Frank Fontana, decorator
Frank Fontana regularly appears on the HGTV series Takeover My Makeover and last year moved to Chicago to be the new lead designer and host of Design on a Dime: Chicago, also on HGTV.
What trends do you see happening?
I definitely see a comeback in wallpapers, but not just your grandma’s wallpaper; it’s really deep textures and animal prints. As for paint, we’re going to see a lot of muted pastels. On the flip side, for people who are bold, I love black. I’m pushing black walls.
Do people get worried when you suggest black walls?
Yes, but I consult with them and really try to give them exactly what they’re looking for. Once in a while, though, I get lucky, where they say, “Do whatever you want.” And I’m one of those designers who doesn’t feel [that] a dark wall creates a small space. A wall is a wall. The eye can create an illusion, but if you buy into that illusion, then you fall into a trap. I’ve seen a lot of amazing things done with small spaces.
Any negative reactions?
I had a split decision with a couple this year. The husband was fanatical about it, but the wife was like, “Well, it’s gorgeous, but I would’ve loved it if you would have…”—and it’s always these ridiculous requests.
Like a skylight in a second-floor apartment?
Yeah. Like, Hello! It’s unrealistic. I’ve produced probably over 30 home-makeover shows, and that was my only incident. It’s a good ratio.
What are your favorite Chicago shops?
I’ve only been here six months, but I’ve come across a couple of spots. There are these hotel-refurbishing companies that go in and buy hotel stock. So they have, like, a hundred tables or so that they sell [really cheap]. One place is called Cooper Hotel Furniture (1929 S Halsted St, 312-226-2299) and another called Fort Pitt (1400 W 37th St, 773-247-3523). They both sell some great stuff that’s still in amazing quality. You can find picture frames, and giant mirrors with gilded frames, you can get for about $100. We’ll get sofas for $150 in good condition. It’s insane. And what we do is buy that stuff and refurbish it to make it fit our [own] design.
Have you run into Oprah since you moved here?
No, but I’ve heard of a lot of Nate Berkus sightings. I’ve had a lot of comparisons to him. I think he’s a good designer, but given the situation where you probably don’t have a budget…. Look, I bet he’s a great guy. I’d love to meet him, and I put a friendly open challenge out to Nate to come on my show with a budget of $1,000 to see what it’s really like.—KA
The new season of Design on a Dime: Chicago begins airing this month.