Celebrating 40 years in interior design, Fredman Design Group is thrilled to share stories from our beloved clients, incredible vendor partners and our teammates over the years that have all shaped our rich history and continue to carve out our future path. Thank you, truly, for being a part of the story...
SUSAN ROSSIE | PRESIDENT, FREDMAN DESIGN GROUP
When I joined Fredman Design Group in 1999, our goal and mission was simply to grow the company and the business and create a collaborative, design team. With Susie, a visionary leader and maverick at the helm, anything was possible. I left the world of education and the legal world to embark on a new path and journey. How do you grow a team and company and bring creativity and design talent to the world?
LONNIE UNGER | SENIOR DESIGNER, PRESIDENT OF FREDMAN DESIGN GROUP
I started working with Susie in Highland Park almost thirty years ago. It was just the two of us in a 400 square foot office where the “store room” was also the bathroom. What a wonderful journey it’s been!
DIANA BITTING | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CHICAGO HOME + GARDEN
Fredman Design Group is so much more than an interior design company. I genuinely believe that the firm embodies a holistic, thoughtful, beautiful way of life.
LISA SMITH | MARKET DEVELOPMENT, SUB-ZERO WOLF
Here is what I believe makes FDG so special……the continued interest and eagerness to learn. To remain at the front of the industry by getting to know your industry partners and utilizing the resources they offer to always know what is coming.
FLYNN | MICHIGAN CLIENT
By an act of grace, my path crossed with Susie Fredman’s almost 15 years ago in Michigan. My husband and I were looking for a home by Lake Michigan that could serve as a retreat from the city for our growing family. We didn’t have a clear vision of what our retreat would look like…until we saw one of Susie’s personal projects in Harbor Country.
To know Susie Fredman is to be immersed in the absolute belief of “ALL THINGS POSSIBLE.” My story….our story…is entwined with the knowing that everything happens exactly as it is supposed to. I came to know Susan Fredman – the firm and the person- through mutual friends. It was at first, but only at first, seemingly unextraordinary – other than the desire to combine with something that was “More.”
When I first joined Fredman Design Group a little over ten years ago, part of what sold me on the job was the company philosophy of creating an extraordinary experience for clients, going above and beyond fulfilling basic design needs. Little did I know at the time, not only would I be helping to give my clients those types of experiences, but I’d also be accumulating them myself.
THOM WYATT | CLIENT
SUZIE AND DAVID SHOUB | CLIENTS
We would like to share our wonderful experience of working with Susan Fredman and her design group in building our dream home in Union Pier, Michigan. Susie was able to interpret our dream and make it happen . The result was a beautiful home that we have shared with friends and family for the last ten years. Our home on Stone's Throw Lane is a dream come true.We have also seen her hard work and effort in bringing an improved environment to the battered women of the Chicago area with her Designs for Dignity organization , that has now grown to include New York and coming to other cities.Susie Fredman is an honest, generous, talented individual who has given much to our community. We are privileged to have worked with her.
STEVE NOBEL | NOBELINKS
Fredman Design Group (FDG) celebrates its 40th not only as a powerful design brand, but also as a prolific design ecosystem; a forest for the trees; elements thriving on the health of the entire enterprise - people, products, profits, philanthropy and the interior design profession, all at once.
I discovered, when I first met Susan, more than ten years ago, that people-power matters deeply to her. She creates abundance so others can share it, inspires thinking so others become more thoughtful, takes some of the risk out of risk-taking, and makes money so her entire design ecosystem can prosper. Her forthright sincerity leaves little doubt where her North Star guides her. She is a magnificent matriarch of a talented tribe and so elegantly attracts the best in others who willingly follow. Ideas matter, too. Her intellectual curiosity seems to strain under limitless opportunities to learn - she’ll try everything if it benefits everyone.
That sense of interdependence is so healthy, admirable and deserving of an anniversary celebration, or any celebration for that matter. FDG is like an incubator that breeds win/win results; where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts; aware that what is good for designers is good for the industry that provides resources for them.
In fact, the very foundation of the industry that supplies home furnishings rests on the ability of design professionals like FDG to create demand for its products and services. Susan’s service to her industry has sustained more than her company, it has even given renewed strength to even the weakest link in her supply chain because she knows that the challenge to be met now is to make the experience for her clients all the more luxurious, and that takes everyone.
