Chicago Staycation Ideas: Explore the City of Neighborhoods

July 8, 2015 City Guides 1 Comment

This blog post first appeared, written by me! I’ve done everything on this list and can honestly say these are some of my top Chicago staycation ideas. There are so many more wonderful places to explore. Post a comment if you’re heading to Chicago and want some more recommendations!

Yea, yea, yea Millennium Park and The Bean (officially Cloud Gate) are awesome, as is shopping the Magnificent Mile, but elbowing through the summer tourist crowds is not. There are so many unique places to explore in Chicago, which is truly a city of neighborhoods. If you’re anything like me, you rarely leave the 10-mile radius of your home, and stick to your neighborhood favorites when going out. Summer is most definitely the best time to explore Chicago. If you’re longing for a vacation or weekend getaway, but don’t have the time or money – Give a Chicago staycation a try!

Explore Logan Square: If you consider yourself “creative,” love guys in plaid shirts with beards, and are into the food scene – try Logan Square. For the ultimate staycation experience, book at night or two at Longman & Eagle, not only is this top restaurant and whiskey bar a great spot for a meal, but also their six room accommodations were just voted one of the 10 best tiny hotels in the world. After sleeping in with style, take a 2.7-mile walk above the city on the newly constructed Bloomingdale Trail (The 606). Originally a train route that began just after the Great Chicago Fire, this stretch of old train line is now a biking, running and community trail. Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, you’re ready for an early dinner at Fat Rice, a recent Bon Appetit pick for the 4th best new restaurant in America. It’s best to get there early, before the line curves around the block. After you’ve had your fill of Euro-Asian comfort food, slurp down a few beachy cocktails at the fabulously tiki-inspired Lost Lake. Complete your evening with a late night movie at the Logan Theatre, recently restored to its 1915 glory.

LOST LAKE - The best tropical drinks EVER! Watch out, they are strong!

LOST LAKE – The best tropical drinks EVER! Watch out, they are strong!

Explore Pilsen: If you’re actually an artist, love vintage and are fluent in Spanish – try Pilsen. Start your day trip with a unique visit to the National Museum of Mexican Art, where you’ll be immersed in the richness of Mexican art and culture. From textiles and folk art, to photography and sculpture – you’ll be sure to connect to an exhibition on a personal level. Then get in a little retail therapy with shops on 18th Street. A favorite for vintage, handmade and mid-century lovers is Modern Cooperative, which has a great mix of vintage furniture and clothing with modern gifts and accessories. For dinner, grab a seat at Simone’s Bar & Grill and get a real feel for the neighborhood crowd while eating pub food and drinking some local craft beers. Make sure to book tickets for a concert or performance ahead of time at Thalia Hall, a recently converted historic landmark turned music venue, cocktail bar and restaurant.

Modern Coop is the perfect spot for vintage, mid-century, gifts and more!

Modern Coop is the perfect spot for vintage, mid-century, gifts and more!

Explore Oak Park: If you’re a young family inspired by architecture and tranquil tree-lined streets – try Oak Park. Head out to Oak Park on the Chicago el train. The green line el tracks will take you directly to downtown Oak Park, where you can walk from cute shop to cute shop on cobblestone streets. You’ll end up right near Greenline Wheels, where you can rent bikes for the day and pedal your way over to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio. You can stay for the indoor tour, or participate in the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s guided bike tour of more than 20 historic Wright-designed structures. Don’t forget to pack a picnic beforehand with the best cheese and accouterments from the delicious Marion Street Market.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio - Oak Park

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio – Oak Park

Explore Evanston: If you’re into the college town vibe and spending a sunny day at the beach – try Evanston. With five public swimming beaches along Lake Michigan, Evanston is the perfect spot for a warm summer day in Chicago. After getting your suntan at the beach, head back to your quaint B&B the Lang House Chicago, complete with a spa and sauna for some extra R&R. Then it’s on to the dinner at the eclectic, delicious and highly-acclaimed Found Kitchen, on a nice night, ask to dine outside at their Parisian-style sidewalk café. Don’t forget the cocktail menu, the drinks are delicious!

Gorgeous Lake Michigan!

