Fashion Forward: 3 Designers Who Stood Out At High Point Furniture Mart

By Elaine Markoutsas
Chicago Tribune.

With fashion in their DNA and Chicago roots, three talents stood out at this year’s High Point Market furniture show with collections that are edgy, flirty, fun and perfect for layering, just like clothing.

Julia Buckingham for Global Views
A native of Wilmette, Ill., Buckingham worked in fashion and merchandising at Neiman Marcus, then as an antiques dealer before she launched her interior design firm. She is founding contributor to the design blog Material Girls (

The collection: More than 100 pieces, accessories (glass, mosaic, porcelain, wood), furniture and lighting
Price range: $49 to $4,499; At Buckingham Interiors + Design shop, 1820 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-243-9975 (

The vibe: Fun, flirty, feminine, colorful, warm, energetic

Signature look: Julia calls it Modernique. “It’s based on the premise of modern and antique, the idea there are no rules in design. What’s inherently separate can live together: lacquer with patina, check with gold leaf, brass with polished chrome. Layering unexpected textures, mixing metals with old wood. It’s wabi-sabi (Japanese for perfect-imperfect). Nothing too precious.”

Inspirations: “Jewelry, vintage purses, many antique pieces from Paris, Peru, all over the world that I sold and never saw again. So I’m re-creating them.”

Color: “Yes! An explosion of it makes people smile. I’m not afraid of it or juxtaposing what you wouldn’t expect.”
Best way to spruce up a room: “Paint. It creates a mood, allows you to feel fresh and clean, like getting a haircut or taking a shower. It can change everything.”

Kara Mann for Milling Road
When the Evanston, Ill., native interior designer launched Kara Mann Design in 2005, she merged studies in art, and fashion styling skills.

The collection: 54 pieces, plus 36 proprietary fabrics, part of a re-launch of Milling Road as a stand-alone brand for Baker Furniture (

Show-stopping materials: Black caning; glossy bleached burl wood; liquid lacquer; tattooed animal print leathers
Price range: From $595 to $6,495

The vibe: Edgy, glamour plus grit, rocker meets runway
“I love things that are very elegant,” says Mann, “with classic backbones.” Her interiors once were described as having a “subversive side.” She calls it a “positive tension.”
“It’s masculine and feminine. I like architecture as much as decoration. A strong sense of structure. Delicate moments of materiality. I love the idea of things feeling artisanal, hammered metals, work by hand. Things that feel casual but with an attention to detail and craftsmanship that speak to an evolving definition of luxury.”

How to quickly modernize a room: “Edit. It’s always my go to. … To me, it’s composition. Paring down really feels impactful, modern.”

Cynthia Rowley for Hooker Furniture
A native of Barrington, Ill., the Art Institute of Chicago student was going to become a painter, until she was swept up in the fashion world. Her global lifestyle brand features eye-catching prints on ready to wear, eyewear and even office goods for Staples. Now she is bringing fashion to furniture.

The collection: More than 150 pieces. Hooker Furniture plus Sam Moore upholstery, available in March/April; dedicated website to come

Vignettes: curious (global and eclectic); sporty (bold, graphic and colorful); pretty (delicate opulence); designed to mix “because your style changes day to night to reflect your mood.”

Eye-catching materials: Mappa burl wood, digitally printed florals and abstracts with the look of gold leaf, mother-of-pearl, jade onyx, Venetian mirror

Price range: $399 to $3,499.

“I think of myself as sort of a tomboy, none of the furniture gets too girly. But there are pops of color and prints. Like designing a ready-to-wear collection, I start with color palette and materials, layer on silhouette and shapes, add in print and pattern and finish with details. In fashion, it’s a button or a buckle; with furniture it’s a drawer pull or mother-of-pearl inlay.”

Best way to freshen a room: “Make sure there is one great piece that you love, and lots of flowers.”

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