When a city has such a rich tradition of historically important architecture, it needs the interior touches to match. Chicago is an active hub for the interior design industry. Each year Chicago’s Merchandise Mart houses NeoCon, the largest international interior design convention. And with hundreds of showrooms, the Design Center at the Merchandise Mart is the world’s largest resource for custom home furnishings and interior design. Ten of the most active and respected design firms in Chicago are ranked below, and each help their clients transform their spaces in outstanding ways.
In 2016, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the Windy City is leading the nation in corporate growth. Expanding tech startups and enterprise-level organizations alike are calling the Loop home. They’re taking over multiple levels of downtown highrises and requiring more space with consistent branding and high-tech capabilities. Or they’re moving into the Merchandise Mart where they can occupy tens of thousands of square feet on one floor. Open collaborative workspaces is the hot new trend — minimal interiors offer companies maximum flexibility and possibilities for expansion. The best design firms tasked with building or revamping major corporate spaces are ranked below, highlighted for their ability to turn unique spaces into workable offices for some of the top businesses in the area.
Chicago is the Midwest mecca for restaurant innovation. The city is home to the Alinea Group, whose restaurants offer some of the best experiential dining establishments in the country. The craft cocktail business is thriving, with a history of infamous bars and lounges dating back to Prohibition. But the Midwest is truly known for its unique blend of casual and couture, as displayed by one of America’s top chefs Stephanie Izard, who offers upscale dining experiences with a retro diner theme. Chicago’s got a little bit of everything, and the city’s diverse restaurant designers, in turn, are prepared to offer a wide range of styles. The firms listed here have elevated the restaurant scene by designing spaces that embody their clients’ visions. They have been recognized by industry professionals and have won awards for their projects.
Chicago’s residential design-build firms are setting a high standard with two trends in elegant, family-friendly dwellings. The firms are buying up oversized lots in upscale neighborhoods, like the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park, and offering ready-to-build custom designs perfect for the area. In downtown highrises, as well as in neighboring North Shore suburbs, design-build firms are winning awards for their historically sensitive renovations. Whether it’s expanding or renovating an existing home or starting from scratch, these design firms are offering first rate services from the design phase through the finished product. Ranked below are Chicago-based firms receiving attention in local and national publications, winning awards for their exemplary customer service and designs, and designing award-winning homes.
Ever since claiming the world’s first skyscraper in 1884, the Windy City has been a leader in design innovation — a tradition that continues today. Chicago architects drive eco-friendly and smart city design practices, create new ways of thinking about the relationship between people and urban spaces, and push the limitations of the sky. Among their recent accomplishments, Chicago-based architects designed the first net-zero energy skyscraper, the tallest building in the world, and the tallest building in the world designed by a female-led firm. Chicago-based firms are ranked below based on innovation, high quality, previous accolades and experience, and on their active contributions to shaping the city’s urban landscape.
Chicago architects continue to pay tribute to the legacy of world-renowned architects of yesteryear who made their home in the city. Architects like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright set the standard with pragmatic, environmentally focused designs. While the city’s easily accessible suburbs provide opportunities for historic rehabs and new green-focused construction, the real trend is an influx of people moving into the city, seeking an urban oasis in trendy neighborhoods like Lincoln Square and River North. Major renovation projects are giving the city’s row homes and condos new life. Chicago’s new urban designs blend modern and classic elements and focus on sustainability, privacy, natural light, and simple elegant spaces. The following 10 architectural firms are ranked according to their prestige, accolades, industry recognition, and forward-thinking designs.