All Designers

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Nani Marquina

Matthew Hilton

Jon Gasca

Sandy Chilewich

The people behind our products are some of the world’s most seminal designers and architects. Learn more about the modern masters who shaped the world in which we live, as well as today’s top designers, who have their own approach to modern living.


  • Alvar Aalto

    Alvar Aalto

    FINLAND (1898–1976)

    An eloquent humanist, as well as one of the great architects and designers of the 20th century, Alvar Aalto breathed life and warmth into modernism, placing emphasis on organic geometry, supple, natural materials and respect for the human element. “Architecture,” he said, “must have charm; it is a factor of beauty in society. But real beauty is not a conception of form... it is the result of harmony between several intrinsic factors, not the least, the social.” Aalto’s intention was to create integrated environments to be experienced through all the senses and to design furniture that would be at once modern, human and specifically Finnish.

    Using native birch wood and plywood and his own new bentwood techniques, Aalto created his classic Lounge Chair, the curvilinear Wood Screen designed for the Finnish Pavilion and his iconic stacking stool. These pieces represent his virtuosity with form and structure and firmly established Aalto’s genius and fluency with wood, which he described as the “form-inspiring, deeply human material.” Their natural beauty also made waves among the European avant-garde, better known for high-minded austerity than for warmth.

    Aalto’s work was enthusiastically received in the United States, and the Museum of Modern Art organized a major exhibition of his work in 1938. A year later, Aalto completed the Finnish Pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Frank Lloyd Wright, upon viewing the Pavilion, said simply, “Aalto is a genius.”

    As one of the founding fathers of modern design, Alvar Aalto had a profound influence on Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, designers who also combined formal concerns with humanistic ideals. We can thank Aalto not only for bentwood solutions like the L-leg and the Y-leg, but also for preserving the trace of the human hand and spirit in the beautiful materials and simple forms of modernism.

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  • Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

    Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

    U.S.A. (1924–2012); U.S.A. (1920–2019)

    Acting on advice from a friend, Jerry Ackerman walked into an interior design studio in Detroit one day in 1948 where Evelyn Lipton was working. Producing two candy bars from his pocket, he said, “Hi, I’m Jerry Ackerman. Would you like a Milky Way?”

    Evelyn was charmed. “I would have married Jerry the first time I met him,” she recalled. And so began not only a lifelong romance but a design partnership that would land the couple’s works in homes, offices, museums and private collections around the country and place their names firmly among pioneers and practitioners of what would eventually be termed California design.

    After marrying that same year, the Ackermans finished their MFA degrees and in 1952 headed to California, which was alive with a new-frontier spirit affecting architecture, design and lifestyle. They had a goal of making affordable, decorative objects for young couples like themselves.

    “We had very little money,” Evelyn said. “But we had a dream and each other – and a willingness to work hard.” Jerry, with his degree in ceramics from Alfred University, spent 1953 designing a line of 16 slip-cast bottles, bowls, vases and candleholders. The next year, the couple began work, inspired by the Bauhaus tenet espousing the unification of art, craft and production. They named their partnership Jenev Design Studio, derived from a composite of “Je” and “Ev” from their first names. “We thought it sounded very European,” Jerry recalled with a grin.

    The ceramics caught on, and in 1954, the Pasadena Art Museum (now Norton Simon Museum) included their work in the first California Design exhibition focused on decorative arts. It would be the first of many museum shows and design awards associated with their work.

    By the mid-1950s, fueled by optimism and a willingness to experiment with different materials and techniques, the Ackermans began expanding into mosaics, tapestries, woodcarvings and cast hardware. Evelyn, demure and endlessly creative, took the lead. Jerry, the gregarious one, left ceramics behind and focused on production, marketing and sales while continuing their creative partnership. “We were ahead of the curve in terms of decorative accessories,” he said. “Before our designs, everything that went into a house was either a painting or a print.”

    In the 1980s, the Ackermans refocused their creativity on personal pursuits and stopped producing commercial work. Evelyn took on an ambitious cloisonné project that now resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Jerry returned to wheel-thrown stoneware for the first time in 30 years. His work from that period is also found at the Smithsonian. Many other museums now house Ackerman pieces, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

    “The fact that we were able to stay together and work together side by side and produce what we felt was an enduring body of work made us happy,” Jerry said. “It was a wonderful life together.”

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  • Charlotte Ackemar

    Charlotte Ackemar

    SWEDEN (1986)

    Designer Charlotte Ackemar says, “I see with my hands.” While she’s inspired by talking with other creative people about work, “the best is when I can experience it and embrace it myself. I love touching things.”

    Ackemar grew up in Onsala, on the west coast of Sweden, a five-minute walk from the ocean. Her childhood was “based on being outdoors and in, on and by the water all summer long. It’s quite an idyllic place, especially in the summer.” Influenced by her mother, a ceramicist, she began making things with her hands. Both parents, whom Ackemar describes as “problem solvers, always giving it a try,” schooled her in learning by doing, professionally and in everyday life. And with two older siblings, Ackemar was exposed early to teenage tastes in movies and music – even to Photoshop, which her brother and sister taught her when she was 13 so she could design a cover for a school essay about Roald Dahl.

    The groundwork laid, Ackemar opted to pursue design in high school. She remembers, “I chose what I thought I was good at and what was fulfilling. I was curious about where it could take me and curious to be with other people who shared the same interest.” She went on to study design in her homeland, graduating in 2009 from the Academy of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg then receiving a master’s of interior architecture and furniture design in 2013 from Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm.

    Already in her short career, Ackemar’s work has been recognized. Tick Tock, her Scandinavian take on the traditional upright grandfather clock, updated to a simple geometric form constructed of plywood, won the 2012 Muuto Talent award. She was also listed in Wallpaper magazine’s Graduate Directory for 2014, a yearly list of design talents to keep an eye on. After an internship with Note Design Studio, Ackemar joined the multidisciplinary Stockholm-based studio as a product designer in 2015.

    Founded in 2008, Note works collaboratively, giving a voice on each project to the studio’s product design, interior design, architecture, graphics and strategy team members, as a way of pushing boundaries, identifying what is unique about a project and then emphasizing that uniqueness. For Ackemar, work also needs to be fun. “When you are having fun you are creative, and most of the time you get fantastic ideas. Working as a team, together with inspiring clients, is a good recipe.”

    In 2017, Ackemar and Note designed the Note Collection, including the Note Stacking Chair, for Design Within Reach. The brief called for creation of a modern café chair using the least possible means, while keeping the human being in focus. For Note, a chair is about the whole experience, not just the aesthetics, so they were up for the challenge. The team always wants users to feel it’s thought of them throughout the design process, and Ackemar herself has little patience for “sitting in a chair that makes you change position every three seconds. It should make you feel comfortable and satisfied, otherwise people around the dinner table will know it.”

    Ackemar hopes to achieve that same satisfaction with all of her designs. “I love when people interact with something new, then get a big smile on their face. I want people to appreciate the beauty in things. An object can be absolutely stunning on its own, but I love when it can also bring something extra to the environment, to bring the best out of an experience.

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  • Afteroom


    Founded 2011 (Stockholm, Sweden)

    Afteroom is the creation of wife-and-husband design team Chen-Yen Wei and Hung-Ming Chen.

    Wei grew up in Taipei City, Taiwan, the daughter of insurance clerks. With the family based in a crowded city, her parents “tried their best to give us more contact with nature,” she says, “and I’ve appreciated beautiful things ever since.” Wei graduated from National Taipei College of Business, but her real love was fashion design. An early job as an assistant fashion designer honed her aesthetic and color senses.

    Chen was raised in Taichung City, an industrial area of Taiwan, where his parents still run their own small factory, producing guitar components. Always fascinated by how things are made, he studied electrical engineering in high school; unenthused, he switched to industrial design. After working in electronics for a short time designing monitors, cell phones and keyboards, Chen realized, “Once we design a cell phone, it’s going to disappear within two or three years. You will never see it again.” He quickly shifted his focus to furniture, where “the lifespan is much, much longer. If you make a good chair, it will last forever.”