As interior design continues to evolve quickly and unrelentingly from a preoccupation with product to a profession with purpose; from B-to-B to B-to C with A-Z, FDG is on the vanguard of transformation, seeing around corners and managing the changes with patient prodding for those who just aren’t keeping up. While her patience may be virtuous, there is very little countenance for those who pine for markets to behave rationally as they once did. In an era of instability, agility matters. 40 years is an endurance test that FDG conquered, and yet will get back to training once the victory lap is taken.
So, enjoy the celebration, Susan. Even more than a successful business model, your special contribution to this company, this industry, this life, is as a business mentor - a role model - for the dozens of people whose lives, like mine, you have touched by design. Your lessons are now our lessons, which for all of us who follow you, are so much more the better for.
JOE CAMINITI | OWNER, CAMINITI & ASSOCIATES
Hmmm., let’s see...what happened 40 years ago…..The Vietnam war ends, which is good. Jimmy Hoffa disappears, not so good… Microsoft becomes a registered trademark, should have bought that stock then… Sony introduces Betamax, glad I didn’t buy that one... Saturday Night Live debuts in New York and we are all happy about that. And Susan Fredman starts a design firm, and again we are all happy about that….
It’s funny how all these things have impacted our lives in one way or another and I can say that meeting Susan certainly impacted mine. Her soft, but direct delivery persuaded me to do things the way Brother Frank at Gordon Tech did when he would grab me by that spot in my shoulder and bring me to my knees… but all Susie had to do was speak softly to you…
Susie you have done so much good for so many that we cannot thank you enough. Your dedication to helping others is contagious and I am glad to have been a small part of it. Sometimes I think your business was built to be a platform from which you can do the things you really want to do and that is to help others. I wish you and your team another 40 years of good luck, health and happiness.
OSCAR TATOSIAN | OWNER, OSCAR ISBERIAN RUGS
What five adjectives would I use to describe Fredman Design Group over the past four decades?
Has Fredman Design Group had a personal impact on your life or business?
Through a personal invitation from Susie, I became involved with Designs for Dignity. In fact, D4D’s first gala was held in my house on Prairie Avenue. Through serving on its board of directors I gained a first-hand appreciation of its true mission, as well as the personal, compassionate side of Sue Fredman.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY | ACTOR, AUTHOR, ADVOCATE AND ENTREPRENEUR
I had the great pleasure of spending time with the Fredman Design Group (FDG) in supporting Designs for Dignity (D4D) at the D4D gala event with Cambria.
While in Chicago, I was graciously given a tour of the beautifully designed hospice that FDG designed through D4D efforts. I had the great privilege to meet the hospice director and learn more about all the wonderful results of the foundation. I'm a true believer in living with 360 degrees of beauty in your life, inside and out. D4D represents the need for beautification in our working and living environments which translates in to better spiritual and mental health. Their work and efforts are truly enabling better quality of life.
I congratulate FDG on 40 years of success and service. May the future continue to be bright and impact many more.
My work at Fredman Design Group is mainly black and white, success measured in balanced accounts and deadlines met. I am the Controller (keep reading, it gets better I promise). There isn't much wiggle room in the day to day work of accounting, and I like that part. Yet, what keeps me inspired and still going strong over a decade of growth and “what’s next” is the creative environment in which I work. More importantly, the team of people who make it happen. Many great things have been, and will be, written about the talents of FDG design team – all are true, and all well-deserved.
After twelve years of walls bursting with samples, designers bursting with creativity and a leader bursting with ideas, it’s nice to take a moment to reflect. All of what has brought us to today happened in perfect order, though I’m the first to admit with an “all at once” feeling at times. From one location in Northbrook (ask Mrs. Joe Rossie about the flaming microwave one day…) to multiple locations throughout the Midwest, and clients that reside from coast to coast. Then retail, and eCommerce, fabric and furniture lines. Real estate and home building. All with the simple belief that it was possible. What’s next? At the center of it all is our leader, Susie Fredman. She provides an amazing place to work and the idea that each of us possesses unlimited potential. Bumps in the road? Of course. But “uncertain” can be an amazing way to be in the world, if you believe in the outcome.
