had a lasting impact on her work and life. She plans to go back and is working on a fall fundraiser to subsidize the school’s programs.

 

AIMEE WERTEPNY

PROJECT
t.773.394.1174
projectinteriors.net

INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE

WHY WE LOVE HIM:
Like most architects, Kadlec has worked for a series of firms. But he realized early on that “small” and “residential” are the measures that count most in his mind. On size, he reasons “working with a small firm is more fulfilling because the project has a shorter life-span than say an entire high-rise or suite of offices. You can do more facets of a project, have better control over the process, experience more interaction with your clients and get to see the results of your efforts more quickly.” About residential work, he admits “the client relationships are more intimate and meaningful, and I like that...even those lingering or late-night phone calls and working though the personal problems design engenders.” Given such logic, it’s not surprising that Kadlec has chosen to focus on residential interiors, noting that “as a registered architect, I have complete perspective and scope. I can handle every part of a project, from its structural aspects to the furnishings, and look at all these components as a unified entity.”

WHAT HE’S DONE:
After earning a BA in architecture at the University of Cincinnati in 1989, Kadlec worked in London until a recession sent him packing to Chicago in 1991. He landed at Gary Lee Partners in 1995, where he was director of the firm’s residential studio. Yet he knew he always wanted to head his own practice, and two months before he turned 40 he struck out on his own. “I needed the artificial time frame to motivate me,” he admits. But he didn’t need any advice on how to do it; today, he alludes to his four-person firm’s reputation with clients for efficiency and service by quipping “we’re lean and mean.” They’re also creative and talented, as evidenced by a project he just completed that was featured Luxe Magazine’s summer issue.

 

STEVE KADLEC

KADLEC ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN
411 N. LASALLE ST.
3RD FL.
CHICAGO, IL 60654
t.312.644.9270
kadlecdesign.com

INTERIOR DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HIM:
Michiels thinks big but works small. The ‘big’ applies to his projects, which always exude refinement but reflect a range of styles. In the master bathroom he just did for The Merchandise Mart’s current DreamHome, which will be on view through December 18, he was determined to evoke seaside tranquility and give the space luxury and glamour. Wavy, ridged composite panels, in fact a building material with a sandy hue and gritty texture, were affixed to some of the walls and left unfinished to evoke a rippled beach after the tide has retreated, while porcelain tiles in soothing taupes and beiges, mixed with a glam yet clean-lined crystal chandelier and large-scale artworks, accomplished the feat. For his clients, he does the same thing, giving them “a unique but luxe interpretation of their vision,” he says. The ‘small’ applies to his work style; it’s just him and a design assistant. “Clients hire me and they get me,” he explains.

WHAT HE’S DONE:
There were a lot of things Michiels could have done when he graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana with a textile and apparel marketing degree. The former SigEp had a job lined up as an options trader with the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, and worked it for a few weeks before he realized his heart at really in interior design. How could he have known? His mother was in the biz, and he worked at her Barrington design firm Decorating Connections summers. But tossing aside a hardto- come-by trading job and joining forces with your mother takes patience and nerve. Michiels has both, and creativity and discipline to boot. The former earned several of his projects coverage on HGTV, while the latter motivated him to start his own business 2 ½ years ago in downtown Chicago. He has already expanded, opening a Dallas office last February. Next up will be a Los Angeles office this fall.

 

CHRISTOPHER MICHIELS

CHRISTOPHER MICHIELS INC.
68 E. LAKE ST.
STE 2307
CHICAGO,IL 60601
t.312.884.8385
christophermichielsinc.com

INTERIOR DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HER:
With her tawny mane, high-watt smile and glam personal style, Gramenos looks like Carmen Electra. The similarities stop there. Talk to her for five minutes and it’s readily apparent that she’s all good girl and wants to please, making whoever she meets the center of attention. This may explain why she becomes so close with her clients that “I know what they want before they do,” she admits. And she matter-of-factly chalks her skill and grace at figuring out people to her education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she majored in interior architecture and minored in psychology. “I wanted to learn more about myself, but ended up learning how to read everyone else,” she teases. It may be the more valuable skill, since it has helped her create spaces that give her clients what they need....and a little something more. “You also have to bring innovations to each job, but can’t push past your client’s comfort level,” she explains.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
Gramenos, who was raised in Chicago, knew she wanted to be a designer when she was a little girl. “I was rearranging my room before I went to kindergarten, and in second grade I helped my best friend rip up her peach pile carpet to get to the wood floor,” she confides. Other classmates’ bedrooms followed, and by the time she entered college she was itching to be an interior designer. So she got a job as a design assistant, and did both endeavors full time. By 25, after stints in Park City, Utah and Los Angeles, she started her own business, which included a healthy number of clients in her hometown of Chicago. She found she liked being ‘home’ so much that she relocated here six months ago–just in time to launch her own eponymous furniture line, complete with a signature piece aptly named Chi Town Rocker. The walnut, chrome and leather chair is inspired by the Picasso on the Daley Civic Center Plaza because “my father worked there for years, and my siblings and I would always play on it when we went to see him,” she says.

