Stylin’ Squash Bisque

Posted on September 29th, 2014 by Libby Cortez

When we connected with a new food stylist for our holiday catalog shoot, we all got infected with a bit of early cheer.

The wonderful Jim Rude is anything but rude. A 20-year food-styling veteran, he humbly attributes his success to hard work and a little luck – although we can attest to the fact that a lot of talent has gone into the mix as well.

And, since Jim began his career as a chef, he doesn’t just know how to make food look amazing; he knows how to make it taste divine.

The squash bisque he whipped up for us looked particularly delicious. So we tried it for ourselves – then begged for the recipe.

Good thing for all of us, Jim’s kind enough to share:

Butternut Squash Bisque

Garnishing butternut squash bisque with a sprig of sage

Prep Time:  20 minutes
Total time:  75 minutes

Serves 6

1 ea. butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeded

2 Tbsps. EVOO, divided

1 med. onion, diced

1 ea. granny smith apple, peeled, seeded, and chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp. curry powder

1 Tbsp. honey

3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

Salt & pepper to taste

Fresh herbs for butternut squash bisque

Directions:

1. Rub cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of oil. Place cut side down in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Bake for one hour or until squash is soft.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or dutch oven, saute onion, apple, and garlic in remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat until softened. Add curry powder and cook an additional minute.

3. When squash is tender, scoop flesh out with a spoon, transferring it to the saucepan with the onion/apple mixture. Add the honey and chicken broth. Simmer over medium low heat for 30 minutes or until hot.

4. Puree mixture with a hand blender or regular blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Serve in bowls with sprigs of fresh herbs.

Jim Rude Pours Butternut Squash Bisque at the Unison Holiday Catalog Shoot

“This creamy classic is a great way to kick off the fall season,” Jim explains. “For added flavor, try it with some crumbled biscotti cookies or fried sage leaves on top.”

Check out Rude On Food for more good stuff from Jim.

12 Fresh (and Fabulous) Fabric Ideas

Posted on September 25th, 2014 by Libby Cortez

We at Unison have had an ongoing love affair with fabric for – well – forever. If you know us at all, you know that much.

So we’re always noting great ideas for getting creative with fabric. And why not? One of the easiest ways to inject new life and style into any look is to bring in some material full of bold color or striking pattern.

Step one: choose your fabric. The options for this are virtually endless. But we’ll help you out by humbly mentioning that our collection of fabric offered by the yard is one great place to start.

Now for what to do with it:

Fold an origami-style tote bag

Model holding origami-style fabric tote bag

This is a hip and current look, and there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself in a few relatively easy steps.

Brittany Watson Jepsen has one great how to with lots of photos. (And don’t hesitate to linger. Her blog is chock full of great ideas for using fabric.)

Let the kids go wild

Let’s be honest: you can spend your life savings on a Rembrant, but the framed finger painting that your 5-year-old made in kindergarten is destined to garner more comments.

So why not encourage your little artisans to get creative with your favorite fabrics? Just grab some glue, safety scissors, and a selection of gorgeous material, then see where their imagination takes them. Frame the results for praise-worthy wall art.

Turn scrap fabric into gorgeous twine

Gorgeous twine made from scrap fabric

Bring new life to your gift wrapping with My Poppet’s great tutorial on making roping from scrap fabric. Tie one on and give it away!

Think fabric for wainscoting

Ever muse about doing something bold with those lovely, framed sections of your dining room? Turns out they’re the perfect place to go crazy with patterned fabric.

Why? For one, you’re working in sections that are surrounded by lots of white space (or gray space or black or…you get the picture). So you needn’t worry about overwhelming the room with too bold a look.

But there’s another big benefit: Fabric is easy to remove (unlike that pesky wallpaper). So if you go big and bold and then need a change by next fall, it’s not the end of the world.

Makeover a chair with fabric scrap

Wooden chair with seat made from woven fabric scrap

Pull up a chair and start a conversation with this DIY idea from Sincerely, Kinsey. Who’d have thought that a made over wooden chair could have so much personality?

