We recently stumbled across two pieces of furniture both named the Compass Table, very different from each other, but both very lust-worthy.
The first Compass Table comes from Ballard Designs, a furniture retailer based in the American South. The functional compass features an etched metal face and is capped with glass, while the hardwood legs (your choice of walnut or "aged driftwood oak") are height-adjustable. Solid brass fittings round it all out. Admittedly there's no real reason you need to know which way true north is while you're downing a highball after work, so sue me for liking the thing.
Side chairs, circa 1948. All photos by Sherry Griffin / R20th Century
Brazil is having a moment, with the World Cup next year and Olympics in 2016, but for everything we hear about their prowess in sports, the fifth-largest country's vibrant design culture suffers from a serious lack of exposure. Joaquim Tenreiro (1906–1992) is among the greats, a master joiner who applied his skills as a craftsman to Modern form. "Often referred to as the father of 20th Century Brazilian design, Tenreiro was one of the first South American designers to adopt a European Modernist vernacular." He is the subject of an eponymous exhibition opening tomorrow, Tuesday, November 12, at New York City's R 20th Century gallery, which will feature several "groundbreaking pieces" from the 40s–60s, many of which are from the collection of Gordon VeneKlasen, who is curating the show. "I have been collecting the work of Tenreiro for more than a decade," said VeneKlasen. "The first time I saw one of his pieces I knew immediately that he was an innovator in the truest sense of the word, as there is something exceptional about the work in terms of his use of forms and materials."
Six-sided table with white underpainted glass top, ebonized jacaranda frame and black wrought iron legs, circa 1958
R 20th Century Principal Zesty Meyers concurs: "He was an innovator with local materials, such as woven cane and Brazilian hardwoods. His work embodied everything that was happening around the world in design culture, while also referencing the past and traditional forms and ways of working." In other words, he continues, "it is a perfect symbol for the enthrallingly multi-ethnic cultural mélange that is Brazil."
Ebonzied "Structural" chairs with upholstered seats, circa 1947
An abridged history of Industry City, f.k.a. Bush Terminal, via Wikipedia: Just as New Amsterdam became New York in the late 17th Century, so too was Jan Bosch's surname anglicized to Bush (no relation to the former presidents) when he arrived from the Netherlands; six generations later, Irving T. Bush invested a sizable inheritance in building a shipping terminal in Sunset Park. The year was 1895, just three years before Brooklyn became part of New York City, when the ambitious plan was dismissed as "Bush's Folly" (again, no relation to W. or H.W.), but Irv quickly made good on his promise of inexpensive shipping and storage compared to that of Manhattan. He employed a ruse—something to do with bales of hay—to convince intransigent transportation authorities to ship to Brooklyn by rail and, by 1910, steamship as well, despite what a scanned encyclopedia article calls "a peculiar prejudice of New Yorkers against any possible business facilities in Brooklyn."
The federal government took to Bush Terminal during both World Wars, but the facilities plateaued and eventually declined in the second half of the century as shipping migrated across the harbor to New Jersey. (The 50's saw the rise of Topps, who produced baseball cards at the Terminal, as well as "what might have been the largest explosion in New York City History.") Industry City, as it was renamed in the 80's, has been relatively quiet (but not dormant) for the past three decades; recent years have seen increased interest from both the City and developers, most notably Jamestown Properties, who own Chelsea Market. Along with a handful of other stakeholders, they're looking to revitalize the sprawling real estate while remaining true to its manufacturing legacy: "Not only was Bush Terminal one of the first and largest integrated cargo and manufacturing sites in the world; it also served as a model for other industrial parks and offered employment to thousands, and is the home of many businesses today."
So that's the short version of Industry City's rich 100+ year history (it also involves lots of bananas—Bush imported them to promote his piers) and a brief introduction to a recent pop-up event that took place there over the past two weekends. We announced Factory Floor with measured optimism about both the venue and the event itself, and it was a success by most accounts. Each of the exhibitor/vendors I spoke to provided a slightly different cocktail, so to speak, of feedback (including the need for more cocktails, or at least beer during the final hours of the show last weekend): Some took the event as a testing ground for potential projects for NYCxDesign come next spring, while others treated it as a deadline to complete works-in-progress.
Perhaps you've seen those pre-fab sawhorse brackets where all you have to do is screw some 2×4s into them. Now Sydney-based industrial designer Henry Wilson is releasing a similar concept, which he calls the A-joint.
