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Brand Spotlight: Sika Design

Another brand we’re so pleased to welcome into our collection this season is Scandinavia’s oldest producer of wicker + rattan furniture, Sika Design. Sika Møbler (meaning furniture in Danish) was founded by Ankjær Andreasen in 1942, and is now run by the family’s third generation, Louise Andreasen today.

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Sika furniture is still handcrafted with the same tradition of quality and comfort as when it began 70 years ago.

We love the versatility of Sika’s designs not only for their modern + timeless aesthetic, but for the quality and durability of their materials that make their products virtually maintenance free. Since the beginning, the Far East has been essential to the production of Sika furniture, and today the company manufactures their products in their own Indonesian factory.

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Rattan is the primary material used in their designs and is natural as well as sustainable. The exterior weave of their rattan is made of dyed and hardwearing polythylene, make it able to withstand demanding weather conditions.

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Woven on top of aluminum, the structure of fibers provides great comfort and flexibility, and another bonus feature is most of their seating is stackable too making it easy to store. (Shop the Havana Sofa + Outdoor Pillows)

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Rattan exists naturally in the rainforests of Indonesia, and has been known to grow up to 100 meters long. It grows without disturbing the existing balance and structure of the rainforest and is strong, lightweight and very durable. (above: Portrait of one of Sika’s early designers, Franco Albini).

 

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Designed in 1951, the  Franco Albini Rattan Ottoman is named after its creator, an Italian neo-rationalist architect + designer, who was renowned for merging wooden minimalistic furniture design with more traditional Italian craftsmanship. (Shop the Franco Albini Rattan Ottoman)

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Teak wood is another key material that Sika incorporates into their designs. Sika uses reclaimed Teak, salvaged from old houses, fishermen’s boats or railroad supports. After a few weeks of outdoor use, the teak will develop of silvery grey patina. (Shop the Trestle Table)

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With a profile reminiscent of 1930s Parisian café culture, these handcrafted and stackable chairs are as comfortable as they are strong in style and construction. When woven, this material provides flexible comfort and strong structure, along with temperature and UV resistance that renders the chairs ideal for outdoor use in many climates. (Shop The Boulevard Collection)

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One part standout style, one part cuddle-up cozy, the Canopy Rattan Hanging Chair brings a wonderful, 50-year-old design back into production. As if the inviting profile weren’t reason enough to bring this piece home, consider the incredible benefits of the material: rattan is sustainable, lightweight, durable, suitable for outdoor use, and relatively flexible, making it the perfect choice for a chair that can hang out anywhere. (Shop the Canopy Rattan Hanging Chair)

Check out more furniture from Sika here.

 

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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 100 Years With Capel Rugs

This summer our vibe is all about embracing natural materials combined with modern design. The result: easy-breezy sunroom inspired style that transitions from outdoor to indoor with ease. This season we’re so excited to welcome Capel Rugs into our collection.

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This year Capel is celebrating it’s 100th year of manufacturing in America, and continues to be a family owned and an industry leader in braids and handwoven rugs. We talked with Cameron Capel, who’s continuing the Capel family legacy. (Shop Diamond Natural Flatweave Rug)

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How has the braided rug making process adapted to manufacturing now vs. when the process was originally used? (ex: the making of the Tate rug)

Actually not much has changed in braiding from the original start of Capel.  The very first braided rugs were made by hand by Colonists 100’s of years ago – using threadbare clothing, towels, sheeting, that they ripped into strips, braided then would sew together – all by hand.  My grandfather industrialized the process by utilizing machines, that are managed by people, so we use the term hand guided.  And this allowed one to buy rugs that would match – a 2’ x 3’ would be the same as an 8’ x 11.’

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Can you talk about Capel’s history and continued commitment to being a primarily American-based company, and your take on American manufacturing today?  

We have been based in Troy for 100 years, with no plans to move anywhere! We are a family business, literally as there are 4 third generation members that work in the business;  but also extended family, in that we consider our employees part of the family…. as well as many employees children and/or parents worked for us. We take great pride in making a quality American manufactured product!

