February 20, 2024

A Day with Chicago Designer Tom Stringer

Tom Stringer is no homebody. In fact, the designer (who vividly captured his transformative experience traveling through Namibia for AD PRO’s Designer Takeover series) holds travel so dear that his journeys – and their influence on his design – were the subject of his 2017 book, An Adventurous Life (Images Publishing, $60).

His extensive travel bleeds into all he does, but still, Stringer maintains a soft spot for his hometown of Chicago. Here, AD PRO shadows Stringer for a day of work in the Windy City.

Designer Tom Stringer.

6:00 A. M.

Rise and shine! My crazy pups Tucker (a four-year-old American Eskimo) and Jonah (a three-year-old Bichon Poodle) are running circles around me, as they do every morning. I head down to the kitchen for a cup of coffee (my first of many for the day! ), The New York Times, and some cuddle time with the dogs on the sofa.

6:30 A. M.

I head for the gym (conveniently located in the basement of my home or I’d never go! ) and spend a half hour on the Peloton with my favorite coach, Cody Rigsby. After a trip to Japan this winter, I’ve also begun meditation each morning and I find this to be a perfect postworkout cool-down.

7:30 A. M.

I head back upstairs to my home office off the library, look at my schedule for the day, and catch up on a small mountain of emails from the day before. This is a neverending battle.

8:30 A. M.

I shower, dress, and head off to the office. It’s luckily a short ride on Lake Shore Drive to my new office in the Palmolive Building on Chicago’s Mag Mile. I take in the Lake Michigan scenery and the gorgeous Chicago skyline and am reminded every day of why I love this city.

9:30 A. M.

The morning kicks off with my first meeting of the day with my design team. We are working on a new construction, full-floor luxury high-rise condo in Chicago’s historic Gold Coast, our second project for this client. We are currently incorporating a massive pair of bronze and brass antique doors into the foyer that the clients picked up in their travels to India.

Swatches on display during a design meeting.

A living room designed by Stringer.

10:45 A. M.

I head over to the Arts Club of Chicago for a quick walk-through to begin planning a film screening I will be hosting for one of my favorite artists, L. A. -based Cole Sternberg, on June 26. His beautiful work currently resides in my living room and is the first to greet guests. Series of his work have focused on a variety of social issues, from current human rights activism and its relationship to the law to the environment to the media and concepts of content overload. I am very excited to host a screening to celebrate his new film, Are the Green Fields Gone? It is a documentary told in short stories that chronicles the maiden voyage of a vessel across the Pacific as he creates his massive paintings on the ship.

12:00 P. M.

Time to energize and refuel. It’s back to the office, and lunch has arrived! Every day, my office orders in from a different restaurant in the city to try. Our team of 20 gathers in what we’ve dubbed the Quad – the four walnut-top Saarinen tables. Weather permitting, lunch moves to our lovely new terrace for some alfresco dining! This established lunch hour every day serves as a great opportunity to catch up with the members of my team and forces everyone to take a break from their desks.

The conference room at Stringer’s office.

1:00 P. M.

I have a conference call with my marketing team in L. A. to discuss the details of upcoming book tour events for my new book, An Adventurous Life. We have an exciting schedule ahead, with a few hometown events in Chicago, as well as Michigan and San Francisco. Next up is NeoCon at the Merchandise Mart here in Chicago, which is celebrating its 50th year. I am thrilled to be partnering with Holly Hunt for a luncheon and book signing in her beautiful Chicago showroom. Holly graciously lent her voice to the foreword of my book, and her table, aptly, graces the front cover as well!

1:45 P. M.

Next design meeting is for a new Santa Barbara property for a television producer. It is brand-new construction, right on the beach overlooking the Pacific. Framing is under way and we are currently sourcing furniture, including a mix of Moroccan tiles and lighting and interesting antiques. It is going to be a California-cool, global-inspired beachside getaway.

3:15 P. M.

The conference room is all set up for our client meeting with the Alinea Group. After redesigning the James Beard–winning restaurant Alinea last year, we are excited to be working with the team again on their newest Chicago concept, a fine-dining jazz restaurant in the West Loop.

Stringer’s dining room.

5:45 P. M.

I drive to the North Shore to attend an evening board meeting for Northlight Theatre, one of Chicago’s largest nonprofit professional theaters. On the agenda: a new building for the theater!

8:00 P. M.

I head home for a late dinner with my husband, Scott, and am greeted by my crazy pups, Tucker and Jonah, who are once again running circles around me.

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