#whitneyafterwork | Cast or Blast!


The Whitney team was invited to the PG Enlighten Cast or Blast, an industry event hosted by Jim Sychta / PG Enlighten.  The McGraw Wildlife Foundation created the adventurous backdrop for the early morning outing.  Rob cast while Jessie and Laura blast…needless to say the day included a lot of busted clays, a big muskie bite, and fun!

The presentation before a gourmet lunch and beers on the patio included several lighting manufacturers.  The Whitney team was “wooed” by LITECONTROL and dado lighting, featuring aesthetic and economic pendants, suspended and recessed linear lighting.  We are excited to add these to our “go to” specification list!  

Our very own Jessie James took home the Best Amateur Shot award and Laura Hancock scored a bear proof (yes, you read that right) Yeti Roadie Cooler.

Written by our skilled clay shooter: Laura Hancock

#NeoCon2017 Recap

As a Chicago area design firm, we have the added bonus of having the Merchandise Mart in our backyard that we can visit and take clients to whenever we want.  Even though we are right here, we still enjoy going to NEOCON to check out the latest and greatest from our favorite manufacturers.  Some wow us, some disappoint, and others surprise us.  Each of us at Whitney spends a day hitting well over 10,000 steps on our FitBit or Apple Watch wandering through the Mart.  We avoid the elevator lines and take the stairs only to regret that decision half way up to floor 11.  Along the way, we found some things that we liked.  Here are some of the trends and associated products we saw this year: 

Pink and Gold Accents

This trend started last year, but was even more present this time.  The Scandinavian influence is becoming more and more present in fashion as well as our interior product offerings and details.  Manufacturers are now introducing other metals, not just your standard stainless or aluminum, and allowing designers to be a little more creative with those finishing touches.  This means lighter wood options, more texture, softer edges, and warmer metal finishes like bronze, gold, and brass are all available.  We’re loving it! 

ways to personalize

We have been getting more requests over the last few years for throw pillows, task lights, area rugs, and planters.  Clients want to make their offices feel ‘home like’ or more residential, and we have struggled to find a variety of items that aren’t custom.  We are happy to report that now there are a few manufacturers that provide these as a part of their standard product line.  Haworth can outfit your entire office not only with their workstations, Collection pieces, private office casegoods, seating, etc.,  but now with their beautiful Patricia Urquiola rugs (I want one for my apartment!), occasional tables & throw pillows that come in a plethora of colors.  Both Steelcase and Teknion had a nice offering of desk accessories in fun colors to provide that pop.  Allermuir also has a new great offering of varying sizes and patterns to choose from.  Lastly, did you see J&J Invision’s installation of their new collection?  We absolutely loved the colorway and the installation.  Carpet tile looking like a beautiful rug?  Yes please. 

work lounge 2.0

The trend has been to lean away from private offices and increase the open office.  In recent years, there have been many studies published that argue against the open office and its effectiveness for concentration and heads down work.  The furniture industry has responded with solutions like Steelcase’s Brody Work Lounge and multiple other iterations in years past including OFS Qove, Allsteel’s Clubhouse, Teknion Zones, and the list goes on.  We are continuing to see a need for privacy in the open office and a chance for people to retreat to a comfortable and quiet place to work away from their desk.  This year saw new introductions from Steelcase Umami, West Elm Haus, OFS Heya and others.

innovations in technology

This is becoming a larger portion of project budgets as clients move to impress their own clients with their state of the art audio visual design.  This year, there were a couple of products our office unanimously captured as a favorite.  One was DesignTex’s Casper cloaking film.  It allows you to keep your presentation content material private from outside the room while still allowing some light and visual connection to people in the room.  They now offer a ton of patterns to combine with the cloaking material to add to your design.  Another standout was at the DIRTT showroom.  DIRTT continues to push the boundaries for design.  They showcased an operable partition with an embedded TV.  This allows for maximum flexibility in our multi-purpose rooms.

most unique installation

DIRTT really is a showstopper in every sense of the word at their showroom.  From the ice cream, homemade sushi, really passionate and friendly people, and of course amazing design, they really hit the mark year after year.  This year they installed an entire mezzanine and staircase out of timber frame construction.  They included curves, spirals, angles, and any kind of detail you could imagine into this installation.  You can literally dream it and they will build it.  In case you missed the showroom, they played a looped video of the installation and it was incredible to watch the installers put this structure together.  There is no visible hardware from any viewing point.  It’s beautifully carved wood from Europe that has a wonderful texture and hand to it. 

Written by our NeoCon guru: Kate Logan



My favorite accessory

I don’t pack for a vacation or trip without a scarf and I almost always come back with a new one.  I have two full drawers of scarves and they all range from handmade knit scarves to scarves I’ve picked up in various cities around the world on my travels.  I love the patterns and the bright colors.  Each one holds a memory and I can remember back to where and when I found them or who made them for me.  One of my favorite scarves was found on a trip with a girlfriend to Spain in Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona from a street vendor.  It only cost 5 euros and it goes with everything. 

