Two furniture trends we've been seeing:
1) Mid-century modern knockoffs,
2) Upstart designers attempting to make things that are different, just for the sake of being different.
So it's a breath of fresh air to see industrial designer Leslie Montes' back-to-basics Kumiki furniture collection.
Here's why we like it:
It uses real wood. The wood is not pretending to be something else. The wood is not dressed up to prettify it in an artificial way. The material is allowed to be beautiful in its own right.
It's flatpack and knockdown, i.e. practical for a younger buyer who will eventually move house. But there are no metal or plastic fasteners and their attendant hex keys, wrenches or ugly exposed fasteners. Instead it relies on simple joinery, in this case Japanese-inspired, that allows it to be put together with your bare mitts. Though maybe you could take an unused, rolled-up CB2 catalog and use it to whack in the wedges.
It's minimalist. These pieces are not trying to scream at you from across a crowded expo hall. Where a lot of modern furniture is insecure and loud, these pieces are confident and silent. Less is more here; the simple design equals longevity to us, as there are no telltale flourishes that will make the pieces look dated in ten years or twenty.
If people are a product of their experiences, so too is the furniture they design. Reading up on Montes' bio, it's clear that these pieces didn't just come to her in a flash. Rather, they are the culmination of a long-term and multinational focus on industrial design that has spanned three continents:
Montes began her education by acquiring a BFA in Industrial Design from the University of Kansas. She broke the four-year program up with a study-abroad year at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Madrid, Spain--and also spent a summer at Japan's Doshisha University in an intensive Japanese language program. With her Bachelors in hand and a good grasp of Nihongo, Montes applied for, and scored, a Japanese-government-sponsored MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) research scholarship, which allowed her to pursue a Masters Degree in Design Strategy at Kyushu University.
Montes capitalized on her time there. "During my three years at Kyushu University's Graduate School of Design," Montes writes, "I conducted on-site research with several artisanal furniture companies in the southern island of Kyushu to uncover the mindsets, approaches, and techniques that they used to incorporate sustainability into their products.
"By speaking in Japanese to furniture company owners, woodworkers, material providers, and other people involved in the creation of artisanal furniture, I got an inside look at their mindset and how they approach their role as creators of quality wooden furniture.
"After concluding my research and identifying sustainable techniques common to many artisanal Japanese furniture manufacturers, I incorporated some of these techniques and approaches into my own furniture collection."
"My experience living in Japan made me realize how environmental differences can impact a culture's views on design."
Congratulations to Ms. Montes for executing a long plan that has culminated in a simple, sturdy and attractive line of furniture. We look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
Want to read about another designer with a long and effective game plan? Check out "How Michael DiTullo Designed His Way to Success."
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- Leonardo da Vinci