Gorgeous Lake Michigan! Photo credit:

The Lang House B&B - modern and elegant

The Lang House B&B – modern and elegant

Explore Hyde Park: If your idea of a good time is exploring one of the largest science museums in the Western Hemisphere and packing a little history lesson in too – try Hyde Park. Start your day by strolling along 53rd Street and visiting some of the local merchants. You can even try President Obama’s said favorite restaurant (cafeteria style) Valois Restaurant. From 53rd Street walk south toward the Midway Plaisance, which is the original midway from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in what is now Jackson Park. On the way, you’ll pass through the beautiful University of Chicago Campus. Head east down the midway towards the Museum of Science and Industry, and don’t miss a stroll in the Osaka Garden. This Japanese stroll garden features a series of water fountains, bridges and ornate stone-cut Japanese lanterns.


Osaka Garden part of historic Jackson Park

Explore Lincoln Square/Ravenswood: If your idea of a good time is beer, beer, beer and whiskey – try Lincoln Square. First, get yourself a group of friends and suite or two at the posh Guesthouse Hotel. You’ll need a place to call home after your day of gallivanting, and better that it’s your home away from home. Enjoy the delicious local beer selection at Half Acre Tap Room and take a tour of the brewery for another $10. Keep the craft beer theme going and try out the new, community-supported brewery and tap room at Begyle Brewing. If whiskey is more your speed don’t miss Koval Distillery. Chicago’s first working distillery since the mid-1800s this spot is truly artisan grain-to-bottle whiskey. Their tour and whiskey samples will keep you in your happy place for a few more hours. After all the drinking, you’re going to need some food and what’s better than pretending it’s Oktoberfest at the Chicago Brauhaus. Serving up German specialties and drinks, you can eat all the headcheese and bratwurst your heart desires.


Koval’s tours and cocktail classes are so much fun!

Have fun exploring Chicago! XO – Claire

Women Who MAKE: The Nate Berkus Studio Team

Hello world! I’m super smoking excited to bring you this month’s Women Who MAKE interview x3! As some of you may know, this summer I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a project management intern at Nate Berkus (on the interior design side of things). There is also an amazing studio team that works closely with Nate on all his branded products. The three beauties pictured below (and above) are the team who make it happen! You know that amazing NB pillow, blanket, lamp, table setting, the list goes on – these gals worked to take it from concept to reality to your local Target store shelf. They are also kind and gracious to interns : )

I could ramble on forever about how creative, inspiring and just darn nice these women are, but I’ll let you hear from them yourself. Also, don’t miss the Nate Berkus at Target + Centered By Design giveaway on Instagram!

Photography for Centered By Design by: Carolina Mariana

nate berkus studio for centered by design

Name, Age, Title & Years at the Company: (ladies pictured above from left to right)

  • Meredith Smerchek, 35, Art Director, 7 years at NB
  • Tara Shade, 39, Creative Director, 9 years at NB
  • Gabrielle Exner, 24, Design Assistant, 2 years at NB

What is your first memory of making [art]?

Gabby: I remember drawing a self-portrait in Kindergarten and making the *artistic choice* to draw my nose with a purple crayon. My teacher expressed her disapproval and despite being an enormous teacher’s pet at the time, I stood up to her! Well, specifically, I said “SO…” with enough ‘tude to warrant being taken back by the cubbies and yelled at for “talking back”. The fact that I was scarred by that moment for months aside, I like to think that was my first artistic statement.

Tara: “Painting” with water on the slate sidewalks of my family home. Armed with a bucket of water and a house-painting brush, and I’d go to town making drawings as quickly as I could before they’d evaporate.

Meredith: When I was little, I absolutely loved Mr. Sketch markers. In fact, I loved them so much I decided to “decorate” all of my sister’s clothes with them! I don’t think my parents were seeing my “creativity” as a positive attribute at that point.


How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to interview for and land your current role?

Tara: I’d been through many interview and presentation scenarios for the advertising jobs I had held in the past. I felt strong as a designer, was seeking new possibilities, and found myself intrigued by the interior and product design angle of the job.

Gabby: I went to school for studio art and business; I knew I wanted a creative job but I didn’t know what it would look like. I didn’t think the gallery world/artist lifestyle was right for me, but I didn’t want to let go of making in some capacity. After school, I snagged an internship with NB Studio and was elated that a job like this even existed. I loved it and it must’ve shown; after a couple semesters I was hired on. I believe that if you work hard and like what you’re doing (with a dash of luck), good things will happen.