 

ALISON GRAMENOS

ALISON VICTORIA INTERIORS
t.702.610.8813
alisonvictoriainteriors.com

INTERIOR DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HER:
With an affect that is equal parts street-savvy, bohemian and glamorous, and an imperturbable but warm demeanor, Becker is a bundle of dichotomies. “People always tell me I’m calming and stimulating at the same time,” she laughs. The contrasts are visible in her work, which is serene yet full of thoughtprovoking and eye-pleasing surprises. In a dining room anchored by a spare, monolithic and utterly imposing oak table, she invoked traditionalism and wit by pairing it with throne-like twin wing chairs upholstered in juicy orange silk velvet, and topping it with glittering but irreverent Sputnik-style chandeliers. A serious 18th century Chinoiserie screen mounted on a living room wall was set off with equally serious tailored sofas and chairs, but they were given trim tailored slip covers made of white sheeting and accented with a pair of mod Lucite chairs with snakeskin seats. The skins were from “a vintage YSL skirt I found at a resale store,” confides Becker. Her MO---to outfit rooms with relatively streamlined furniture, then bring them to life with intriguing textiles, colors, textures and accessories–is easy to deduce but impossible to duplicate.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
Becker’s ability to mix materials and invoke cultural metaphors comes from a multi-disciplinary background that played to her passions. She was raised in Chicago, earned a BA in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, then moved to New York and spent five years as a trend forecaster for the home, fashion and cosmetic industries at Nigel French International. When she moved back home, she worked as an art director for seven years then shifted to interior design five years ago. Given her wide-ranging interests, it’s not surprising when she says “I find inspiration everywhere.” And indeed she does; amethyst geodes she picked up a gem show led her to hand- bejewel the bases of precious little table lamps she now uses as accent pieces.

 

LISA BECKER

LISA BECKER INTERIORS
t.312.953.2267

INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE

WHY WE LOVE HER:
In a baffling and beleaguered world, Shapiro is motivated by order and clarity, and brings these qualities to the spaces she crafts. Her work is edited and unfussy, yet aesthetically varied. “I don’t do ‘orthodox’ anything. We’re making places where people live, not theatrical sets, and a home has to reflect its owner’s lives, interests and needs,” she explains. Shapiro is referring to the fact that most of us, “myself included,” she quips-- mix and match a bit of everything. But doing this well means “having a critical and exacting eye. You have to balance proportion, texture and scale to be able to put a baroque chair next to a contemporary sofa or figure out how to craft a double duty space,” she maintains. And you need discipline and restraint, because “ultimately, we all have a bit too much stuff,” she points out. Shapiro is at the top of her game when she strives to balance disparate possessions and dueling needs to create functional, nurturing and serene living spaces.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
It’s not easy to make it through architecture school, get registered and found your own firm. Shapiro made it even harder on herself when she went back to school full time at 34, enrolling in the University of Illinois Chicago’s Master of Architecture program, then went to work for a design firm that didn’t have a supervising architect on staff to give her guidance for her registration examination. She studied obsessively, passed in two tries and stayed at that firm–the legendary Bruce Gregga Interiors– until the drive to “spread my wings and do things without asking permission motivated me to start my own practice,” she says. Twelve years later, Shapiro has come full circle; “I like to focus on interiors, and work with other architects or consultants because a project is always better when there are a couple of points of view.”

 

ROBYN SHAPIRO

ROBYN SHAPIRO DESIGN
445 N. WELLS ST.
STE. 302
CHICAGO IL 60654
t.312.396.0400
robynshapiro.com