I just stumbled across—and am totally in love with— the construction of this simple bookcase. Called the Stoa Kitap 03, it's the work of Istanbul-based designer Tardu Kuman, and as you can see it's made with one of the oldest joints known to man: The mortise and tenon. If you think about it, you'll see Kuman doesn't even need to glue the joints (though I can't tell if he did or not), because once you slot the pieces into place, gravity will do all of the work. And this brilliant design would make flatpacking it a snap, while also enabling instruction-free, idiot-proof assembly.
On his website Kuman's got a variety of furniture constructed with the mortise and tenon...
Zippers have come far from simple functionality. Edenwood, based in Ontario, is pushing the everyday zipper into new territory: furniture design. Their "Zipper Table" is one of the brand's themed tables and the outcome is a beautiful—and somehow seamless—combination of natural wood and hardware. But it wasn't a timely match made in heaven. Colin Forrester, owner of Edenwood, spent a year and a half with his team before they found the perfect wood for this table. Their choice, spalted maple, has a natural crevice which makes it easy to place the Paul Bunyan-sized zippers through the center of the piece.
Little kids often dream of being on TV when they grow up, but Dan Hellman and Eric Chang dreamt of making furniture. Now that they've established Brooklyn-based Hellman-Chang into a globally-known furniture brand (see our last post), it is their furniture, and not themselves, that they'd like to see on TV. Or on the big screen, for that matter.
And it's happening. Design-savvy viewers of the Today Show may have noticed a certain iconic table has recently been added to the interview portion of the set, and other Hellman-Chang pieces have popped up in well-known NYC-based productions. Here we catch up with company co-founder Eric Chang, who tells us what H-C's been up to and what this facet of their strategy means for the brand:
When you think of two guys in a shop building furniture, you imagine them wearing Carhartt more than Canali. But Dan Hellman and Eric Chang aren't your average furniture designers, nor the type to commission your average ad shots. With a strong sense of brand, impeccable business acumen and seemingly limitless drive, the Brooklyn-based duo have propelled Hellman-Chang, in less than a decade, from mere start-up to showroom darling in the world of high-end furniture—a position that has taken some furniture groups entire generations to achieve. (At press time Hellman-Chang had been added to Boston's Webster & Co. furniture showroom, as well as Washington D.C.'s Hines & Co., bringing their total showroom partnerships to nine.)
Rather amazingly, they did all this without advertising. But as the company continues to climb the contract furniture ladder, this month they're rolling out their first ad campaign, partnered with high-fashion brand Canali, to appear in the pages of Elle Décor, Interiors and New York Magazine. "The fashion and design industries are probably the two industries that can still benefit greatly from print advertising," says company co-founder Eric Chang, who has a background in advertising. "We decided that we were coming to a point where we would take the plunge into advertising as a way to bolster our distribution efforts."
There's still no release date set for the new Mac Pro (it's still "coming later this year" as of press time), but Jony Ive fans will have a chance to bid on his latest project on November 23, when Sotheby's holds it's second (RED) charity auction, featuring a selection of design objects selected and customized by Apple's design lead and Marc Newson. And while their ultra-clean take on the Leica M has been making rounds for the last two days or so, the desk is the only brand-new, never-before-seen design in the auction.
When it came to designing a completely new object specifically for this auction, Jony and Marc knew they wanted to work in aluminum, a material that has long fascinated them. Their creation is a monolithic desk with an aerodynamic form machined from solid pieces of aluminum. It was produced by Neal Feay Studio in Santa Barbara, and the firm's principal considers The (RED) Desk to be a "historic piece with no precedent." The edge of the desk is extremely thin, almost blade-like, but perhaps the most entrancing aspect of the desk is its surface, with a unique cellular pattern that the designers liken to a jigsaw puzzle, with 185 pieces that seem to fit together. With its sublime combination of scale, detail, and refinement—and an innovative manufacturing process that made it possible—this desk is a perfect exemplar of the ideals embodied in Jony and Marc's curation of the (RED) Auction. This unique piece is inscribed to mark the occasion: Designed by Jony Ive & Marc Newson for (RED) 2013 edition 01/01.
Photography by Sam Dunne & Anki Delfmann for Core77
Now in its 11th year, London's annual design festival has expanded from its focus on furniture and design objects to include a strong a fashion, graphic and (most notably) digital component.
Not represented in our photo gallery of highlights—but worth mentioning—was the really interesting line-up of talks and seminars offered at this year's festival.
London's annual design festival, which wrapped up a nine-day run on Sunday, included over 300 events, exhibitions and installations held across the capital. Here, we present some highlights from around the city, including special shows at the Victoria and Albert Museum and new product designs from the 100% Design, designjunction, Tent London, and Super Brands London exhibitions.
