My, My, Blackbird

Artists and restaurants have always enjoyed a symbiotic relationship—free rotating interior embellishment for the establishment, free exposure, sales opportunities, and maybe an occasional slice of tiramisu for the creator—but it’s not all that often that diners have the chance to meet, greet, and eat with the artists in situ. The upscale, esteemed Blackbird is continuing its Salon Series dinners in the private upstairs dining room next Wednesday, January 27, with a showing of four artists who have all actually worked at Blackbird (some for more than a decade). Ceramicist Joe Krasean’s work is pictured here; he’ll be joined by fellow artists Sondra Stala, Paul Jones, and Ben Wilson. Chef Mike Sheerin has planned a five-course meal with wine pairings, inspired by the four artists, and the evening will set you back $115 per person, including tip and tax. Call 312-715-0708 for a seat at the table.

Too Big for Its Barrel

Crate & Barrel is closing the company store in the Woodfield Mall this Sunday, January 24, it’s true, but unlike a lot of recent news items that open on a down note like that, this retail tale has an upbeat ending. The mall space had only enough room for housewares, and a limited selection at that, so they’ll be crating inventory up and barreling down the road to a new store with 26,000 square feet, making it large enough to show off C&B’s entire furniture collection. They plan to be open at 760 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, by February 11–giving shoppers a couple of days to pick up some heart-shaped crème brulee crocks for Valentine’s Day.

Bubble Hue

The iconic George Nelson pendant lamps from 1947 have been given a subtle new attitude, courtesy of Room & Board. Previously these bubble lights, which come in several shapes and sizes, have only ever been available with white resin shades. Now you can purchase them in this pale blue, or a muted pastel yellow. I have a feeling design purists will refuse to do anything but the white thing in this situation, but it’s a fresh alternative for those willing to play around. The new fixtures come in three different shapes, and retail for $359 to $435.

Italian Impressionism

There is a fascinating and extensive multimedia group show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, running until February 14, titled “Italics: Italian Art Between Tradition and Revolution.” It’s an interesting mix of photography, painting, sculpture, and video installations, and I got a big design chuckle out of the 12 cheeky 1984 Gabriele Basilico photos of a barenaked lady after sitting on a number of different designer chairs (pictured is “Contact: Bertoia”). I think a lot of us mid-century furniture fans can relate—as great looking and sculptural as some of those classics are, they aren’t always the most comfortable. I once had a friend who used these same Harry Bertoia wire side chairs as dining room seating, and he refused to compromise their integrity with any sort of cushion or padding. A lot of wincing and waffle butts usually resulted, especially after a summer dinner party, but the room looked swell.

Fire Placement

It seems as if we were just telling you about this eco-chic new store that just opened in the West Loop, but now I hear owner Karen Kalmek will be celebrating the two-year anniversary of Green Home Chicago next month. Gosh, time really flies when you’re saving the planet. Karen sent me pics of some space-age new ventless fireplace units that she just got in from EcoSmart, and they are smoking-cool. They’d be perfect for areas that don’t have a gas hookup or ventilation, as they operate on denatured alcohol (available at GHC for about $16 a gallon), and they are portable enough that you can use them inside and outside—a great way to extend Chicago’s al fresco entertaining opportunities. This Cyl model will burn for ten hours if you juice it up, and it retails for $1,990. Oh and you can claim up to a $1,500 tax credit with the purchase of any EcoSmart fire unit—ask Karen about that, she’s got tons of tips for both going and saving green.