Tell us about the process of designing products for Nate’s home and fabric lines. Best parts? Biggest challenges?

Meredith: For me, the best parts are also the biggest challenges. I absolutely love to see our products out on store shelves, but I’m always looking at every collection thinking, how we can make it better, what can we do differently next time? The best part is being creative on a daily basis, but there are times when you really have to push to make sure you’re thinking outside the box and not getting stuck in one direction. I love the design process with Nate. He’s got such a great eye, and is always empowering us to be our best, most creative selves.

Gabby: We work very closely with Nate and his collaborators to help bring his product ideas to life! I also help create original patterns for Nate’s fabric lines, Target items, and whatever else may come our way. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job; I love to experiment with combining hand-made and digital techniques. There are so many steps between our team’s initial concept and what you see on the shelf at Target or on a roll at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. There are a lot of opportunities for things to go awry or change but that’s also what makes our job rewarding! When things turn out really well or surprise you, it’s that much sweeter.

women who make nate berkus centered by design

Do you have a funny story to share about a product that never saw the light of day, but you loved?

Tara: I loved the idea (ital.) of this product: a wooden branch centerpiece, coated in silver leaf. For a whole bunch of reasons, it came back as a chunky metal log, complete with an end that resembled an open beak. It was a weird sort of log/bird hybrid. We named him Walter. Oh, Walter.

Meredith: Ha! Well, we had a llama figural that came out a few years ago, and for some reason, we could not get the shape right to save our lives. We finally got it, but ended up with about 10 “misfit” llamas of all shapes and sizes, that we affectionately called “The Llama Farm.” I loved those little guys!


What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?

Gabby: Working on initial concepts for any line…be it a mood board, fabric patterns, or a product sketch is so fun it honestly makes me feel spoiled. As great as it is to find amazing imagery on Pinterest, catch a gallery show, or check out vintage pieces I could never afford, working so closely with such talented, creative people inspires me the most. I think it takes a special team to take all that inspiration and translate it into something that’s well made and affordable.I also love when I’m perusing social media and I unexpectedly spot a Nate product. It inspires me to see how people use the collection in their home, at work and beyond.

Meredith: I love the moment when I become inspired—especially if I’m worried that it may not come! That feeling never gets old. I’m always extremely grateful. When it comes to inspiration, I’m all over the place. There are a million visual things, and they are always changing. I think what drives me to be inspired in the first place are the people around me and my relationships with them; Nate, and the awe-inspiring design team at NB Studio.

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What is the best advice you have for other creatives, artists, or those wanting to work in similar fields?

Tara: Follow your creative nature and stay open to the opportunities that arise.

Gabby: If I’ve learned anything from my own search for a creative job, it’s that there are opportunities to work creatively in so many different capacities nowadays. If you keep an open mind and you are willing to experiment, you’ll find something that encompasses all of your interests and passions.

Meredith: Never be afraid of making mistakes. Let yourself go creatively. You can always reign it back in (if you need to).

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Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it? (Editor’s note: The team has fully embraced Nate’s design philosophy!).

live only with what you really love nate berkus

Which product are you most excited to see come to the market in 2016 (or however far out you are planning!)

Gabby: I’m excited about this large decorative mirror coming out for the Fall/Holiday season, big impact at a Target price point!

Meredith:  I can’t wait for the Holiday 2015 collection to land in Target stores come the fall.  There’s such a rich mix of materials and item types that are new for us, I’m excited for people to see it all.

Tara: There are so many great 2016 products coming down the pipeline, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I’m excited for the fall/winter 2015 holiday offering at Target. There’s a cheese tray and these gorgeous serving utensils that knock my socks off every time I see them.


Has there been a runaway best selling item or fabric?

Gabby: The white furry stool from the 2014 holiday season! LOVE that people embraced such a playful item.

Meredith: People LOVE themselves a turtle! Our very first season with Target, the collection included a resin tortoise shell wall art inspired by an actual tortoise shell that Nate’s mom found on her honeymoon years ago. It was such a hit…people are still talking about them. Recently, we did sandcasted metal tortoise shell boxes that Target guests went mad for.


What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago?

Meredith: I love that you can find it all around you—whether its expected or not. I recently went to a gallery show in a basement that was incredible! Also, there is such a strong teaching community here. I love taking classes and each time I meet amazing people (teachers and classmates!) that I learn so much from.