Once again, the Caochangdi Artist's Village is hosting several BJDW ongoings, and the Red Bricks cluster of studio/gallery spaces is home to several installations, events and initiatives in conjunction with the weeklong festival. Naihan Li, best known for her CRATES series from 2011, led us on an informal tour of her neighborhood—indeed, the ever-charismatic architect/designer-turned-curator/producer has duly assumed the role of village ambassador since she established her studio there several years ago. For Beijing Design Week, she offered her sizable live/work space for a handful of local and international exhibitors. In addition to work by Dutch photographers, a German fashion designer and techno-fabric designer Elaine Ng (more on her later) on the first floor, Li's home is also the venue for furniture and photos by the newly-formed Studio LL. Co-founder Fai Lau explained that the "Du Pin"—literally "unique products," but also a homonym for "drugs"—are an extension of his work as a vintage furniture purveyor and interior designer. The simple concept allows for unpretentious execution of reclaimed and repurposed pieces.
Ron Paulk has already got his own following, independent of Core77; while we don't have the demographic breakdown, we assume they're mostly DIY'ers, builders, and fellow contractors. These video extras from our chat with Ron will be of interest to Ron's following, as we get into some topics that Ron hasn't covered on his own YouTube channel: The surprising story of how he decided to become a contractor in the first place, what it was that made him expand into design, and why YouTube is an invaluable learning tool.
The summer job that changed Ron's life, and made him realize that building stuff was better than grad school:
Why (and how) Ron expanded into design and doing his own CAD work:
We obviously love seeing old things being given new life and functionality, so we were glad to see that Israel-based designer Ronen Tinman has found an alternative use for luxury car parts. In a world where car enthusiast decor is friends with the classy look of design-attentive home furnishings, Tinman is king. Can't afford a Lexus? That's ok—opt for the coffee table made from its doors. Like the curves of a Lancia, but can't get your hands on one? Tinman's got the perfect hood/backseat sofa for you.
The auto parts are recreated into tables, light fixtures, shelves, chests and sofas. Classified as "functional art pieces" by the designer's website, these conversation starters may seem like they're destined for the man cave in your life. But Tinman has found a happy medium between car enthusiast and classy. Some of my personal favorites:
National exhibits present an interesting opportunity to examine the design culture of a country and 100% Norway at Dray Walk Gallery did not disappoint. For the 10th edition of the show, curators Henrietta Thompson and Benedicte Sunde presented a true cross-section of the Norwegian design scene with works from ten established designers and ten emerging talents as part of this year's theme, '10 × 10.' From the exhibition design (by Hunting & Narud) to the collection of products and furniture, the whole show demonstrated Norwegian designers' expert knowledge of material and craft, love of raw materials and nature-inspired forms.
Outside of the gallery, Hunting & Narud created a playful lounge inspired by the sun and Nordic light with patterned decking, angled panels and stackable poufs in a gradient of soft colors.
This three-legged seed-shaped prototype by Bergen Academy graduate Philipp von Hase immediately caught our eye. Originally designed for a seed center in Bergen, Spire is crafted from solid maple wood and three-dimensional walnut veneer with a recessed porcelain bowl that can be used for planting herbs or keeping fruit. It easily transforms into a functioning table with removable wooden surface plates.
Across town from 100% Design, Shoreditch was buzzing with gallery shows, storefront installations and a pair of LDF staples: Tent London and Super Brands. Occupying the industrial space of Old Truman Brewery, the exhibits spread across two floors showcasing everything from slip-casted ceramics to paper furniture.
One of the most visually striking pieces in the Super Design Gallery was Kishimoto Design's free-form Yumi Chair (pictured above), sculpted from ribbons of ash veneer. According to the designer, "By driving wedges into bound layers of veneer, I could freely manipulate the curvature of the wood without being hindered by clamps or molds."
When we interviewed builder/designer Ron Paulk on his Mobile Woodshop and Paulk Workbench, there were some tangential things we discussed that we couldn't fit into the previous videos. We didn't want the footage to go to waste, as we thought some of you might be interested in hearing these side conversations; so we've cut them into short, one- and two-question videos.