INTERIOR DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HER:
With her tailored sartorial style and charming southern accent, Maddox, an interior designer, exemplifies the kind of prim and proper affect corporate America loves. In truth, she is an out-of-the-box thinker who has pioneered novel avenues in the commercial design world, and is always looking at new trends and ideas to see “how they can help my clients do what they do better,” she explains. Her myriad accomplishments and innovative perspective has earned her more than 100 awards. The most telling was from Fast Company magazine, which named her one of the “change agents....designers, and dreamers who are creating your future” for her pioneering work in branded environments, a discipline that identifies and translates products and services into more tangible terms. For DuPont, ‘fiber’ was given a more perceptible presence in everything from the company’s showroom designs to marketing and communications materials, and for Haworth an under-floor air distribution system was highlighted by aerating a showroom reflecting pool with the refreshing breezes it creates. “We use the environment to express the product’s benefits,” says Maddox, reducing the complex and often esoteric essentials of her field to elementary terms. In this case, her ‘appearance’ makes it easier for ‘receiving’ the new and adventurous.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
Maddox always knew she wanted to do commercial design work, and snagged a job at RMM, a prestigious (now-defunct) Chicagobased firm with a national practice after earning a BA in interior design from the University of Cincinnati. “They were front-runners in the field,” notes Maddox, who became a front-runner herself when she left them to start her own company in 1975. “I thought it was the right time to be a woman business owner and entrepreneur,” she says. She was right, and went on to build Eva Maddox Branded Environments and focus on innovative and multi-disciplinarian approaches to planning and design for health care, office and retail spaces and corporate identities, textiles, products and packaging. That made her the perfect complement for Perkins & Will, which she and her firm joined in 2002. Throughout her career, Maddox has also been heavily invested in community work, and serving on a long list of committees and boards and co-founding (with Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman) Archeworks in 1994, an alternative design school focused on social needs. She is also the current chair of The Chicago Network, the city’s most prestigious invitationonly professional women’s group.

 

EVA MADDOX

PERKINS & WILL
330 N. WABASH AVE.
STE. 3600
CHICAGO, IL 60611
t.312.755.0770
perkinswill.com

ARTS

WHY WE LOVE HIM:
Thinking out of the box prompted Schatz, a multi-media artist, to put people in a huge milky Plexiglas one of his own making for an hour, wired to the hilt with 24 video cams attached to individual Mac-minis. The ensuing video footage of their activities results in a ground-breaking type of portraiture so compelling that Esquire commissioned 19 from him for its 75th anniversary issue on influential people. Schatz was only too happy to shoot M.I.A., Marc Jacobs, George Clooney, Jeff Bezos, LeBron James, Danger Mouse and more for the magazine, and is already at work on his next gig–a new web-based global art platform that will engage communities to end violence through communication and action. Sounds like a big goal for one guy, but he’s lining up sponsorship as we go to press— which makes us believers.

WHAT HE’S DONE:
Inventing the cube, and what he calls generative portraiture, was a seven year process for Schatz that culminated in 2001. Before that, he had been a sculptor since graduating from Bennington College in 1986 with a BA in art. Why the change? “I wanted to create work that would evolve on its own and wholly embrace chance,” he says, pointing out that his portraits use random images culled from his subject’s sittings rather than looping videos. And to be frank, this venture took a leap of faith in the power of chance for the artist. Though an avowed and avid techgeek, “I failed computer programming in college,” he admits. Given the fact that the cube portraits cost thousands, and he has sold quite a few, the gamble paid has off.

 

LINCOLN SCHATZ

LINCOLN SCHATZ
299 EAST ONTARIO STREET
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 6061
t.312.787.8242
lincolnschatz.com

PRODUCT DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE THEM:
These three young Turks of the Chicago design scene, who met as students at the School of the Art Institute Chicago, have gripes, and aired them publicly in a press release that pronounced “the Chicago design scene underachieving, and somewhat sleepy.” But instead of just sounding off, they took action– forming their triumvirate to create works that are innovative and economical; participating in Morlen Sinoway’s annual Guerilla Truck Show yearly since 2006 (held in the Fulton Street district during NEOCON); hooking up with the newly formed Object Design League (ODL), a group of emerging product and furniture designers; and co-organizing (with ODL) a second alternative show--- “The Promise of this Moment”-- to debut during NEOCON this June (check themightybearcats.com for information). And they all hold down day jobs besides producing their own intriguing work and organizing like-minded artists and designers.

WHAT THEY’VE DONE:
Chernak, an aspiring architect, was recently laid off from a local firm and is entering University of Michigan’s graduate program in architecture this fall; Haulenbeek designs lighting and furniture for Holly Hunt’s Studio H collection and recently won a DWR competition for his Dubbot Modular lighting system; and Metzdorf is a display artist for Urban Outfitters. They’ve made waves with their Guerilla Truck Show installations three years running, and their quirky name–chosen as a tonguein- cheek riff on team sports. “SAIC didn’t have any sports, so picked it precisely because it’s a stereotypical team name that’s the antithesis of who we are. We don’t want to be a pedestrian design studio, or pigeon-holed,” says Haulenbeek. Their most popular group effort to date has been their sculptural Skin Series Bud Vases, jaunty little vessels made of heat-shrink plastic tubing and shot glasses. All are all one-of-a-kind, cost a mere $18 each at Pavilion and the AIC’s Modern Wing shop and have also been featured in international design fairs through the hot Italian e-zine Designboom (designboom.com).