Tara: The community is so, so large, with really tight-knit pockets, and the support I see within these collectives is strong. I have a group of friends passionate about fiber arts, and we meet up and share both creative and social time. People work hard and live their craft.


Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?

Gabby: I’ve always enjoyed working creatively and I definitely think doing what I love “centers” me. Any stress that I experience feels worth it. Creating patterns can even feel meditative for me at times. All that being said, I still have those less-than-zen, step-away-from-the-Pinterest moments.

Tara: I’d like to think so. To me, design is an answer, a resolution. Once I see or land on a design that is on-point, I feel elated. There’s nothing more satisfying than, “Yes! That’s it!”

Meredith: Absolutely— I love the moments when I’m completely immersed in a pattern or sketch and suddenly there is no concept of time or judgment. There are no mistakes, and there is no “perfect.”  It’s tricky to describe with words, but the closest I can come is that it feels like home!

Nate Berkus Studio Team’s Chicago Favorites (Editor’s note: This is a selection of answers from all the ladies in no particular order). 

  • Favorite spot to get inspired:

Gabby: I’m the weirdo that could get inspired anywhere; don’t be surprised if you see me snapping a photo of what appears to be a decrepit window grate because “it has a really cool pattern”

Meredith: Anywhere I’ve never been before. I always get the most inspired when I step outside of my daily routine/comfort zone.

  • Favorite florist: Kennicott Brothers, Sprout Home, Trader Joe’s, Asrai Gardens, Fleur, Foxglove Studio and Flowers for Dreams.
  • Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture: Crossing the border for estate sales in WI, Pavilion, Scout Chicago, Randolph Antique Market, and Target, of course!
  • Favorite place for coffee: Atomix Cafe & Star Lounge
  • Favorite place for a sweet treat: Black Dog Gelato, West Town Bakery & Miko’s Italian Ice!


Many thanks to Meredith, Tara and Gabby for being game to share on Women Who MAKE! You can see more of their work by visiting the full range of Nate Berkus at Target Products and Nate Berkus at Joann: Fabric and CraftDon’t for get to tag your NB finds #MyNateBerkus as well!

And just to sweeten this deal a little bit more the NB team is gifting a lucky reader some gorgeous office accessories! To enter simply follow me on Instagram and Facebook, and tag a friend in need of some major desk organization assistance! You’ll both be entered to win (reposting the picture below gets you entries x3). One winner will be chosen Friday, July 3rd through a random selection, will be contacted by 12am CST and be mailed the collection of office items next week. Good luck!



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The Art of Layering Rugs

Layering rugs isn’t exactly a new trend, but with the recent explosion of bohemian decorating options for the masses, my pinterest page as been blowing up with kilim style rugs layered over larger jute rugs. It’s one thing to see these styled shots in photo shoots, or more often, editorial photo shoots for catalogs, but it’s much harder to make this look actually work at home. I’ve had a few projects lately where we (me and the client) were considering the layered rug look and it can be tricky business!

Layering is AWESOME for creating texture, which I think is really its main function (plus adding a good dose of color depending on your palette). Additionally, kilim style rugs are often pricy and found in smaller sizes since they are very labor intensive to make. Using a neutral backdrop, such as a jute or sisal rug allows you to showcase a gorgeous, smaller woven rug without the giant price tag.

I’ve pulled together some of my favorite photographs, which illustrate the methods or “looks” that I like best for layering and translate most easily into “real-life” decorating.

#1 – Layering in a Hallway: Transitional spaces are often overlooked and left empty. Using the layered rug look could bring some real life and color into an otherwise dull area of your home.

layering rugs hallway rug

Image via

layering rugs hallway rug

Image via

#2 – Neutral Area Rug + Highlight Rug: The key to this look is that your neutral rug and highlight rug are proportional. The base rug should be large enough for the space, and hold the highlight rug nicely with a border around all sides. You want to see the two rugs together, and how they interact with one another.

layering rugs living room

Image via

layering rugs living room

Image via

layering rugs living room

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layering rugs living room

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Image via clothandkind on instagram

Image via clothandkind on instagram

Image via ashleytstark on instagram

Image via ashleytstark on instagram

#3 – The Real Boho Look: This look is for the textile collector or true lover of bohemian style. It’s ultra layered, eclectic, and works best if the whole floor or area is covered. It’s best to work off a color scheme here. As you can see from the photos, each room has rugs with a central color or two.

layering rugs living room

Image from Ikea via Refinery29

layering rugs living room

Image via OneKingsLane – Katie Tarses home

Image via

Image via

Can’t wait to share some photos of my own projects with layered rugs, but for now these will have to do! What do you think? Do you like the layered look? Any of the three options appeal to you the most?


