While in the Merchandise Mart this time, I asked my host to name the other great design establishments in the United States besides it and The Pacific Design Center in LA. She said quickly, “The A & D building in New York.” Then she drew a blank. “Are there only 3?” I asked. “I can’t think of any others.” she replied.
A & D stands for The Architects & Designers Building. It’s at 150 East 58th Street and said to be as the ultimate home decor source in The Big Apple with 40 showrooms on 12 floors. A & D means thousands of premium products for the home in one building opened to both the public and the trade. I don’t know if they have their own version of Dreamhome.
The first time I was in the Merchandise Mart, I was told without kindness to leave. This was several years ago when it was opened only to vendors, not the just-curious, like me. Now it has become a welcoming place and even something of a tourist attraction. Ruth & I were there to check out Dreamhome 2016, which we only knew about because we had read about it in Where magazine. Dreamhome, the 12th annual installation hoping to inspire us to redecorate our living spaces, was among the 5 great things not to be missed in Chicago in April.
The 4.2 million square feet Merchandise Mart opened in 1930, six months into the Depression. This art deco building was conceived by retailer Marshall Field to be a wholesaler of luxury goods, hence my cold ejection. Joe Kennedy bought it just after World War II and THE Kennedy family owned it until 1998. Joe, John F’s dad, was the first to allow public access, but trade shows were still what the Merchandise Mart was mainly known for. Two city blocks long and 25 stories tall, the Merchandise Mart looks like a mercantile fortress guarding the Chicago River. Today it is home to more than 150 interior design showrooms and millions of decor fantasies. Each year a few A-list designers plan and decorate 6 rooms using only products from this historic design center’s showrooms. This year the six include foyer, library, living room, dining room, bedroom, and sunroom. All are beyond belief.
After interior design fans ogle the 6 rooms, they can now visit showrooms on floors 1, 6, 14, 15 and 16 for further inspiration and to create their own home Dreamscapes. The 6 rooms for 2016 can be seen until December 4. It’s free if you head for an exit after viewing the best in home decor instead of finding an elevator. After it closes, designers, like Santa’s helpers, will be busy planning and executing 2017’s dream rooms. If you miss Dreamhome 2016, there’s always next year.