Big-Box Trotting

I was driving down North Avenue the other day and noticed the birth announcement of a West Elm home store, sprouting up at North and Sheffield, in the old Whole Foods space. The modern furniture chain has planted the seeds for its first Chicago branch, opening February 3, and creative director Alexandra Bates is pretty excited about it. “We are thrilled to be expanding into the Chicago market,” shae says, “especially with the success we have seen in the suburban Oak Brook store. Chicago has such a thriving design community, and we felt it was a natural fit for our first urban location.”  I’m psyched as well—as appealing as styled-up merchandise looks in catalogs and online, and as easy as it is to point-click-purchase, it’s always best to eyeball it and give it a little shimmy-shimmy-shake in person before you shed any shekels. The 20,000-square-foot store plans to carry the complete West Elm inventory, which will be displayed in loft settings to demonstrate how you can lift the look for your own home. This new kid on the block will have a playmate in Pottery Barn, which is moving a bit west from its North Avenue location, right next to the new West Elm.

CU Later

Crate & Barrel’s very first CB2 store is closing this Sunday, after a decade of business at 3757 North Lincoln Avenue. The lease is up, and the brand (a sort of spunkier, less expensive Crate & Barrel) is looking to expand to other markets. There are currently six stores, (three in California and one in New York) and by the end of this year there will be three more (Miami, Atlanta, and Santa Monica). I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with CB2 over the years—sometimes I go in and want to buy everything, and sometimes nothing tempts at all—we’ve broken up and gotten back together again more times than Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson. Lately the merchandise has been particularily strong, and I’m glad they are keeping the 800 W. North Avenue location open. We’re getting together for drinks soon.

Fetching Dog Bed

This streamlined bark-a-lounger from Chiasso is just the thing for modern-design hounds. With its chrome-plated steel frame and crisp black vinyl cushions, it could easily be mistaken for a Milo Baughman sofa or a Miesian classic daybed. It’s nine inches high, 45 inches wide, and re-tales for $398.

Feeling Blue?

Watch your back, Mimosa, there’s a new color in town, and it’s working blue. The Pantone Color Institute, an influential 45-year-old group that studies multi-industry color trends, has selected Turquoise as the It hue for 2010. Last year it was the bright yellow that, as Gina recently blogged, is currently turning up everywhere in home design and fashion, so be prepared for the trickle-down effect. Personally I think turquoise is tricky—(as does Gina, see her other recent Design Dose blog) I like it with a little red, but pair it with orange and you’re in Howard Johnson–territory, and the chocolate and pale blue combo has pretty much had its 15 minutes of fame. I checked with a couple of swatch-savvy designers to get some blues clues. Joel Klaff of Workroom Couture Home loves it. “We feel it’s time to use bright, whimsical colors in home interiors as accents, and this is so reminiscent of 1960s retro design,” he says. “How about a predominately white room with one wall of solid turquoise fabric? That’s a great mod look. We also like it in upholstery patterns, bedding, and pillows. A weathered turquoise would be an excellent choice for a cottage home.” Urban Source’s Rose Tejeda-Navarre likes it too, but emphasizes that you need to monitor the intensity. “A vivid, pure turquoise brings to mind Miami and South Beach,” she says. “It’s a cool color, but can be very energetic. The softer tints are a little more soothing and relaxing, and would be great for bedrooms and bathrooms. Most of our clients would use the pure turquoise only as accents on pillows and accessories, but the bolder ones may do an accent wall for a punch.” Items pictured here are from the Versailles collection, at Urban Source.

Blu Dot on a Roll

The stylishly minimal yet affordable furniture maker Blu Dot has obviously been doing something right in this economy, as they’ve just moved to a spacious new headquarters in downtown Minneapolis (pictured here) and increased the size of their warehouse and distribution center by 25,000 square feet. The lofty new HQ is a renovated industrial building used to fabricate airplane parts during World War II, and is just a block away from Blu Dot’s first location, 13 years ago. The company, whose products are available locally at I.D., European Furniture, and @work Design, was started in 1997 by three college friends who weren’t satisfied with the furniture available in their price range when they graduated and began to furnish their homes. So they made their own, and hoped that other people were of the same mindset. The company currently has about 60 employees, exceeded $50 million in sales last year, and opened a flagship store in New York’s SoHo district.