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Industrial Revolution

Decorator Todd Haley levitates commercial materials to high-style status


Decorator Todd Haley isn’t afraid to mix things up. For a Ukrainian Village loft, his shopping list included an eight-foot-wide commercial stainless-steel scullery sink for the master bathroom, along with Bisazza glass tiles and custom walnut cabinets for the kitchen. In his own Lake View condo, which doubles as a work studio and audition hall for new ideas, an ornately gilded 19th-century commode isn’t slumming a whit alongside black plastic laminate tables and steel carts that function as nightstands.

With confidence, a strong sense of design, and open-minded clients, Chicago-based Haley (toddhaleyinc.com) has introduced unexpected industrial materials seamlessly into his dramatic, elegant interiors. With his comet burning bright, we asked Haley to share some of his offbeat sources and quirky tips with us.

Plumber’s Helpers Haley toughened up the decor of an urban loft by introducing institutional sinks from Elkay Manufacturing (2222 Camden Ct., Oak Brook, 630-572-3192; elkayusa.com) in the kitchen and bathrooms. The lustrous satin finish of the eight-foot-wide steel sink in the master bath (1) belies the fact that it was designed for washing up in hospitals and factories. The homeowner had a C-shaped granite “bench” custom made.

For a smaller bathroom he turned to the commercial division of American Standard (available through The Home Depot; find other retail outlets at americanstandard-us.com), where he found a creamy white rectangular janitor’s sink (2). When used in this context, its minimal elegance is anything but custodial.

In the Food Network–ready kitchen, he attached another Elkay commercial sink to the back of an island (3) that he designed and had clad in complementary stainless steel by the craftsmen at Avenue Metal (1640 W. Ogden Ave., 312-243-0017; avenuemetal.com). The resulting monolith, concealing two dishwashers and an icemaker, anchors the room. 

Blanket Statement  When Haley noticed quilted moving blankets in a high-rise service elevator, his mind started racing with ideas. He found black vinyl acoustical blankets with the same textural quality and experimented with them as unorthodox wall treatments. Developed to soak up sound in recording studios and other noisy venues, the panels give walls a sexy urban edge. In the living room of his condo, Haley used them to delineate a banquette seating area (4); in his bedroom, he padded the wall behind his bed (5) from top to bottom, creating a very large headboard.

The panels not only look cool, but they’ll also absorb any next-door night owl’s TiVo marathons. Find a variety of colors and sizes at acousticalsolutions.com; a 32-square-foot blanket goes for $290, including grommets and Velcro fastening strips. The company will make cutouts for electrical devices and provides CAD drawings for clients’ approval.

Haley suggests commercial moving blankets as an affordable alternative. “You can buy them in big sizes and mount them with drapery hooks on a curtain rod for a similar look,” he says. Moverssupplies.com offers a black version that won’t evoke moving-day flashbacks, and a dozen 72-by-80-inch panels will set you back only $160.

Twin Set Adding industrial flair to your home doesn’t have to mean Googling the nearest foundry. Haley assembled a dramatic 13-foot banquette with his own two hands, using two steel twin-bed frames (6) from CB2 (3757 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-755-3900; cb2.com). “I’m not mechanical and I got these together [with just a screwdrive and bolts] with no problems,” he says. “I like to take parts of retail furniture and use them out of context.”

The open grid bases-which also support the king-sized platform bed in his bedroom (7)-are topped with canvas-covered mattresses that Haley had kitted out with super heavy foam for comfortable seating. Buying an extra-firm mattress might work, if you top it with a half-inch layer of super-firm foam. G & A Upholstery (5915 N. Ravenswood Ave., 773-784-7818; gnaupholstery.com) and Romann Custom Upholstery & Design (4217 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-777-1745; romann-custom.com) are two of his trusted sources. CB2’s twin Baseline frames are $399 each; the king, $499.

Do the Light Thing For versatile, street-chic floor lamps (8) that play well with both modern and antique furnishings, Haley orders raw steel materials from an industrial metal supplier and has a welder execute his designs, following his precise specifications. He then goes to A Lamp & Fixture Shoppe (3181 N. Elston Ave., 773-866-0220) for wiring and sockets. It’s a tedious process, but for clients who appreciate custom design, it’s the only way to glow.

Randall Kramer at Kramer Design Studio (773-588-8523; kramerdesignstudio.com) is a skilled metalworker who can re-create a Haley-style lamp, but if you’d rather go readymade, Room & Board has a nice selection of clean, classic bases (then hit A Lamp for shades). “Focus on the base, not the shade, and go for simple and sturdy,” advises Haley, who makes his bases so heavy, they can’t be moved without brute force.

TIP: Keep all the lampshades in a room at the same height for a soothing effect-it’s a subtle detail, but people feel it.

Table Tips For a versatile and dramatic yet bare-bones ten-foot table, Haley used a simple steel base (9) from Room & Board and a black plastic laminate top (10) of his own design. “Many people don’t know this, but Room & Board will custom-size furniture bases,” he says.

For his top, Haley called on Wisconsin Bench (Thorp, Wisconsin, 800-242-2303; wisconsinbench.com), which specializes in heavy-duty laminate counters for laboratories, high school worktables, and locker-room benches-commercial uses that require a tough finish with virtually unchippable edges. The company will craft tops in any color under the sun, but Haley likes black. “When you neutralize a space by using all the same color, you’re not hit in the face as you walk into a room, and your eye will gradually go to the special details,” he says.

Haley also recommends granite or a beautiful wood for tops. For stone, he likes Stone Source (2458 W. Diversey Ave., 773-278-0500; stonesourcechicago.com); for millwork, he says, Jason Wade’s company 45 Degrees (1500 S. Western Ave., 312-502-0782; 45degreesdesign.com) is “the best.” But “whatever you pick should be the same throughout the room,” he adds. “If you have three different tops, it’s going to look like you went to a sample sale and bought slabs.”

The scale of the table makes it a piece of architecture itself, and the casters that he ordered with the legs allow it to be rolled to the banquette. It comfortably seats 12 on a mix of black damask-upholstered Saarinen Tulip chairs (not shown) and Donghia’s Anziano chairs (11) (“the most elegant stacking chair around, and comfortable”), modeled after the ancient Greek Klismos seat. For other table needs, Haley has ordered sturdy table bases from a restaurant supply manufacturer, Kurt Petersen Furniture in Park Ridge (847-692-5458; kpetersen.com). A handsome dining-height cast iron model with a 30-inch round base is $181, and the company also makes custom tabletops.

Artful Lodger When it comes to displaying art, Haley is extremely shelf-conscious. “I’m not into hanging things on the wall,” he says, “because I like to shift things around. When you permanently mount something and walk by it every day, after a while you become so accustomed to it that you stop appreciating it.”

He uses sleek ledges of steel with an upturned lip (12) to steady the pictures, which lean against the wall in ever-changing arrangements. Today a bullet-blasted metal piece by Margaret Evangeline balances a rusty barbed-wire folk art sculpture from the Judith Racht Gallery.

Haley picked up his four-foot-long steel ledges at Room & Board (55 E. Ohio St., 312-222-0970; roomandboard.com) for $69 each.


Photography: Nathan Kirkman


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