Thanksgiving weekend

There’s something about Thanksgiving that is just the best to me.  It’s the most relaxing holiday by far and it revolves around three things I love: family, food, and football- and napping.  (okay so that’s four things).  It’s the tradition that I love and I love to spend the day before helping my mom prep food for the following day.  Every year we have the same exact dishes on the menu and every year my mom and cousin try to suggest changing the menu.  It gets unanimously shot down by everyone but cute they try every year.  When all of the cousins were younger, we used to participate in a friendly game of football but now that we are all older and wiser, we realized that if we stay inside we can sit on the couch, watch OTHER people play football and drink wine & beer. 

The ocean

Ever since I can remember, we’ve spent spring breaks and summers in South Carolina at the beach.  I was terrified of the ocean as a kid and finally my dad threw me in one year and then couldn’t get me out.  I love the peace and tranquility the water brings to me.  Each time I walk onto the beach, sit my chair down and sink into the sand I let out a sigh of relief.  It’s incredibly therapeutic and refreshing.  The sun on my face, the smell of sunscreen and salt water, and the waves crashing all imprint happy memories for me.  When our family has spent time here together, there’s a very distinct routine – sleep in, day full of beach time, cocktails, dinner, sleep, repeat.  And I love every minute of it. 

My Le Creuset dutch oven & my cookbooks

Seriously people make fun of me but I refer to Ina Garten and Giada like I know them personally.  Any of the Barefoot Contessa and Giada cookbooks are my go to for recipes of guaranteed delicious food and fairly easy to make.  I think I use my dutch oven to make those dishes at least 2 or 3 times a week.  I like opening an actual book and this is the same reason why I can’t get behind using a Kindle.  Of course I like anyone can Google a recipe on the internet but there’s something great about having the physical book.  You can tell which cookbooks are the most loved based on which ones have stains on the pages and are stuck together.  I even made a cookbook of all of our family recipes that is falling apart from all of its use.  Having a cookbook open with a glass of wine after a long day is my way of unwinding.  I love creating a great meal to enjoy and sit around the table (or on the couch) talking about our days together. 

The Chicago Blackhawks

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge sports fan and in particular I love my Blackhawks.  I grew to like hockey in college (yes they do have hockey at Indiana…) and started following the Hawks.  When I met my husband, this is something that we instantly loved to share together.  We signed up for partial season tickets and go to games every year – he proposed at one of the games and we played Chelsea Dagger at our wedding.  Needless to say we love our team and spending time together cheering them on at the games.



He was born in 1867. In 1887 at the age of 20 and with $7.00 in his pocket, he moved to Chicago to become an architect. He went on to become one of the greatest architects in the world. His name: Frank Lincoln Lloyd Wright. Growing up in Oak Park, I was surrounded by many Prairie Style homes. As a young child, I had the opportunity to visit some of his homes, owned by some of my mom’s friends. Many years later, my wife and I took a tour of his Home and Studio in Oak Park. While it seemed bland compared to many of his Prairie Style homes (Fallingwater, Robie House, Meyer May House, Wingspread, Dana Thomas House, Zimmerman House), it was where he lived and worked. There was a certain charm in it. At the end of the tour, the interpreter remarked that “If you liked the tour and would like to give tours, you can sign up to be an interpreter.” My wife and I both signed up on the spot.  

After several months of training, we began giving tours. I had been through the house as a child and was not very impressed. It certainly is not a Prairie Style Home, although it contains many Prairie Style elements. After going through the training and having spent one weekend a month for a couple of years giving tours, it has become one of my favorite Frank Lloyd Wright homes. The original house was constantly being remodeled and expanded as his family grew and his design philosophy became more refined. He used his house as a laboratory; testing out his new theories along the way. The many classical elements in the entry way evolve to more Prairie Style elements as you move throughout the house. 

Even from its beginnings, the house broke from its Victorian neighbors. The house is set back from the street, nestled into the landscape rather than thrust upon it. The roof is incorporated into the second floor rather than sitting atop the house like a hat on the adjacent Victorian houses. The first floor has large rooms flowing one into another with no clear distinctions rather than the small, boxed rooms indicative of the Victorian homes of the time. The windows are positioned towards the corner of the room, arranged to break the box of traditional rooms. The second floor windows are clustered into a long ribbon, which will become a Prairie element. The fireplace, being an integral part of the home, is placed in the center of the house, rather than on an outside wall. It becomes the heart, or hearth, of the house. The leaded glass windows throughout showcase original Wright designs and vary from simple geometric patterns in the living room, to his own lotus blossom motif in the dining room, to colored glass in the upstairs rooms to the most intricate stained glass piece in any of his homes located in the studio foyer. On the second floor, Mr. Wright built a large playroom for his children. This room features a large fireplace, a large vaulted ceiling with an intricate wood carved prickly ash pattern lay light and a balcony. Mr. Wright wanted a piano in the room, which could only be a grand piano. Not wanting to take up valuable play space, Mr. Wright cut a hole in the wall, cut off the back legs, and recessed the piano over the back stairs. There is also a mural on the wall by Charles Corwin depicting “The Fisherman and the Genie” from the Arabian Nights, a favorite of Mr. Wrights and his children.  

