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The Right Stuff

High-end glam or bargain-basement funky, one interior designer’s vision is uncompromisingly green.

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John Robert Wiltgen used light fixtures covered with hand-dyed Indian silk throughout the lobby of the Emerald. The wooden chairs and tables were designed by Jill Salisbury for EL: Environmental Language.  Photo Gallery:::
 

For Chicago designer John Robert Wiltgen, using environmentally conscious products is a given. “Clients don’t usually insist on them, but we’ve always brought green options,” he says. “It’s just a matter of doing the right thing.” His firm has been in practice for 27 years, but until very recently, the demand for a green approach has not been huge. “A lot of that has to do with education,” Wiltgen notes. “I’ll show clients a recycled polyester fabric and tell them that their kids can spill grape juice on it, it’s not going to stain or tear, plus it’s great for the planet. Chances are they’ll say, ‘Oh wow, maybe we will go with that.’”

Many eco-friendly products cost more than traditional materials, but that’s slowly changing with supply and demand. “Think about what a computer cost 20 years ago,” Wiltgen says. “They were exorbitantly expensive and the technology was obsolete in a year. Now you can get one fully loaded for $600—that’s what’s going to happen to eco-friendly products as people demand, buy, and use them.” In two local projects—an 8,000-square-foot lobby in the West Loop’s Emerald residential development and a model unit for Bucktown’s EcoLogic Lofts—Wiltgen went green all the way, providing inspirational lessons in style for any budget.

Next: The Emerald

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