First up, Ron discusses how he avoids the "overdesign" problem:
Ron tells us what the hardest part is about designing a large storage system, explains his design process, and tells us where he looks when he's seeking answers to problems:
It seems strange that a region renowned for its surfing culture routinely sees old surfboards find their final resting place at the city dump. Architect and designer Lawrence O'Toole is giving new life to Kauai's favorite pastime. O'Toole knew he was onto something after a conversation with an old-time surfboard shaper. "He mentioned that back in the '70s, as smaller boards became fashionable, they would take old long boards and reshape the foam into smaller outlines," O'Toole says. "To do this, they would strip the fiberglass off the old board, reshape it, recolor it and finally re-fiberglass it so that it would be good as new." That bit of insight and an encounter with an eye-catching mid-century Scandinavian side table—"The soft rounded edge reminded me of a surfboard"—were all the inspiration he needed for his colorful OTables.
As industrial designers, a lot of us dream of having product design hits, where we design something so popular that those royalty checks start piling up. But the obstacles are manifold. To sell units in the thousands you've got to find a deep-pocketed manufacturer to sign on, unless you're able to front the tooling costs yourself, you've got to hope that the raw materials supply, marketing and distribution all work out, and of course you've got to design something that thousands of people really want or need in the first place.
Ron Paulk not only has a bona fide design hit on his hands with the Paulk Workbench, but has also neatly sidestepped all of those obstacles we just mentioned. The factory is actually the end-user, and by all accounts they're happy to build the product themselves. Perhaps the most amazing part is that the marketing of it has all happened completely by accident. It is an absolute best-case product design scenario: Ron designed and built the workbench for his own personal use, then discovered there was demand—mass demand—for his design, and figured out a way to distribute it. Ron tells us the story below.
As he mentions towards the end of the video, in addition to selling plans for the Paulk Workbench, Ron is also selling plans for his Miter Stand (a standalone item) and his Cross-Cut Jig (which attaches to the Paulk Workbench).
Selling blueprints to a DIY project is nothing new; hobbyist magazines have had little ads in the back of them for decades. But with YouTube taking care of the marketing, the internet taking care of the distribution, the end-users themselves taking care of the materials supply and fabrication, and with Ron himself handling the most important element, the clever design, Paulk has pointed the way towards a potential product design future—one that's much more hands-on than 3D printing—that I could not have imagined when I was back in design school.
A coracle is a type of primitive boat invented in Wales. The unique design consists of a willow-rod framework tied together with bark strips, then skinned with an animal hide and rendered watertight with tar. Designed for rivergoing fishermen, the one-man craft is light enough to be carried across one's back.
This is one of the more fascinating experiments in small-space living that we've ever seen. Seattle-based engineer Steve Sauer wanted to see if he could turn a 182-square-foot storage unit with a single window into a liveable space, and he then decided to build it himself. Not only do we feel he's succeeded admirably, we're not sure which we admire more: Sauer's incredibly creative use of multi-level space, his unwillingness to compromise on materials, his self-machined plumbing, his IKEA-hacked surfaces... the list goes on.
The design of this space and its various features would be impossible to explain through still photographs, so thankfully there's video. Check out how bike-nut Sauer fit multiple bikes inside, peep his in-floor soaking tub, the ingenious kitchen-bin shower cubbies, and the bike shift lever in the showerhead mount. Sauer earns his living designing aircraft interiors for Boeing, but we wish he'd spend more time designing spaces down here on the ground.
The opportunity to be surrounded by young and bright designers is never a great as in the midst of design school. The unfortunate downside is that being educated among a wealth of talent may lead to homogenous approaches to design through traditional university education. The RISD Furniture Department undergraduate class appears to have avoided that pitfall, producing some very interesting (and diverse) young designers in 2013. The work runs the gamut from the elegant compound curvatures of Laura Kishimoto's woodworking to the Playful Pop of Jamie Wolfond's approach to design for manufacturing.
So to does their fellow classmate Benjamin Kicic offer yet another approach with a selection of furniture objects that seem to only be described as politely subversive. Paying both homage to centuries of furniture design history with a dash of dry humor about the future of manufacturing, Kicic strikes a chord dealing with old forms and new materials. Oftentimes, projects that attempt to bridge the (expansive) gap between traditional making and the age of digital reproduction can fall into the 'lukewarm novelty' category, but Kicic's work makes the jump successfully. The careful blending of what should be strongly opposed design elements open up a mature conversation about the canon of design history and uncertainty of design future.
Model Chair Mock-up without Bronze Joinery
Kicic's Model Chair, in particular, was devised as an exercise in departure from the traditional approach to furniture making. Although object design is often heavy on hands-off planning and forever married to craft, Kicic inverted the process, embracing an ad-hoc approach. The chair attempts to celebrate temporary joinery (composed here of hot glue) by making it permanent through bronze casting. This dedication to diverting the 'usual' approach to construction or material is a thread that runs through much of Kicic's work, culminating recently completed BFA thesis.
