It’s a Swamp Thing

Metropolis Magazine
It’s a Swamp Thing
By Tiffany Meyers,  September 29, 2010 

An IV drip of espresso would have stimulated the brain less than an afternoon at CUSP, the two-day innovation conference—created and hosted by design firm smbolic—that flipped Chicago’s lid last week.

Swampman kicked it off. Covered in head-to-foot, craft-store moss, former priest Mike Ivers took the stage, complaining of deadlines: “I’m swamped!” he shouted, shedding peat. Ivers, now President of Goodcity, a capacity-building organization for NPOs, proposed his perspective on swamps—or the social, economic and personal problems we’re trying to design ourselves out of. To find our way out of the bog, we have to get lost in it first. “Let us shift the paradigm of life’s swamps, and see them as adventures—frightening and scary, but always exhilarating!”

Halleluiah. Conferrers then dove into the “gumbo mud” and morass of Broken Systems like health care, food distribution, manufacturing and education.

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Use This, Not That

Chicago Tribune
Use This, Not That
By Tiffany Meyers, September 27, 2010

What’s on designer don’t lists? Five designers share their list of verboten materials — along with the alternatives they use instead.

Never say never? Well, not unless your hand is forced. Think chinchilla fur. Or popcorn ceilings. Sometimes, “over my dead body” is the only reasonable option. We asked five designers to name the one material that they would never, ever, not for a pile of money and a lifetime supply of cake, use in an interior. Then we found out what they’d go for instead. The common thread: authenticity. Each in their way, these designers confirm the importance of honesty in materials.


Use this: Authentic materials
Not that: Counterfeits

Tom Polucci, director of interior design, HOK Chicago, can’t say there’s one specific material he’d rule out altogether. Rather, he believes in using authentic materials wherever possible, whether reclaimed or locally sourced. “What’s great is that, today, we have so many products available to us,” he says.

For wood flooring alone, Polucci can choose from solid wood, end grain wood, cork or bamboo. But not every budget can accommodate wood flooring. What then? Polucci finds a different but equally authentic solution: He might leave the concrete floors exposed, for instance, or recommend linoleum, a floor covering made of renewable materials.

“Using an authentic material in an unconventional way is also a great way to create more impact,” he adds. For HOK’s office, the firm reclaimed some teak flooring, using the warm, salvaged wood to create a striking wall panel at the entrance. And in a beneficent twist, it would have cost more to make custom veneer panels than it did to repurpose the solid teak flooring.

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Marketing to Kids Under Attack

AdAge
Special Report: Kids Marketing
Marketing to Kids Under Fresh Attack
By Tiffany Meyers, February 21, 2005

Assuming that it’s ok to market to 11-year-olds as if they were 16-year-olds is shocking to some media and advertising critics who have taken up the battle against marketing to kids.

Marketing efforts playing into tweens’ aspirations to adopt attitudes of much older teens are one alarming development that author Susan Linn sees. “The message they’re getting,” she says, “is that playing with toys and not being interested in the opposite sex is babyish and they ought to be acting out in sexual ways.”

Ms. Linn, associate director of the Media Center at the Harvard-affiliated Judge Baker Children’s Center, sees such efforts as part of a marketing maelstrom surrounding kids that puts normal childhood development at jeopardy. The question of whether marketing to children does them harm isn’t new, nor are efforts to curtail it. In 1978, the Federal Trade Commission earned the moniker “national nanny” by calling for a ban on ads to children under age 7, a proposition Congress overruled.

More than 20 years later, that concern has spread to even the most cutting-edge marketing tactic of “word-ofmouth.” The National Institute on Media & the Family this month called on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association to prohibit the “exploitation” of young people, after the association released a draft of an ethics code. Among the institute’s concerns are word-of-mouth campaigns that take place in Internet chat rooms.

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Creating Green Infrastructures

Metropolis Magazine
Infrastructure Activism
By Tiffany Meyers, November 12, 2009

To introduce his panel at last Thursday’s Infrastructures for Change Workshop, in Chicago, Giles Jacknain reminded us that the ancient Greeks had two words for city. The first was asty—or the inanimate bricks and mortar. The other: polis, or the city as a human entity. The conversation we were about to have, he suggested, was about moving from “asty to polis.”

