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How It’s Made: Hedge House Furniture

We recently caught up with brother and sister duo Phil and Katlyn Mast, owners of Hedge House Furniture, and makers of our new bed frames to talk about their process, midwestern craftsmanship + how they make it all work.

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You both started in different industries — Phil in TV and you, Katlyn in Health. Why make the leap to sustainable furniture?

Phil: I’ve always had an interest in anything design related. I went to school for graphic design. In 2009 I moved from Austin, TX to Goshen, IN and realized the potential for a furniture business. This area is known for RV manufacturing but it’s also somewhat surprisingly recognized as a hub for high end furniture manufacturing.

Katlyn: After I graduated from college, furniture sales were beginning to pick up for Phil. It was just reaching the point where he needed help managing production and logistics. It was really exciting seeing what he had started begin to grow, and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

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What is it about Midwest craftsmanship that you admire?

Phil: People tend to associate the Midwest with hard work, and a culture that produces high quality goods. We’ve found that to be the case. We’re lucky to work with such skilled craftsmen who are passionate about what they do. This area naturally lends itself to manufacturing – from having more affordable spaces, to craftsmen experienced in the context of an industrial environment. This has allowed supporting fields like woodworking, welding, and upholstery to thrive.

It took several years, but we were eventually able to find a few woodworking shops that were small enough to take on custom designs, and big enough to handle volume if needed.

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You use traditional materials to make designs that are very modern — what does “modern” design mean to you and what do you consider the tenants of good modern design to be?

Phil: I lean toward minimalism, but also design pieces to fit a variety of styles. Modern design is a large umbrella. I’m drawn toward proportions and shapes that are straight forward, clean, as well as dramatic, sculptural lines that make a statement. When working on a new piece, there are several design evolutions. To fit our aesthetic, I start with an idea and subtract everything that isn’t necessary.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Phil: I start my day by referencing a list that’s compiled from previous days and the night before. Being a small business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. I’m either in the studio at a desk, or in the wood shop with builders reviewing orders and prototyping new designs.

Katlyn: I head to our studio downtown Goshen. Mornings start with emails and reviewing what’s happening throughout the day. I make sure everyone on our team has what they need before digging into my list. Phil and I both cover a wide range of responsibilities so the day never feels long. I might be meeting with our next door neighbor about website revisions, working with our project manager, or talking to photographers and home interior companies that we’re partnering with.

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How involved are you in the production process?

Phil: It depends on the project. Production for existing designs is streamlined and I’ll pop in only to see what’s happening and look at the furniture being made. When we’re customizing designs or designing new, I start with drawings, and then work on components of the piece with the builder and see it throughout the construction process.

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Katlyn: We work with such a large number of shops that specialize in different areas. We have woodworkers and metal shops as far out as Chicago. Depending on the piece, there can be up to five or six shops building components for one piece of furniture.

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You have returned from Chicago to the area where you were brought up. What spurred the move, and what do you love about your Indiana lifestyle?

Phil: There’s definitely a different pace to living here. It’s an influencing factor in our business that we both appreciate and struggle with. I love Chicago and the inspiration I get from the of the city. Since moving to Goshen, I’ve found that it’s easier for me to make connections that further the business and work with experts who we can collaborate with.

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Katlyn: In Goshen, there’s more freedom and space to focus on what’s important for Hedge House. It’s easier for us to work and not feel pulled in other directions, but traveling frequently is a must! We both need variety and new places to be motivated and inspired.

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What is your picture of the ideal modern bedroom — Hedge House bed frame, of course. But what are the objects, colors, vibe that surrounds it?

Phil: I love seeing spaces where modern furniture blends in with older buildings. Whether it’s a Victorian house, or a converted industrial space with exposed brick and tall windows. Anything with high ceilings, wide trim, tons of character, and a lived in aesthetic.

Thanks Phil + Katlyn! Check out our full selection of Hedge House Bed Frames here.

 

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Celebrating Women Owned Businesses for #InternationalWomensDay

We celebrate women-run businesses all year long. But especially today —
it’s #InternationalWomensDay. As a salute, we chatted with some of our favorite Chicago boss girls and want to share their unique stories with you.

Danielle Lenczuk is the co-owner of gift boutique Bow & Arrow Collection.
Matti Sloman and Emily Winter are the owners of artist-run industrial
weaving studio The Weaving Mill Chicago. And Kelly Marie Thompson is the
proprietor of floral design studio Fleur.

Enjoy the Q&A and happy #InternationalWomensDay!

