DesignBuildCincy is back to shine a light on our best design and architectural talent

“Cincinnati needs to step up and toot its horn about our architecture and design.”

That’s the thinking expressed by Doug Hart, creator of DesignBuildCincy, which returns on Oct. 28 and 29 to Over-the-Rhine. The design-centric tradeshow promises an intimate setting for local architects, contractors, fabricators, artisans and everyday design lovers to gather together in appreciation of the work produced by strong design communities here and elsewhere.

DesignBuildCincy creator Doug HartAfter years of working on events like the Cincinnati Home & Garden Show, Hart grew tired of producing traditional consumer tradeshows. Though not a designer himself, Hart felt the design industry deserved its day in the limelight and needed a specialized event to make that happen.

“Our city needs to highlight the design and craftsmanship here to basically grow as a community,” he says. “We’ve got all these incredible resources, from OTR to DAAP [UC’s School of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning] to all the designers, yet there’s no other festival that highlights it. We highlight our beer. We have beer festivals all the time. We highlight our food. We have food festivals all the time. A design festival can get people talking about the importance of design to our community.”

The average home show, Hart says, is practical and features mass-produced, off-the-shelf products. With DesignBuildCincy, Hart wants to offer a different experience for both attendees and Cincinnati’s creative community.

“We are not a traditional home show. We curate the show like you would a gallery.”

The event isn’t only for buying and selling goods and services, but those interested can certainly connect with architects, contractors and designers who specialize in creative and custom projects. But even without a project in the queue or an eye for high-end design, visitors will enjoy DesignBuildCincy.

DesignBuildCincy is in its third year. It was started in 2014, but went on hiatus for 2016 while Music Hall was closed for renovation. Hart says there didn’t seem a comparable venue for its relocation, so he took a year off to recalibrate and prepare for the 2017 event.

The expo portion of the event will take place Saturday and Sunday, and will feature approximately 100 industry professionals. It will be among one of the first events held at Music Hall following the iconic building’s $135 million restoration.

Creating a design festival

Beyond the main expo portion, DesignBuildCincy will include multiple events at multiple venues — all accessible on foot or by public transportation such as the Cincinnati Bell Connector — creating something of a festival vibe. Next door to the Music Hall expo, at historic Memorial Hall, attendees can sit in on talks by heavy-hitting design and architecture experts like Chip Wade from HGTV. On Saturday afternoon, Soapbox will host a speaker series as part of the day's activities.

In addition to the normal exhibitors at the show, a Cincinnati Design Experience will feature three distinct themed and furnished "social hubs" for attendees. These gathering spaces are being designed and curated by local creatives and will be available to use during the duration of the two-day event

Hart was excited to bring DesignBuildCincy to OTR, where he can “tap into people’s fondness for an urban neighborhood” and let them experience Cincinnati’s culture of design and architecture in the neighborhood where so much of that culture has been brought to life.

Sunday afternoon, attendees are invited to the Doors Open OTR architectural tour, presented by the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati. The free, self-guided tour will give attendees a behind-the-scenes peek at over 25 unique venues and organizations that are contributing to the neighborhood's growth.

This year’s DesignBuildCincy will feature more artists than manufacturers, and few mass-produced items. All speakers and exhibitors have been curated by Hart and his team and all have local ties to Cincinnati. They represent some of the best of the best in high-quality craftsmanship.

Makers to watch this year

Kate Demske of Solid Ground Studio is a first-year exhibitor at this year’s DesignBuildCincy, where she will showcase her custom metalwork.

Kate Demske produces custom trellises, railings and other metalwork from her Solid Ground Studio location in Northside.Demske, a student of sculpture and fine art, makes pieces that run a gamut from fashion to function. From her studio in Northside, just blocks from her home, she creates custom furniture, light fixtures and outdoor ornamental trellises, railings and bike racks. Her tools include a forge and anvil. Traditional blacksmithing, she says, is her favorite method.

Demske’s metalwork is inspired by nature and features organic shapes and curves, including some animal designs and ornamental glasswork or mica. Demske’s designs can be seen in private homes, businesses, public parks and elsewhere.

Many of Demske’s customers are looking for custom pieces with a different flavor than the production pieces found in many updated historic homes. Much of her work comes through word-of-mouth referrals from some of the same architects and designers who will also be at DesignBuildCincy. The event came highly recommended by her friends in the industry.

“The traditional home show thing doesn’t appeal to me because I don’t mass produce things,” she explains. “Every once in a while, I’ll do an art fair or gallery show, but this seemed like a good way to both meet other artisans and craftspeople and show off some of the things that I can do.”

Demske is currently designing a large throne sculpture — a nod to Union Terminal — for the upcoming BLINK Cincinnati event, which will take place downtown Oct. 12-15. For DesignBuildCincy, she plans to showcase a custom kitchen island and barstool set.

CVG Made in Covington is another local name to look for at DesignBuildCincy. Its owner and designer is Steve Sander. With a background in furniture design and a love for traditional American furnishings, Sander designs and fabricates custom furniture, built-ins and objects for homes and businesses. He is excited to connect with others in the field at the event.

Steve Sander of CVG MadeSander’s current project involves restoring the millwork on a historic Covington home, a project he says he enjoys “for the challenge of replicating traditional designs and patterns used in this era of architecture.”

At DesignBuildCincy, Sander will showcase a new line of specialty wood flooring milled in-house, as well as a few furniture pieces.

Joining Demske and Sander at DesignBuildCincy is Architects Plus, a firm that recently relocated to urban Pendleton from the suburb of Blue Ash. Its booth will feature a mix of custom residential and historic restorations.

Andy Schaub, the firm’s principal architect, is excited to return to the event that first exposed his company to an important niche of interested clients.

“Over the past 30 years,” he says, “I have been involved in numerous shows that attempted to connect architects with clients who valued our services. DesignBuild has been the only event of this kind that brings top architects and quality clients together in an intimate setting.”

Schaub has recommendations for attendees who may be new to the city or the neighborhood and want the full OTR experience while at DesignBuildCincy.

Andy Schaub's Architects Plus firm recently moved from Blue Ash to OTR.“Eat fried chicken at The Eagle,” he suggests. “Try to catch a performance at the brand-new Cincinnati Shakespeare Theater. Order a turtle at the pickup window at Gomez (Salsa) on 12th Street. Visit Elm & Iron on Vine Street for some unique shopping. And ride the streetcar up to Findlay Market or Rhinegeist Brewery.”

The neighborhood experience is really what Hart had in mind for his event. The setting — both Music Hall and broader OTR — was chosen to provide a more immersive experience than a traditional convention center usually provides.

“I saw what was happening in Over-the-Rhine and I really wanted to be a part of it,” Hart explains. “Coming to this show will provide an experience unlike any other home show. We wanted to embrace the neighborhood.”

General admission to DesignBuildCincy is $10 for adults; free for children. Speaker event and tour tickets must be purchased separately, but both include general admission to the expo. Click here to purchase tickets, and be sure to check out the event schedule to the right of this story.

Look for ongoing coverage of DesignBuildCincy in subsequent weekly issues of Soapbox leading up to the events Oct. 28 and 29. Support for this series is provided in partnership with DesignBuildCincy.

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Read more articles by Liz McEwan.

Liz McEwan is a proud wife, mama, urbanite, musician and blogger. Follow her at The Walking Green and on twitter at @thewalkinggreen.