While visiting France a few years ago, a friend and I checked into a posh hotel. The concierge showed us to our room, which was fabulous save one quirk—the bathroom was in a clear glass cube in the center of the room. My travel buddy and I weren’t even on pee-with-the-door-open terms, so a glass-box shower show was out of the question. With an exasperated eye roll reserved for prudish Americans, the concierge escorted us to another room. This bathroom still had glass walls, but at least they were frosted. I began to think the see-through bathroom was a forward-thinking design element distinct to French libertines, so I was surprised to see this concept again on a recent visit to a Humboldt Park town house designed by Chicago native Liz Klafeta. One wall in her second-level bathroom is transparent floor-to-ceiling glass. It's subtle in comparison to the French version, so it wasn't until after flushing that I realized I had a clear view of people milling about below. Frantically, I replayed the bathroom visit in my mind, hoping I hadn’t done anything embarrassing."I want people to walk in and be like, 'What the heck?!'" says Klafeta, 32, the founder of the boutique apartment rental company Bangtel. With the two-year-old startup the designer applies her over-the-top style to furnished rental properties currently available in Chicago and New York. The business began with the first house Klafeta ever designed—her own.
When musician and gardener Ellen Bunch moved into her Irving Park house in 2010, the small backyard featured the typical urban flora: grass and weeds, mostly, along with a few beat-up rose bushes. Five years later, the yard is thick with organic flowers, herbs, and vegetables—plus it’s a haven for bees, monarch butterflies, and the occasional squirrel feasting on the mulberry tree.
At M1 Interactive headquarters, visitors are greeted by a T. rex, jaws agape, baring killer fangs, and ferociously charging. Sure, the dino is a hologram on a pedestal that stands less than a foot tall, but its gait is visceral enough to trigger my fight-or-flight response. A 3-D simulated racing game nearby lets you hop into the driver's seat and gun it through some mountain passes. A high-speed spinout crash is so authentically rendered that Dramamine should be administered afterward. For Brian Dressel, the interactive development firm's founder, this hyperreal wonderland is just another day at the office.