A colorful chair by Marimekko
Are You Finnish Yet?

Crate & Barrel has been showing and selling the bold and joyful fabrics of Finland’s Marimekko company since the mid 1960s, and often uses the material to perk up store displays and distinctively swoop around its retail locations like titanic toilet paperings. Tonight the company is unveiling its first Chicago in-house Marimekko boutique (there are already two in NYC, and plans to open in San Francisco and L.A. later this month) at the bustling North and Clybourn location, to showcase expanded product lines of furniture, wall art, bumbershoots for both people and patio tables, beach towels, dishware, and apparel. Some of the ponchos and raincoats are a little too aggressively whimsical for my taste, but I’d consider some kicky socks, maybe a tie. When I was in college, the ne plus ultra dorm décor had to include a Marimekko comforter, so it’s nice to see the company is enjoying resurged interest in its designs, oft burdened with such spell-check-stumping pattern names as Siirtolapuutarha (“allotment”), Ruuturouva (“queen of diamonds”), Pieni Unikko (“little poppy”), and Rautasänky (“iron bed”). This Saija chair is cloaked in Spinning fabric, and retails for $999.

A chest by S. Lloyd Natof

Natof Send-Off

After 23 years of trimming the limbs fantastic at his 1217 West Monroe studio, woodworker S. Lloyd Natof (great-grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright) is packing it up and consolidate business in Oak Park, where he’s moving his studio. He’s honoring the occasion with a party this Saturday, May 7, from 11–6, and invites everyone to stop by for reminiscing and refreshments, and to take advantage of dramatic discounts on furniture. Natof likes to use contrasting combinations of exotic hardwoods for his work, and the one-off designs are impeccably, lovingly crafted. This is a great opportunity to invest in some heirloom pieces: the Bubinga wood Tansu chest pictured, normally priced at $4,900, will be marked down to $1,800. Also expect to find deals on mirrors, tables, buffets, and display cases.

A beautifully arranged glass and metal coffee table

Style Counsel

If you haven’t stopped by the Chicago Architecture Foundation or clicked around its website lately, I think you’ll be surprised at the variety of tours, programs, and classes they offer (as well as one of my consistently favorite gift shops). This Tuesday at six p.m., the organization is hosting a “Secrets of the Stylists” seminar, where Chicago Home + Garden photo stylists will be dishing trade tips and teaching how to arrange tabletop landscapes, eye-catching bookshelf vignettes, and floral displays. Great skills to have if you’re staging a space for sale, throwing a party, or simply living large and in charge of your environment. Magazine-ready interiors don’t just fall into place—there are tweaks and rules to follow that elevate rooms from meh to mythic. Tickets are $15, available here.

A scene from 'The Aluminum Chair'


The Architecture & Design Film Festival reels into town tonight at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and will be screening 39 style-conscious films from 11 countries over the next four days (with several showing at the screening room of the Wit hotel, just across State Street.) Flicks range in length from two to 90 minutes, and have been curated into 15 symbiotic programs, each with a $10 admission fee. Organizer Kyle Bergman, principal of the Bergman Design Team design-build firm in Vermont and NYC, put together the first fest in October 2010, and plans to run them annually in New York and Chicago. Becoming attractions include a documentary about the making of Jeanne Gang’s Aqua Tower, a profile of Lucienne and Robin Day (British furniture and textile designers that were instrumental in perking up a post-WWII England), Subversive Architects, and The Aluminum Chair, an eight-minute elegie to this famous Eames easy chair. There is a robust schedule of panel discussions, Audi driving tours of Chicago, Q&A’s, and a staged reading of a play based on Philip Johnson’s Glass House and Mies’s Farnsworth House, The Glass House. Visit here for more.

A collection of notable wines

French Dressings

I had the fortune of visiting Le Français restaurant in Wheeling, Illinois, once for a celebratory graduation dinner, back in the day, and les memories of the evening stick with me. This place was groundbreaking when it opened in 1973, and gourmands flocked to its baroque, copper-kettle-clad, elegant rooms in droves. It closed in 2007, and the last owner, Michael Moran, hoped to find a buyer to revitalize the fancy French cuisine, to no avail. He recently sold the two-acre property to a restaurateur of a different feather, and is in the process of selling off the restaurant’s luxe trappings, beginning with an auction of almost 4,000 bottles of wine this Saturday at the tony Union League Club of Chicago. Sales of the Villeroy & Boch china and Riedel crystal to follow at a later date. The oeno-opportunity is being conducted by Lake Forest’s Edward Roberts International auction house, and starts at 11 a.m., with a presale tasting event (50-plus pours, $65, proper biz attire, s’il vous plaït) at 10 a.m.. Get a ticket for the tasting here, and sign up for ERI’s newsletter to receive news of the upcoming sales. C’est tout!

A tall metal table by Riggs Barr

Salon des Bold Arts

J. Andrews hair salon and spa owners Nic and Kim Dasovich fell for local metalworker Riggs Barr’s furniture, mirrors, and artwork when it was on display at the Third Coast Café last winter, and they immediately asked him if they could take some pieces in on consignment when that show ended (you can find art and home design in all kinds of environments these days). Shiny sales and bouncing exposure prompted them to ask Riggs to be a part of the spring art opening they put together in their parlor every year, and the resulting show opens tomorrow night with a gallery-style opening from 5:30 until 8:30 p.m. The man of steel will be showing about a dozen pieces, including this sturdy little side table topped with a vintage grate; there will also be photography and jewelry on display; J. Andrews is at 1260 North Dearborn Street.

The exterior of the Austin Town Hall Park District building

Vote to the Last Drop

As we’re traipsing through aspirational house and garden walks, it’s easy to get caught up in fantasies of glam lives lived in rarefied settings. But it’s important and soul-satisfying to think of others in less monied environments, and how smart design and renovation can help the lives of those who are more apt to shop at Kwik-E-Mart than the Merchandise Mart. The Maxwell House Drops of Good Community Project is a national program dedicated to helping neighborhoods by giving grants and donations to community houses and awarding one deserving center a $50,000 makeover. This year, one of the ten organizations in competition is Chicago’s Austin Town Hall Park District building, and you can help it win big by voting here every day until June 17. Incidently, legend has it that Maxwell House’s “Good to the Last Drop” slogan was brewed up by Teddy Roosevelt when Andrew Jackson served him a cup of MH coffee, and not by some dapper ad man.


Photograph: (Natof chest) Michael Hahn