Jacknain is the founder of the consultancy the Oikos Collective and a faculty member of Archeworks, which sponsored the day-long Infrastructures for Change event. The conference offered a mash-up of bottom-up and top-down projects designed to make cities of the future sustainable “before it’s too late,” as more than one speaker put it. It’s the first in a series of Archeworks workshops that will showcase design alternatives to the waste-intensive, auto-dependent, low-density infrastructures of the 20th century.

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Freshly Feathered Nest

Chicago Tribune
Freshly Feathered Nest
By Tiffany Meyers, May 23, 2010

When the kids move out it’s time to make a home you, your spouse and even the family will love.

When you walk through the front door of Frank and Sandy Gelber’s home, the experience is something like taking a sip of ice water — only to discover a mouthful of kicky ginger ale instead. From the porch of the clapboard farmhouse, which dates to the 1890s, any sensible person would expect a traditional interior. Wainscoting. Victoriana. Pooled drapery.

Then the front door opens, revealing the living room. Instead of chintz, you get crisp, cool lines. A palette of red, white and black. A large work by British artist Richard Galpin, who explores the line between abstraction and representation, hangs above a white leather sofa.

Sandy Gelber asked her designers, architecture and interior design firm Morgante Wilson Architects (MWA), to redo what was then a traditional room in 2005, when the Gelber’s youngest daughter left for school. Gelber had been warned of the “empty-nest syndrome.” It would be lonely, people said. Full of longing and boredom. Remember Y2K? The catastrophe never transpired. “I think the ’empty nest’ is the best-kept secret in life,” says Gelber, who’s as connected to her children as ever. “Our nest actually filled up with possibilities. I like to think of it as a time to re-feather the nest.”

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Chicago’s Fulton Market District

The Globe & Mail Newspaper
Chicago’s Fulton Market District
By Tiffany Meyers, December 16

Author’s Note: Canada’s Globe & Mail asked me to write up my favorite spots in my favorite Chicago neighborhood. It was easy to choose. The meatpacking district in Chicago–along and around Fulton Market Street–is an enthralling clash between haute design and yet-to-be-fully-gentrified industry grit.

Chicago is often known as the Windy City, a designation born of its cold lakefront gusts (and windbag politicians). But to score points in the Fulton Market District, use Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago poet Carl Sandburg’s term for the city: “Hog Butcher for the World.” The Union Stockyards once dominated these streets and, yes, the world. Maharajas visited the unlikely tourist destination. So did Henry Ford.

After decades of decline, though, the Yards closed in 1971, leaving the area to seafood and meat wholesalers – and an underground warehouse party scene that raged on until the 1990s. That’s when a few restaurateurs parachuted in, opening upscale eateries (such as Vivo and Marché) on Randolph Street, then an industrial wasteland.

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Mixcraft

Chicago Tribune
Practicing Mixcraft
By Tiffany Meyers

Author’s Note: For the Chicago Tribune’s HOME section, I caught up with Tricia Guild of the UK’s Designers Guild. The mere thought of mixing patterns can make some design aspirants weak at the knees with fear. So I asked Guild, who’s staked her whole enterprise on that eclectic look, to break it down for us.

Tricia Guild, founder and creative director of London-based Designers Guild, says there’s no reason to be afraid of mixing fabrics in the home. Clearly, she wasn’t there the time our window treatment of paisley jacquard and checked sateen made those small children cry. Not to mention the adults. So it’s probably more accurate to say that there’s nothing to be afraid of if you’re Tricia Guild.

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The Art of Arranging

Chicago Tribune
The Art of Arranging
By Tiffany Meyers 

Author’s Note: Here’s why David Jimenez is cool. His  talent and career as a visual merchandiser is so out-sized that, if he wanted, he could get away with being a little too cool for school. Not him. He’s such a good guy—and more down-to-earth than the green grass underfoot. I met him (telephonically) while writing this article for the Chicago Tribune’s HOME section.