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Our Tate Stone Braided Rug incorporates Capel’s famous braiding technique, but with a modern twisted in a rectangle versus the traditional circular shapes. With 4 sections combined around a center line, the appeal of this textural showpiece hinges on strong-meets-understated geometry.

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What do you love most about Capel, and what’s your favorite design/rug style?

That we are a dependable, quality conscious, employee focused company. My Fave: Thats difficult!!  Bayview is my new favorite in Granite. But for a throwback it would be Bear Creek in Wheat, and for kids cause its so soft -—Cutting Garden in tea rose (Pink is my favorite color too!)

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Capel is celebrating 100 years as a family business, what do you think is the secret to the brands continued success + staying power?  

Not to be repetitive, but quality counts!  As well as loving what you do, wanting to do it the best, offering an excellent product at a fair price, and making it right if there is an issue.

 

Thanks so much Cameron! We are so excited to carry Capel’s beautiful rugs in our collection! Check out our full assortment of rugs here.

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Unison x Hedge House Furniture

We’ve got a lot of great things happening this summer, but one that we’re most excited about is our new partnership with our fellow Midwestern designers, Hedge House Furniture. We’ve been big fans of their furniture since they were our studio neighbors here in Chicago. They’ve since moved their production to eastern Indiana and we’re so excited to collaborate with them on a beautiful, handmade bed frame collection.

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Hedge House is run by brother/sister team Phil + Katlyn Mast in their eastern Indiana studio. Their furniture is handcrafted by skilled artisans and the bed frames in our summer collection are made of American oak. (Shop Garfield Oak Milkweed Bed Frame)

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Above is a detail of the Garfield Milkwood Oak Bed Frame. Notice the streamlined and striking overall silhouette, accented by exposed mortise and tenon joints in the headboard and footboard, for just the right hint of function-featuring interest. Meanwhile, the white oak itself is smart and solid as can be. Finish it off in a warm, milkweed stain for a final flourish that allows the wood’s natural beauty to shine right through.

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The wood for their furniture is hand selected piece by piece to ensure the highest quality in construction and modern aesthetic. Hedge House draws on classic designs and translates them into pieces that are incredibly modern, yet still warm and inviting. (Shop Windsor Oak Black Bed Frame + Grid Bedding)

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Inspired by the Windsor dining chair, the Windsor Oak Black Bed Frame is a clean-lined piece that fuses the classic comb backing with a strong, geometric silhouette. Beneath the striking black tone achieved through charcoal dyeing, the white oak is downright smart and solid, it’s ready for the long haul all on its own.

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We especially love how our bedding pairs with Hedge House’s sleek designs, allowing for the prints to take center stage with their minimal + modern pieces as a beautiful backdrop. We’re looking forward to more new designs for our Fall collection, and you can shop our full selection of bed frames from Hedge House here. (Shop Humboldt Bedding)

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How It’s Made: Palm Wallpaper

Here at Unison we really value working with small, local manufacturers to produce our goods when possible. For our recent Palm Wallpaper collection we worked with Artisan Handprints, a Chicago-based wallpaper production company that’s been around for over 40 years.

We talked with Murray Plotkin, President + CEO of Artisan Handprints to learn more about his company and all things wallpaper. Read on to learn more + watch our behind the scenes video.

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Tell us a bit about your company history; how was it founded and who runs it today?

The company was started by my father, Nathan in 1974 here in Chicago. My father and grandfather had previously run a paint and wallpaper store on Lawrence Avenue and he started Artisan by purchasing screen printing presses that were being liquidated from another printing facility in 1972.

Artisan today is still a small operation, with myself  and three professional screen printers at the helm. Our wallpaper is printed using an offset process, meaning that the screen doesn’t actually touch the paper, allowing for better detail and results in an overall cleaner look.

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While machines are used for the printing process, each layer of color is registered by hand by each screen printer. So, the quality comes from the machine printing, but each printer is responsible for controlling the machine.

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What’s your average volume per day?

