Skokie store part of Ethan Allen’s 80th birthday
Mia Kytola speaks about her ideas for designing rooms at Ethan Allen in Skokie. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
ETHAN ALLEN — SKOKIE
Where: 10001 Skokie Blvd.
Phone: (847) 675-5600
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:23AM
SKOKIE — Suppose you had 10 innovative and wholly original decorators to remodel and reshape a very large space separated by more than a dozen rooms.
It may end up looking like Skokie’s Ethan Allen store, which sits across from the Westfield Old Orchard shopping center on the northeast side of the street. Those who drive by the well-known home furniture business, one of about 300 Ethan Allens throughout the country and even beyond, might never accurately guess its spacious size.
Try taking a room-to-room tour, and getting lost along the way is a distinct possibility.
Ethan Allen celebrated its 80th birthday only a few months ago; its CEO Farooq Kathwari threw a weekend party attended by many including Elise Schreiber, Design Center Manager for the Skokie store.
“It was quite terrific,” she said.
Schreiber had her own design business downtown for 15 years before she jumped to Ethan Allen about 18 months ago.
“I really was enticed with the business end of Ethan Allen,” Schreiber said.
Ethan Allen designs and builds its own furniture, which is one of its greatest selling points to customers. It also cuts down on the cost that way.
“They do everything here, which is especially exciting,” she said.
She inherited seven talented designers and brought three more on herself. The designers work with clients from start to finish, coming to their homes and seeing a project through until the furniture is installed, the room remade.
Designer Mia Kytola and a client began a home room project with neutral-colored abstract paintings that the client loved. Furniture and decorations have been built around the art pieces to the client’s satisfaction, and a corner of one of the Ethan Allen rooms shows the impressive work in progress.
The designers love their jobs, and it’s easy to see why; no two assignments are ever alike, each new project has its own set of challenges and rewards.
Ethan Allen began in 1932 when two brothers-in-law founded the Braumitter Corp. and began selling small housewares. Four years later, they purchased a bankrupt factory in Vermont where they began producing a 28-piece line of Early American furnishings.
The store was named after a Revolutionary War hero who played a key role in getting Vermont admitted as the 14th state.
Like most corporate businesses, Ethan Allen stores are designed similarly, but Schreiber said there is still freedom for individual creativity, and that’s certainly true for the designers.
Ethan Allen designer furniture falls under five “signature lifestyles” that include elegance, vintage, modern, romance and explorer, but each of the several creative designers who recently helped guide our informal tour of the store said they mix those “lifestyles” to create ideal rooms for their clients.
Examples of their work are always on display at Ethan Allen. The show rooms are consistently rearranged and re-decorated, one beautifully designed room after another.
Only one Ethan Allen room on the tour was not a decorated showpiece; a large open space where decorators can take their clients and study different colors and fabrics together.
They can plan together.
It’s like the artist who loves a blank canvass because it opens up so many possibilities.
“This is where so many ideas are worked out,” Schreiber said before leading us to the next exquisite room. “It’s here where our designers and clients can put their project together.”