I asked him to draw from his years as a visual merchandiser to help the Trib’s readers create tablescapes that look artful, not haphazard. He delivered. Check out David’s site to learn more about him.

Some people can toss a piece of driftwood, two books and a lamp on a coffee table and end up with a camera-ready display. The rest of us rearrange the same objects (endlessly) and come up with the anarchy of Nana’s knickknacks.

Displaying accessories is one of the trickier points of styling any room. How much is too much? And too little? Which objects are meant for which table? For David Jimenez, a genius-level visual merchandiser and gifted decorator, tablescaping is the difference between a house and a home.

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Architects Rescue a Renovation Gone Awry

Chicago Tribune
To the rescue: A botched renovation opens the door to a new family home
By Tiffany Meyers, July 12, 2009

It’s a story that starts, as any page-turner  should, with a moment of high drama. Thanksgiving weekend 2004: Elissa Morgante and Fred Wilson hear a knock on the door of their Wilmette home. It’s their neighbor.

He’s in over his head, he says. Way over. And he wants out. More specifically, he wants out of the renovation he has undertaken on his house across the street, a do-it-yourself gut job that has gone horribly wrong. The-whole-house-shakes-when-you-jump wrong. He wants to know: Can his architect neighbors think of anyone who might take it off his hands?

The founders of the award-winning, Evanston-based architecture and interior design firm Morgante Wilson Architecture, whose residential projects (there are eight on this block alone) range in style from Georgian to ultramodern, head across the street to survey the scene.

With the entire back wall removed, the home can’t be resuscitated. It’s nearly tipping over. But Morgante and Wilson know that a host of developers would be pleased to buy the land and throw up a new McEyesore in its place. And, from across the street, guess who would have the best view? The couple’s intervention seemed only natural.

What happens next, in this old house tale, has to do with reinvention and real life. Not to mention a love story.

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Wicker Park: Where History Meets Haute

Canada’s Globe and Mail
Wicker Park: Where history meets haute

By Tiffany Meyers, June 15, 2010 

Like so many of the best travel anecdotes, this one will start at The Crotch. At least that’s what some people are calling the six-corner intersection (Milwaukee, Damen and North Avenues) of the Chicago neighbourhood Wicker Park. On a typical day, a throng of people who care about progressive fashion, music, food and books, plus originality and Pabst Blue Ribbon, spill forth from that intersection, which, in all seriousness, you should really just call The Corners.

Along those three main drags, you’ll find a caffeinated, high- and low-end mash-up of DIY creativity, $200 skinny jeans, $2 tacos, new and used books and respectable people watching.

In 1870, Charles and Joel Wicker (a pair of brothers-cum-developers) appropriated 80 acres of land and called it, after themselves, Wicker Park. The devastation following the great Chicago fire, one year later, inspired a real-state boom in their domain, as German and Scandinavian brewery tycoons built their mansions along Hoyne and Pierce Streets, a.k.a. “Beer Baron Row.” (For more architectural eye candy, add Caton Street to your walking tour.)

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Amex: Ad Age’s Marketing 50

Advertising Age
AmEx Members Project: Marketing 50
By Tiffany Meyers, November 2008

For American Express Co., it’s marketing that does good as it does well.

“Having the opportunity to do marketing and do good at the same time is a great feeling,” says Belinda Lang, VP-consumer marketing strategy, who oversees Members Project From American Express.

The online initiative solicits AmEx card members to submit and vote on ideas for humanitarian projects.

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NBA: Ad Age’s Marketing 50

Advertising Age
NBA Playoffs: A Marketing 50 Case Study
By Tiffany Meyers, November 2008

Nielsen ratings are one thing. But when Carol Albert saw a “Saturday Night Live” parody of the National Basketball Association’s 2008 playoffs campaign, “that’s when we knew ‘There Can Only Be One’ had made its way into popular culture,” says Ms. Albert, senior VP-marketing at the NBA.

To build excitement over the six-week NBA playoffs and into the finals, Ms. Albert, 45, laid out a strategy “to focus on the intensity of competition and players’ shared commitment to win.”

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