Braid a basket

Didn’t think you were cut out for basket weaving? Maybe you just need to rethink what you’re putting into it.

Not for the casually crafty, Tiffanie Turner’s DIY fabric basket tutorial is as thorough as it is creative. Get to work now, and you could have a gorgeous collection of hostess gifts in hand for the holiday party season.

Cover some cork

A collection of fabric covered boards in black and white

In our Chicago store, we often use fabric-covered boards as wall art (and as a great way to feature our extensive line of fabrics).

It couldn’t be easier: just be sure that your cork (or whatever core you choose) is acid-free, cover it with your favorite fabric, and hang. Easy + gorgeous = forever favorite.

Wrap in fabric

If you were thinking of sending us a gift, we’d like it wrapped like this please. Who wouldn’t?

Joy Uyeno has an über easy tutorial on her Frock Files blog – simply easy, simply gorgeous. What could be more modern than that?

Switch a switch plate

Switch plate covered in fabric

Light switch plates are a fun place to inject some spark into a room, because they’re small but often seen (and used) by all who enter.

Plus, it’s not too tough to do this yourself with your favorite bit of fabric. Tidy Mom offers a nice tutorial.

Pick a bouquet of fabric flowers

Sew them in, pin them up, tie them on… Whatever you can think to do with these beautiful fabric flowers, we approve.

This tutorial on Flax & Twine is inspiring and thorough – templates and all. Happy handmade indeed.

Light up your life

A lamp with a fabric-covered shade

Just follow the steps from Six Sisters for a beautiful and cost-effective freshen for any lamp.

Create a fabric flag banner

We could list creative takes on this classic all day, but Pinterest already has the options covered in spades. Check out this Fabric Flag Banner board for endless ideas.

 

Keep an eye on our Projects with Fabric Pinterest board for more ideas.

 

Store Event: Block Party Sept 25th

Posted on September 11th, 2014 by Alicia

Join us for our first event of fall to celebrate the launch of our fall collection! We are calling interior designers, architects, loyalists and newbies for a cocktail event featuring our Fall collection and limited edition upholstered furniture pieces. Learn about other creative uses for our fabrics and take 20% off our entire collection. Enjoy cocktails and samples featuring apple brandy from local distillery Rhine Hall. Feel free to rsvp to our Facebook event or to division@unisonhome.com. Thursday, September 25th from 6-8pm at Unison, 1911 W Division St, Chicago.

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White: A Design Staple for All Seasons

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by Alicia

With the passing of Labor Day comes a change in seasons—and with it, a subtle shift in our mood and mindset. Summer is behind us. The rhythm of our days is changing, becoming more structured and contingent on school-day rules.

So we’re fighting back.

How? By throwing one tried-and-untrue rule out the window: instead of boxing up our whitest whites in these post Labor Day days, we’re shining a spotlight on the great white world.

Why We Love White

As much as we at Unison are known for color and pattern, we’re also obsessed with white. Why? It’s a clean palette. A classic backdrop. An inviting canvas on which to display your creativity. An enduring staple of good design.

fulton_white_duvet_980The clean minimalism of white allows your own unique style to capture attention through the color and texture you layer atop it.

In short, it’s one of my favorite “colors.” And it’s perennially in style.

The Wide World of White

Many of today’s foremost designers have a passion for white:

Commes des Garçons often shows white on the runway.

Commes des Garçons often shows white on the runway.

Layering white upon beautiful white, Comme des Garçons proves time and again that great style transcends the seasonal—and transcends that old no-white-after-Labor-Day rule.

One great adopter of such fashion is Karim Rashid, a perennially hip style icon who has made all-white ensembles one of his personal signatures. He proves that white is a class act, as does another favorite style icon, Martin Margiela. This Belgian designer has cultivated a white aesthetic from the start of his career.

The Maison Martin Margielas store in Paris

The Maison Martin Margielas store in Paris

On our honeymoon, we visited his all-white store in Tokyo. It was like a dream to be in that space!

