Notes from CUSP

Metropolis Magazine
Notes from CUSP
By Tiffany Meyers, October 2011
“We all come here with a truckload of fears,” shouts Mike Ivers, president of capacity-building organization Goodcity. He’s riling up the crowd for the fourth annual CUSP—a “conference about the design of everything”—created by design firm Smbolic.

And he’s wearing a blindfold. Ivers, a former priest who knows how to raise a roof, shares the stage with a group of young people. Representing his fears, they lead him around, as fears are wont to do, and spin him in discombobulating circles. “Get dizzy at CUSP!” he hollers. His point? Fear is a constant. Learn to use it.

Attendees do have things to fear today. There are the forthcoming breaks, for instance, during which they’ll have to mingle. There’s failure. And success. And then there’s this: In any gathering about social innovation, there’s a chance that all the enthusiasm could snowball into that brand of unchallenged, “designers talking to designers” groupthink about The Power of Design.

But that doesn’t happen. Instead, the multidisciplinary speakers—many of whom aren’t traditional “designers”—stand before the audience and lay down the truth, in all its glorious nuances and complexity.

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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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Design Your Home Office on a Budget

Entrepreneur’s StartUps
Design Your Home Office Space
By Tiffany Meyers | March 2009

Among the benefits of working from home: your 32-second commute, pajamas and the freedom to create an environment that works for you, not the common denominator. Checking in with interior stylist Amy Lenahan of Chicago’s design i interiors, we located two lackluster office spaces with one goal in mind: break all the rules of corporate décor without breaking the bank. 

Don’t know where to start? Follow your heart. Commit to an item you love and build the room around it. For curtains, Ikea’s Fredrika fabric ($5.99 per yard) paired with a more basic red fabric, the Minna ($6.99 per yard), set our hearts aflutter, so we carried the eye-popping reds throughout the rest of the room.  “In a home office, where privacy isn’t such an issue, I advise clients not to hide windows behind heavy drapes,” Lenahan says. To maximize natural light, mount your curtains on the outside of the frame. (While we’re on the subject, Ikea’s Täljare curtain rod set, $14.99, couldn’t make curtain hanging easier.)

“The color red speeds up our heart rate and increases our pulse,” says Kate Smith, founder of color consulting firm Sensational Color and member of The Color Marketing Group, an international color trend forecasting organization. “It’s good for an office because it encourages action and confidence. It makes us feel physically empowered–and even the boldest entrepreneurs sometimes need a little of that.”

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