    The couple, introduced by friends in 2004, married a year later. In 2006, they moved to Stockholm, where Chen pursued a master’s in design at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. Despite initially not planning to stay in Stockholm, they founded Afteroom there in 2011 and now consider the Swedish capital home. The name Afteroom was chosen to represent their fascination with the transformation of a space over time – more specifically, what happens to someone’s experience of a room after a beautifully designed object is introduced to it.

    In the beginning, they produced their own products, working directly with favorite farms and factories. Remembers Wei, “It was scary and fun at the same time, but we knew we wanted to give it a try.” After a couple of years, Afteroom transitioned into what’s now primarily a design company, offering product and interior design and consulting services. The studio is located in Söderort, an urban region near Konstfack known for its creative residents. Working together, Wei and Chen first discuss ideas, then he draws sketches and designs 3-D models, after which she takes over as art director, picking colors and finishes and ultimately determining which projects are a good fit to undertake. Both designers agree it’s Wei’s sensibilities that determine their artistic direction.

    Afteroom has a deceptively simple goal: Create items people won’t discard. Going timeless rather than trendy, the duo aims to produce understated pieces with character. One such design is their Story Bookcase (2017), an update on classic vertical shelving, with a tubular frame that nods to the Bauhaus and clever shelves that can be positioned facing forward or to the sides. “We hope people see it as a quiet, functional sculpture,” says Chen.

    The studio was named Star of the Year by the Elle Decoration Sweden Design Awards in 2015.

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  • Angela Adams

    Angela Adams

    U.S.A. (1965)

    Great design often comes from a sense of place, and this is no exception for the work of Angela Adams, who weaves the rugged beauty and inimitable style of her native Maine into her work.

    Born and raised on a small island off the coast of Maine, Adams was educated in interior design at the Philadelphia Art Institute. Rediscovering Maine’s rug-making traditions when she moved back to the area after school, Adams began experimenting with rug-making by combining age-old techniques with modernist designs. The results are fresh, edgy rugs in dynamic patterns that are made from the finest materials and traditional construction methods.

    Bringing a fresh perspective to an old tradition is what Adams’ work is all about. “For me, I’ve been very excited about treating the rugs as paintings and bringing some very painterly qualities to the new designs,” says Adams. “Blending, shading and composing the design in a way that has more layers and keeps you entranced a bit in a very calming way – like a beautiful painting would.”

    Adams’ rugs were an overnight sensation with critics and decorators alike, and she opened her own mill in 1998 to assure quality control. Today her company produces fabrics, throw pillows and patterned glassware in addition to floor coverings. She recently ventured into fashion accessories with handbags, belts and luggage. Angela Adams proves that the combination of local traditions, passion and good design can be very good business indeed.

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  • Anni Albers

    Anni Albers

    GERMANY (1899–1994)

    With the belief that aesthetics should be a consideration in every aspect of daily life, Anni Albers (born Annelise Fleischmann) joined the Bauhaus as a student in 1922. Though she wanted to be a painter, Albers and other female students like Gunta Stölzl were encouraged to join the Weaving Workshop, which included a class taught by Paul Klee. Albers took to this medium enthusiastically, experimenting with new materials for weaving and elevating textiles from merely a craft to an art form.

    It was in her first year that Anni met fellow Bauhaus student Josef Albers, the artist and teacher who would soon become her husband and partner in the Modern movement. In 1929, she designed an innovative sound-absorbing wall covering made out of cellophane, a recently invented material. Albers received her Bauhaus diploma for this work, which was installed in the auditorium of a trade union school.

    When the Nazis forced the Bauhaus to close in 1933, the couple emigrated to the United States, both taking teaching positions at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Their many trips to Mexico and Cuba, where they marveled at the artistry of woven ponchos, earthenware and other everyday items, inspired some of Albers’ greatest weavings. In 1951, Albers began a three-decades-long collaboration with KnollTextiles, creating five designs for the company. In 1974, she designed éclat (pronounced a-clat) as a printed textile; KnollTextiles reintroduced the fabric in 2007, with the pattern woven directly into the upholstery. Anni Albers believed that art exists beyond the realm of trends and style, illustrated by her work’s enduring effect on the medium of textile design.

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  • Brian Alexander

    Brian Alexander

    U.S.A. (1963)

    Michigan-based designer, artist and workplace consultant Brian Alexander grew up on a family farm, with “lots of space and very little framing, very little ‘this is mine, and that’s yours’ mindset.” With that grounding, Alexander became interested in the way people interact with their surroundings and the objects around them, and he’s devoted himself to “making things people use and live with, which can feel like an enormous responsibility some days.”

    Alexander’s grandfather was a master plasterer, working on Union Station in Chicago, among other notable buildings. His mother is an illustrator and photographer for the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, while his father’s art was, as Alexander puts it, “the land itself.” Looking back, he says, “The correlation I’ve come to see over time is everyone’s sense as a competent contributor. They are craftspeople who know, and knew, their discipline better than themselves and took great pride in that.”

    After earning a bachelor’s in industrial design from the University of Illinois, Alexander spent 10 years as director of design and communication for workspace furniture manufacturer Haworth before establishing Brian Alexander Studio in 1998. When he went out on his own, he shifted more toward product development, though his definition of “product” is a bit abstract. “My thoughts or ways of seeing the world is the main product,” states Alexander, “an invention or developing a conceptual basis around a project rather than its physical design.” At times the work may be “purely at the level of form and apparently void of practical utility.” Designs he’s put his imprint on include amusement rides, off-road vehicles, a flight simulator, UX, lighting systems and “an assortment of oddities.”

    Alexander also studied sculpture at Parkland College in Champaign. Reflecting on his approach to sculpture, Alexander says, “I try to leave my mind out of it. I like the work to crack a light on that which has gone dormant within us. Conscious effort just makes a mess of it.” And along the way, he became a public speaker. His industry talks, which originated when he was included in a Fast Company article about the future of the workplace, have drawn architects, designers and trade show attendees.

    Describing himself as “attracted to the beauty in ugly problems,” Alexander has made observation a foundation for his work – studying people’s behavior, getting a sense of what they find intuitive and then designing products to work with them rather than against them. “I try to slip people little affirmations through my designs, things they can identify or connect with on a very basic level,” he explains. His Renew Sit-to-Stand Desk for Herman Miller (2013) lets the worker alternate between sitting and standing positions throughout the day.

    Over the years, Alexander’s interest has shifted from understanding products to understanding people. “Something clicked in me, a low-level dissatisfaction with my own process. The accolades and recognition reinforced a sense of ‘all is well.’ But I’m my own harshest critic, and I felt there was something more I could be doing to bring depth, quality and truth to what was being made.” In continuing to strive for that clarity, Alexander believes “the fog and friction lift when you design for the actuality of a situation rather than the ego’s perception of need.” And while he still gives talks, they’re now more about people than objects – what he calls the “human potential. I focus on the bedrock from which we design and the habits, assumptions and conditioning we’ve created in the built environment.”

    Alexander holds 23 domestic and international patents in the furniture industry, and his work is included in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. His sculpture was also recognized at the Palm Beach International Sculpture Biennale in 2006.

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  • Fernando Amat

    Fernando Amat

    SPAIN (1941)

    Fernando Amat is a Barcelona architect who, from 1968 to 2015, owned and managed Vinçon, a visionary household goods, personal accessories and home furnishings store with two outlets, the original in Barcelona and another in Madrid. What made Vincon unique is that while the breadth of wares was great-ranging – from home furnishings to infant products and garden equipment – the items were carefully selected and inventively showcased. Vinçon was often compared to the Terence Conran shop in New York City, the similarity being merchandise that ranged from inexpensive to high-end, a shrewd business strategy that drew people into the store. Amat fostered a casual environment where shoppers felt free to browse; food was welcome, as were dogs. Walking into Vinçon was akin to entering a showroom displaying Amat’s personal collection, and over time, the store catered to an increasingly sophisticated clientele.

