Sean Dix

U.S.A. (1967)

If you search for a signature look or common feature in Sean Dix designs, you will be hard pressed to find a single one. In fact, the common element in his work is the absolute lack of common elements. “I don’t believe in adding a superficial detail so that people will see something and say, ‘That’s a Sean Dix design.’ ”

Born in Kansas, but raised on more exotic soil in Fiji, the Philippines and Saipan, Dix now resides in Milan, where he opened his own design studio in 2000. Commissioned to design the Milan haute couture showrooms of Byblos and Moschino, Dix is no stranger to conceptualizing on the grander scale. Designing chairs is his true love, though, evident in the more than 40 he has personally collected. With so many chairs and a Milan residence the size of a “shoebox,” he has resorted to lending them out to friends to “babysit,” and sadly, some are tucked away in the attic waiting to be rediscovered.

Before going on to earn degrees in sculpture, interior architecture and design, Dix spent two of his college years as a modern literature major. That experience still informs the way he approaches a project and probably has something to do with the fact that each of his ideas lingers in the concept stage for a very long time. “I spend a lot of time thinking about what needs to be communicated before I even begin sketching or creating the form.” At the time that Dix was getting his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the curriculum relied heavily on conceptual design. This concentrated study affirmed what he was already inclined to do, which was spend most of his time, as he calls it, “defining the concept.”

It would not be an exaggeration to say that, although the concept is crucial, process is what really drives Dix’s work. When DWR requisitioned him to design a smart credenza with tambour doors, he set about studying tambours and was compelled to rethink and reengineer a design feature introduced more than 50 years ago. Dix was obsessed with the area where the door disappears into the case frame, which is normally covered by a narrow panel of wood. He insisted on showing off what he felt was “the most beautiful aspect of a tambour door.” To do this, Dix had to track down a special tool used to solve unrelated woodworking challenges and came up with a solution that afforded the doors of the Guilia Credenza a graceful, fluid and very visible curve.

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