Well it really depends on the number of colors for each design and the number of rolls of paper we’re printing.  I can remember a time back in the day when I was under a strict deadline, in a 10 hour day I had printed a combined number of 1,000 colors.

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What’s been your experience working with Unison?

It’s been a phenomenal experience, everyone at Unison is very focused with a good color sense which is very important…it’s been a pleasure. At the core of our mission at Artisan is to make sure what the designer wants is expressed in the product, and it’s been great working with designers that are so focused and creative.

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What makes your product superior to other wallpapers out there?

We’ve developed a manufacturing operation that’s really optimal and we’re uniquely positioned to be able to work with smaller companies and young emerging designers. We offer a handmade product, that’s hand inspected and with pre-trimmed edges that ultimately makes it more user-friendly for the consumer.

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It’s great to see a re-emergence of these small companies interested in creating really exciting designs and I’m glad to be able to cater to an emerging wallpaper design market.

Check out the full behind the scenes video:

Here’s the finished product! Our Palm Wallpaper Collection is available in three color ways + shop our full wallpaper selection made by Artisan Handprints.

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Special thanks to Artisan Handprints for the beautiful product, and Potluck Creative for the great photos + video.

 

 

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Celebrating Earth Day With Prophet Gypsy Robot

In honor of  Earth Day, we recently collaborated with Jamie Tubbs, founder of Chicago-based Prophet Gypsy Robot known for her love of repurposing + reusing materials, to create some limited edition Unison x PGR Woven Wall Hangings using our scrap fabric. We caught up with Jamie and asked her about background, process + what’s next for PGR.  Proceeds from sales will benefit Chicago Artists Coalition, check our her wall hangings here.

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1. What’s your background with textiles and how did you begin Prophet Gypsy Robot?

My mom was a seamstress when I was little and we always had tons of fabric and scraps around. She never bought something she could make, and she rarely couldn’t make something. But the cost of clothing production dropped so much and apparel got so much cheaper to buy than make. She switched careers but never stopped teaching us to make things. Homemade household goods have stayed more comparable to store prices, and when I got my first apartment I got into making things like pillow covers and curtains. 

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2. Where does the name Prophet Gypsy Robot come from?

It’s about my design aesthetic. The Gypsy part refers to color, texture, pattern, maximalism, baubles, beads, fluff and all the things. The Robot part refers to restrained color palettes, clean lines, minimalism, simplicity, deconstructed weaving like the technique “weft over” which shows up a lot in my work and I just learned is an actual legitimate thing weavers do.

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These two aesthetics are always competing for first place in my heart and they seem directly opposed. So my work explores trying to visually communicate both of those at once. The Gypsy and Robot overlap most naturally when it comes to the shared value of repurposing.  

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The Prophet part incorporates another huge part of who I am, someone who likes to declare good things through a megaphone about people and where we are all going together. So, PGR is this little robot like Wall-E who goes around with a flower crown, saving and reusing all the things, preaching a message about how valuable and capable and seen you are, and that when we do our best together we bring life from death. 

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3. What made you start working with repurposed materials specifically?

Reflex. I’ve been thinking about how lower economic classes have an incredible skill for reuse and repurposing that we can leverage and create new streams of income and value that the future needs from us. Something that is just natural to anyone who grew up with less resources will be an important skill going forward because we need to find creative ways to use our resources in a more sustainable way again.

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For the past little bit of history, wealth has meant being able to just throw stuff away and not think about it. The rich of the future will be people who find great value in using our resources in the most sustainable ways possible. That will be a huge part of what makes something beautiful and valuable. Hopefully that happens before we have no choice, which is why I want to show that we can elevate stuff that’s been thrown aside to something that people find truly valuable. 

4. How did you choose the particular Unison scrap fabrics for each weaving? Did the prints determine your weaving patterns?