    The Barcelona store, which Amat and his brother acquired from their father in 1968, also housed La Sala Vinçon, a nonprofit exhibition and performance space for art and design. The original sala at Paseo de Gracia 96 sold the work of Catalan painters in the 1940s. The Amat sons resurrected the former gallery and modeled it on Gres, one of the first design-led shops in Barcelona to sell simple, functional, craft-influenced pieces and exhibit them with paintings and sculpture. With Amat as curator, La Sala Vinçon was instrumental in establishing and reinforcing the link between Vinçon and the Spanish avant-garde design community. Javier Mariscal got his start exhibiting there; the work of Jorge Pensi and Alberto Lievore of Grupo Berenguer, and of architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca of Studio Per (co-founder of b.d Ediciones de Diseno, a furniture manufacturer specializing in Modernist masters and contemporary local designers), was also showcased at Vinçon.

    Amat also designed the first Camper shoe store, in Barcelona, in 1981. His continued collaboration with the stylish brand includes the boutique hotel Casa Camper, opened in 2005 in the trendy El Raval pedestrian neighborhood in Barcelona.

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  • Michael Anastassiades

    Michael Anastassiades

    CYPRUS (1967)

    Michael Anastassiades’ work, with its focus on proportion and material honesty, celebrates the physical presence and enduring quality of an object. “What makes an object survive time?” he wonders. “Can it become more beautiful as it ages?”

    Exploring the juxtaposition between that which is utilitarian in its function but also enigmatic in its presence, Michael centers his design process on bringing a timeless, quintessential quality to everything he creates. He’s also very interested in provoking dialogue and interaction. “Honesty is what I’m after,” he says. “At the end of the day, that’s what makes it desirable.”

    Formally trained as a civil engineer at Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine in London, Michael went on to study industrial design at the Royal College of Art. He founded his London-based studio in 1994, followed by his eponymous brand in 2007. In the years since, the company has produced a celebrated and unique collection of lighting, furniture and accessories that demonstrate the studio’s “continuous search for eclecticism, individuality and the timeless qualities in design.”

    Anastassiades’ work is featured in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Victoria and Albert Museum and Crafts Council in London, as well as the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France. His pieces can also be found in hotels and restaurants worldwide, including the SoHo House New York and the Grand Hôtel Stockholm.

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  • Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll

    Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll

    NORWAY (1976) NORWAY (1965)

    For designers Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll, “New Nordic” isn’t just a slogan.

    Voll studied architecture at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim before moving to the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in interior and furniture design. His father an architect and his mother a ceramist, Voll was “surrounded from an early age with a lot of great Scandinavian everyday objects,” he says, “and I learned to appreciate the beauty and function of these. I also enjoyed drawing and making stuff. To be able to control everything from idea till the finished product appealed to me. I started out in architecture school, but I remember always feeling much more satisfied sketching on the interior and furniture rather than the complexity of the buildings.”

    Anderssen studied Norwegian language at the University of Oslo before moving to Bergen Academy of Art and Design, earning a master’s degree in interior and furniture design. The son of a musician and a teacher, he wasn’t strongly drawn toward either architecture or design before attending Bergen. Instead, he was “driven by the idea of working in an area where progress would be very concrete, very tangible: I spent my day working on this thing, and here it is!” he explains. “And the deeper you enter a topic, the more interesting it becomes.”

    Together they are Anderssen & Voll, an Oslo-based design studio established in 2009, working in what they term the “Nordic design tradition.” Anderssen and Voll were two of the three founders of design group Norway Says, and as a duo their focus continues to be on domestic objects, from furniture and lighting to electronics, textiles and tableware, including the Berg Pillow (2010) and the Well Watering Can (2015). These and other pieces reflect Anderssen and Voll’s attention to cultural and market influences and their commitment to applying what they learn to fresh designs with practical appeal to consumers.

    They believe that good design both builds on and breaks with tradition. For the 100% Norway exhibition at London Design Festival 2014, they created the Tibu barstool, a reinterpretation of the 2002 Bombo stool by Stefano Giovannoni, which was notable for a seat that moved up and down via a gas-lift system. The futuristic Bombo appeared on TV in Star Trek and in the movie Lost in Space, and the Anderssen & Voll reboot represented a core philosophy of the designers. “One of our approaches is to emphasize the main feature of the product and express this in a clear physical representation: This is what I am, and this is what I will do for you.” Their intention to make visible the vertically adjustable element of their Tibu stool ultimately contributed to its organic, flowing, monochromatic design.

    Nedre Foss, their own manufacturing brand, is named for an old farm complex in central Oslo, Nedre Foss Gård, parts of which date to the 11th century. The complex has been reworked into a restaurant and brewery, with interiors by Anderssen & Voll. Nedre Foss the brand, which evolved from those interiors, seeks The Century Object – an object that will remain in use for at least 100 years.

    Anderssen & Voll have been named both Norwegian and Scandinavian designers of the year in Norway and received the Wallpaper Award, Red Dot Award and Honorary Award for Best Design in Norway.

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  • Ron Arad

    Ron Arad

    ISRAEL (1951)

    Design took a radical turn in the 1980s, deconstructing the rigid ideology of the Bauhaus – often with great humor. Avant-garde designers like Philippe Starck and Ron Arad brazenly borrowed from the “historical closet” of previous styles and created biomorphic forms with whimsical names like Arad’s Big Easy Red Chair, the After Spring Before Summer Chaise Lounge and the Empty Chair. These chairs posed the question, “What ought a chair to be?”

    Design maverick Ron Arad offered some interesting answers. His early furniture combined materials associated with the high-tech style and the French objets trouve to produce poetic post-industrial “readymades.” His later ’80s designs, such as the Big Easy Series, were more refined and often involved costly labor-intensive techniques that identified the pieces as “art” furniture, winning Arad international attention and commissions from prominent manufacturers. Primarily known for chair design, Arad has also had important architectural commissions, including the interior of the Tel Aviv Opera House. Whether working on furniture or architecture, everything Arad does demonstrates his belief that design has a responsibility not only to utility but also to surprise and delight.

    Arad studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Art and the Architectural Association in London before opening his architectural design office, One Off Ltd.

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  • Pietro Arosio

    Pietro Arosio

    ITALY (1946)

    The phrase “made in Italy” has come to stand for unsurpassed quality, design excellence and continual technical innovation, and the work of Pietro Arosio has all three in spades. Born in Lissone, Italy, and educated at the Institute of Applied Arts in Monza (where the famous Triennale di Milano design and art museum began), Arosio started his independent studio in 1972 with designs for some of Italy’s leading interiors and furniture manufacturers.

    As an industrial designer, Arosio has a deep understanding of the technical aspects of all kinds of mechanisms, giving him the ability to apply them to his work without sacrificing style and use. His meticulous attention to every detail derives from intensive research and development with the engineering departments of many leading manufacturing companies, although the final product is always uniquely Arosio’s own. Each piece transforms effortlessly to different configurations while beautifully satisfying a variety of functions and ergonomic comfort.

    Arosio’s work has been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Modern Arts Museum in Munich.

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  • Ibon Arrizabalaga

    Ibon Arrizabalaga

    SPAIN (1972)

    Growing up in the seaside town of San Sebastian, Spain, Ibon Arrizabalaga liked to draw – a lot. It was his mother who nudged him to put his talents to use, informing him, “Ibon, this is a trade, and it has a name: designer.”

    Surprised to realize drawing “was actually a job someone would pay for,” Arrizabalaga decided on design school, and in 1996 he received a degree in industrial design from Escola Massana in Barcelona. He started his career in the automotive industry, part of a team of designers at SEAT who collaborated on the company’s Altea vehicle.

    In 1998, Arrizabalaga began designing furniture for Treku and has since been part of the company’s TARTE team, the group responsible for the design of Treku household and industrial products.

    In 2013 he founded Naoko, a design studio based in San Sebastian and influenced by Basque traditions and culture.