Congratulations on forty years - to Susie, and all who’ve believed. Here’s to what’s next.
Has Fredman Design Group had a personal impact on your life or business? Can you elaborate?
Susan Fredman & Terri Hawley hired me and my firm, Artisan Events, to photograph their beautiful 2012 wedding. Working with them both was a collaborative joy. Often times when I’m commissioned by other creative professionals, an added layer of stress can arise — self-inflicted, but added stress in that I have both creative carte-blanche and an understanding of what is at stake during the creative process from the client end.Working with Susan was anything but stressful. She trusts you, respects the creative process, and values collaboration in a way that melts stress and empowers you. Susan is incredibly generous with her vast knowledge and time — she’s an authentic gift of talent and I’m thankful our paths have crossed.
When you think of Fredman, what one signature design/thought/idea comes to mind?
Generosity and integrity. And don’t ask me why, but the color red. Perhaps it was her bright red winter coat on the wedding day — I can’t help but think RED.
I wanted to drop you all a note to thank you all for your support, advice, friendship, creativity and true caring for the best interest of The Chopping Block and myself.
Thank you Aimee for saving the day. Thank you Susie for your friendship and protection. Thank you Terri for informing our design direction and beautiful store front. Thank you to the countless others at FDG who have all helped to create the unique, functional and Shelley-inspired design direction for TCB!
JANET AND STEVE DAHL | CLIENTS
One of the (few) joys of growing older is reclaiming space that was once a cluttered clubhouse for kids, and repurposing it as a sanctuary.
Susan Fredman and Kathy Hoffman fearlessly confronted our New Buffalo condominium, a place that wore a Salvation Army battle fatigue. We no longer wanted a rustic camp: we dreamed of peace and tranquility. Since we lived on the other side of Lake Michigan, we decided to hand our hovel over to the Susan Fredman Design Group. It was a good call.
Undaunted by the limitations of a small space, Susan and Kathy conquered every structural impediment. They banished the tatters of the Wonder Years. They listened to our dreams. Then they set about to make them come true. There were no unilateral decisions. Our input was welcomed and effectuated.
The result is a beautifully renovated home. Walls fell. A spa bath was created from closet space. The kitchen expanded to include a magic table that expanded to accommodate a crowd. Furniture, a mix of custom and common, was blended to provide flexible and comfortable space for us. Every detail, including window replacement, lighting fixtures, curtains, flooring, bedding and accessories, was on their punch list. Local craftsmen created a number of one of a kind accents. When we saw the finished product, we could hardly believe the attention to detail.
Five years later, we have five grandchildren, and the place is rarely a solitary retreat. The beauty of this project is that Kathy and Susan selected durable, lake worthy, kid and dog friendly items. Their vision exceeded ours. Peace and quiet is over rated. This home welcomes the overstuffing that comes with this phase of our lives.
We continue to make memories within the walls that Susan and Kathy transformed from raggedy to beautiful. We wish Susan and her associates well as they celebrate 40 years of making life lovely.
We wish them ongoing success, and when it is time for us to move to our downsized forever home, master suite on the first floor- they will be our first call.
MICHIGAN | CLIENT
Five adjectives that describe Fredman Design Group:
Describe the personal impact that Fredman Design Group or that your home design had on your life and your loved ones:
I find myself entertaining more often. FDG created an incredible space for entertaining - from the floor plan to the individual spaces for people to gather - it
just works from four to forty guests. It’s been a lot of fun.
Share a favorite story about Fredman Design Group:
I don’t recall all the dates, or all the individuals involved, but the story of the genesis and evolution of Designs for Dignity is amazing.
When you think of interior designs by Fredman Design Group, what comes to mind?
I think of spaces that are contemporary, yet warm spaces that put you entirely at ease.
