Mart Madness

There’s a lot of buzz about this weekend’s sample sale at the Merchandise Mart, with more than 40 high-design rollers participating in the event, held Saturday and Sunday on the 8th floor. The admission price of $10 for a weekend pass (refundable with some purchases) also includes access to participating showrooms on the hallowed halls of 6 and 15-18, which are typically to-the-trade only. Expect luxe bargains from Mike Bell, Holly Hunt, Bright Chair, Henredon, and lots more. Why not pimp your patio with this outdoor set of Boca Isles resin wicker furniture with Sunbrella cushions from Anacara? It’s $2,418 for all five pieces, down from $6,200. Odegard promises a large selection of hand-knotted rugs (regularly $3,000 to $14,000) for $700 to $4,500, and should you need some decorating advice, there will be free consultations with top Chicago design minds like Todd Haley (I personally picked his brain for ideas on incorporating industrial materials in home settings for the magazine), Gray & Walter, and Michael Richman (we just featured his own abode). Bring your swatches and floor plans, and sign up upon arrival for a 20-30 minute tête-à-tête.

Best In Grow

The Illinois Orchid Society is taking over the Chicago Botanic Garden this weekend for “Orchids in the Mist,” its prestigious annual competition where 128 varieties go stamen-to-rhizome in competition for ribbons, and vendors will be selling orchids and orchid-related merch from 10-5. Admission is free, and handy potters will be around to resize root-bound plants for a $5 donation.

Continuing Education

More than 100,000 visitors toured the Smart Home in the Museum of Science and Industry’s backyard last year, so it’s coming back for a return engagement, revamped with new interiors coordinated by Michele Fitzpatrick of Verde, who tapped many local sources, plus sophisticated technology systems that would make the Jetsons jealous, courtesy of co-sponsor Wired Magazine. Smart Home: Green + Wired reopens to the public this Thursday and runs until January 3, 2010. If your only interest in green design is choosing between kelly, pea, or emerald, don’t be misled by the exhibit title and museum milieu to think that this is some dry, preachy nerd-nest—it presents its case in a beautiful, inspirational living space that is an actual home. The modular, three-story structure was designed by California-based architect Michelle Kaufman, pre-fabbed in Indiana, and assembled onsite in an imaginatively landscaped setting. Kaufman grew up in the Midwest and says her vision was inspired by barns and how they instinctively were designed to maximize light and airflow. Get tickets before you visit, for sure—only a limited number of people are allowed through each day, in groups.

Stop Smiling and Party

Mid-century mecca Design Within Reach is hosting a launch party for the third annual “20 Interviews” issue of the arts and culture magazine Stop Smiling tomorrow night, March 19, from 5-7 p.m. at its North Avenue location. Local DJs will spin, refreshments will refresh, and free copies of the literary-leaning periodical will be available while they last. RSVP to Stop Smiling was launched in Chicago in the mid-1990s and still has editorial offices in Wicker Park, where they hold readings, performances, film screenings, and exhibits in the storefront space. I got a look at an advance copy, and it’s packed with cool Q&A’s. Did you know that director David Lynch is also a painter and an accomplished furniture maker whose favorite medium is wood? I did not. There’s also a lengthy talk with artist R. Crumb, and a touching tribute to Studs Terkel. Should be a fun event with some interesting folks.

A Fond Farewell

I’m truly sorry to report that Robert Henry Adams Fine Art will be closing its River North gallery at the end of April. I visited the original gallery on Webster (now Webster’s Wine Bar) many times, then the Franklin Street location, and Rob was a gentleman, a scholar, and one of the nicest and most respected art dealers in town. When he died in 2001, the gallery continued to champion the paintings and sculpture of Chicago WPA artists and others working 1910-1970, under a series of directors. Leslie Hindman will be auctioning remaining inventory—over 400 lots—on Monday evening, May 4.