    Arrizabalaga describes the common elements in his work as elegance and simplicity, with inspiration springing from sources as varied as a painting, or a tree, or “sometimes just hard work – try, try, try.” His harmonious, minimalist lines are evident in his Forma, Lauki and Sen Collections.

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  • Brad Ascalon

    Brad Ascalon

    U.S.A. (1977)

    Brad Ascalon was born into a design family. His Hungarian-born grandfather, Maurice Ascalon, was a sculptor, silversmith, industrial designer and inventor who founded a metal arts company in Israel in the 1930s, manufacturing decorative liturgical objects, before moving to the United States in the 1950s and settling near Philadelphia. (Maurice’s copper relief “The Scholar, the Laborer and the Toiler of the Soil” was part of the Jewish Palestine Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.) Ascalon’s father David is a sculptor and stained-glass and mosaic artist who designs and fabricates one-of-a-kind, large-scale art installations for places of worship and public spaces around North America, working out of Ascalon Studios, which he founded with Maurice in the 1970s. Brad Ascalon credits his family with providing the model he still follows, including respect for traditional materials and product permanence, as well as handcraft skills including metal sculpting, welding, stained glass and mosaic art.

    Ascalon has a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. “Music was my first passion,” he remembers. “At an early age, I learned piano and guitar, and I still play regularly. I minored in music at Rutgers, with a focus on theory, and after college I worked for some of the big record labels. I loved the industry at first, but over time, I became miserable. I didn’t like the music I was promoting, and the people around me were just out for themselves. I had a quarter-life crisis and needed a change.”

    That change was focused by the simple but weighty recognition that all the products we interact with on a daily basis are designed by someone. He headed back to school and, in 2005, completed a master’s in industrial design at Pratt Institute. “I realized that my time and energy gravitated toward furniture design, so that became an enormous focus. To this day, that’s my studio’s core and passion, music being a close second. And my design work is still highly influenced by the minimalist music movement that I’ve always been passionate about, in particular the music of Philip Glass and Steve Reich.” Applying that reductive approach to his designs, Ascalon strives for the simplest possible marriage of form, function and concept, while thinking strategically on behalf of his clients and with empathy for eventual product users. He describes the best designs as “those that whisper. They are meant to fit naturally within their environments. They don’t scream, they whisper.” To wit: Ascalon’s Cararra marble menorah for Design Within Reach (2011), a modern, minimalist take on the Jewish-themed work of his father and grandfather.

    In 2005, barely out of Pratt, Ascalon was recognized by Wallpaper magazine as one of the “Ten Most Wanted” emerging designers in the world. In 2006, he founded Brad Ascalon Studio NYC, a multidisciplinary design studio specializing in furniture for contract, hospitality and residential clients, as well as lighting, environmental design, packaging and other consumer products. Clients have included Bernhardt Design, Ligne Roset, L’Oreal, Redken and Shu Uemura. Ascalon’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Dwell, Elle Décor, Esquire and The New York Times, as well as exhibited globally at Milan’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile, London’s 100% Design Festival and ICFF in New York. In 2013, he was invited to represent American design with an installation at Moscow Design Week.

    Ascalon lives in New York City and on the North Fork of Long Island, where he and his wife have a weekend home. While his day-to-day design business remains in the city, he appreciates the regular “shift to the peace and quiet” of the island and the space to “build out a workshop and studio for prototypes and experimentation, since I don’t have that luxury in New York.” Otherwise, weekends are reserved for “relaxation, sketching, taking on workshop projects.” Those workshop projects – metalwork, mosaics and various experiments – also happen at Ascalon Studios in Philadelphia, where Ascalon consults for his father and works on his own projects when he can find the time. “It’s a way to do something for me, with no client in mind and with disregard for commercialization.”

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  • Hlynur Atlason

    Hlynur Atlason

    ICELAND (1974)

    Hlynur Atlason became a designer almost by accident. “I didn't understand the profession existed until I was in my 20s,” he says. There were no design schools at the time in his native Iceland. “You could study to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or you could go into the trades market,” recalls Atlason, who comes from a long line of lawyers. “These were really the options.”

    He wound up studying political science at the Sorbonne and by chance was invited to an open house at Parsons Paris, a branch of the New York school. “There were all these people doing these really interesting things in art,” he says. “I was like, ‘Let’s do this!’”

    He gravitated toward product and furniture design, and that required a transfer to Parsons New York. “When I started studying,” he recalls, “I was just completely taken over by this stuff.” After graduation, he stayed in New York and, in 2004, founded his eponymous design studio, which has since designed kitchen utensils, beverage bottles, airline serviceware, cosmetics packaging and furniture.

    “I’m most excited about items you can discover over time or have a longer relationship with and get some delight out of.”

    Atlason grew up tinkering with bicycles and became a national cycling champion in Iceland. “As a kid, I was always putting together bicycles. I would mix up and make different bikes and do all sorts of nonsense.” That passion extended to motorcycles and, beginning in 2006, motorcycle racing and motocross. “It’s family, design and motorcycles. So all of it fits,” says Atlason, a father of two whose first name is Icelandic for “maple tree.”

    “I think there’s a fairly sort of pure aesthetic to most things I do. I’m not much for embellishments or thrills and things like that. And I think it just comes out of – not a Nordic style – just a mentality. I don’t know what it is. It just comes natural in that way. That’s what feels right.”

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  • Carl Auböck

    Carl Auböck

    AUSTRIA (1900–1957)

    When Carl Auböck’s wife would hear quarrelling coming from the workshop near their home in Wien, Austria, she knew better than to venture inside. It wasn’t for fear she might witness an unsavory dispute; she well knew a sensational idea was about to be born. A man who spent the better part of his life in the very metal shop founded by his father, Auböck would become one of the best-known figures of Austrian modernism. Although he left to study painting at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Art and became a student of the Bauhaus (1919-1921), he preferred the comfort of home and returned in 1925 to take over his father’s workshop, Werkstatte Carl Auböck, where he apprenticed as a teen.

    In his early years heading up the workshop, Auböck would carry on production of Wiener Bronzen, the enameled miniature figures his father had created. He continued to pursue painting in his spare time, but it wasn’t until he gained commercial success with his abstracts that he began to experiment with design of a modern, more functional art object. His material of preference was brass, which he often treated with a process of patinating and polishing to achieve a contrast and character rarely seen in brass works. The result demonstrates not only his mastery of modern form but a great awareness of and respect for the metal itself. His "Optimist-Pessimist" and "Man with Cane" brass figures sum up his modernist attitude – an attitude that abstained from ornamental indulgence of any kind and embraced craftsmanship, simple form, humor and soul.

    Just as Auböck followed in his father’s footsteps, his own son would more than carry on production of his endearing designs. Carl Auböck III (1924-1993) brought to the family a commercial status recognized around the globe. An internationally celebrated designer in his own right, Carl III thought that good design could heal the world. His son, the fourth Carl, has stepped in to ensure that the healing will continue.

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  • Shin Azumi

    Shin Azumi

    JAPAN (1965)

    Born in Kobe, Japan, Shin Azumi enjoyed a wide range of creative activities in his youth – drawing, painting, making objects and even playing saxophone. Later on, casting about for a way to keep his creativity tethered to a career, he searched for a field of study. “Until I got into the university, I wasn’t aware of the profession of industrial designer,” he says.

    While studying at Kyoto City University, Azumi was inspired early on by the work of architects Tadao Ando and Toyo Ito. “These two guys were heroes from when I started to design, when I was a student,” he says. “They were already stars. They really influenced me to design things that make a difference.” After graduation and three years’ work at NEC, Azumi moved to England to earn a master’s at the Royal College of Art in London, then ended up staying for another 25 years, during which he established a design partnership, Azumi Studio, in 1995 and then a solo enterprise, A Studio, in 2005.