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Unison: How did you get started, and was there an awareness or desire to
build your business with women at the forefront?

Danielle: We have always had a passion for personal gifting and a desire
for us to create something together! We took a look at our skills and
realized that with the three of us, we could create something really cool
and meaningful to others. We are a girls support girls kind of store! We
actively support other women owned businesses. Not only do we focus on our
vendors but we put in the extra effort to make sure every type of girl is
appreciated in our store. The Bow & Arrow sisters strive to provide things
that are not only unique to Chicago, but unique to retail in general, by
incorporating our forever and current obsessions IRL. We think the best
part about Bow & Arrow Collection is that we get to do this together, as
sisters. We each bring something different to the table and together we are
stronger than any of us are alone. #sisterbosses

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Matti & Emily: The Weaving Mill is an outgrowth of the Chicago Weaving
Corporation, a textile company that started in the 1940s. The CWC began in
Wicker Park, moved to the suburbs in the mid 80s and in 2005 partnered with
social services agency Envision Unlimited to create a job training program
for adults with developmental disabilities. We took over the facility in
the summer of 2015 and have been running the studio together ever since.
The decision to work together was not primarily about women working with
women, but we do see it as one strength of our partnership.

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Kelly: I was very young when I first began Fleur, and to be honest I didn’t
have much background in running a business. I knew I loved floral design
and was good at it, but that’s pretty much it. Because of that I began to
reach out with a lot of questions, and soon realized that there are a lot
of people out there searching for guidance, reassurance and offering one
another encouragement. I think the acceptance that I had a lot to learn
and losing my fear of asking questions when I needed help is what drew me
to build a lot of relationships with other women owned companies.

Unison: What makes running your own business rewarding?

Danielle: Having a creative outlet that allows us to share our passion for
gifting is incredibly rewarding! We have had such a warm welcome from the
Chicago community filled with positive feedback and fun times. From our
supportive neighbors to kind customers, we cannot believe how gratifying it
is to watch our business grow. Being small business owners can be stressful
at times but the outpour of love & support makes the whole process
worthwhile.

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Matti & Emily: We work very closely in collaboration with one another, both
creatively and on the day-to-day operations managing TWM. We come to the
studio with different skill sets, as well as creative instincts and
interests. Keeping both of our voices present across all the work we do
together is fundamental to our studio practice. What has been satisfying
has been developing our own systems and strategies that complement both of
our working styles. By prioritizing open communication with one another, we
have developed shared expectations for each other, while allowing space and
freedom for our work as individuals.

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Kelly: I think it has a lot to do with accomplishment. I have a very goal
driven personality and I love the feeling when a project is completed, and
we’re ready to pour everything into the next one. Equally as important is
witnessing the happiness that people receive from Fleur. Making sure other
people are happy from our guests to my team is a number one priority, and
their joy makes me always want to do the absolute best that I can.
Happiness is encouraging.

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Unison: Do you feel there is more equality/acceptance of women run
businesses?

Danielle: We are extremely fortunate to be in an industry where women
support each other.

Matti & Emily: We recognize the tireless work of feminists in previous
generations that made it possible for us to think of ourselves primarily as
artists instead of women artists. We embrace and celebrate our feminist
histories. We know that this focus on work over gender is a luxury not
extended to many people, namely non-binary and trans people and we try to
challenge any complacency we might feel in our privileged gender positions.

Kelly: I think we have a long way to go. Without a doubt I’ve experiences
a lot of sexism, and I think that there are also a lot of women out there
who can be very judgmental.

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Unison: Do you support or engage with other companies that are also
women-run?

Danielle: It is a major focus of ours. The vast majority of our vendors
are women and we are constantly partnering with local women business owners
to collaborate on workshops, pop-ups, events, etc.

Matti & Emily: All the time! We have collaborated with artists and several
brands on projects, and we are constantly looking to mentors and teachers,
many of which are women. Our collaborators have included Rebecca Atwood
Designs, founded in Brooklyn by Rebecca Atwood; Studio Herron, Dee
Clement’s Chicago based business; Production Mode, a Chicago fashion label
by Jamie Hayes to name a few! We also get all our buttons made at Busy
Beaver Button Company, owned here in Chicago by Christen Carter.

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Kelly: In addition to our brick and mortar boutique, which is open to the
public we have a special events studio in the back half of our location.
We design an average of 70 weddings a year, and in the wedding industry
there is a huge amount of women owned companies. It’s wonderful and I love
it. We always have an ear to lend, a shoulder to lean on and an extra pair
of arms to lift one another. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a
warm and intelligent and kind industry.