JEN SOBECKI | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DESIGNS FOR DIGNITY
Where do I begin? 10 years ago I embarked upon an opportunity to create change. Using my skills in interior design, event planning and volunteerism...I became part of the amazing organization known now as Designs for Dignity. I knew at that moment I signed on I would never be bored again...ever. Fredman Design Group (or as I first knew it as SFA, and Supporting the Spirit Foundation, aka Designs for Dignity) has made a mark on my soul. We all know design changes lives. Fredman Design Group does that for their clients each and every day. Susie's vision to make this nonprofit a full time job for one, then two and now three...well let's just say there is plenty to do and we all at Designs for Dignity are grateful that this vision was born. Now, we celebrate 15 years at Designs for Dignity!
Susie, I always knew your vision would make its mark whether its your design firm, or as founder of our great nonprofit...you, my friend, have changed lives, for the better.
If you were to sum up my decade of their four decades I'd say, "WOW...they've made a mark on the Chicago design industry and then some." Talent, vision and passion are just a few words that emulate the spirit of their firm. I am proud to have had fate draw me to Designs for Dignity and am thankful for all of the Fredman Design Group designers that give back time and talent for our projects...in Chicago, Gurnee, Benton Harbor, Michiana and more...collectively a designers work is never complete...there is always "further east to go" --Susie Fredman, Founder Designs for Dignity.
While you (Susie), the board, and I have spent a decade together molding what Designs for Dignity is today, I am forever grateful for the rudder you are to help us stay the course and embark upon this journey of national expansion and presence for our charity. This work matters. Together we will bring it to the communities in need. I look forward to the next decade which will mark 25 years for D4D and 50 for Fredman Design Group! That's what I'd like to call #impact.
Thank you Susie and your amazing team for what you bring to this city and to our community as a whole. Here's to 40 more! #goteamgo
DR. SID MOHN | CEO of HEARTLAND ALLIANCE
Adjectives [describing Susan Fredman, Fredman Design Group and Designs for Dignity]: Passionate, creative, spirit-connected, inspiring, daring.
Project focus and story: Town Hall Apartments, the Midwest's first LGBT elderly housing - the D4D team created bold and lively designs for the common areas. Their designs communicate that this is a state-of-the-art building where residents are acknowledged as vibrant human beings. The designs advance contemporary urban living - not affordable housing. Everything screams: you belong, you are exciting, you can make a difference.
Personal impact: I've been tutored in the way that design can serve to heal, strengthen, and refresh the human spirit. Design can be a spiritual practice, not just an art form. Environment helps to shape us into all that we can be!
DEVARSHI STEVEN HARTMAN | YOGA MASTER, FDG CLIENT and FRIEND
Oh my. What a difference it makes to ask an expert with years of experience. I love design. I love a place that looks as beautiful as it is comfortable. I pride myself in having good taste and good style, even if it is “my own style." My personal “design budget” is always tight. Many times I think I can do it on my own, and save money and time. And sometimes I’m lucky and hit it right. BUT! EVERY TIME I have worked with FDG, I am catapulted way beyond what I could have come up with on my own. I go from “good enough” to magic. I go from “average” to "spectacular and unique." I go from “I like it” to “I love it and am proud of it.” I go from “it works” to “it fits me, defines me, and inspires me.”
I could give many examples of how this has happened, but one of my favorites is when Susie walked into my home, which we had been working on, and like a piece of art in progress, the paint we had chosen - and let me tell you, no one is better at getting the paint colors right than Susie - had been completed. I was happy with the result. After spending a bit of time in the space, Susie just said, "We need to change the color of the trim throughout the house to a Gun Metal Grey - almost black." Now, this might sound like such a trivial detail, but it wasn't and she was right. I did it immediately and it changed everything. This one simple, inexpensive detail and piece of advice changed the way the whole house came together. I had a rustic, industrial metal attraction, going on and a number of pieces that reflected that and then the trim being “metal” made the whole house cohesive. I NEVER could have come up with that.
My bathroom, I am told, continues to be one of the most visited pictures on the [FDG] site. All my friends talked about my bathroom. And when my home sold - for asking price, and in one day - it was because of Susie’s help. I had the elements I knew that I wanted, but I could never have put them together in the way that Susie did. My home was a magic temple. She took who I am and what I described that I was looking for, and made it better and a reality. She knew where to spend money and not to skimp, and where money could be saved to get the same effect. The process was fun. She knew how to “talk me into” a better choice when I was fixed on something stupid, cheap or uninspiring. Taste does not have to be expensive, just a good choice. What might take me hours, days, months or years of research to find what I was looking for, takes them minutes, because they live in the world of what’s available, great product, most-inspired quality, and what will make your home an experience that is life enhancing.