    Azumi embraces a design philosophy that merges functionality and entertainment, or enjoyment. “Design is a kind of work that provides entertainment for our lives,” he says. “Functionality is something that is quite universal and something we can share. I try to use functionality as an element of enjoyment.” This idea’s embodiment can be seen in designs such as his Loku Stool, whose lush curves and profound wood grain provide “entertainment” for eye, hand and body while simultaneously satisfying the function of a place to sit.

    He returned to Japan in 2016 for a professorship at Hosei University in Engineering and Design, a new department. Azumi has designed products ranging from chairs, sofas and ottomans to flatware, teapots and loudspeakers for Case, Itoki, Lapalma, Muji, Tendo and T-fal. His work has received numerous design awards and is featured in museums overseas.

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  • Shin and Tomoko Azumi

    Shin and Tomoko Azumi

    JAPAN (1965) ENGLAND (1966)

    Before they formed their own separate design studios in 2005, the team of Shin Azumi and Tomoko Azumi had formed Azumi studio in 1995 in London and produced truly witty furniture and products. Each trained first in Japan and then at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London (alma mater to Jasper Morrison, among others), and together as Azumi studio they won numerous awards, including Product of the Year at the International Interior Design Awards in 2000 for the LEM Piston Stool. The stool’s simple form belies a sophisticated understanding of materials and technology, enabling intuitive use by anyone sitting on it. This same unique perspective also produced the Table=Chest, an apparently simple piece of wood furniture that transforms from a low table to a chest of drawers in a few turns. Indicative of the future of international design, the work of Azumi studio is in numerous design collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum. Shin went on to establish A Studio in Tokyo; Tomoko leads T.N.A. Design Studio in London.

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  • B

  • BassamFellows


    U.S.A. (FOUNDED 2003)

    “Luxury has to be comfortable and has to be easy,” says Scott Fellows, half of the superstar design team BassamFellows. Fellows, a Harvard MBA and creative director, is credited with the complete makeover of Swiss fashion house Bally. His business partner, Craig Bassam, is an architect and designer whose career started with Bruce Eeles, the Australian architect who worked with Marcel Breuer. From Eeles, Bassam learned to emphasize nature’s relationship to design. Together Bassam and Fellows have created Craftsman Modern, a new design movement that focuses on traditional modernist principles – honest materials, solid construction, utility, beauty without elaboration – alongside warmth and natural materials, believing that nature is a key part of luxury living. “My work,” says Bassam, “is all about merging the rationality and clarity of modernism with the warmth and texture of nature.” Wood, brass and leather are the principle materials that inform Bassam’s furniture pieces, which are mostly hand-assembled and hand-finished. “Modern classics are too often criticized for being a little bit too cold or a little bit too industrial or commercial-like,” says Fellows. BassamFellows is responding to this criticism, redefining modernism for the new millennium.

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  • Milo Baughman

    Milo Baughman

    U.S.A. (1923–2003)

    “Furniture that is too obviously designed,” said Milo Baughman, “is very interesting, but too often belongs only in museums.” In Baughman’s distinguished body of work, his vast creativity never interfered with functionality; instead, he struck an ideal modernist balance. Using the consummate midcentury-modern materials – chrome, stainless steel, glass and leather – he created a new visual vocabulary, built on the legacy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, but infused with the style and ease of the American West Coast.

    Born in Kansas in 1923, Baughman was raised in Long Beach, California. At age 13 he was enlisted by his parents to contribute to the design of the family home – and, thus, his path was set. He served in the Army Air Forces in World War II, where he gained experience designing officers’ clubs. After returning from the war he studied architectural design, and in 1947, at the age of 24, he launched Milo Baughman Design, Inc. He quickly received commissions from Glenn of California – where he worked with designer Greta Magnusson Grossman – and Pacific Iron, collaborating with these Los Angeles companies to create what we now call the California Modern aesthetic.

    The defining collaboration of his career, however, began in 1953, when he started working with Thayer Coggin, the North Carolina manufacturer that still produces Milo Baughman furniture today. This partnership lasted five decades and produced enduring classics like the cantilevered 989-103 Chair and the semi-circular 825-301 LAF Sofa. In that time, Baughman never lost touch with his modernist foundation. In 1966, The New York Times said of the prolific designer: “Mr. Baughman and the companies he works for… are among the few mass producers putting out inventive, nontraditional furniture that is widely available to the public both in terms of price and retail outlet.”

    In 1965, Baughman converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and remained a passionate devotee to Mormonism until his death. He established the Department of Environmental Design at Brigham Young University in 1969 and gave lectures about design at numerous institutions. He maintained his professional design studio right up until his death at age 80.

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  • Marina Bautier

    Marina Bautier

    BELGIUM (1980)

    Belgian designer Marina Bautier established her design studio in 2003 after graduating from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. She now works for manufacturers such as Case Furniture and Ligne Roset in addition to doing interior design and taking on projects for private clients.

    Bautier is known for a functional approach, as evidenced by the ingenious Lap Shelving she designed for Case. This customizable, modular system features removable shelves for organizing books and more. The signature pragmatic style that marks Lap Shelving spans all her work.

    Eschewing ostentation and unnecessary encumbrances, Bautier begins the design process by observing everyday objects and the purposes they serve. Focusing on utility as a starting point, she creates eminently useful furniture and other objects that are both simply structured and easily manufactured, yet she also devotes attention to the appearance and beauty of familiar materials, especially wood.

    Bautier has been lauded by the likes of Elle Decoration UK and Wallpaper* magazine, the latter of which presented her with a Best Use of Material: Wood award in 2009. Midway through 2013, she launched her own furniture label, MA, and opened a new retail space in Brussels.

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  • Yves Béhar

    Yves Béhar

    SWITZERLAND (1967)

    “Design brings stories to life,” said Yves Béhar in 1999. Today, that idea is no longer breaking news, but Béhar was one of the first to talk about the narrative content of form and the emotional connection between person and object. In the decade since, he has become one of the heroes of the design world by performing extraordinary feats of design that fuse poetry with technological innovation.

    Through fuseproject, the San Francisco-based design and branding firm he founded, Béhar has won international recognition for his work with Herman Miller, Toshiba, Nike, Microsoft and Mini Cooper. But the Swiss-Turkish designer views his role as something more than product development. “I believe design’s purpose is not only to show us the future,” he states, “but to bring us the future.”

    As one might expect from a designer whose creations are as compelling as the Jawbone headset for Aliph and the Leaf Light for Herman Miller, Béhar has been featured in countless articles for publications like Metropolis, Architectural Record and Business Week. In conversation, he consistently returns to design’s ethical and expressive aspects, as well as his desire to “use technology as an asset, rather than a constraint.” These themes inform Béhar’s own personal story, which includes a childhood in Switzerland and the bi-cultural influences of a “modernist” East German mother and “poetic” Turkish father, as well as immersion in the dot-com boom of the 1990s.

    Following graduation from Art Center College of Design, Béhar worked for two Bay Area design houses, Frog and Lunar, before starting fuseproject. His company was named one of the world’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Design by Fast Company in 2014, and his long list of awards includes the National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Treehugger’s Best of Green Architecture and Design Award, and several Red Dot Design and IDEA awards.

    The designer heads up Industrial Design at California College of the Arts (CCA,) where he encourages students to become involved in all aspects of object making. He also attempts to install a global sensibility and to instill a sense of the designer’s responsibility to culture and our collective future. For Béhar, design is one of the most important tools we have for “departure” and “transformation.”

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  • Mario Bellini

    Mario Bellini

    ITALY (1935)

    Mario Bellini is an architect, industrial designer, teacher, spokesman, curator and editor. He has played each of these roles with the same commitment to promoting design as his predecessors, Marco Zanuso and Vico Magistretti. He became one of the leading exponents of Italian design in the 1970s.

    Bellini studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and shortly thereafter ascended to the position of design director at La Rinascente, an influential chain of Italian department stores. In 1963, he founded an architectural office with Marco Romano and ten years later, established Studio Bellini in Milan. From 1963–1991, he was the chief design consultant for Olivetti.