 

THE MIGHTY BEARCATS;
JASON CHERNAK,
STEVEN HAULENBEEK,
BRYAN METZDORF

THE MIGHTY BEARCATS
themightybearcats.com

ARCHITECTURE

WHY WE LOVE HIM:
In the struggle to make sustainability a mainstream cause, and execute eco-friendly strategies and systems, Pierce is a tireless, energetic and compelling crusader. The issue has been his fundamental concern; for this he credits the multidisciplinary architecture program at his alma matter, the University of Oregon, which focused on the cause in every curriculum. The orientation gave him a piercing (no pun intended) and iconoclastic approach to his own field, evidenced by his take on green building. “People think it will make a big impact, but we don’t build enough new ones. We add to the building stock at a rate of one percent yearly, so we’re better off retro-fitting existing buildings that don’t meet current energy codes, or changing our development patterns so people don’t have to drive as much. It’s not just being less wasteful and doing without; it’s how much more effective we can be with what we have,” he says passionately.

WHAT HE’S DONE:
Chance brought him to Chicago, but his orientation guided his career. He spent 10 years at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill doing mixed-use urban design projects; three at Lohan Associates as director of planning; and eight at Farr Associates as a principal and director of architecture. There, he worked on seminal projects, such as the Chicago Center for Green Technology, the first municipal building to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum rating. But at Farr, he came to a troubling realization: “Doing a few sustainable buildings a year isn’t good enough.” He started his own consulting gig, Emergency Picnic, to effect greater change in mid-2006, then had an opportunity to make a bigger difference nine months later when he joined the huge international engineering firm Shaw Group.” I realized it would give me access to an enormous number of clients and projects,” points out Pierce, who just spearheaded the build-out of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Chicago base, a project hoping to attain LEED Platinum certification later this year.

KEVIN PIERCE

SHAW SUSTAINABLE DESIGN SOLUTIONS
444 N. WELLS ST., STE. 602
CHICAGO IL 60610
t.312.933.5254
shawgrp.com/greensolutions

INTERIOR DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HER:
The adorable and effervescent Fohrman calls Sarah Jessica Parker to mind in spirit and substance. Not only does she physically resemble the fashionable actress, she has a similar approach to style. “If you have two things that you love, you have the perfect reason to put try to put them together....even if they have nothing in common. Disparate combinations can create the kind of tension and surprise that makes a look interesting, and bring out the best in both pieces. You just have to be skillful at balancing them with the right basics and accessories,” says Fohrman. Both women clearly believe that magical style is all in the mix. But in Fohrman’s case, she’s applying that skill to interior design. Instead of wielding haute couture and street wear, she forging blends of high and low, historic and contemporary and traditional and cutting edge furnishings.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
Though she earned a BA in communications at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Fohrman snagged her first job at Holly Hunt. The gig proved inspirational, and motivated her to go to the Harrington Institute of Interior Design, where she earned a second BA. But this one enabled her to land jobs with two prestigious firms, and start her own design business four years ago. Since then, the emerging designer has handled a range of projects but finds many of her clients think alike. “Often, they want the same thing their neighbors have.” Her teasing response to them is always the same. “You don’t really want to copy your neighbors. That’s why you hired me. My client’s don’t think outside the box. I do it for them,” she points out. One project she’s looking forward to some creating thinking on will also unite her passion for fashion and interiors, since it’s the renovation of an upscale and urban chic West Lakeview boutique.

 

COURTNEY FOHRMAN

FOHRM INTERIORS
t.773.244.5406
fohrminteriors.com

ARTS

WHY WE LOVE HER:
The Graham Foundation, founded in 1956, makes grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs; both are intended to foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in society. But this official raison d’être boils down to two heady tasks that reflect the Graham’s innovational and experimental outlook. One is giving away a million dollars a year to about 70 grantees; the other is to mount exhibitions. Herda does both with intellectual vigor and an open and venturous spirit. Since taking the helm of the Graham in 2006, she has changed the physical nature of the historic space so it’s more relative to the community. “The grandest rooms in the house were used as offices. Now we’ve transformed the whole first floor into public space,” she explains. She’s also vowed to revive the institution’s experimental roots with seminal shows, and mounted one that makes a strong start with “Cecil Balmond: Solid Void” (up through June 20), the first site-specific installation in the Graham’s history.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
Herda always thought she wanted to be an architect, until she realized she was drawn to the challenging ideas about the field rather than the act of designing. She gained the insight thanks to a job at William Strout Architectural Books in San Francisco while she attended Mills College nearby. The renowned bookseller gave her the field’s most substantive volumes and periodicals to peruse. She devoured them all; realized the import of plying ideas; and did so as soon as she graduated by snagging a job as the director of the Center for Critical Architecture /Art and Exhibition Space in San Francisco. The alternative organization modeled itself after the famed and wellestablished Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, where she landed the top job after a short stint as director of marketing and sales for at Monacelli Press in New York. She spent 8 ½ years at Storefront, where she mounted over 40 diverse exhibitions, and will surely have an equally distinguished run at the Graham Foundation, where she is the first woman to hold the job of executive director.