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Unison: What advice would you give to women that would like to launch
their own business?

Danielle: Some things to keep in mind: don’t underestimate yourself, be
bold in your choices, collaborate with women instead of competing against
them, always trust your instincts and don’t compromise your vision. Stay
true to you & your brand.

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Matti & Emily: Do not wait for permission or an invitation to declare
yourself ready. Trust your talents and be courageous enough to learn on the
fly. Do not let your ego or pride stop you from asking for help and advice
from others – getting help is not a sign of weakness. Allow yourself space
to evolve and be responsive to what is happening in your work.

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Kelly: It’s an invigorating and exciting thing, and don’t be afraid of what
other people say or think. Watch your numbers, and make decisions that
best reflect what your goals are. But be sure to have flexibility in your
plan, because you don’t always end up where you think you’ll be. Running
your own company isn’t always the most comfortable, but when you realize
that leaving your comfort zone from time to time is a good thing you’ll
really begin to grow.

Thanks ladies for all the insight and Happy #InternationalWomensDay!

Learn more and support these amazing ladies here:

bowandarrowcollection.com

fleurchicago.com

theweavingmill.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Dream Weavers: Introducing Makaua Woven Baskets

 

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Beautiful things happen in the hands of artisans. Now imagine what’s possible when more than 500 artisan families are empowered to use their talents for the betterment of their community.

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That’s the story behind Makaua Baskets, a new addition to our Spring collection. The aesthetic of the baskets was what first grabbed our attention; they’re made from rustic natural palm leaves but manage to look so perfectly modern. Then we discovered their story and knew we had to share them with you.

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Makaua Baskets are made by in-need families in Mexico, who use traditional hand-braiding technique passed down through generations. These artisans have been making the baskets since 2002 and have been able to improve their quality of life with their income. It’s true — more than 500 families have been involved and positively impacted.

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The palm used is a sustainable natural fiber that’s abundant in the south of Mexico. Its gorgeous neutral color goes well with any living space. Also, those leather handles – they add refinement and make the baskets easily tote-able.

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We hope you love them as much as we do. Shop Woven Natural Baskets here

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Inn Style: Unison + Longman & Eagle

Our latest bedding is custom-made for a Chicago destination that’s anything but ordinary.

We’ve been told our bedding is perfect for guest rooms, and Chicago’s iconic Inn at Longman & Eagle agrees. It now features Unison special-edition bedding that was created as a collaboration between Cody Hudson (partner at Land and Sea Department, which owns and operates the Inn at Longman & Eagle) and Unison co-founder Robert Segal.

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You can purchase the bedding, a quilt that reverses from navy blue to light grey, online or in or store. But we hope you’ll visit the Inn, too, to see it in its native environment. The Inn features six small eclectic rooms and sits above a whiskey bar serving Michelin-star-rated food. Inside each room: a mix of furniture designed and built by Land and Sea partners Mode Carpentry, plus curated artwork by Stephen Eichhorn, Ryan Duggan and other noteworthy creatives.

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We caught up with Cody, who shared more about this unique Chicago destination and what makes its new Unison bedding such a special touch.

Unison: You’ve had a longstanding collaborative relationship with Unison. What made the bedding the natural next step?

Cody: We’ve been using Unison bedding at the Inn since we opened. We like to support local companies so Unison was a perfect fit. After a few years of using the bedding we thought it could be interesting to do more of a custom comforter for the rooms.

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Unison: What were some key things you kept in mind when creating the design?

Cody: [We wanted] something simple, clean and a little utilitarian that would hold up in an inn setting. Also, there’s a lot going on in the rooms already so we wanted something with some color and pattern but not too much.

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Unison: These aren’t your typical hotel rooms. What’s the vibe?

Cody: It’s a pretty casual experience, almost like staying at a friend’s house who has a really cool guest room and has great taste in music, art and whiskey.

Unison: Another one of your collaborations with Unison, the Anchors bedding, was based on your hand-drawn illustrations. Tell us about your process for the Longman & Eagle bedding.

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Cody: I had a few meetings with [Unison co-founders] Robert and Alicia and talked about what fabrics would work best and what would go with the sheets and pillowcases we were going to use. We landed on this clean combination.

Unison: All beds at the Inn will also have the Sailor pillowcases. Why go with these?

Cody: We wanted the colors on the comforter to work nicely with everything else on the bed — it was a good fit.