Initial Joint created with Hot Glue and later cast in white bronze
With furniture, an object's value can often be determined by the way the parts are connected and how much craft and time goes into these connections. With this chair, the form was chiefly dictated by a process largely removed from craft and much more gestural. Preciousness and joint strength was returned through casting the hot glue in white bronze. My goal [with the Model Chair] was to create something that was both calculated and gestural, that played with a new way of working and thinking, a structurally sound object created with a quick and messy gesture.
Our first Resource Furniture video, displaying some of the coolest space-saving furniture currently available, is still our highest-rated vid of all time. And it's not surprising why: In addition to the showroom demos, we've got company President Ron Barth discussing the RF philosophy and why space-saving matters in people's lives.
One of the company's trademarks is that you can't tell, just by looking at it, that the furniture transforms; the pieces are all brilliantly designed and engineered to hide their multifunctionality, and completely absent any clunky compromises. And under Barth's curation they've become the go-to providers for folks who want good-looking, functional furniture but live in less space than they'd like to have. Most recently, in partnership with the Citizens Housing Planning Council (a nonprofit dedicated to housing and urban planning), Resource Furniture has kitted out a killer transforming micro-apartment on display at the Museum of the City of New York. The 325-square-foot space, called "Launchpad," is part of the Museum's "Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers" exhibit.
It's not going to save any lives. It's not going to change yours. And your less observant guests won't even notice it unless you make them crawl around on the floor. But darn if it ain't cool-looking. The da caster, manufactured by Japan's Hammer Caster Co. in a couple of different sizes, is simply a hubless wheel. No axle, and not even any bearings.
The concept behind da caster is to smoothly harmonize with the design of furniture or fittings while maintaining a distinct presence as a caster. Rather than a ball-bearing configuration with an axle and bearing, the basic structure of a conventional caster, the da caster is characterized by a sliding configuration that does not use an axle or bearing. The da caster structure comprises an aluminum shell, a roller and an internal ring made of a special resin. This composition results in a ring-shaped wheel with a central hole a hubless caster that possesses sufficient strength and solidity yet seems to float.
Frustrated with the lack of decent keyboard stands on the market, Mikael Jorgensen began sketching ideas for a stylish lightweight touring stand some ten years ago—as lead pianist and keyboardist for the band Wilco, he'd spent the better much of that time on the road—but with no background in design or fabrication, he didn't really know how to proceed. He had given up hope until years later, when friend and producer Allen Farmelo, who showed him a mixing console that collapses for traveling, designed and built by François Chambard of UM Project. After an introduction from Farmelo, Jorgensen met with Chambard at his Greenpoint studio and immediately connected with his design sensibility and craftsmanship.
The stand breaks down to fit perfectly into a standard keyboard case for touring and can easily be configured to function as a desk for laptops; executed in Chambard's signature style with a matching bench, the UMJ-1 looks like nothing else on the market. I stopped by UM Project's studio to get a hands-on demo before the distinctive stand's debut at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Chambard enthusiastically assembled the unit before my eyes, explaining the thought process behind it, as the storage room next door was being set up for the photo shoot.
MTH's Bloom Collection takes cedar and birch salvaged from Vancouver Island and surrounds it with resin, forming precisely flat, functional surfaces that nevertheless highlight the organic beauty of the encased wood.
"Our calling," writes the company, "is to re-connect people with the fundamental feeling of strength and serenity the trees give us every day." That being said, when they posted a video explaining where they get their inspiration from, we were expecting the usual—a sensitive-looking bearded guy talking about the majesty of craft while the camera slowly rack-focuses on a handtool. Instead we were treated to our favorite kind of video, GoPro footage shot from mountain bikes and snowboards:
San Francisco-based Coalesse has been conducting ongoing research on 'Nomadic Work' for several years now, and the Massaud Work Lounge is the latest furniture solution for today's mobile workforce. "The Work Lounge with Canopy is a self-contained sanctuary. It creates a quiet space within a public area and allows users to be in control of their work environment. It provides privacy and eliminates visual distraction by signaling to others if the users want to focus and not be disturbed or if they can be approached by the positioning of the canopy (closed, semi-closed or open)."
Designed by French architect and designer Jean-Marie Massaud, the Work Lounge debuted at NeoCon earlier this month, where we had the chance to speak to him about the project.