One of Wilmette’s most anticipated developments of 2024 is getting a big splash of color.
Wilmette’s Appearance Review Commission approved during its Monday, Feb. 5 meeting a request from Wayfair to create a sizable mural along the north exterior wall of the building that will soon house the e-commerce giant’s first brick-and-mortar store.
According to project plans submitted to the village and detailed by Wayfair representatives during the meeting, the mural will be 40 feet wide by 44 feet tall, or approximately 1,750 square feet. The company is hoping to begin work on the mural in the early spring months and plans to have it completed before the store’s opening, representatives from Wayfair said.
The mural will be painted by Chicago resident and Long Grove native Alyssa Low. A graduate of nearby Stevenson High School, Low has previously created artistic work with the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks, Soho House Chicago, and the Ritz Carlton.
Low, who called the project “a dream come true,” described the mural as “a celebration of community” during a brief presentation to commissioners.
Prefacing Low’s comments to the board was a short address from Kevin Lindberg, Wayfair’s physical retail brand design lead, who noted the company views the mural project as a “really unique and amazing opportunity to create public art.”
Lindberg added that the company believes the mural will enhance the entire shopping center (Edens Plaza) and make it more welcoming and more approachable.
Regarding the mural itself, Lindberg said the company’s hope is to create a work of art that’s fresh, feels unique and is like something you’ve never seen before. He added that the company also wanted a piece that’s very “colorful, joyful and bright,” and strikes an optimistic tone.
The biggest story behind the mural’s meaning, Lindberg said, is the idea of inclusivity, which he noted is important to Wayfair as a brand. The mural will also weave in references to Chicago and Wilmette, he said.
Although Wayfair’s vision for the large-scale work of art ultimately received approval from the board, commissioners were not united in their support of the project.
The project passed via a 4-2 vote. Commissioners Nada Andric, Douglas Johnson, Jeffery Saad and Jonathan Zee cast votes of support while Richard Brill and Richard DeLeo dissented.
Several commissioners expressed gratitude toward Wayfair for adding the artistic work to what was previously proposed as an exterior wall that lacked designed elements.
The company first pitched Wilmette officials on a concept design for the wall, which can be seen by southbound drivers on the adjacent Edens expressway, that featured colorful pinwheels; however, Wayfair officials noted that the look was scrapped and the company shifted to only featuring subtle landscaping elements along the wall.
Wayfair’s pitch for the mural completely reimagines the vision for the north side of the building — a concept in which some board members found great value.
Andric called the project “a fantastic idea” while noting that she believed the company’s desire to bring the mural project forward is a way it “showed respect to the villagers.”
Echoing the thoughts of Andric, Zee said he appreciated the effort from Wayfair and called the addition of the mural a “huge gain for the building.”
“I think it’s beautiful, I think it’s fresh, and it adds a lot of character to a part of the building that I thought was really boring,” Zee said.
Brill highlighted his support for the previous design as one of the factors that led to his opposition. He said the overall design of Wayfair’s previous plan was “very tasteful, very Wilmette and very attractive.”
In addition to a hesitancy regarding the size, Brill noted his belief that some may struggle to see how it depicts both Wayfair and Wilmette.
“What I can envision happening is that some Wilmette residents are going to love it … some are going to be neutral, either way, and a fair number are going to say, ‘my gosh this is strange,’” Brill said.
DeLeo also noted that he felt some may have a hard time understanding the messages behind it. He added that he did not “feel comfortable approving this without more insight or comment from the village.”
Kate McManus, who is part of Wilmette’s community development department and the staff liaison for the board, said the project will not need to go to the Village Board for further approval because the request was for an appearance review certificate.
McManus also noted earlier in the meeting that Wayfair representatives first informally presented the concept of a mural a few months ago and the commission offered a preliminary review and initial feedback.
As previously reported by The Record, Wayfair first announced its plans to build the company’s first brick-and-mortar store in late 2021. The 150,000-plus square-foot store is set to open this spring, according to Wilmette officials.
Wayfair plans to operate eatery inside Wilmette store
Wayfair also received approval from the commission to add an additional sign to the east elevation of the building that will identify the name and location of a cafe restaurant that will operate inside the new retail store.
The commission unanimously approved Wayfair’s request for the sign, which will be non-lit and feature black dimensional lettering on a previously approved white panel.
The sign will hang over a cafe eatery, called The Porch, that Wayfair will run inside the store. The cafe will share the same hours as the retail store but will be a separate sub brand, representatives said.
The Porch will feature approximately 70 seats inside and 20 outside on a patio.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.