Centered By Design is featured in Germany!

I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from German design blogger Maria Spassov a few weeks ago. Through the wonders of the web, Maria had found my work online and thought it was compelling enough to ask me for an interview, which she would share with her blog readers in Germany. I was touched!

The interview went live this week! Maria asks REALLY GOOD questions about life and design. Here are a few examples of her stellar questions:

  • Imagine you’re teaching a class in the school of life. What would be your tips?
  • How do you achieve good scale in design? Scale is a really interesting and difficult topic.
  • Some designers believe that the first piece for any room is the rug or a painting that sets the color palette. What is your first source of inspiration?

Read the FULL INTERVIEW and browse Maria’s other great design-related posts. Also, even cooler news is that Maria just launched an E-BOOK that is quickly becoming a top pick on Amazon.

In Maria’s words, “The ebook offers a window into the life and mind of some of the greatest designers and architects of our time. I so hope that you’ll enjoy my interviews with Kelly Wearstler, Jonathan Adler, Marc Newson, Vicente Wolf, Tom Kundig, Michael Graves, Kelly Behun, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard and many others. The interviews answer various questions about design, architecture, daily routines, favorite books, success and happiness.”

Here’s the cover photo:


I can’t wait to dive into this book and read all Maria’s great interviews. Thanks so much for the feature Design Elements and Maria!


The Art of Styling with Baskets

True confession: I have a compulsive basket buying habitat. So many shapes, sizes, colors and uses baskets are where it’s at my friends. They are relatively inexpensive and carried at almost every retailer these days. You can usually find awesome baskets at resale shops, flea markets, and if you’re traveling, make sure to check out baskets that might be native to that particular country. Opportunity for major basket scores abroad!

I also use baskets ALL THE TIME when styling photos. They can fill up dead space, keep shots looking organized, add needed texture, become a planter, toilet paper storage and the list goes on.

Here are some of my personal basket styling shots:

basket planter styling

Basket as a plant holder.


Baskets to fill in empty space and cover vents.


Bedroom basket mostly to look pretty.


Vintage picnic basket for shelf decoration.


Medium size basket to hold papers and drawings.

Here are a few basket styling ideas I’ve got on my list to try:


Baskets as wall art installation. Image via FieldStoneHillDesign.


Baskets on hanging pegs. I think this would be great in a laundry room. Image via Pinterest.


Bathroom basket for TP. Image via

Here are some of the baskets I’m loving and the links where you can find them too!


  1. Eliza Gran Studio – Pom Pom Baskets
  2. Territory Designs – Oaxaca Indigo Basket
  3. Ballard Designs – Wicker Chest 
  4. West Elm – Graphic Oversized Baskets
  5. Baskets of Africa – Ghana Bolga Style

Got a brilliant basket idea? Let me know what it is!


Style Your Dresser Three Ways: Boho, Romantic or Glam

If you caught Monday’s blog post, you probably saw the gorgeous photos of custom painted furniture at MegMade. I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to have some fun with one of Meg’s awesome pieces. I spotted a gorgeous black and wood dresser with some brass details.

I thought it’d be interesting to try styling the same piece in three different styles. 1. To show how versatile a piece of transitional furniture can be, and 2. Because sometimes you don’t know what look you’ll really love until you pull all the elements together. If one of the looks suits you best, I’ve listed some resources under the roundup collages.

Also, these kind of knick-knacks are perfect for your thrifting list. Jot down a few items you’ll need on a post-it and stick it in your wallet. Next time you find yourself at a second hand store or flea market, you’ll have that list of things to keep your eye out for!

Don’t miss my very exciting .gif at the end of the post! (I’m very proud of my first .gif – haha, hopefully I’ll advance my .gif skills quickly).


