The Red Slipper chair featured at SOFA
Occupy Navy Pier

Ninety-nine percent of Chicago’s art and design community is rallying behind the symbiotic pairing of the SOFA (Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) and Intuit (Folk and Outsider) art fairs going on at the tip-top of Navy Pier this weekend, in Festival Hall (keep going past the build-a-bear store, the cheezburgah-cheezburgahs, and the refrigerator-magnet booth ­– you can’t miss it). This is the 18th year for SOFA, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of visits. It’s a visual playground of high-end one-of-a-kind furniture, pricey handcrafted jewelry, and breathtaking feats of blown and cast glass, ceramic, and wooden genius. I always wander these aisles and marvel at the how’d-they-DO-that skill on display, and wonder how thick the eyeglasses are for some of these artists who stitch millions of tiny paperclips together or who craft elaborate tableaux that fit comfortably into the eye of a needle. It’s just that kind of a show, and consequently, great for kids as well as adults. The 60-plus SOFA exhibitors (including Philly’s Wexler Gallery, showing off this Vivian Beer slipper chair crafted from steel and auto paint) will be joined by the 14 leading outsider and ethnographic art dealers that were vetted by Intuit, and the fun starts tonight at a $50 preview party, 7–9. Regular admission is $15, with the shows running through Sunday.

Sisal rug tiles from FLOR

Softer Side of Sisal

I’m a big fan of sisal rugs, and love the neutral, earthy colors, the way they massage bare feet, and the shabby-chic Nantucket vibe they impart. What I don’t love is the inability to clean them thoroughly, the splintering way they age, and the fact that if you spill a little pinot noir on them, you’ll have to buy a new carpet or rearrange the furniture. So it was nice to see FLOR’s fresh line of sisal-inspired carpet tiles, giving off that natural fiber attitude even though they are created from recycled nylon. These pseudo-sisals come in several subtle textures, including this herringboned Suit Yourself pattern, and sell for $12 per 20-ish-inch square. (Hot tip: FLOR is having a private 15-percent-off sale on everything, through November 18; if you’re not yet a FLOR favorite, you can still get in on the savings by “liking” them on Facebook and getting a super-secret discount code.)

A poster for 'The Interview Show'

Variety Hour

Every month, Chicago pundit Mark Bazer kicks it up Conan-style with his eclectic Interview Show in the back room of the Hideout, and tomorrow night he’s booked as guests a pro wrestler, a rocker, a witster, the Wagyu Wagon food truck, and, best of all, Chicago Home + Garden’s Jan Parr and Gina Bazer (Mark’s Mrs.), talking about the places they’ve gone and the people they’ve met that sparked the publication of Chicago Spaces: Inspiring Interiors. Bazer’s a crackerjack host and a right funny guy, and his chats are bringing in the crowds, so show up early for the 6:30 show-time if you want to get a good seat. Tickets are eight bucks.

Table settings from Sweet Peas Design

Holiday Handoff

If your palms are already sweating thinking about the fast-approaching holiday season, and you don’t know how you’re going to find the time to deck the halls with your usual panache this year, why not consider a little stylish outsourcing? Susan Brunstrum and the team at her Libertyville Sweet Peas Design firm are happy to help with everything from Thanksgiving tabletop spreads to creative curb-appeal 911. They’ll make house calls to anyone in the Chicagoland area; assess the situation and make a stress-relieving plan of attack, working with what you already have and suggesting add-ons from Sweet Peas’ inventory and studio resources. Typically, services run about $175 an hour, and clients get a 35-percent discount on purchases. Call 847-816-1296 or email Susan at to get the party started.

George Lowell and friend

Cinco de Giorgio

Interior designer George Lowell Arduser celebrated five years in (retail) business last month (here’s a pic from the anniversary festivities—that’s George on the left), and he’s sharing the love by offering 20 percent off everything in the shop, including sale items. Find the deals at 5123 North Clark Street, through November 13.