It’s nearly impossible to pick the top destinations—they change quickly as each tide of home design rolls through. What follows is a suggested tour de force—a guide to our favorites throughout various floors of the Mart. Click for more information

1st Floor

6th Floor

15th Floor

16th Floor

17th Floor

18th Floor

For nearly a century, the Merchandise Mart’s showrooms have been the epicenter of Chicago’s interior design community. However, access to the upper floors has traditionally been limited to the licensed trade. Last year, the Mart—where decorator fabrics, finishes, and fine furnishings are sold—tweaked its policy and opened up its Design Center showrooms to the public. Now the new Designer-on-Call program wants to welcome you in—with a few caveats, of course.  Here’s a crash course on how to navigate the maze, complete with a list of insider shopping secrets and floor-by-floor favorites.

Come On In
Grouped under the name LuxeHome, the tile, lighting, kitchen, and bath showrooms on the first floor have always been open to the public and will continue to be. The new program Designer-on-Call allows public access to floors 6 and 15 to 18. Follow these steps to obtain a pass.

1. Visitors must have a pass to access the trade floors. To get one, stop by the concierge desk in the building’s north lobby just off Kinzie Street. There, a Designer-on-Call—a showroom-vetted designer—will meet you and give you a pass to the upper floors.

2. No appointment is necessary, and passes can be obtained Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, if you have a special project in mind, call ahead to schedule a free one-hour appointment to ensure that you can meet with a designer who specializes in your specific needs, style, or budget.

3. If you go it alone—without the DOC in tow—get your pass and head to the middle elevator banks and follow signs for the Design Center showroom floors. Start at the top and work your way around and down.

4. Licensed designers must facilitate and finalize all purchases on the upper floors. This service is free—but the public pays list price plus 20 percent on all showroom items.

5. The DOC program also offers free consultations, so bring along your floor plan, color scheme, wish list, measurements, or design dilemma. You can go online to preview individual designers’ work for past clients to see if your tastes match.

6. Proceed with caution: Even the most savvy shopper might want to hire a decorator when making a major purchase or starting a renovation.




LuxeHomeOne of the best-kept secrets in the city, the first floor of the Mart is a residential-design mecca filled with 30 kitchen, bath, home-building, and renovation showrooms ripe for browsing and buying. No special pass is required. Our favorite finds include English paints from Farrow & Ball (6), tile from Ann Sacks (4), vintage-inspired kitchen and bath hardware from Urban Archaeology (3), specialty handles and knobs from Katonah Hardware (1) and the Nanz Company (5), and kitchen and bath showrooms such as Wolf (ovens) and Sub-Zero (refrigerators) (2) that change their display of new products each season. A good place to start is the concierge desk (1), where you can grab a free directory of showrooms, lines, product categories, and floor plans. 312-527-7939,


Photography: Courtesy of the showrooms; Illustration: Chris Dent



Maya Romanoff1) Maya Romanoff
The inventor, artist, and design legend Maya Romanoff and his family have created the largest handcrafted-wallpaper manufacturing firm in the United States—and they’ve done much of it out of a facility in Skokie. The family has plans, in February, to open a standalone showroom filled with artful and flexible paper coverings. A new mirror series is sure to be a design collectible. Suite 6-167; 773-465-6909, ext. 97,

Samuel & Sons2) Samuel & Sons
This showroom is a decorator’s candy store, featuring 20,000 varieties of trim, braiding, and fringe, from tassels as big and colorful as beach balls to pompons that kick up the volume on lampshades or draperies. If it’s your first foray into design, remember, it’s all in the details. Suite 6-168; 312-379-1500,

3) Stark
A design project often starts at the bottom—and that’s with the purchase of a rug. This family-run business has been the design community’s choice for custom wool floor coverings for almost 60 years. Of note is the reworked vintage rug collection, in which small sections of wool are hand-patched and overdyed to create a one-of-a-kind investment—think of it as a quilt of rugs. Find, too, designs by the celebrated Aussie David Hicks and the new Passport collection by Charlotte Moss. Suite 6-102; 312-329-9043,

4) F. Schumacher & Co.
The grande dame of the business since 1889, this fabric house has supplied trim and furniture to the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court, and show homes the world over. Many fabric houses are known for their designer collaborations, and here you’ll find Matthew Patrick Smyth’s classics and Kelly Wearstler’s signature trellis as well as edgy-for-the-outdoors brights by the fashion favorite Trina Turk. Suite 6-133; 3Kravet12-527-4650,

5) Kravet
Kravet always feels like a front-row seat to a fashion show for the home. Discover fine fabrics from A-list fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Joseph Abboud, and Echo Design alongside a bevy of designer collections from the likes of Barbara Barry and Alexa Hampton. Suite 6-128; 312-527-0505,

6) Brunschwig & Fils
When designers tote samples to clients, they often use the iconic black-and-white B&F bag. The bag signifies a generously stocked fabric house that carries more than 20,000 fabrics and 1,200 wallcoverings. Our current favorites include Albert Hadley’s line of preppy prints for the Hinson brand. Custom orders for as few as 50 yards can be scaled and colored to your specifications, which allows you to be your own fabric designer. Suite 6-121; 312-329-0178,


Photography: Courtesy of the showrooms; Illustration: Chris Dent



1) Sample Sale Suite
Pop in for an ever-changing assortment of past-season showroom samples and off-the-floor products, including furniture, accessories, and artwork. Don’t be afraid to bargain a bit—we hear that prices are often negotiable. Suite 1563; 773-852-6184,