In essence, our home is really that - our home. In the material world, next to keeping our body in a place where we are happy, healthy, comfortable, proud and free - our home is the is the place we live, the place we come home to, the place where we rest and rejuvenate, the place where we entertain, the place where we collect our favorite things from travels and family and friends. It is a reflection of our life. Susie taught me that!
JANET GUTRICH | FDG CLIENT and FRIEND
What adjectives would you use to describe Fredman Design Group over the past four decades?
- Illuminating ahead
Has Fredman Design Group had a personal impact on your life or business? Can you elaborate?
Yes, both professionally in creating a modern, warm and efficient chiropractic office space with a natural healing vibe and personally, in creating a chic downtown high-rise home haven. Our downtown haven is complete with expansive, exceptional and magnificent features, including: custom built-in furniture, a gorgeous fireplace, a handmade hutch and bedroom wall and head board…..
If you had an opportunity to tell a story about Fredman Design Group, what would it be?
Susie told me to pick out some favorite colors for my new office (from a million colors). I did find five that I liked, thinking I'd have to choose one. Surprisingly she said, "Oh perfect, we'll use all of them!" She created a very unique doctor's office, full of levity and healing energy that most people observed and felt immediately upon entering……
When you think of Fredman, what one signature design/thought/idea comes to mind?
MARK FALANGA | CEO, VentureMark, Inc.
I first met Susie Fredman over fourteen years ago in my office at the Merchandise Mart.
I’m not sure how, but Susie landed on my calendar. I was unaware of the topic of our meeting, but we got together. During our first meeting Susie told me that she was an interior designer and that she had this idea for a not-for-profit organization that would design dignified spaces for not for profit entities, who do not have the resources to do so for themselves. Susie’s vision was clear and her motive was pure: to give the gift of good design to deserving people who could otherwise not afford it, and by doing so, improve life quality for those who would not be in a position to do so for themselves.
Known then as Saving the Spirit Foundation, Designs for Dignity was just an idea, a concept and a vision, and Susan was looking to establish her presence at The Merchandise Mart to help bring her organization to life.
Now, more than fourteen years into this venture, Susan’s vision has manifested itself into something significant. In fourteen years, this organization has attracted hundreds of designers who have donated their services and have given dignity to thousands of people who have benefited from their good works. Because of the projects that Designs for Dignity has taken on, I have met people like Lucian Carter, who lived at a Boy’s Hope home in Evanston, whose father left their family when he was two and who was raised by his mother, who struggled with her health throughout Lucian’s entire upbringing. While living at the Boys Hope home, Lucian graduated from Loyola Academy. From there he graduated from Harvard University, and went on to work for Senator Ted Kennedy.
I got to meet Dan McNeil at Family Matters in Rogers Park, who works with 25 teenage boys in an after school program where he uses art to teach high school kids about commerce and I have met the Boys Hope and Girls Hope graduating class of 2012, in their Designs for Dignity renovated homes, where each and every one of these kids was accepted into multiple colleges.
I have been fortunate to watch Designs for Dignity evolve from Susan’s expression of a simple, but powerful idea fourteen years ago, into an organization, which at any given time, has 25 different projects in the works. With donated furnishings, limited budgets, voluntary efforts of hundreds of talented and caring designers, like my wife Diane, who is president of the Designs for Dignity board, who work under the tireless day-to-day direction of the very talented, passionate and energetic Jen Sobecki - D4D transforms spaces for people in need.
Susan’s work and vision has improved lives for people who are affiliated with organizations like: Gilda’s Club, Madonna House, Broadway Youth Center, Growing Home, Wilmette Warming House, Boys Hope /Girls Hope of Evanston, St. Joseph’s Clothes Closet, Howard Brown Clinic, Childcare Network of Evanston, Triad Health Practices, Evanston Youth Jobs, Test Positive Aware Network and so many others.