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Unison: Tell us a bit more about your own studio practice. What’s your main focus and any new evolutions as of late?

Cody: I split my time between Land and Sea Department projects, traditional graphic design work and working on my personal art in the studio. In my personal work I’ve been focusing on more abstracted paintings on linen as well as steel and wood sculptures. I spent the last two months painting quite a bit getting ready for a few shows but now I’m back pretty heavily focusing on a few new LSD projects in the works.

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Unison: Where else can people see your work?

Cody: I had a show at Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago last month, I’m doing a small show of sculptures in Amsterdam in December at Mini Gallerie. I’m slowly working towards a few other painting shows later next year as well as wrapping up details on a few mural projects for later in the year. That and raising two young kids is keeping me pretty busy right now.

Want to learn more? Click here for a peek inside The Inn at Longman & Eagle. Or, get immediate gratification and shop the new L&E Reversible Quilt here.

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Fall’s Best Friend: Rhine Hall Distillery

Apple and plum brandy? Indeed. Get the latest on seasonal pours and entertaining tips from a Chicago star. Read on for cocktail recipe and watch our video for a peek inside Rhine Hall.

Holiday season is coming – time to get your bar game strong. As you get your glassware in order and your spirits stocked, we’ve got inspiration to guide you. It comes from the pros at Rhine Hall, a small-batch distillery located just down the block from our Unison design studio in Chicago.

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There’s so much to love about this family-owned spot. Its expert selection of well balanced fruit spirits. It’s laidback vibe and bright, charming interior. It’s commitment to local, sustainable ingredients. And, of course, it’s willingness to raise a glass and celebrate. In fact, they’ve come up with cocktail recipes inspired by some of our new barware.

We caught up with Rhine Hall’s co-owner, Jennifer Solberg Katzman, who shares more about the distillery’s new fall menu, personal entertaining style and more.

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Unison: Rhine Hall has been around for three years now. Tell us about your journey.

Jennifer: Rhine Hall is a family hobby-turned-business. Our mission is to make quality brandy using methods we learned while living in Germany and Austria. The goal has always been to introduce people to learn about brandy and hopefully relate with it in a way where they feel comfortable to bring it home or drink it at bars and restaurants. We’ve always wanted to make different fruit brandies/eau de vies as the fruit became available to us. We have made a few different products, as private labels from top bars and restaurants in the city, which has been unexpected and super exciting.

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Unison: Fall is definitely a time for new beginnings or at least new projects … what’s on the horizon for Rhine Hall this Fall?

Jennifer: We’ve got a lot coming up! We recently released a newer product known as La Normande, also known as a Normandy-style pommeau. Pommeau is Rhine Hall Apple Brandy with fresh cider aged in Bourbon barrels. We will also be releasing an Oak Aged Plum, as well as a private label Oak Aged Damson Plum with The Aviary in October, and yet another private label with a large hotel group that can’t disclosed until the release in November. Lastly, we hope to be releasing a bier schnapps, a commonly made brandy made from beer sometime before the holidays. But mostly we’re excited because Fall is simply the best time of year — don’t you think of brandy and apples and fruit at this time of year? I hope your answer is yes! Lots of new cocktails with Apple and Oaked Apple in the many classics — not only in our tasting room but at bars around the city and country.

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Unison: You have an exciting Fall menu that’s just been launched. What’s the scoop?

Jennifer: Our Fall menu is intended to highlight each and every one of our products, by using fall-like flavors. We like to highlight the flavors by using different types of syrups, bitters, shrubs and combinations to again highlight the spirit yet still bring a multi-dimensional taste to your palette. A few favorites would include the “Space Trip,” which is our Pear Brandy with Green tea and ginger syrup. “Fall on the Rocks” is our Cherry Brandy with a fennel infusion with currant jam and ginger beer. Lastly, “Admiral’s Elixir” is our Oak Aged Apple Brandy, egg white and cinnamon bitters. None of them are overly Fall-like but still give you a taste of the season and bring a familiar taste and aroma.

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Unison: For our new glassware — particularly the Rout Etch High Ball, Rout Etch Double Old Fashioned and Fino Tall Tumbler — you’ve created a cocktail to pair perfectly with it. How did the glassware inspire or inform those concoctions?

Jennifer: I love the delicate etching on the glasses – it makes us feel like we’re recreating something from the past and improving the cocktail with a beautiful presentation. The different etching makes the color of the cocktail really sparkle as it almost brightens the liquid in the glass with the combination of the ice.