2) LinenMe
The Lithuanian interior designer Inga Lukauskiene brought her passion for luxe linen and home textiles to the Mart in June 2010. This colorful showroom represents her first U.S. venture, and here shoppers will find coverlets, duvets, and table and bath linens, as well as drapery panels in three ready-made sizes, available in a rainbow of colors. Suite 1524A;

Kenneth Ludwig Furnishings3) Kenneth Ludwig Home Furnishings
Ludwig himself oversees this friendly and warm environment, and you can usually find him buzzing about a new discovery or offering a snack and chic seat. Recently, we admired the new lighting line from Divine Design TV darling Candice Olson and furnishings from Lee Industries and One Good Chair. Most of the wares here are well suited to apartment living and budget friendly. Suite 1510; 312-467-0530,


Photography: Courtesy of the showrooms; Illustration: Chris Dent



Benjamin Moore1) Benjamin Moore & Co.
The Benjamin Moore color wheel is a decorator’s secret weapon—and so is the brand’s color showroom on the Mart’s 16th floor. With more than 3,300 hues and proprietary lab-quality lighting for expert color viewing (natural, incandescent, or halogen), this outpost offers everything but the paint. Suite 1686; 312-822-0600,

2) C.A.I. Designs
The mix of furniture here looks like a trendy interior design magazine photograph. A new gallery displays upholstered pieces from Cisco Brothers (also sold by fine furniture retailers) that pair well with imports. Chic custom metal drink tables by Kolkka sit nicely alongside refined and elegant wood furniture from CR Currin. Suite 1619; 312-755-9163


Photography: Courtesy of the showrooms; Illustration: Chris Dent



1) 2) In the design world, the phrase “casual showroom” is code for outdoor furnishings, and two of the best occupy the Mart’s 17th floor. Kingsley-Bate (1) is a favorite of landscape architects and high-end resorts because of its high-quality teak and clean design. Suite 17-107; 312-329-9418, At Brown Jordan (2), the Still and Cloud Nine lines from Richard Frinier are curvy and modern. Suite Niedermaier17-100; 312-321-0144,

3) Niedermaier
The charming hometown designer Judy Niedermaier has created a showroom filled with a striking combination of her own contemporary furniture designs and collaborations with world-renowned names such as Vicente Wolf. Stay tuned for samples from the new Residences at the Ritz-Carlton: Niedermaier is designing the public areas and will make many pieces available for sale through the showroom. Suite 1742; 312-467-7008,


Photography: Courtesy of the showrooms; Illustration: Chris Dent



1) Bradley Hughes
This Atlanta-based company is brand new to the Mart, and it’s quickly becoming top of mind for designers. A far cry from traditional Southern décor, all of the modern statement pieces are handmade in the United States, making for incredibly short lead-times on concrete tables, hand-forged iron pieces, acid-antiqued mirrors, and fine art. Suite 1855; 312-624-9997;

2) Design Atelier-Modern
This showroom represents a well-curated mix of more than 30 lines of furniture. Swoon over the new Poet Furniture line from the L.A.-based designer Carol Poet, who’s known for her Hollywood A-list clients. Suite 1848; 312-822-0440

Holly Hunt3) 4) Holly Hunt
The company headquarters of Hunt’s namesake Chicago furniture company takes up two austere and dramatic floors. Find Hunt’s own designs—some of the most finely made (and pricey) furnishings in the Mart—as well as collections from those she deems best in the field: Dakota Jackson, Rose Tarlow, John Himmel, and the like. Suite 1844 (and 1728); 312-661-1900;

4) Odegard
Magic carpet maker Stephanie Odegard spent years traveling the world working for the Peace Corps, the United Nations, and the World Bank. Each of her hand-knotted creations seems to reflect this journey, including the new Batik Kelim and Anaar flat weaves, which look like art from faraway places. Suite 1828; 312-644-9638,

George Smith5) George Smith
Pieces from this formerly stuffy Brit brand easily land on the shortlist of “best sofas ever.” Shoppers will discover beech and birch wood frames that are hand-jointed and can be built to their exact specifications. A slate of hip fabrics, such as Raoul, out of Santa Barbara, are on hand to dress up classics in unexpected ways. Many patterns are silk-screened and printed to order–a real hidden treasure. Suite 1879A; 312-464-0242,

6) Edelman Leather
Edelman was the leather fashion house of the 1950s and the 1960s, in part because the family’s famous pal Andy Warhol was the brand’s graphic designer. The Edelmans left the fashion business for home design in the 1980s and have been working with full-grain hides and giving them finishes and colors by hand, including metallics and mock-croc and wood patterns you have to touch to believe are leather. Suite 1873D; 312-467-4433,

7) Lalique
The only architectural showroom in North America for Lalique crystal. The showroom door handles alone are over the top in a not-to-be-missed kind of way. Suite1867; 312-867-1787

8) Mike Bell
A visit to this showroom feels like a smart buying trip around the world and through the ages. Antiques from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries are mixed in with detailed reproductions from various countries and design periods. Pieces can be re-covered, refinished, or refined in a Chicago workroom to meet modern needs. Suite 1869; 312-644-6848,


Photography: Courtesy of the showrooms; Illustration: Chris Dent