 

SARA HERDA

THE GRAHAM FOUNDATION FOR ADVANCED STUDIES IN THE FINE ARTS
4 W. BURTON PLACE
CHICAGO IL 60610
t.312.787.4071
grahamfoundation.org

FURNITURE DESIGN

WHY WE LOVE HER:
Mention green design, and most of us conjure up visions of supersleek or ultra-earthy fixings. With a thick portfolio of sophisticated interior projects of every ilk, and a comprehensive, quality-conscious furniture line of her own design, Fitzpatrick has shown us that there are myriad ways to attain sustainability and we don’t have to sacrifice comfort, style, elegance or a ton of money to do it. Even more impressive is the resolve that fueled her endeavors. “About five years ago, I realized that most manufacturers weren’t known for their attention to responsible materials, utility, expediency and economy. It wasn’t unusual to experience six month waits for exorbitantly expensive custom pieces,” she says. Her response was to found her own line of upholstery and case goods, focus on sustainablity and produce it locally so she could cut the custom-made experience to a mere six weeks and keep it economical.

WHAT SHE’S DONE:
After earning a BA in interior design at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Fitzpatrick moved to Chicago, worked in the gallery business and started her own interior design firm in 1995. Four years ago, she opened Verde Design Studio in Bucktown to showcase her own line and an urbane and intriguing range of products from other, and often local, designers. Now, thanks to her rigorous standards–which apply to the fabrication, styling, turn-around time and pricing of her pieces-- Fitzpatrick’s business has outgrown her first home and the constraints it imposed, and expanded into contract and hospitality. “I have to step-up production and streamline my manufacturing operations to keep up with demand,” confides Fitzpatrick, who is increasing her space tenfold by consolidating her atelier and showroom with her manufacturing operations in a new 20,000 square foot loft in Pilsen this month.

 

MICHELE FITZPATRICK

VERDE DESIGN STUDIO
2444 W. 16TH ST.
STE 5E
CHICAGO,IL 60608
t.312.492.7750
verdedesignstudio.net

ARCHITECTURE

WHY WE LOVE HIM:
The indefatigable Denison produces highly original work that cuts across disciplines and inspires awe. In the past six months, he’s attained the architect’s version of a trifecta with the accolades he’s garnered for three high-profile projects. These include the Hospitality Industry Association’s coveted and highly prestigious Gold Key Award for the sleek yet grand Lettuce Entertain You restaurant L2O in Lincoln Park; a spread in Metropolitan Home magazine for the renovation and redesign of an architecturally significant and art-filled Streeterville coop; and an onslaught of attention from critics, foodies and artsy types on blogs and social media for his minimal yet glamorously mod design of the Terzo Piano café in the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). And this is just a fraction of his current oeuvre, which also includes substantial contract, institutional and artistic offerings such as two separate corporate headquarters for Pritzker companies; an innovative, sustainably designed two-tower dormitory for Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and collaborations he spearheaded with his students as an associate professor at IIT on original choreography works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Zaha Hadid’s pavilion in Millennium Park (being built as we go to press).

WHAT HE’S DONE:
Not surprisingly, Denison has blue chip academic credentials, attending the Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; Chicago’s IIT; and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. A Midwesterner at heart, he headed here after school, worked for several equally blue chip firms, opened his own office in 1990 and promptly landed in the limelight when his very first solo project made the cover of Metropolitan Home. He has never left the public eye thanks to a string of solid yet venturous projects and his astonishing breadth of community commitments. Besides serving as director of IIT’s College of Architecture for seven years, he has sat on a long list of advisory committees and boards and his most prominent current gig is president of the AIC’s Society of Contemporary Art.

DIRK DENISON

DIRK DENISON
ARCHITECTS
1123 W. WASHINGTON ST.
CHICAGO IL 60607
t.312.455.1388
dirkdenisonarchitects.com