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Unison: Why is good barware so important to mixing a good drink?

Jennifer: Good barware helps make something very simple, something special. I think cocktails and spirits in general are things that people associate with experiences, and when you really create a cool experience doing something really simple, by having a really great glass and barware, it helps improve the entire time doing it.

Unison: What is your personal entertaining style?

Jennifer: My husband and I love hosting. We normally have people bring wine and apps, however I put a good amount of time into setting the tables, using all of the beautiful cutting boards we have for different charcuterie, different utensils for the (finally) more advanced dishes, and more! I always offer an appertif and digestif, as well as cocktail after a glass of wine or beer. Hard not to provide lots of booze when owning a distillery!

Unison: Any essential advice for those that want to get into or more adventurous with cocktailing?

Jennifer: I would just look at some recipes on imbibe.com and just experiment with what you already have at home! Don’t be shy. Super easy to swap out ingredients, like Rhine Hall for a gin, vodka or whiskey; jam for any syrup; and then fresh squeezing any citrus you have. There are just three parts primarily to a cocktail, and you can make every concoction your own every time.

Unison: Great – now onto something extra-appetizing. How about sharing a cocktail recipe?

Jennifer: Here’s the recipe for our #1 seller, the Rhine Hall Old Fashioned. It’s a very easy cocktail to make at home, and you are also able to swap out the Apple Brandy with other brandies of ours if desired.

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Wow your guests with this drink – and don’t forget to drop by Rhine Hall tasting room at 2010 W Fulton St in Chicago and get a fresh pour, straight from the source. Hours are Thursdays and Fridays 5-9 pm and Saturdays 2-7 pm.

Cheers to fall, everyone!

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ART + FUNCTION + FANCY NAILS = THE MANY TALENTS OF HILLERY SPROATT

There’s a face you should know this fall: Hillery Sproatt. This fine artist, Unison collaborator and, as chance has it, nail artist. Her unique aesthetic is coming to life at Unison in a few ways this season, and we couldn’t be more excited.

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In anticipation of the Instagram takeover and nail event she’s doing for us — look for them on September 16-18 and October 22, respectively — here’s a quick insider’s look at Hillery’s world.

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The Bedding Collaboration

Our new Heirloom collection of bedding features a graphic derived from a painting Hillery created years ago when she lived in Grand Rapids. The Poppy duvet cover, which features a vibrant splash of blooms, was actually taken from just a small portion of Hillery’s original work. “The original had a lot of other little things going on … even horseback riders,” she says.

Hillery, who has a Fine Arts Degree from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, is known for filling her work with tiny, engaging details. It’s a nod to life’s little things that sometimes may go unseen or unremembered. “I like to fill the paper with small moments to get lost in,” she says.

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A believer in “everything matters,” Hillery also loves experimenting with balance and harmony. “I enjoy the relationships between objects and how they look together,” she says. “I’m always moving things around to see how they change when they are next to each other. I stay away from symmetry … nothing too matchy-matchy.”

Pull together your own unmatched but highly artistic scheme by shopping the Heirloom collection here.

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The Instagram Takeover

When Hillery takes over @unisonhome on Instagram on September 16-18, you can expect a look inside her home, which doubles as her studio. Based in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, she takes an organic approach to decorating her space, filling it with modern objects (including Unison table runners and pillows) where they simply feel right.

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Shop Baker’s Stripe Dishtowel and Bottlit Spice Containers. (pictured above)

At home and through her work, Hillery admits to being mindful without over-thinking things. “I don’t sketch or plan anything out before I do it, I just sit down and go,” says Hillery. “It’s actually very meditative.”

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The Nail Event

On October 22, Hillery will sit down with guests for 30 minutes to do nail art at our Unison store. The event is for everyone — men and kids, too! Expect multi-colored designs that are mini paintings in and of themselves. Hillery doesn’t have a plan before she dives in. That’s part of the fun.

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“I usually respond to the way the person presents her or himself, and ask about their favorite colors,” she says. “But mostly it’s all about play. The nail art is an extension of my paintings, and isn’t so much about beauty, but inspiring somebody.”

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To make an appointment for the nail event, email events@unisonhome.com.

 

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Food + Design = A Very Appetizing Instagram Takeover

See What Elise Metzger of Filigree Suppers Dished Out On @unisonhome

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Brita Olsen + Elise Metzger of Filigree Suppers

This past weekend, our Instagram feed became pretty appetizing. No wonder — it was taken over by Elise Metzger, founder of Filigree Suppers, a pop-up supper club that celebrates American design.