But Not an All-White World

As much as I love white, I couldn’t live in an all-white world. After all, one of the things I most appreciate about white is its gracious ability to let other colors and textures take center stage.

This is why we at Unison do what we do: we design and curate layers of modern beauty, and we let white (or sometimes black or gray) pose as a backdrop for that depth of thoughtful design.

Take white shelving. Dieter Rams‘s Vistoe shelving, for example, creates the perfect first building block in your tower of great design.

And what about white floors?

Sure to feel crisp and clean: Scandinavian-style white floors

Sure to feel crisp and clean: Scandinavian-style white floors

This is a classic interior element in many Scandinavian homes. What better place to begin building your look than from the ground up?

Getting Down with Down Inc.

Posted on August 27th, 2014 by Libby Cortez

Thank you, Midwest ducks.

The next time you’re snuggling up with a Unison pillow, take a moment to consider all the thoughtful steps that went into the making of that cozy-beautiful accessory. The list of elements and contributors is longer than you might think – and, true to the value system we work by, very carefully curated.

Allow us to introduce you to one of the greats:

A worker sews throw pillows at Down Inc.

The high-quality, sustainably made feather-down insert in every Unison throw pillow comes from a wonderful little company in Michigan, just across the big lake from our Chicago headquarters.

Throw pIllows are stored in bins at Down Inc.

For over 50 years, Down Inc. has remained one of the country’s only vertical manufacturers in this industry. And we’ve had the great pleasure of working with them since 2006.

Down Inc. has filled Unison throw pillows since 2006

Down’s proprietary processing guarantees a highly clean and sterile feather-based product.

Pillows are filled with sustainable duck feathers at Down Inc.

Their secrets to success? Partnership, sustainability, and a keen eye toward nothing-need-be-wasted resourcefulness. With Maple Leaf Farms – the leading producer of duck products for restaurants and groceries across the United States – as their parent company, Down Inc. has plenty of fluff to go around.

Duck feathers are prepped for filling throw pillows

That’s the kind of smart, sustainable business that we like to join up with.

Throw pillow material is packed up and ready to go

Bringing Modern Home: Our Staff Family Shares their Picks

Posted on August 7th, 2014 by Libby Cortez

Unison is a modern home all its own. And like a good family, our staffers are invested in making this place great.

Which is why we have a lot of respect for (ahem) our own opinions. And a lot of fresh perspective on some favorite pieces – how to use them, what inspired them, and why we can’t get enough.

Co-owner and designer Robert explains why he chose the COOL screen print: "The COOL print is cool! The use of color and reduction in the type's letters give it such a graphic quality, it's almost emblem-like in feeling."

Alicia, co-owner and designer, explains why she picked the alpha blocks mint pillow: "I fell in love with mint this season. Alex had proposed Alphablocks in red/blue but I really wanted to try it in mint/gray. It calls back to some crazy colors from the Memphis design era."

Michelle, marketing manager, explains why she picked the bamboo tray: :I love this bamboo tray for outdoor happy hours and BBQ get-togethers. When you have your hands full, it gets you through the night with style and ease.

Kate, content manager, explains why she picked the buffalo pot holder: "So I have a serious collection at this point, but I am definitely making room for this hyper color and hyper mod one. And easy (and cheap!) way to add pop to your kitchen routine."

Susie, inventory manager, explains why she picked the alpha blocks pillow: "I love this pattern even for adults. Something about the geometric letter shapes & primary red & blue reminds me of my childhood!"

Sydney, production assistant, explains why she picked the shapes mint napkin: "Shapes Mint is one of my favorite additions to the summer collection. I especially love it as a napkin - how often do you get to handle such a fresh and fun print during dinner?"

