Awarded Best Small Showroom and Best in Show at NeoCon 2019 by IIDA and Contract Magazine

We believe that the story of a space is just as important as the design and the objects that go into it – it all plays into the experience. Hightower, CEO and founder, Natalie Hartkopf waited ten years before the perfect showroom became available at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. When she signed the lease for her Chicago showroom, opening in 4 short months for NeoCon, she enlisted Casework to bring it all together. 

At the start of each project, we work with our clients set the tone. We asked Hightower to define three words. Founder, Natalie Hartkopf, and Marketing Director, Jessica Ahlering, came back to us with varmt välkommen (Swedish for 'warm welcome'), linger, and unexpected. Hightower wanted guests to feel welcomed and at home, even during the chaos of NeoCon.  We set to create a variety of moments to sit and rest tired feet after walking the 4 million square foot Chicago Merchandise Mart all day. The bar, designed to feel more like a kitchen where friends would sit and drink late into the evening did just that.





Varmt Valkommen


Casework began with the furniture then planned the architecture

From small scale to large, most often, it’s the other way around. When the arches were put into plan, we knew exactly how each vignette would look. Furniture is often the last element we pull together but it’s one of the most important. It’s what you rest on at the end of a long day or where you sit to have a meal with your family. Here, we began with the human experience and built our environment around how space would be used. Then, and only then is the architecture built to complement that.


“An entire showroom full of goodness.” –Design Milk

Through space and scale Casework explored unexpected details. Traditional arches were paired with upside down arches to create vignettes into other rooms. We brought the focus back to the female founders with a wallpaper installation by Chicago artist, Laura Berger and Portland company Juju Papers. Scale was played with in a big way. From the custom blush pink 12’ Boxplay sofa by Swedish furniture partner, Swedese, to the 37’ Four Likes booth by Four Design in the atrium that feels like it could be at home in a restaurant or hotel as easily as an office.

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The palette was decidedly neutral with hints of everyday luxury like shearling and spun wool

We played with textures and incorporated color and pattern to create unexpected statements. North Carolina based Haand Ceramics contributed pieces for the plate wall installation as well as the serving pieces on the open shelving.


From day one, every selection aimed at a warm, welcoming and intimate experience

The goal was for visitors to linger, immersed in Hightower’s unique experience. There are so many amazing furniture details one would not see had guests not been invited to stop and enjoy the space.

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Thank you to the team at Hightower for their trust, collaborative spirit and for approving fabric samples without seeing them IRL! Thank you to Chicago based Bushman Construction Management for the dozens of measurements taken, photos snapped and attention to detail it takes to communicate to a design team 2000 miles away. Permit set by Fitzgerald APD. And last but not least, thank you to the Casework design team; Casey Keasler, Miranda Williams and Haley Voght, for the early mornings and late nights in making this project come to life. Location - Chicago Merchandise Mart, NeoCon. Photography: Casework and Jeff Beck Photography (last photo). Video by Matt Simmons and editing by Casework’s own, Lana Boelter.