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We turned some of our modern servingware over to Elise and she posted photos of it styled with her culinary creations. It captured the spirit of food + design + entertaining. We saw tomatoes take a starring role on a gridded serving tray, watermelon slices pop on a modern round platter, and cream chill in Biobu cups. It was a weekend that we hope made you savor summer and all of its sights and flavors.

We love Elise’s design sensibility and fun loving attitude. Get to know her a bit more in our quick Q&A.

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Unison: This was a fun partnership! What do you think are some similarities between Filigree Suppers and Unison?

Elise: We are all about being playful and quirky, but creating a balance of textures and colors. A lot of our aesthetic is informed by the products that we love and use in our personal lives, and each supper is a way to explore different aspects of our collective and individual styles. I think if Unison and Filigree were a cocktail, it would be a French 75. Classic elements for sure, but still lively and with bubbles, of course!

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Unison: How did the Unison products inspire you in creating your posts/dishes?

Elise: I like to use a lot of contrast when thinking about the relationship between food and the plate. Because the products were mostly black and white, I tried to stick within a relatively edited palette to give focus to the playfulness of the product. I used a lot of warm and bright hues/food, like salmon and watermelon.

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Unison: What was your main goal in executing the Instagram takeover?

Elise: I think that it’s fun to be conscious of plating food, even if it’s just for yourself or your family. It certainly doesn’t happen every meal of the day, but I wanted the ease of that to come across in the posts.

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Unison: What is your general philosophy regarding entertaining?

Elise: Pay attention to as many details as possible – napkins, decor, seating chart – until guests arrive. This isn’t always easy while hosting, and I could certainly improve on this, but it’s more important to give guests the attention they deserve than to fret about everything going perfectly. Also, make a mood board! Really, there’s no better way to explore your own theme than to do this exercise. Think of it as your entertaining strategy. It allows you to be really flexible (and probably have more fun!) when making decisions.

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Filigree came together over the course of six months. I was taking a pottery class and wanted to have a dinner where everything at the table was local and handmade. (The first dinner was at Ovation in the West Loop, where even the tables are hand made!) Brita Olsen, my business partner, and I both loved to throw dinner parties, and had been doing so together for quite some time. We decided to team up to be able to do it with more frequency, and to bring our love of food and design into the fold.

Unison was one of our first collaborators and participated in the first supper in February 2015. It was a natural fit for Filigree, being a design centric, locally owned business. We always look forward to our collaborations together!

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Unison: We can’t let you leave without sharing a recipe. Got a good one for us?

Elise: This is just as delicious the night you make it as it is cold the next day on top of a salad. I’ve been using it for over a decade, and I’m sure many people use it, but it’s classic and reliable.

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SalmonRecipeThanks, Elise! And happy cooking, everyone! Learn more about Elise and Filigree Suppers here

 

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At Home with Chicago Artist Stephen Eichhorn

Part of summer fun at Unison is collaborating with artists and designers we admire. One of our favorites is Stephen Eichhorn, a School of The Art Institute of Chicago grad known for impactful sculpture and collage work. (Maybe you remember him from our Aerial and Flower Burst patterns?)

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For the hot season ahead, Stephen has dreamed up beautiful orchid bedding, a cactus beach towel and cactus round trays. So, consider your summer napping, sun seeking and entertaining covered!

We caught up with Stephen at his Logan Square home, which he shares with his wife, two toy poodles and cat. It’s an 1890s greystone two-flat, with studio space on the bottom floor. Here’s a glimpse into his stylish environs and reflections on art and design.

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Unison: Do you have any “rules” you follow for designing and decorating your own pad? What catches your eye?

Stephen: In the studio I like to have a functional aesthetic (work tables, etc.) but warm aesthetic (oriental rugs, etc) in terms of designing the space – – ultimately it’s a work space within a house. On the second floor we tend toward the more timeless design aesthetic of Mid Century Modern. Due to our more open floor plan, the kitchen is a major component within our living space. We worked closely with Robert McAdams and Jon Martin of Land and Sea to design a space that combines form and function using walnut, steel and marble.

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Unison: How does the Unison style jive with your own style, both personal and decor?

Stephen: It mirrors our affinity to clean lines, mixed patterns and a variety of textures.

Unison: What are your three favorite things in your home and why?