When Designs for Dignity renovates spaces they are really in the business of changing lives. Their work can best be measured not by the transformational visual and functional improvements they make to worn and well-used spaces, but in the countless lives that they are so positively affecting through their work.
DIANE FALANGA | Board of Directors President, Designs for Dignity
Dear Susie: When I met you in 2007, I came to you with a simple idea. My goal was to keep gently used residential furnishings in the life-stream by collecting pieces from homes where they were no longer needed - delivering them to homes where they were greatly needed. I named this re-purposing concept the Heart Homes Initiative...but needed a home-base. You graciously took me - and Heart Homes - under your wing, onto the board and into the world of Designs for Dignity. You said, our mission is the same and we should be working together. And we did that (and continue to do that) just beautifully.
From that initial meeting - you became my friend, mentor, advisor, partner, visionary. In your soft, yet undeniably direct tone, you and Designs for Dignity helped me turn concept into reality. Under your tutelage, you encouraged me to truly learn about those in-need and at-risk people we'd be serving together. You sent me home with a reading list: The Working Poor: Invisible in America, One Nation Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All and Poverty in America: A Handbook. Nearly a decade later, those books are well-marked, margins full and dog-earred. They - and you - have positively guided the decisions I've made and steps taken when working with the many people and diverse nonprofits we serve.
Under your leadership and vision, I've been able to take part in creating spaces that heal, empower and give dignity back to those people in our communities who are most in need but have the least access. You've shown time and time again that everyone is deserving of safe, nurturing, healing, hopeful and dignified spaces. I've witnessed first-hand the transformative effects of these designs on the thousands of people served by Designs for Dignity.
You've taught us all - design matters. People matter. And in the words of one of your favorite philosophers, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
Thank you for caring enough to guide and believe in us all, Susie. Congratulations on your milestone and momentous 40th anniversary.
Susan Fredman | CEO of Fredman Design Group | Founder of Designs for Dignity
This 40th Anniversary celebration is the story of people’s lives who are changed, enhanced, or transformed by the environments we have been honored to create. After forty years, we/I still believe that all things are possible, the work we do matters and that every project presents an opportunity to create extraordinary experiences for our clients.
Our body of work and our amazing, talented, creative, dedicated people are who we are as Fredman Design Group. We have won many awards, been published hundreds of times and we have learned so much along this forty year path. My life has been profoundly impacted by my work and I would like to share some thoughts on what this means for me personally...
It has been an incredible, rewarding, affirming, humbling, challenging and always-striving journey. I have grown myself enormously through all of it. As many of you know, I started my design career in visual merchandising, working in stores along the Magnificent Mile and was asked along the way to design clients’ interiors. And so it all began...
My college degree is in fine arts - painting, sculpture and photography - so, creative, yes, but somewhat useless. I have educated myself through reading and leadership training. I read about business, about best practices, about leadership, about anything I can get my hands on. I am a lifelong learner and I am committed to that at FDG. Our management team is also fueled by that curiosity.
We are committed to a great deal at FDG. We have retail home stores, several versions of our own furniture lines, upholstery, casegoods, a custom scent line, an e-commerce site where we are developing custom merchandise in as many categories as we can put our attention on. We founded a non-profit organization, Designs for Dignity, the permanent recycling program for the design industry, providing an opportunity for all designers to donate their time in making a difference for people in our non-profit communities. We have our own construction division, Stones Throw Builders, where we design and build custom, hybrid container and traditionally-built homes. We dwell in possibility and constantly challenge our own creativity.
We thrive because of you – our clients, our vendors, our friends. We are rich because of the opportunity provided by each of you to contribute and be contributed to. It takes a lot to produce what we produce and we have an exceptional group of people who are dedicated to accomplishing all of this and more. We are collaborators and dreamers. It is my belief that everyone who flourishes at Fredman Design Group really seeks collaboration and values it as an effective tool to grow themselves and their talents. I aspire to have our company culture be one where people are accountable and seek like-minded souls.
While we honor our past, there is still so much future to look forward to. We are inspired and that drives us to what is next. We design a new future each day, everyday.
With each of you as participant or observer, we have built an ever-changing, growing, award-winning, collaborative, aspiring-to-change-people’s-lives, dreaming-big, always-beginning-anew, world-class interior design firm. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of the story.