Chicago artist Greta de Parry designs sleek furniture (most notably barstools) built to withstand years of use and changing trends. Here’s how she stands—er, sits— above the crowd.

By Hannah Agran

1. Wood was her first jam. Greta grew up with sawdust in the air. Her dad owned a home-building company. Later she received her MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago. "I had a wonderful professor who piqued my interest in fine woodworking, and I couldn't keep out of the shop after that," she recalls. "It was a natural segue, functional sculpture."

Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux.

2. Feminine. Masculine. Whatever. Women using power tools is common in the cocoon of art school, but it remains more rare in the furniture-making world. Greta's clean and contemporary style bends gender expectations further. "Men's magazines will talk about my Coleman barstools (above, $449) like they're a manly thing-the concrete tops and hard lines-but I try not to pigeonhole men or women that way," she says. "I design very selfishly just for me."

Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux.

3. She cuts steel, not corners. Greta is blunt regarding quality: "Cheap furniture doesn't last. It's made of toxic materials like particleboard. It's this culture of buying and replacing rather than making thoughtful decisions." So she takes years developing her pieces. She uses wood harvested locally. She partners with nearby fabricators. Her goal is to leave a tiny footprint on the environment but a lasting one on her Midwest community and in your home.

Meet Nico

Greta's new line of stools has a rounder profile and footrests at two heights to better accommodate children and tall adults. From $619 (gretadeparry.com).

Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux.
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