Over time, Mr. Wright added his Studio to his house. There are two sculptures outside the studio by Richard Bock – Boulder Man that features a man crouching and breaking free from the ground beneath him. This is to symbolize mankind struggling from the ground to transcend earthly bonds. The stork capitals that adorn the columns outside the studio represent Mr. Wright’s mission statement. There are images showing the tree of life, the book of knowledge, an architectural scroll, and two storks representing wisdom and fertility. Inside the studio, the two story space housed the drafstmen on the first floor and the artisans on the balcony. The structure is exposed, which is an example of Mr. Wrights honesty in architecture. An octagonal chain circles the roof and holds the walls in (creating a compression ring) like the ring in a cathedral dome. Chains hanging down from the octagonal chains support the balcony so no columns need support the balcony. There is also a central fireplace that was usually lit, providing a focal point and warmth for the studio. It was in the studio that Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices perfected the Prairie Style and produced one quarter of his life’s work (125 structures) in the 20 years he lived there. Mr. Wright wanted his work to be viewed slowly so one could take in all of his great design and notice the details. He though his architecture should be a “path to discovery” and he often hid his entrances and did not offer a direct route into the buildings. In 1909, Mr. Wright left Oak Park, traveling to Europe and never returned to live in the Home and Studio again. He died in 1959 at the age of 72. Thankfully, the home and studio was taken over by the FLW Trust in 1974 after it had undergone several renovations. At one time, it was (7) separate apartments. The Trust launched a massive 3.5 million dollar renovation to bring it back to the way it was in 1909 when Mr. Wright left. There are many more details and stories contained within the house and studio. With every trip through the house, new details are seen and one can begin to sense the design process working and evolving over time.

Written by our FLW expert: Rob Oppenborn

INTAKE | this american life

Offices are full of sounds. They are constant and mundane.  There is the loud talker that sits a couple rows over.  There is the clicking of many keyboards.  We add sound machines to mask the sounds of other sounds.  I, like many of my peers, find refuge from this reality by putting on headphones.  Sometimes there isn’t even anything playing on them.  Today my headphones took me to a vintage This American Life episode.  I found it to be a refreshing take on what for most of us is a ubiquitous element of our everyday lives. So stick these sounds in your ear holes.

Columbus Indiana : Midcentury Midwest

Columbus Indiana is 4 hours outside Chicago and the last place one would expect to find a city full of building by big name architects, but it is.  For architecture enthusiasts there is no better weekend getaway.  Columbus is like a petting zoo for architecture.  Get up close in friendly with buildings from all the greats including but not limited to I.M. Pei, Richard Meyer, Robert Venturi, and Harry Weese.  Your first stop should be the Columbus Visitors Center.  The staff there is fantastic and you can pick up a map and associated smart phone app that charts out every building you would want to see.  The great thing about Columbus is not just the density of good buildings but the fact that this community embraces those who come to see them.  I have travelled all over the world to look at buildings and never have I been invited in by as many strangers to see them in detail.  I chalk it up to Midwest hospitality.

The true gem of the bunch is the Millar House and Gardens which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000.  Designed by Eero Saaranin with interiors by Alexander Girard and grounds by Dan Kiley it was completed in 1953.  All three were at the height of their creative peak when collaborating and executing this home, and it shows.  It is a stunning example of the midcentury aesthetic and is full of design innovation.  It’s the type of place that shows the power of design and architecture to transform and inspire.   I suggest booking your tour in advance and it is well worth the fee.

I think the most remarkable thing about this city is not all the buildings.  Each building individually is not necessarily something revolutionary, but a city where good architecture and design is embraced across the board is.  The Cummins Foundation under the leadership of J. Irwin Miller created a program in which they would pay the architects fee if the client picked an architect from a list compiled by Cummins.  This allowed the whole project budget to go to the building itself.  In that sense the project budgets were higher but not astronomically so.  It is the job of architects and designers to produce something that provides a solution to the everyday needs of a society.  Columbus is a place where architects have used the resources at hand to implement the most effective, functional, and inspiring interventions possible.  When walking around Columbus you have this crazy idea that every city could be like this.  It feels so possible.  If this can be done here… why not everywhere?  One fairly simple intervention from a visionary man and the hard work of many architects and designers made this place into something special and well worth the drive. 

Miller House Living Room.jpg
Miller House Custome Sofa and Carpet.jpg
Miller House.jpg
Written and photographed by our explorer of all things architecture : Emily Handley