Something Old. Something New. Something Borrowed. Something Sustainable.

Image by Nathalie J Siegel

While digital agencies, Razorfish, and 1871 modernize the feel of the iconic, Art Deco fortress, the Merchandise Mart brings in its rich past of a former Native American trading post, by hosting international luxury retail trade shows. A former leather factory warehouse turned SoHo House brings its rich heritage by designing an open, lofty gym with a professional boxing ring, leather upholstered furnishings and vintage leather equipment, These are examples of preserving the past with the present and the future.

The Mart recently held the annual Chicago Design Summit hosted by industry trendsetters and top-shelf publication editors. A panel discussion entitled, The Design, Development, and Sustainability in Chicago, involved topics on designing consciously for the future and preserving what’s old and at stake.

Andrea Mills, editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, moderated this high-energy discussion. An impressive collection of speakers included Franck Nataf, co-owner of family generation line, Exquisite Surfaces, Summer Thornton, owner of Summer Thornton Design, and Jeff Shapack, CEO of Shapack Partners.

Nataf, co-owner of family generation line, Exquisite Surfaces, graciously hosted this discussion at his showroom. He travels the world with his immediate family to unchartered lands in finding versatile materials that have a well-kept history in its appearance. Once salvaged, these materials would be handcrafted and reproduced naturally by local artisans. Having access to a wild mix of material outsourcing helps develop smart, natural ways in sustainable design.

Thornton, another speaker, voted by local design magazines as a “Rising Star” and as “Chicago’s Best Transitional Designer”, is known for her bold and colorful work. Whether in environments of Lincoln Park or Telluride, Colorado, the firm tries to educate and set an example of long-term, sustainability for clients, the community, and for the public at large.

One of Shapack’s projects that face-lifted the Fulton Market area was the Soho House. For example, the historic water tower enclosure, in the back of the building, was not code-compliant according to engineer walk thru’s. The structural plank supports were removed and repurposed as a lobby mural. While more expensive, the firm focused on re-celebrating the time period for materials that had a story, including saving a Neo-Classical portico.

All in all, these cool tastemakers of design enjoyed educating and enlightening the audience on smart, dynamic trends in sustainable design.

Written by Nathalie J Siegel
Design Journalist


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