Stephen: This tapestry by Kustaa Saski, it hangs at the landing of our stairs and I pause almost every day and find new things within the piece. I have one of the Aerial ottomans down in my studio from when I first started collaborating with Unison – – both poodles absolutely love to perch and nap on it while I work. I start most (if not all) of my collage work sitting at my Eames case study desk from Herman Miller. It has been with me in various studios/ living situations since I graduated school.

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Unison: If you moved into a new place, what would be the first thing you did to decorate?

Stephen: I would start by placing the furniture and move directly into hanging our art collection. After two years in our current house I’m still occasionally hanging works here and there.

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Unison: How long have you been doing what you do?

Stephen: I’ve been making collages and sculpture for the past 10 years. Most of the sculptural work is derived from my collage work and from when my wife and I made jewelry as a side project years ago. I took some of the technical skills and materials from jewelry making and integrated them into my sculptural practice. My sculptural practice is another vehicle for me to visually communicate through. Most of my sculptures are composed of fake plastic flowers and jewelry components from the ’70s-’80s coated in a mixture of graphite and gloss medium varnish. The sculptural work is a pretty time consuming process that is very repetitious.

There is also a jewelry making portion that involves a lot of hand work and coating in black graphite mixture. There’s a lot of similarities between collage and sculpture, at least when it comes to the making process. Both are found component based that I manipulate in the studio and both have the same dark beauty that most of my work has.

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Unison: What are you interests, outside of art and design?

Stephen: Gardening has become a major interest – – especially now that it’s warming up! It has been so rewarding redesigning and working on both the front and back yard green space.

Unison: Where do you go for inspiration?

Stephen: Recently discovered the Caldwell Lily Pond, it’s an amazing oasis between the city and the lake. I was reminded of all the great things Chicago has to offer and am pleasantly surprised to find new treasures after living here for 13 years.

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Unison: Let’s talk about the exciting projects you did with us for summer.

Stephen: All the various works for the summer pieces originate as hand-cut collages. One of the great aspects of this collaboration is that, while I am not a designer, I’m able to hand off the collages to {Unison co-founders} Robert and Alicia, who translate them into designed objects. Through our fluid design conversations I’m fortunate to see their vision actualize and I am always stunned with the resulting pieces.

Unison: Any exciting summer plans in store for you?

Stephen: I have two solo shows in the fall and another in the winter so I’m excited to work on several new breadths of work.

September at  Drawing room

October at Johalla Projects

January at Franklin Park Conservatory

Thanks, Stephen! And to all of you Unison fans, check out his summer designs here — perfect for welcoming those golden rays.

 

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We Got Down – And You Should, Too

An Insider’s Guide to Extra-Special Pillows From Down Inc.

We’ve been doing a lot of pillow talk lately. Can’t resist – we’ve been really excited about the down pillows made by our Michigan partner, Down Inc. These softies, made with down sourced from their parent company Maple Leaf Farms, sit at the corner of comfort, modern design and sustainability. And that’s a winning combo for us.

If you didn’t make our “Let’s Get Down” store event that we had with Down Inc. last month then it’s time to get caught up on what makes the company special. You’ll easily see why these pillows are must-haves.

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What do the pillows feel like?
Have you ever sunk into a fluffy cloud? You will during a night with these. Seriously plush, never stiff, they softly mold to fit your head and neck just so. The quality cotton casing protects the real treasure inside, down: the fine, soft undercoating found under the feathers of local Indiana ducks.

Where do the down feathers come from?
Most goose and duck feathers are a byproduct of the meat industry. That’s also the case with Down, Inc., which is part of parent company Maple Leaf Farms. The Indiana family only grows animals for food and has been creating down products for 50 years. Important to note is that there’s a great traceability factor with this particular down, because it travels only 116 miles between the farms and the pillow manufacturing facility, located in Michigan. Once the down is removed from the meat source, it’s washed once on the Indiana farm and then again in Michigan, where it’s then processed using a 50-year-old patented washing method that turns it into FDA-approved, hypo-allergenic down.

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What about those that are allergic to down?
Allergies aren’t typically provoked from the feathers but the skin or dander [unless you have a true feather allergy]. The washing method that Down Inc. uses removes the skin and dander from the feathers, leaving the pillows hypoallergenic.

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How do you take care of down?
Wash down pillows every six months (they usually have a life span of two years). It is recommended to take the pillow to a professional dry cleaner and have it laundered. If you are machine-washing it at home, do it in a large capacity machine with no center agitator. Also, cut your detergent in half, set your machine to a medium water temperature, and add an extra rinse cycle. Drying down is more of a process; a down insert usually takes at least 4-6 cycles to dry, and you’ll want to re-fluff between cycles. They key to telling if your down is dry is checking for odor – if there is a smell, our down isn’t dry.