    His designs for Olivetti include the Divisumma calculator, an appealingly rounded machine made of brightly colored plastic and covered with a thin rubber membrane. He also designed the Praxis typewriter for Olivetti. Less overtly radical than his contemporaries, Bellini is nonetheless respected for his highly original forms, wide-ranging design ideas and technical sophistication. His furniture design is stylistically eclectic but characterized by voluptuous organic forms, an inventive use of luxurious materials and a high level of finish.

    In 1972 Bellini won international attention when he presented a mobile micro-living environment entitled Kar-a-Sutra at the New Domestic Landscape exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A literate as well as imaginative designer, Bellini acted as editor of Domus magazine from 1986 to 1991, and he is a member of the Scientific Council for the Milan Triennial. He has also held the position of professor of design at the Istituto Superiore del Disegno Industriale, Venice and professor of industrial design at the Domus Academy, Milan. Bellini has acted as designer and consultant for Cassina, Vitra, B&B Italia, Flos, Artemide and Renault. He has received numerous design accolades, including a remarkable eight Compasso d'Oro Awards.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Niels Bendtsen

    Niels Bendtsen

    DENMARK (1943)

    “Quality is a funny concept. We tend to think of it as being associated with handcraft. But quality is also about your attitude toward design. Craftsmanship is just as much about how you run the machines that are now necessary for economic viability.”

    Born in Denmark, Niels Bendtsen immigrated to Canada with his family in 1951. In place of a formal design education, Bendtsen trained as an apprentice for his father, who designed and built Scandinavian furniture. Through working with his father, Bendtsen gained valuable skills and a respect for non-industrial, hand-built traditions, but he was also intrigued by new technologies and ways to satisfy increasing demand. Between 1963 and 1972, Bendtsen had his own retail store where he sold his father’s furniture, as well as imported Scandinavian designs. He designed small items for the store, but it wasn’t until he was in his early thirties that he truly began designing furniture. Dissatisfied with the quality and limited functionality of the furniture he received from his overseas manufacturers, Bendtsen sold his store, moved to Europe and became a full-time designer.

    In the 1980s, he moved back to Vancouver, bought back his old store and added a manufacturing component. Using the skills he learned working with European factories, Bendtsen successfully found a balance between affordability, aesthetics and quality. Customers responded, and in the mid-1990s Bendtsen began making his designs available through other retailers, such as Design Within Reach.

    An early Bendtsen design, the Ribbon Chair, is included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his work was featured on a Canadian stamp celebrating industrial design. In 2006, Bendtsen was honored with the 2006 British Columbia Creative Achievement Award of Distinction.

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  • Ward Bennett

    Ward Bennett

    U.S.A. (1917–2003)

    When he began working at a young age, Ward Bennett had no inclination toward interior, furniture and architectural design, where he ultimately won lasting recognition and was a celebrated figure in the 1960s and ’70s. The son of a vaudevillian father living in NYC’s Washington Heights, he quit school at 13 and went to work in the garment district, designing his first clothing collection at 15 and then leaving for Europe, where he continued in fashion but also explored other disciplines.

    He studied art in Florence and Paris though he was mostly self-taught, learning illustration, sculpture, jewelry-making and furniture, interior and home design, leaving fashion mostly behind. “I learn from people,” he once said. Bennett eventually returned to New York City and made his name in interior design, in part through his own headline-grabbing apartment in the Dakota building, earning attention from the likes of David Rockefeller and Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner.

    With his signature “sensual minimalism” as his guide, he designed more than 150 chairs, including the Bumper, Envelope, Scissor, Sled and Landmark chairs. Lyndon Johnson, for his presidential library, asked Bennett to design a cross between a barroom chair, a courtroom chair and a western saddle. The result became known as the University Chair, its parts carved from solid wood.

    Hailed by the American Institute of Architects, Bennett is credited as an American pioneer in the use of industrial materials for home furnishings – a prime example being his early ’60s I Beam Table, which employs a section of beam for a base. He is lauded for helping shape an “American look” at a time when European style dominated.

    Many of Bennett’s designs are in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and others. He’s also in Interior Design magazine’s hall of fame. “There was nothing superfluous about Ward’s designs, nothing ‘extra,’” says Tim deFiebre, Bennett’s former assistant and keeper of his legacy. “They were always honed down to their bare essence.”

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  • Boris Berlin

    Boris Berlin

    RUSSIA (1953)

    Before founding interdisciplinary design firm Komplot Design, both Poul Christiansen and Boris Berlin gained expertise across several academic fields, business environments and world cultures – all of which they would eventually channel into their deeply personal work by approaching a project from several angles simultaneously. Christiansen graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in Copenhagen in 1973 and became a freelance designer for companies such as Kevi and Herman Miller. He also worked for Le Klint, where he transformed the company’s traditional pleated lampshades into sculptural shapes through his application of mathematical curves. Berlin graduated in 1975 from the Institute of Applied Arts and Design in Leningrad and was soon working as a freelance designer, producing industrial products and graphics for VNIITE. In 1983, he started Boris Berlin Design in Denmark and worked with Penta Design to develop a computerized workstation for the Danish Post and Telegraph.

    Christiansen and Berlin established Komplot in 1987, with the belief that “design is an intermediate body – a link that appears into existence in the tension of no-man’s-land: Tension between art and engineering, between manufacturer and consumer/user... between these polar contradictions is the condition of a design’s successful performance.” Over the course of their partnership, Christiansen and Berlin have produced critically acclaimed work for clients including Fora Form, Gubi and Hay. The Gubi Chair, one of their more notable products, has won several prestigious awards including the Innovation Award, Best of NeoCon in 2003; the Danish Design Prize in 2004; the RED DOT Design Award 2004; and the 100% Design / Blueprint Award in 2003 for Best Product.

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  • Jeffrey Bernett

    Jeffrey Bernett

    U.S.A. (1964)

    With his commitment to function and simplicity – and a singular attention to manufacturing detail – Jeffrey Bernett has won accolades in a range of disciplines, including architecture, interior design, residential and office furniture, lighting, graphic design, transportation design and fashion. His very first furniture collection, presented at the 1996 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York, received the Editor’s Award for “Best of Show.”

    Bernett initially entered college to pursue a degree in business, then altered his course to undertake studies in furniture design in England. Along the way, he deepened his understanding of mechanics and manufacturing processes. The combination of design, business and manufacturing expertise has contributed to Bernett’s stunning success as a multidisciplinary consultant. In 2002, he established Consultants for Design Strategy (CDS) in New York.

    In addition to Design Within Reach, Bernett has worked with top American furniture companies like Bernhardt and Knoll, as well as European manufacturers of furniture and household products such as B&B Italia, Boffi, Cappellini and Ligne Roset. He consults on custom furnishings and fixtures for projects such as the Michael Kors flagship store in New York and ergonomic passenger seating for Northwest Airlines.

    Armed with knowledge gained from his design of comfortable in-flight seating for Northwest Airlines, Bernett developed a streamlined lounge chair for Design Within Reach that reclines with a slight seated push and supports the body in comfort from head to toe. With none of the bulky assertiveness of a traditional reclining armchair, the Flight Recliner (2005) has a contemporary visual lightness suited to today’s homes. It was such a success that Bernett and DWR have continued an ongoing collaboration, introducing several collections since then.

    What inspires him? Bernett acknowledges three great passions – sports, speed and problem-solving – all of which require self-determination, focus and discipline. He also draws upon travel to broaden his experience of culture. “Whether it’s for work or private purposes, I visit one place a year where I’ve never been before. I take great pleasure in experiencing the culture of that place and absorbing it.” *

    * From Interior Design, “Thinking About Tomorrow” by Sheila Kim, December 1, 2003.

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  • Harry Bertoia

    Harry Bertoia

    ITALY (1915–1978)

    Italian artist and furniture designer Harry Bertoia was 37 years old when he designed the patented Diamond Chair for Knoll in 1952. An unusually beautiful piece of furniture, it was strong yet delicate in appearance, as well as an immediate commercial success in spite of being made almost entirely by hand. With the Diamond Chair, Bertoia created an icon of modern design and introduced a new material to the world of furniture design: industrial wire mesh.