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ROUNDUP RESOURCES: Textiles – Territory Design, Tote Bag – Noonday Collection, Plants – Alapash Home, Bowl – IKEA, Jewelry – Free People


WWM-MegMade-5778 glamdresser GlamAccessories

ROUNDUP RESOURCES: Lamp – 1st Dibs, Birdcage – One Kings Lane, Starburst Mirror – Target, Candleholder – Domino, Vintage Replica Trunk – Wayfair, Marbled Paper – Calico Wallpaper


WWM-MegMade-5883 romanticdresser RomanticAccessories

Lipstick – Anthropologie, Vintage Handkerchief, Dried Seeded Eucalyptus, Vintage Printable Artwork, Brass Bowl – Nate Berkus for Target, Vintage Books and Lace Jewelry

Do you have a favorite look? I’d love to know which one it is, leave me a comment below!



Women Who MAKE: MegMade

There is so much good stuff happening with this month’s Women Who Make!

  • #1 – My interview with Meg Piercy was so much fun. She is a down-to-earth, hardworking, family and business-oriented lady with creativity out the wazoo! I’ve been following Meg since her first little store front on Montrose, and have been incredibly inspired and impressed with how she’s grown her furniture business.
  • #2 – The lovely and talented, Carolina Mariana, has graciously lent her amazing eye to the Women Who Make monthly series!  All of these photos were taken by Carolina, who you can find on Instagram or the Web.
  • #3 – MegMade is having a Grand Opening Party the last weekend of June and you’re invited! Check Meg’s blog to find out details, which are coming soon. Also, anyone who mentions Centered By Design will get 10% off at MegMade during June!
  • #4 – Stay tuned to this blog for two more collaborations from Centered By Design & MegMade! We’re styling one dresser three ways, and taking some trash and turning it into treasure for a top-secret before and after reveal coming later this summer.


Name: Meg Piercy

Age: 31

Current title/company name: Owner, MegMade, Inc.

Years in operation: 2


What is your first memory of making [art]/being creative?

I remember when I was little; I would color in coloring books, and then go to the neighbors and sell them. They would pay me in quarters for my artwork. Little did I know my mom had given them the money in advance, and I didn’t find this until a few years ago! I guess entrepreneurship was in my blood from when I was a wee little one.

How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs, risk takers. They always encouraged going out and spreading your wings. I worked as a consultant and project manager for a while before I had my son, and that definitely helped me learn processes and the importance that the business side has in the creative field.

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Tell us about the process of launching your own business, Meg Made. Best parts? Biggest challenge?

The interesting thing for MegMade is that it kind of started by accident. My husband was starting his business at the time and we were broke, so I painted our sons changing table. Then I just got addicted to painting furniture because of the awesome before and afters! The biggest challenge of owning your own business is trusting that each month we will be able to sell enough pieces to cover all of the costs, but the good far outweigh the bad. We love owning our own business, providing jobs for so many people and of course seeing the look on our customers’ faces when they see the finished product in their home!

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What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?

My favorite part is how something that was once considered garbage, with a little love, can be made beautiful again. I love looking at the pieces when they are dropped off and seeing what they can be once finished. I can actually picture what it will look like and that makes me excited.


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What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs?

Stay focused. Do one or two things really well and then add on. If you try to do all things at once, you will go crazy and get burnt out.

Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some West Elm and Restoration Hardware, but what I especially love are things that no one else will have. Something special. That is why we love what we create here because chances are, even if someone has the same piece of furniture, it was not finished the same way.

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You’ve grown your business quickly from a tiny storefront to a giant store and warehouse! Did you always have a plan for expansion? Where is MegMade headed in the next 3 – 5 years?

I clearly remember when we were painting our tenth dresser or so during our first-borns nap time (in our hallway), my husband said, this is going to get big, really big. With his confidence, we signed our first lease a year and a half ago for our teeny tiny storefront. Needless to say, he was right, we now have a 7,800 square foot showroom.

As for our future, there are a lot of options that we are considering, but first we want to make sure we have the process and people in place to make it happen! 

Do you have a most popular item?

Because each of our pieces are one-of-a-kind, it is hard to say, but we for sure sell a TON of changing tables! We break our style down into Frenchy, MCM, Traditional and Transitional. I would say we sell Transitional pieces most often.


What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago?

Creative people have a way of seeing the world that is so different than anyone else. I love going out to the lake or downtown with my friends that are also in the creative industry because it’s the little things that catch their eye and transcend into their next creative project. That is inspiring.