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What about down duvets – don’t they tend to feel heavy?
Contrary to popular belief, no! Down duvets can actually help regulate your temperature while you sleep, keeping you dry and warm without overheating. Unison carries the medium density down duvets, which are encased in a 200-plus thread count cotton cover, with double-stitch edges to ensure durability.

Where are Down Inc. pillows and duvets available?
At the Unison store in Chicago and online at unisonhome.com – of course! We’ve been partnering with Down Inc. since 2006 and couldn’t be more thrilled to join up with such a responsible, resourceful company.

Here’s to countless great nights of sleep!

To shop our selection of Down Inc. pillows and duvets, click here.

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Maker We Love: Tree Hopper Toys

Discover the wooden playthings that will teach your kids the hipster ABCs and so much more.

They say everything old is new again – that’s particularly true of the imaginative goods made by Tree Hopper Toys. Crafted by hand in the Midwest from sustainable hardwood – yep, the old-fashioned way – the playthings could have sprung from your grandfather’s toy chest. Yet, founder Eric Siegel has found a way to make them infinitely modern.

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Imagine ABC blocks redone hipster style, with “M” for moustache and “U” for unicorn. And wooden teethers shaped like pizza slices. And matching games featuring bold graphics of iconic worldwide landmarks. The list goes on.

We’re so glad to now be selling the toys and sharing their magic with families for the holidays. Find out more what makes them special in this Q&A with Eric, who talks about how his business came to be and what inspires it.

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Unison: You are bringing back the joy in traditional games and toys. Why was it important to you to start a company like Treehopper Toys?

Eric: It’s a fun, exciting, non-stop education. Every day we learn more about making things and working as a small team to make toys for thousands of families to enjoy. It’s SO fun to see kids (and especially my own) having fun with something we created!

Unison: How long have you been doing this and what did you do prior?

Eric: I’ve been doing Tree Hopper for almost six years, and prior to that I studied art and design and worked as a picture framer in Chicago as well as doing graphic design on the side.

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Unison: Tell us about your craftsmanship — everything from the choice of wood to process.

Eric: Everything we make has some handmade element, and we use a variety of materials, based on what is best suited for a particular product.  Many of our parts are made for us, and then we do all of the printing, assembly and finishing in house.

Unison: What is your studio like and how does it serve to inspire you?

Eric: We just moved into a shiny new shop/office/warehouse/studio this summer. It’s basically just big open spaces, sectioned off for printing, woodworking, etc. Our previous space was half the size of our new one, so having room to spread out has been really nice!

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Unison: Your toys have gotten a lot of buzz. What are some fan favorites?

Eric: We have a variety depending on the market, but in general the Match Stacks, Whoa-Bots, and Hipster ABCs are our top sellers.

Unison: The Hipster ABC Blocks have a cult following. How did you come up with the idea?

Eric: There are SO many educational ABC blocks and matching sets, books, etc., but they all have the same vocabulary. I just wanted to do a random fun assortment of things I like, and when I looked at the whole collection and tried to figure out the common theme, it mostly seemed to be hipster stuff, so I just went with it!

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Unison: How do you come up with new toy and game ideas?

Eric: Really just by playing and messing around in the shop. We don’t try to reinvent the wheel — we just put our own personal spin on educational and play concepts that have been around for ages.

Unison: Any kids in your life that test-drive your creations and ideas? Do you have any little helpers?

Eric: Yes. I have a 4 year old and 5 1/2 year old, both boys, with another boy due any day now! I also have a TON of nieces and nephews that help test things out.

Unison: Do you also create products for adults? If so, what?

Eric: I actually just launched a side project called Product Public (www.productpublic.com), which is a catch all for all of the non-kid related objects I want to make.  We just launched a series of wall clocks, and will soon be adding a variety of durable goods and gifts for the home.

Unison: What do you think is the future of toys and games for kids? How would you like to play a role in it?

Eric: Obviously iPads and video games are becoming more and more popular, but I think there will always be a place for traditional tactile toys and games. As a parent of young kids, I definitely try to strike a balance between tech and tradition, because both have their benefits and limitations.

Thanks, Eric! And for all of you toy and design fans out there, shop the Tree Hopper Toys collection at unisonhome.com