The Windy City’s Merchandise Mart is the home of superlatives. When it was completed in 1930, the 4.2-million-square-foot building ranked as the biggest in the world. Today, it is still Chicago’s number one commercial building. And, within this behemoth, the 650,000-square-foot Design Center is the world’s largest venue of its type, while the separate ground-floor collection of home building and renovation boutiques — known as LuxeHome — also trounces all competitors size-wise.
Next month, another whopper arrives at the Merchandise Mart: Design Chicago is the largest residential design conference and trade fair in the Midwest. Taking place on October 6 and 7, the gathering treats architects, interior designers, and homebuilders to individual programs in more than 100 Design Center and LuxeHome showrooms.
Design Chicago’s sheer scale invites exploration. Two thirds of participating showrooms have scheduled new product launches for the two-day event, for instance, and specifiers and trend hunters will see several categories of source material well-represented among them.
The menu of sleek kitchens, in particular, expands considerably. Bentwood of Chicago, Ernestomeda, and Studio Snaidero are all introducing new systems with low-slung lines, while Poggenpohl revs things up with the P’7350 Design by Porsche Design Studio, which uses industrial mitering to give the modern kitchen a more vertical appearance. NEFF of Chicago’s bronze-trimmed New Modern Traditional Kitchen provides some visual comfort food. And complementing all these are new kitchen appliances: Miele’s Generation 6000 dishwashers, a pair of induction cooktops and a built-in coffeemaker by SMEG USA, and a Touch Panel Oven that is part of Sub-Zero and Wolf’s M series.
Bentwood of Chicago
Featured bathroom products also span the style spectrum. New to the antoniolupi lineup is the Roberto Lazzeroni-designed Il Bagno collection, whose geometries evoke more delicate work by early-20th-century French furniture greats like Jacques Adnet and Quinet. Techno-futurists will gravitate toward GRAFF’s Davide Oppizzi-designed Ametis Ring, which features integrated LED lighting for chromotherapy.
Mod Tile Collections by Equisite Surfaces
Surfaces similarly run the gamut of history. Dessin Fournir’s Fleur Doree line of bespoke handpainted wall panels are inspired by the work of Paul Balin, whereas the newest wallcoverings from Innovations revisit the 1970s with metallic prints and earth tones. Organic inspiration takes a more midcentury interpretation in Exquisite Surfaces’ Mod Tile Collection.
As Design Chicago is precisely tailored for navigating the ever-changing design profession, it will present numerous educational components. More than 35 presentations and continuing-education seminars are planned for the two-day event. Houzz’s marketing expert Lindsey Thudin will speak to technology’s role in improving client development and communications, for example, and Sandow vice president Pam McNally will reveal the three digital trends on which design professionals’ successes will hinge in 2016.
Christopher Peacock of Peacock Homes will present on designing for show houses
Some presentations go analog, however. In one, legendary kitchen designer Christopher Peacock will weigh the pros and cons of participating in show houses. Another pairs restaurateur Hugo Matheson with Exquisite Surfaces owner Franck Nataf to extrapolate how locavorism and other current food trends may inform interiors tomorrow, with 300 Sandwiches author Stephanie Smith serving as moderator. Forward-looking presenters also include Dwell CEO Michela O’Connor Abrams, who will survey modern design trends, and Sherwin-Williams director of color Jackie Jordan, who will be making predictions about 2016 paint colors.
Of course, Design Chicago is not all didacticism. The Shade Store hosts Cortney and Robert Novogratz for the celebrity spotters. Traditional Home editor Ann Maine in conversation with Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller and a panel discussion featuring Tigerman McCurry Architects namesake Margaret McCurry are also opportunities to let loose. And Design Chicago’s culminating moments are all about fun. The keynote presentation “Exuberant Design + Fearless Decorating!” has Luxe Interiors + Design head Pamela Jaccarino and designer Anthony Baratta talking about bold gestures, bright colors, and other joyful approaches to the residential interior; the October 6 gala event fetes the inaugural induction of four residential design industry icons into the Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame.
Robert and Cortney Novograt, along with director of trade programming for The Shade Store Adam Skalman, will present on design collaborations
For seekers of new talent, Design Chicago’s Ones to Watch program will honor three up-and-coming local interior designers. Sponsored by Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, Ones to Watch culled both nominations and final votes exclusively from Design Center showrooms. Young Turks Brynn Olson, Jillian Richey, and Stephen Young, all of whom lead eponymous design studios, will receive their awards in a ceremony on October 7.
Material culture blows through the Windy City this fall with additional events like the provocative fourth edition of the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art that opens September 18 at the Navy Pier as well as the much anticipated, first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial running between October 3 and January 3. Weaving together inspiration, news, and practical business knowledge, Design Chicago completes the trifecta.