    Bertoia’s career began in the 1930s as a student at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he re-established the metalworking studio and, as head of that department, taught from 1939 until 1943, when it was closed due to wartime restrictions on materials. During the war, Bertoia moved to Venice, California, and worked with Charles and Ray Eames at the Evans Products Company, developing new techniques for molding plywood.

    In 1946, a pivotal year for Bertoia, he became an American citizen, moved to Bally, Pennsylvania, near the Knoll factory, and established his own design and sculpting studio, where he produced numerous successful designs for Knoll. As a sculptor, Bertoia created abstract freestanding metal works, some of which resonated with sound when touched or had moving elements that chimed in the wind.

    Among his many honors, Bertoia received awards from the American Institute of Architects in 1973 and the American Academy of Letters in 1975. All of his work bears the hallmarks of a highly skilled and imaginative sculptor, as well as an inventive designer, deeply engaged with the relationship between form and space.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Luciano Bertoncini

    Luciano Bertoncini

    ITALY (1939)

    Since 1958, Luciano Bertoncini has been quietly and happily helping to create Italy’s design scene. Some say that Bertoncini, a man who eschews the spotlight, hasn’t received due credit for the influence he’s had on contemporary European modernism. But that doesn’t seem to bother him. “Bertoncini is neither envious nor bitter,” says Virginio Briatore in the introduction to Bertoncini’s 1999 retrospective. “He considers himself a lucky man, and he is always in good humor.”

    Born in Feltre in 1939, Bertoncini studied technical drawing and, in 1957, began working with architect Vittorio Rossi in Treviso. With Rossi he learned integrity in architecture and got a chance to design not only buildings but also furniture. Rossi was a partner at Mobilindex – one of the few modern manufacturers in the area. “Those who were not around at the time will find it difficult to imagine the furniture that was made then,” says Bertoncini. “Louis XIV to rustic country!” His first piece, the futuristic and minimal, sprawling and transitional Zattera Bed, was well ahead of its time. It was included in the groundbreaking 1972 MoMA exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, which also featured his collaboration with Joe Colombo.

    Bertoncini began working with Colombo after the master took a liking to Bertoncini’s Gronda Coat Hanger for Fiarm. The collaboration was cut short, however, with Colombo’s untimely death in 1971. Bertoncini was then tasked with completing Colombo’s Total Furnishing Unit for the 1972 show at MoMA. The New York Times called the exhibition “very large, costly and provocative,” and in the process helped solidify Bertoncini’s career.

    In 1975, the designer was approached by Aprilia, the famous motorcycle manufacturer. This began a new phase for Bertoncini, as he shifted his attention from static objects to those built for speed. “To design a motorbike,” says the designer, “one has to enter the world of motorcycling, which is a very special habitat, almost maniacal: Every part of the bike has its rituals, its languages, its mechanisms.”

    Capitalizing on his experience in mechanical engineering, Bertoncini creates perfectly balanced pieces that have no material or decorative excess. The people he’s worked with, however, credit his success to his personality as much as his genius. “In reality,” says Mino Bellato, “Bertoncini’s primary virtue is his sociable character: He gets on with everybody and has no fight with the world.”

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  • Ted Boerner

    Ted Boerner

    U.S.A. (1957)

    The trappings of 20th-century Americana are frequently evoked in Ted Boerner’s furniture: a Lucite table that resembles a 1940s juice tumbler, a sleek upholstered chaise with the silhouette of a folding pool lounger, a dining table with a Lincoln Log–like base. Ted Boerner’s childhood summers in rural Wisconsin were filled with midcentury modernist inspiration, much of which stemmed from his grandfather’s rustic log cabin. Outfitted with Eames chairs, a hand-built modern staircase and a tangible patina of historical vitality, it was a setting steeped in the same simplicity and well-wrought comfort that Boerner has become known for in his furniture designs.

    As a former theater and dance student at the University of West Virginia, Boerner developed an intuitive sense of the body and the space it occupies – an awareness that would later lend his furniture designs their genial angles and careful proportions. After a shift in academic focus, he earned his BFA in theater design and continued in the field as a grad student at NYU. Returning to his home turf of Wisconsin, Boerner worked as a production designer for a classical repertory theater, traveling with the group extensively and designing sets and costumes for a myriad of productions. “Propping scenes and imagining the things that the characters would surround themselves with made me think about how important furniture is to people.”

    In the mid-’80s Boerner grew weary of his theater-imposed deracination and settled in San Francisco to work as an interior designer. Yearning for the same freedom to conceive and create furniture that he had as a production designer, Boerner opened his own furniture studio in 1988. Within a year, he was creating exclusive custom furnishings for the Manhattan Hotel in Tokyo and the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Many of these early designs have become best-sellers in Boerner’s current line, exemplifying the designer’s unwavering focus on the essential character and craftsmanship of his designs.

    In 1993, Boerner took a space at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and gained immediate national recognition with four pieces, including his dynamic Crescent Bed. Since then, Ted Boerner, Inc. has had exponential success, with over 45 pieces offered and a presence in premier designer showrooms and homes throughout the country. Boerner’s commercial clients include Nike, Northwest Airlines, Celebrity Cruise Lines, San Francisco’s Hotel Rex, New York’s Gotham Bar & Grill and Conde Nast’s corporate offices.

    With the belief that “good design should be more accessible,” Boerner has begun producing furniture in greater numbers after years of one-offs. By working closely with manufacturers and using the finest materials, he retains a level of craftsmanship in his designs not readily found in mass-produced furniture. “When you own something that is handcrafted, you’re reminded of the people and the process behind that piece,” Boerner states. “It defeats a throwaway society with a wonderful sense of history.”

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  • Claus Bonderup and Torsten Thorup

    Claus Bonderup and Torsten Thorup

    DENMARK (1943) (1944)

    Claus Bonderup and Torsten Thorup collaborated professionally from 1969 to 1992 while maintaining separate architecture firms. Among their best known creations is the Semi Pendant Lamp, created while they were students at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. “It’s still interesting. I’m still proud of this lamp,” Bonderup says.

    After graduation, they worked for architect Henning Larsen and then later independently and together on projects ranging from urban planning and commercial buildings to product design and trade fairs. Thorup’s work has been compared to that of Le Corbusier, while Bonderup maintains a lifelong fascination with Andreas Palladio, an architect from the 1500s. “He made beautiful buildings,” Bonderup says, “and they are still so attractive 500 years after they were built. I bring my students to see these places outside Venice.”

    Bonderup describes the inspiration for the Semi Pendant as “a protest” against Poul Henningsen’s now-iconic PH5 Pendant, its concentric nest of shells and diffused light in stark contrast to the Semi’s simple bell and unshaded light. “It’s a beautiful shape,” Bonderup acknowledges, “but as a lamp, I think it’s impossible because there’s no light coming out. I don't understand the way he was thinking.”

    Thorup maintains his architecture firm in Copenhagen. Bonderup is professor emeritus at Aalborg University and lives on the north coast of Denmark beside a spectacular garden he created with artist Anne Just. It has been cited among the great gardens of the world. Their work is represented, among other places, in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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  • Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

    Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

    FRANCE (1971) FRANCE (1976)

    The Bouroullec brothers, Ronan (born in 1971) and Erwan (1976), were brought up in a farming family in Brittany, France, an unlikely foundation for a career in the design world of Paris. Ronan developed an interest in design as a teenager and headed to École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, then École Nationale Supérieure des Arts in Cergy. Erwan followed a few years later, assisting Ronan with his work while still a student himself. They opened their joint Paris-based design studio in 1999. Being brothers in addition to business partners allows them to bounce ideas off each other, trusting that difference of opinion will spur creativity.

