In its seventh year, the Guerrilla Furniture and Art Truck Show has become one of the most notable independent design events in the industry and an early summer staple for design junkies across the city. It was conceived and curated by founder Morlen Sinoway and staff, whose eponymous custom furniture and home accessory atelier still sits center court amid the festivities at the corner of Fulton Market and Aberdeen. What started as a meager six-truck display of talent has grown into a juried affair of more than 40 U-Hauls, which morph into showrooms for a night in hopes of gaining commercial notice; in fact, Crate & Barrel and other design shops have scouted for talent at the show. Meet three Chicago-based firms that caused a stir at this year’s show—they are sure to be national names in no time.
A Movable Feast
Nathan McBride is both a throwback to the past and a futurist. This general contractor is also a master carpenter, often called upon for his custom woodwork designs, and his newest endeavor is a smorgasbord of movable offerings. McBride works with locally harvested walnut and other hardwoods from which he creates modular shelving units and fixtures that can be taken along from home to home or room to room, just like his furnishings (we love the Second Breakfast chair, $750). He is equally noted for his old-school fiery orange work truck and his typewritten (yes, on a typewriter!) invoices and estimates, which are often hand-delivered. His down-home spirit indicates he works the old-fashioned way, while his new designs offer a nod to what’s next. mcbridehousewrights.com
This hands-in-the-dirt, outdoor-focused branch of Weetu, a design collaborative established in 2007, is led by master gardener Jorje Orozco-Cordero. Orozco-Cordero came to Chicago via the austere gardening world of Capitol Hill and quickly conceived a plan for our city’s “unattractive garage walls and alleyways.” His freestanding, self-sustaining, illuminated Weetree Walls caught our attention: Lightweight aluminum planters (artfully designed by his wife, Carly Cannell) are outfitted in three-foot custom sections to create garden walls complete with low-energy pumps, an organic growing medium, fertilizer and plantings. Each custom design and installation includes site-tailored raincapture and irrigation systems. As smart as they are pretty, the systems are being installed by leading decorators and city restaurants with outdoor spaces as places to grow herbs. The firm is on the fringe of commercial accessibility with ready-made planters available in the very near future. goweetree.com
A Sculptural Approach
Old and discarded materials gain a new perspective and sense of historical value in Michael Todd Smith’s hands. Known for his custom furniture, Smith never veered too far from his background as a sculpture major at DePaul University; craftsmanship and traditional technique remain at the core of his work. The designer and custom fabricator says his interaction with clients ranges from conception to drawing to finished product, and he enjoys making customers a part of the approach and process. He aims to use sustainable materials, like kiln-dried wood indigenous to the Chicago area, in an effort to create everlasting and timeless images in furniture. His H-Bench ($1,700) is an innovative endeavor in steel—the piece premiered at his first Guerrilla show and reportedly had a top furniture retailer courting his talents soon after. michaeltoddsmith.com