Alessi, Less and Little

I went over to Alessi’s Tree Studios branch to see if the annual sale is worth checking out (it is and you should—there’s a nice selection of shiny happy silly on sale for up to 75% off through February). I also got a kick out of these (not reduced) miniature versions of iconic Alessi tableware designs, sort of along the lines of the mini Vitra chairs that show up in museum shops and high-end home boutiques. All the 1980s superstars are represented in the collection, including the Michael Graves shrieking bird teapot (this version about 3” in stature, $45), Philippe Starck’s Juicy citrus squeezer ($45) and that Anna G. chrome-plated corkscrew (4” tall, $32)—just the ticket if you’re trying to cut back on your drinking.

Mid-Century Macbeth

Shakespeare’s plays carry such universal themes that their staging is often carried out with a freedom and creativity not seen in more restrictive, period-specific theatre. With Will, pretty much anything goes, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre has a stylish Macbeth going on until March 8 that will knock your socks off. British stage designer Mark Bailey created a contemporary staging, with the Macbeth residence reimagined as a glittering urban penthouse decorated with furnishings more typically seen at Luminaire than Navy Pier. The three witches (“bubble, bubble, toil and trouble”…that bit?) are dancers in a seedy strip club, virtuoso video effects heighten Lady Macbeth’s mad scene, and buckets of blood are splashed around that no doubt have stagehands cursing the damn spots every night. I got in touch with Bailey to hear about some of his sources and inspirations. “The play is set in Scotland, so I wanted to draw European references with the furniture,” he says. “It’s interesting that several reviews have commented on the Chicago skyline—that backdrop is not Chicago at all! My aim was to provide a contemporary feel but not make it trendy. I used iconic pieces like that Eileen Gray side table, a repro Le Corbusier armchair, and versions of Mart Stam dining chairs designed in the 1920s. One of my reasons for choosing classics like these was to not distract from the actors. I think we’re so used to seeing these pieces for over 80 years that they almost cease to register visually. The Stam chairs, by the way, are often wrongly attributed to Marcel Breuer, who also designed cantilevered chairs at around the same time.” When Lady M has her topless (SPOILER ALERT) suicide scene, she ends up in this amazing glass bathtub upstage, and I asked where that came from. “The director wanted a clear glass tub, particularly for the image of her dead in the blood red water,” he said. “This one is made by a company called Wasauna. It’s not an old design, but I think the style and design fit in well with the aesthetic of the show.”

Sit on Some Mad Men at Jayson

This spring, Jayson Home & Garden is debuting three new collections of upholstered furniture, each with a distinctive look. The Mad Men pieces are scaled smaller with mid-century lines and masculine shapes (no overstuffed “chofas” on Don and Betty Draper’s watch, please-and-thank-you), some with tufting and menswear fabrics, and named after characters on the show. This is the Mona Sofette in rich chocolate velvet, and it’s $1,195. The other categories are Nailheads (lots of gold tacks, detailed lines, and pony prints) and Belgian Natural (classic neutral colors and natural fabrics, with a whiff of Axel Vervoordt about them). Jayson’s premiere warehouse sale is coming up soon, but more on that next week.

“The World’s Most Advanced Bed & Mattress” by the Anderson Manufacturing Company

Drawer Bed

At the beginning of every year, companies bombard the media with tips and new products to help organize lives and homes, probably trying to take advantage of the two- or three-week window of time before people forget they’ve even made any resolutions. I’m all for an organized bedroom, but when this email crossed my inbox I was taken aback. Is that a bed, a Chinese puzzle box, or an extra from the Transformers movie? It’s billed as “The World’s Most Advanced Bed & Mattress” by the Anderson Manufacturing Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, (which clearly explains why there is a designated space for cross-country skis), but I’m sure I’d be later than ever for everything, trying to remember where I put my favorite socks. At least insomniacs could lull themselves to sleep, counting tiny pine drawers instead of sheep.