Katrina Wittkamp: Photographer, Mother, et al

Posted on July 29th, 2014 by Alicia

This year’s summer catalog was a blast, for many reasons, and one of them is because we got to work with an amazing Chicago-based photographer, Katrina Wittkamp. Katrina is an excellent example of organic connections that is fueling our company. When we opened our store “experiment”, the Studio+Store at our warehouse location, she noticed the sign on the sidewalk featuring Modern Bedding. She stopped in and promptly fell in love with all we had, bought our Larch bedding and a collection of throw pillows. At checkout she could not contain the fact that she lives nearby, is a pro photographer working often with CS Interiors and adores our brand. The day arrived months later that we needed another photographer and we knew Katrina was the perfect fit. Not only was she a Unison fan already and is super talented – she has the most adorable kids who could also be our models – perfecto! All we can say is the shoot went great, the results were beyond our expectations and we too fell in love!

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We asked Katrina to share a bit about her (amazing story!) and how we found each other (also pretty fascinating!):

 You have such an inspiring, modern home. Have you always lived in such cool digs?

I am originally from North Carolina….I grew up outside of Asheville, North Carolina in the Smoky Mountains.  Last summer,  I took my kids to visit my childhood home, which is on top of a mountain in Sylva, North Carolina and it looked so small I was almost embarrassed.   The kids said,  “is this it???”  I have such fond memories of that house, which we heated with wood stoves and we grew all our own food in a huge garden next to the house.  We even had an orchard, and when we needed a snack we would often climb down the mountain in search of wild blackberry bushes.  My mom lived an “organic” and “sustainable” lifestyle before people even used these terms.   This upbringing has influenced my choices as an adult, and my husband and I chose stay in the city even after having kids because we like being about to bike or walk anywhere.   We also decided to buy a solar-powered “green” home in the city.  Since we have moved in six months ago our largest electric bill has been $13.

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Katrina’s childhood home

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Katrina’s family home today

What drew you to photography?

I started taking pictures in college after taking a photojournalism course at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  I quickly realized I would be taking pictures the rest of my life.   I obsessed over, dreamed about and absolutely fell in love with photography.   After graduating from UNC, I started an internship at the Chicago Tribune and my second love to photography became the city of Chicago.  I will never forget my first drive up Lake Shore Drive and the city unfolded in front of me.  I had never seen anything so beautiful.

You’ve shot product for Unison and it’s been a match made in heaven. Want to share the story?

When we were building our Chicago home a year ago, I happened upon the Unison warehouse store which is a few blocks from our house.   I couldn’t believe my good luck when I walked in the store and saw all the beautiful linens and pillows.  I almost blurted out “where have you been all my life.”  I bought the Larch Ash duvet cover for our master bedroom and paired it with Dover Ocean sheets….it looks exquisite.  I mentioned to the woman who was helped me at Unison that we were building a new home down the street from Unison if they ever needed a location for shooting some of their products.  This is how I became fortunate enough to shoot some of the photos for the new Unison catalog.

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Family time is important to you, too. What do you like to do with your kids?

I have two kids, August who is 6 and Ella who is 9.  They are city kids through and through.  They always ask “is there valet?” when we drive to a restaurant,  and they do a  happy dance when I find free parking.   We love going for bike rides around the city on the weekends,  and lately we’ve been having “epic” Uno card games in the evening after dinner.   And every Wednesday we all snuggle up on the couch and watch Modern Family which is our hands-down favorite show.

What room in your home is your family naturally drawn to?

My favorite place in my house is my bed.   I love my dark grey walls of my bedroom, and my beautiful Unison linens of course.   My daughter and I go upstairs every evening around 8pm and snuggle in my bed and read our books for an hour or so.   Ella is a voracious reader and I love to read as well, so this is my favorite time of day.   I tell my daughter this on a nightly basis and she rolls her eyes and says, “I KNOW mom, you say that every night.”

Here are more shots by Katrina from our summer catalog!

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Vote Now for Christmas in July

Posted on July 21st, 2014 by Libby Cortez

It’s a holly jolly July at Unison, where we’re inviting you to help us select the best patterns for this year’s holiday line.

Just vote on your favorite set below, and we’ll do more than produce it this holiday season – we’ll also send you a little thank-you gift: a special, voters-only discount code, to help you crank through this year’s gift list in style.