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When I was looking through all the Unison remnants I was like, “I can’t believe this is my life right now”. That’s my version of living the dream- alone with piles and piles of scrap fabrics ready to be turned into something! I had about 10 directions I wanted to go but the color pallet I stuck with was for the season and what I’m into right now- oranges and pinks and tone-on-tone and florals. I wanted the weaving pattern to be really simple and for the pieces to be about showcasing the colors of the fabrics, so I did one clean, angled line. They look awesome hanging together with all those simple clean angles. 

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5. What other upcoming projects are you working on?

Too many, which is awesome! I’ve got the One of a Kind Show at the end of this month and after that I’m working with friend and fellow maker Joslyn Villalpando ( of J.Villa Workshops) on a project at her school about repurposing (so excited to make stuff with kids!). I’m going to be offering workshops on the West Side at a store called Creativita once I work out all the details.

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I’m most excited about starting on a series I have in my head using all sorts of working class uniforms, and incorporating techniques from the global working class like boro stitching. “Boro” means “tattered rags” and the technique was created by wives of fishermen who mended their work clothes in such a beautiful way that now it’s a world wide fashion element. 

Thanks Jamie! Shop the Unison x PGR Woven Wall Hangings here.

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Unison Q+A: Joslyn Villalpando of J.Villa Workshop

We recently hosted a Weaving Workshop using our scrap fabric with Joslyn Villalpando, founder of J.Villa Workshop. We talked to Joslyn about her practice, and how her love for teaching translated into hosting events, and what’s next for J.Villa Workshop.

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1. How long have you been teaching as J.Villa Workshop and how did it begin?

While teaching art for Chicago Public Schools, I was working on my thesis at the School of The Art Institute Chicago around creating community with craft and fiber art. After a long day of teaching and writing paper after paper for grad school, I was craving two things: time with friends and making art again, so I started hosting craft gatherings in my little Chicago condo with my friends. Each gathering, usually around a holiday, was paired with a cocktail and treat.

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For instance, I had a group for Valentines Day and we made block print cards, sipped a pink gin drink, and ate sugar cookies.  I love craft media; weaving, embroidery, macrame, etc. because of its implications of approachability and I love seeing what contemporary makers are doing with the traditional techniques.

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Curating a whole craft experience brings me so much joy so I started reaching out to various venues around Chicago to see if they’d be interested in hosting my craft gatherings that would involve them, in some way. I was pleasantly surprised that most are really into it and have fun coming up with the workshop with me! I’ve done some fun events with Bang Bang! Pie, Antique Taco and The Barrelhouse Flat.

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2. You teach a wide variety of workshops, including printmaking, weaving and embroidery. Do you have a favorite that you like to teach?

I love teaching each one for different reasons. Embroidery is so gratifying because I know how intimidating it can be for beginners and its fun to create an accessible workshop where people leave saying, “oh ok I can do this, I got this!” Weaving…that was my first love so I know my joy for that one comes through when I teach! I just love them all! 

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3. You also create custom weavings, how do you determine the color palette and patterning for those pieces?

I love creating custom weavings. I’m usually inspired by a color palette and I’ll stick with that for a weaving or two. I love switching it up between tight, laborious weavings with a more intricate design and textured, loose, minimal weavings. 

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4. What’s next for J.Villa Workshop?

I’m working to make J.Villa Workshop my full time job, this coming April will mark one year and I’m having so much fun continuing to come up with new gatherings! I started with a few contacts and venues who wanted to work together and those have each led me to new ones. I love collaborating with new makers, venues, and small business owners as my own business grows. I’ve found such a beautifully supportive community in Chicago and I’ll keep curating craft gatherings as long as people keep joining me! 

Learn more about J.Villa including upcoming workshops here

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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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Unison In Process: Inside The Humboldt Collection

Historic Inspiration for a Reimagined Bedding Collection

On the near-west side of Chicago lies a community that represents the very fabric of America—interwoven cultures marked by dynamic social change and overlapping styles, all evolving and thriving amidst a backdrop that’s notable as much for its historic landmarks as its decidedly urban charm.

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Centered around a sprawling, 207-acre park, the Humboldt Park neighborhood is one part fast-paced cultural hub, one part serene oasis in the midst of the modern bustle. It’s simultaneously classic and modern, diverse and determined, everlasting and yet always somehow new.

