Helen Maria Nugent with her Erb plant table, Scoop shelving unit, and Swing floor lamp, whose three-part shade can be rotated to wherever you need some extra light
“I’m more of a big-picture thinker and he’s more about the construction,” says Nugent, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recently, the enthusiastic prof with a Scottish brogue (she immigrated to the United States 13 years ago) has had her designs—ranging from stitched-felt placemats with bold geometric patterns to funky etched-glass mirrors and illuminated glass shelving—picked up by Lightology and Hejfina.
“We want to make something that becomes a part of your daily activity,” Nugent says. “You need to be happy with it for longer than just a fashionable season. And it’s little things like placemats, mirrors, and lighting that give people so much joy.”
A member of the Chicago Furniture Designers Association for more than eight years, Nugent also has become a go-to design expert in the city, curating furniture exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center and, this past spring, lecturing on the characteristics of classic design to a packed house at Hejfina. “I’m constantly trying to educate people,” says Nugent, “and get our name out there in the process.”
What’s next? This fall, Nugent will spend a week at Jacksonville University in Florida working with glass experts and experimenting with various silvering methods. Coming up with ideas is no problem. “It’s figuring out how to make them work that’s the tough part,” says Nugent. Luckily, there’s an architect in the house. Haelo Design, haelodesign.com, 773-334-0958.
Photograph: Anna Knott