Merry voting!

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Sign up to get your voters’ discount:
14% off site wide!

Designer’s Eye on Portugal: Photo Journal

Posted on July 14th, 2014 by Robert

I took a quick trip to Portugal recently, where I connected with some of our incredible European manufacturers and checked on production for various items in our fall line.

Visiting the factories first hand, I was reminded of these vendors’ extraordinary printing capabilities, which is essential to the appeal of our product line. But their commitment to quality is equally important – a commitment that applies to both the finished product and the entire production process. Most of our vendors produce entirely in house, so they have superior insight into the manufacturing process and excellent oversight of quality control.

As impressed as I was with them and with the beautiful product they’re turning out for next season, I was also struck – as I always am in my travels – with the beauty that’s hidden in every corner of this big world. Everywhere I look, I see inspiration for pattern, color, texture, and product design.

Take a look:

Printing Perfect

Rotary screens at rest can wake up my creative juices.

Rotary screens at rest can wake up my creative juices

Printing the Floats pattern

Printing the Float pattern

Cotton, stored and at-the-ready for printing

Cotton ready for printing

Loving the float pattern in graphite

Loving the Float pattern in graphite

Mounds of quality material, in expert hands for sorting and inspection

Mounds of quality material, in expert hands for sorting and inspection

Towel Tales

And you thought making a Logan towel was easy...

You thought making a Logan towel was easy?

First: Pick a color. Any color. (Hmm. Such symmetry! A grid + dot design might be in our future...)

First, pick a color… any color

It takes 6 hours for 2 people to set up the warp beam!

It takes 6 hours for 2 people to set up the warp beam!

Then the weaving begins.

Then the weaving begins.

During the washing phase, these huge tubs of towels go right into the washer

During the washing phase, these huge tubs of towels go right into the washer

Almost done. Portugal is known for high-quality terry manufacturing. These inspectors sure know what they're doing.

Portugal is known for high-quality terry manufacturing. These inspectors sure know what they’re doing.

Finally ready to ship! Our Logan towels are organic, highly absorbent, & will last many years.

Our Logan towels are organic, highly absorbent, & will last many years…and they’re finally ready to ship!

Crazy for Cutipol…

Cutipol is the premiere flatware factory in Portugal, and we're working with them this year as we start to offer high-quality flatware.

Cutipol is the premiere flatware factory in Portugal. And this year, we’re working with them as we start to offer high-quality flatware.

These knife & spoon patterns look like they might want to get translated to textiles...

These knife & spoon patterns look like they might want to get translated to textile…

True craftsmanship

True craftsmanship

Stamping molds = more pattern inspiration

Stamping molds = more pattern inspiration

Looks like I'll have to get my sketchbook out...

Looks like I’ll have to get my sketchbook out again. Even the machines around here are inspiring.

… and for all of Portugal

Who needs framed art when the side of a building in Cascais is this beautiful?

Who needs framed art when the side of a building in Cascais is this beautiful?

Wouldn't a Logan towel look nice on their line?

Wouldn’t a Logan towel look nice on their line?

You've gotta love Portuguese tile work

You’ve gotta love Portuguese tile work

And a lovely walk back at the end of the day.

A beautiful walk back at the end of the day

Oh! Happy Mundane: Event Recap

Posted on July 3rd, 2014 by Michelle

We sure loved having Jonathan Lo around, founder and editor of Happy Mundane (aka J.Lo in our office). What an inspiring person, full of talent but also full of humility. Surrounded by lovely ladies and a few dudes, Jonathan gave us the low-down on what it takes to run a creative production company, manage an insanely followed blog and Instagram account, and how to follow your design dreams without getting discouraged. After a few spiked lemonades, some friendly laughs, and Jonathan’s talk, we got stuck in a torrential downpour. Good thing Jonathan was totally into it. I guess he doesn’t see much rain in the desert of Southern California.

Please come back anytime, J.Lo!

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