What could be better inspiration than that?

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Named for this historic community in our own beloved hometown, our Humboldt bedding collection is designed to reflect the area’s longevity and beautiful wear.

Inspired by the hand-woven look, unique texture, and 2-sided pattern of classic madras plaids, this bedding is as casually chic as a fresh-air picnic. Unison co-founder Robert Segal parlayed this inspiration into his original drawing for the pattern, and production designer Erica Lubetsky then translated that drawing into an engineered plaid.

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The result was a simpler, sleeker pattern—more modern in tone. Then, we scaled it up for a strong, graphic punch and got ready to convert the carefully considered design into a textile.

First, material: we selected yarn-dyed cotton in an oxford weave, to showcase the delicate blending of colors.

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The linens have a basket weave construction, which creates a checkerboard effect with white, producing a softer tone that is perfectly suited to a mellow-cool bedroom. To get the contrast just where we wanted it, we selected darker, more saturated yarns that would blend into the perfect finished hue.

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As a final detail, we engineered each side of the duvet with a lighter blue, asymmetrical stripe on one side, so that when the bed is made with covers turned back, a stripe appears on each end.

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Looks like you might actually start to enjoy making your bed in the morning.

Shop Humboldt Bedding 20% Off now thru 02/26, shop the White Sale here.

 

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Unison In Process: What is Matelassé?

What is Matelassé?

When you envision your dream bedroom, what description comes to mind? We’ll take beautiful, cozy, and plush. And, if it’s possible to fuse whistle-clean high style with a dash of homey goodness, we might be nearing perfection.

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Enter matelassé.

Developed in France in the late 18th century, the matelassé weaving or stitching technique was originally designed to imitate quilting. In fact, in its original French, the word “matelassé” (pronounced mat-luh-SAY) means “quilted” or “cushioned,” and the material was created to mimic the style of hand-stitched quilts made in Marseille.

By virtue of its pattern and weave, the technique achieves a padded appearance without any padding within the fabric. A single-ply, typically woven material, matelassé is often used for coverlets and decorative shams today.

A matelassé is made with either 3 or 4 sets of yarns, with 2 sets serving as the regular warp and weft yarns and the other set(s) as crepe or coarse cotton yarns. When woven together, these yarns are crisscrossed. And when finished, the crepes or cottons shrink, producing that defining, puckered detail.

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Sleeping In Style

The best matelassé will retain the hand-quilted look that has defined this material since its inception. Since it is thicker than a sheet-grade fabric, matelassé is quite durable and delivers a refined, tailored look.

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With a texture similar to a fine quilt or bubbly brocade, matelassé is often patterned in elaborate florals or (our personal favorite) simple geometrics. It is at once luxurious and easy to care for, with its strong weave and typically cotton material.

These factors add up to something we all value: stylish beauty. But its versatility is the characteristic that renders matelassé material so timeless. With its rich texture, it delivers depth and communicates style. But its clean, often neutral palette also makes it easy to combine with the overall look of any bedroom – whether clean and simple or bright and bold.

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At Unison, we source our matelassé duvets, shams, and coverlets from Portugal, where the textile trade dates back to the late 1700s. With a tradition of high-quality product delivered at fair prices, Portugal’s network of fine textile manufacturers is today considered among the most distinguished in the world.

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Our particular vendor has been working in matelassé for over 18 years—a deep and rich history that is stitched into the very fabric of our Himmeli bedding, which is produced on a jacquard power loom. The gorgeous, starburst-like pattern is selected through a controller—a computer that communicates stitch-by-stitch weaving instructions to the loom. These looms ensure a plush, hand-quilted look, while high-quality cotton delivers an elegant hand.

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So as you’re drifting off into sweet, stylish slumber, you can enjoy pleasant dreams of the rich traditions, caring hands, and impeccable designs that have contributed to your perfect tuck in.

Himmeli Matelassé Bedding is now 20% Off thru 02/26 shop the White Sale here