Centered By Design is my business name , but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?

Well, it is called MegMade because every time we had friend over my husband would constantly say, “Meg made this” or “Meg made that,” thus MegMade. So for sure, creating is where I find my happy place. I find my sanctuary in my faith and prayer, but for sure find a lot of joy in creating.

Meg’s Chicago Favorites:

  • Favorite spot to get inspired: The paint room at MegMade
  • Favorite florist: Trader Joe’s
  • Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture/thrift: Randolph Street Flea Market
  • Favorite place for coffee: Heritage Bicycle’s General Store
  • Favorite place for a sweet treat: Gonna be honest, can’t beat blizzards from Dairy Queen


Thanks for reading! You can find out more about MegMade and shop HERE. Sign-up for my RSS feed to never miss a post, including next month’s Women Who MAKE, which is going to be a triple threat!



Color Trends: I’m Loving Black & White Gingham

Gingham is a funny word to say and spell. It’s a light-weight cotton fabric that usually consist of white stripes paired with a bold color to create a checked pattern. Everybody remembers Dorothy’s blue dress from The Wizard of Oz, right? Well, that’s blue gingham. You might also conjure up some images of your grandmother’s red and white checked summer table cloth.

Gingham is making the rounds in fashion and interior design this season (more than I’ve ever noticed before). It’s always been a classic look for bathing suits, and often reappears in the summertime since it’s lightweight and casual. I’m personally a huge fan of black and white gingham. It’s so fresh, clean and classic! You really can’t go wrong wearing it, or styling your home with it for that matter. For your interior, a simple and contemporary look would be to pair a gingham table cloth with some modern chairs (see pic below). Instant cool! Pastel gingham would also look adorable as bedding or accents in kids’ rooms.

Take a look at some of the black and white gingham fashions and interiors I’m loving lately. All items are linked below!


Go get your preppy on!


Speaking Engagement at WeWork

I’m honored to have the opportunity to share more about my career journey with Quarterlette and WeWork next Wednesday evening. YOU are invited (there is also free food and goodie bags!). I would love, love, love to see some friendly, smiling faces in the audience, and I have lots to share with you, as do the other three career driven ladies speaking.

You might remember this blog post, Navigating a Career Change with Compassion, which I wrote about starting my new career path at age 30. This is a great place to start if you can’t make it to the event, but are interested in taking some baby steps towards a new career path.

Here are two of my favorite career related quotes (for me personally), but I think they can apply to everyone. I’ll be using these in my talk on Wednesday.

  • “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso
  • “An interior is the natural projection of the soul.” – Coco Chanel

Below is some more information about the event. If you’d like to attend please RSVP to the Eventbrite invite.

Join the Co-Founders of on May 27th at WeWork River North for a special girls’ night networking event and speaker series. We’ll be highlighting four dynamic women with completely different career paths — an interior designer who launched her own design firm, a social impact entrepreneur, a fashion entrepreneur, and PhD student studying Industrial Engineering. All 4 women will be sharing their unique career stories and talking candidly about the ups and the downs they have encountered (or are still encountering!) as they build meaningful careers. Whether you’re looking to change jobs, hear some great professional advice, or simply be inspired to go down a new path, join us for what’s sure to be a great evening. In addition to hearing from our speakers, we’ll have some treats for you to enjoy, gift bags to take home, and time for networking with all of our amazing guests. #QLmixandmingle (yes, men are welcome to attend as well).


Claire Staszak, Interior Designer + Yoga Teacher, Centered By Design

  • Taking the time to re-center ourselves and find a personal sanctuary is more important than ever in today’s fragmented and fast-paced world. I believe that sanctuary is much closer to home (literally!) than you think. My approach to working with clients blends my intuitive nature as a yoga instructor with my passion for interior design. I see on a daily basis how the connection between the body, mind, and our physical environment can have powerful influences on personal well-being. Whether your ideal space is an avant-garde apartment, modern family home, or innovative office, I would love to help you create your perfect sanctuary.

Jackie Ng, PhD Candidate in the Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences department at Northwestern University.

  • Her research interests lie in using analytical and statistical tools in the areas of new product development and business model innovation. Prior to starting her PhD studies, Jackie worked at Morgan Stanley and Microsoft. She has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a MBA from Columbia University. She also enjoys skiing, tennis and traveling in her spare time.

Nicole Yeary, President and Founder of Ms.Tech a social impact focused organization based in Chicago.

  • Nicole has spent over fifteen years leading Fortune 500 companies in Direct Sales, Marketing Services, and Learning Development and the last seven years working for, with, advising, and building, startup companies. In just under a year, Ms. Tech was recognized in “Crain’s Guide to Networking” as one of “Six Great Tech Groups, practically guaranteed to commune with the scene’s best and brightest!”

Alex Batdorf, CMO of ZipFit Denim

  • A Chicago based startup helping men find perfect fitting jeans fast using their proprietary technology. Prior to ZipFit, she worked in marketing for brands such as Valspar, Chicago-based fashion brand Lara Miller, Booth School of Business and Starcom Mediavest Group. She studied Sociology at the University of Chicago. 



I would LOVE to see you there!


Flea Market Fabulous

Summer flea market season officially opens this weekend!

Here in Chicago, it’s marked by the Randolph Street Market taking their festivities outside. I’m super excited that this year, I’ve been invited to the media breakfast and early buy (before the market opens) to mark my favorite vintage finds with a green ribbon. If you’re in Chicago and shopping the market keep your eyes peeled for the green ribbons. Lots of design lovers, bloggers, and media are invited to pick their favorites. Trust me, I can’t bring everything I love home, so I’ll mark the good stuff for you too!

If you don’t live in Chicago, or you’re out-of-town for the holiday here’s a 2014 USA Today article listing 10 of the best vintage flea markets in the states.

It’s always good to be prepared when you go to any flea market. You may have bargaining in your genes (thanks mom), but being prepared means you’re more likely to score the right items at a fair price. Here’s my top 10 list for getting Flea Market Fabulous!

  1. BRING CASH. Yes, most people take cards theses days, but having cash is always better for bargaining and sometimes you won’t have to pay tax with a cash exchange. It can also be a good way to limit your spending.
  2. DRESS A LITTLE SHABBY. This was a good tip from a friend. Cute new outfit? Don’t wear it to a flea market. This is old, dirty stuff and if you’re buying you’ll probably be lugging it around yourself. Also, it’s not easy to haggle for a discount with that Fendi bag on your shoulder. See what I mean?
  3. MAKE A LIST. I always have specific items I’m shopping for and I write them down to remind myself what I’m actually looking for. It’s so easy to get distracted! Easy decorative items to carry and buy could be lamps, mirrors, clocks, barware, and possibly rugs.
  4. TAKE MEASUREMENTS. If you are looking for a dresser, cabinet, credenza or the like make sure you know the size of the space you are going to place the piece in. Measure the height, depth, and width and write it on your shopping list.
  5. BRING A TAPE MEASURE. Whelp, having the measurements written down won’t do you any good if you can’t measure the piece when you see the perfect thing!
  6. WEAR A BACKPACK. I like to have both hands free for measuring, moving items around, and eventually carrying items I’ve purchased on both arms. Put your measuring tape, a poncho, a water bottle, sunscreen and cash in your bag and you are good to go!
  7. ALWAYS OFFER LESS. Items are usually priced high because vendors know people want to bargain, also they need room to lower prices at the end of the day or weekend. Don’t offer something insulting, but $5 – $25 less than marked is always fine in my book.
  8. KNOW WHERE YOUR CAR IS PARKED. If you are really serious about shopping for big items you need a car. Know what will fit in your car and where your car is actually parked if it’s a huge lot. Most likely you’ll be making a few trips to the car, or you’ll have a nice vendor who will help you transport the large item to your car.
  9. BRING A BUDDY. Having a friend with you is a great idea (this friend needs to love flea markets too). Two sets of eyes helps, and this person can be your back up on crunch time decisions, bargaining fiascos, and they can help you carry stuff to the car!
  10. DIG, DIG, DIG! Look in the sale bin, move things around, try to see what everyone else is missing. That’s where you strike GOLD my friend.

Here are a few pictures from my recent flea market and thrifting adventures.


Don Kelly’s in Northern Michigan. Awesome spot!


Where wicker chairs go to die.


My packed car after Wolf’s Flea at the Allstate Arena near Chicago.


Headboard score that I’ll most likely use as a wall hanging.

Good luck and happy hunting!