    In 1997, the Bouroullecs were approached by Cappellini and given their first industrial design projects. A 2002 meeting with Vitra began a relationship that has led to numerous products, including Algues, a distinctive design modeled after web-like plant life, which can function as a decorative element or interior architecture. Their products range from furniture, lighting and rugs to porcelain dishware, ceramic tile and jewelry, even window blinds and a TV.

    The Bouroullecs maintain a presence at the experimental workshop Galerie Kreo in Paris, considering the design lab vital to their evolution. Their own studio, however, is notably absent a “design” sensibility, beginning with a low-key exterior that does nothing to indicate two modern design influencers are at work inside. Within the space, oversized desks double as meeting tables, surrounded by mismatched chairs, many of them Bouroullec prototypes. The place has the feel of a busy schoolroom – inspiration in the air, tiny models on the shelves and walls covered with sketches.

    The duo’s pencil, pen and crayon drawings lead to playing with materials, making models and creating prototypes, with close attention paid to aesthetics, hand feel, emotional appeal, comfort and, finally, craftsmanship. Once merely a means to getting potential products down on paper, those same drawings have also become works in their own right: A collection of them was included in a Vitra Design Museum exhibit in 2012.

    The Bouroullecs’ work, including large-scale art installations, has been exhibited worldwide, from MoMA in New York to Centre Pompidou in Paris to Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In addition, a monograph published by Phaidon chronicles their work. Awards include the Finn Juhl Prize in 2008, the Danish Design Award in 2010 and the “Designer of the Year” Award from Wallpaper magazine in 2016.

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  • Marcel Breuer

    Marcel Breuer

    HUNGARY (1902–1981)

    Sparked by bicycle handlebars, Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel chairs were a daring departure from traditional wood furniture. “Mass production,” Breuer said, “made me interested in polished metal, in shiny and impeccable lines in space, as new components of our interiors. I considered such polished and curved lines not only symbolic of our modern technology but actually to be technology.”

    Drawing upon this image of “shiny and impeccable lines in space,” in 1925 Breuer designed his famous Wassily Chair, which was later named after Wassily Kandinsky, a former Bauhaus colleague. Breuer’s range of tubular metal furniture had singular advantages: affordability, simplicity and an inherent resilience. He considered his designs essential for modern living.

    Breuer’s next breakthrough was his cantilevered chair. While Mart Stam and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had created cantilevered chairs using steel tubes, they were rigid and awkward. Breuer used unreinforced steel tubing, creating a free-swinging chair that approached his de-materialist ideal of “sitting on columns of air.” The cantilevered chair was his greatest commercial success, and its design continued to evolve, the frame becoming lighter, the seat and back more pliant and the lines softer.

    In 1928 Breuer left the Bauhaus and moved to Berlin. He relocated to England in 1935, when the Nazis made it impossible for anyone who had been a part of the Bauhaus – a “hotbed of Bolshevism” – to practice architecture. In 1937, he began to collaborate with Walter Gropius in the Boston area and joined Harvard as a professor. Breuer later moved to New York in 1946 to found his own architectural firm, with concrete becoming his medium of choice, exemplified by his 1964 design of the Whitney Museum of American Art, now known as The Met Breuer.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Scott Bridgens and Simon James

    Scott Bridgens and Simon James

    NEW ZEALAND (1981) NEW ZEALAND (1973)

    Scott Bridgens and Simon James share a love of New Zealand design. James established Auckland-based Simon James Design in 1998 to distribute his own furniture and make compatible international brands available in New Zealand. Meanwhile, Bridgens worked in the U.K. as operations manager for Tom Dixon. Together, they founded Resident to bring New Zealand-designed and -manufactured furniture and lighting to the global market.

    Creative director James and managing director Bridgens met when Bridgens returned from the U.K. and strolled into James’ office in Auckland. They quickly realized they had the same vision: a design studio with an export focus. Whereas James had struggled on his own with the business side of exporting New Zealand designs, Bridgens used his experience with logistics to fill the gap. Their intention was always holistic and international, an approach Bridgens knew well from his time with Dixon. For his part, James learned from experience that designers and manufacturers work best together by maintaining autonomy, which is why Simon James Design has been outsourcing production to specialty manufacturers since its inception. Resident was set up similarly: Its headquarters and Simon James Design remain in Auckland, third-party manufacturing facilities are tapped across New Zealand and Europe, and a distribution center in the U.K. allows them to compete with European manufacturers on delivery times.

    All the while, Simon James Design has continued to feature furniture, lighting, homewares, jewelry, clothing and accessories in two retail showrooms in Auckland, offering both the company’s own work and that of a design collective. Pieces are marked by common materiality, clean-lined aesthetics and visible craftsmanship, combined with functionality and longevity.

    When launching Resident in 2011, Bridgens and James pulled items from Simon James Design that had done well at home, then approached a handful of designers whose work they admired, asking them to come up with pieces especially for Resident. The result is a line of products that the two deem “iconic, practical and dependable.” They now collaborate with multiple designers, all New Zealanders based in various parts of the world, including artists and even architects, who influence products to work in both residential and commercial spaces. A curated aesthetic is maintained by sticking with those who speak their language – emphasizing bold materials, simplicity, practicality and attention to detail, stressing endurance over trends.

    Under the Resident umbrella is Resident Studio, the brand’s own design team, creating what Bridgens and James call value-adding furniture and lighting. Working with diverse materials – steel, aluminum, brass, glass and ceramic, currently – Resident’s lighting collections include the Geometric Tri LED Pendant (2013) and the Geometric Hex LED Pendant (2013), the latter the recipient of Top Honors in the Home NZ Magazine Furniture and Lighting Design Awards the year of its creation. Resident exhibits at many international shows, including the Milan Furniture Fair, London Design Festival and New York Design Week.

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  • Flemming Busk

    Flemming Busk

    DENMARK (1967)

    Flemming Busk discovered his creative side in grammar school, and his love of art class was encouraged at home by his father and grandmother, both painting hobbyists. By high school, bored with his classes, Busk was drawing furniture in his notebooks. He went on to earn a master’s in architecture and design from the Aarhus School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark.

    In 2000, Busk co-founded Busk+Hertzog with Stephan Hertzog. The Lisbon-based studio concentrates on product and furniture design, with a focus on bringing new ideas to the Danish design industry. “Denmark had been dominated by the old ‘big’ names. We want to design products of our age, for how people live, work, think and feel today, with an emphasis on thinking outside national borders and culture.”

    The two are interested in the story behind each product. “Everything originates from something. We’ve designed a stacking chair starting from the backside, because that’s from where you see a stacking chair most of the time. And we’ve designed lounge chairs with a shape inspired by the architecture they’re going to be a part of.”

    They’re also attracted to the why. “We start with an analysis of what the purpose of the new design is that has practical, commercial and aesthetic considerations.” Decorative elements, likewise, have a purpose. “We believe in having a clear and clean design language, where decorations are an outcome of functional considerations, and shapes on forms are not only pleasing to the eye but also integrated features of the product.”

    Busk’s ingenious Twilight Sleeper Sofa won a furniture competition at Denmark’s Aarhus School of Architecture in 1999.

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  • Flemming Busk and Stephan Hertzog

    Flemming Busk and Stephan Hertzog

    DENMARK (1967) DENMARK (1969)

    Flemming Busk’s career began in grammar school art class, where he fanned an early spark encouraged within his family by a father who loved to paint and a grandmother who dabbled in painting and crafts. By high school, Busk was drawing furniture in his notebooks. He went on to earn a master’s in architecture and design from the Aarhus School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark.

    Stephan Hertzog’s early creative interests were also encouraged at home. Following high school, Hertzog received a technical degree in garment engineering at TEKO in Herning, Denmark (now VIA University College). Originally intending to study fashion design, he started to work on the production side of the industry, where he continued for 10 years before partnering with Flemming Busk.

    The duo founded Busk+Hertzog in Denmark in 2000, with a focus on product and furniture design and a shared vision of revitalization. “The industry in Denmark was dominated by the old ‘big’ names of Danish design, with an overweight of designs from the golden age. We want to design products of our age, how people live, work, think and feel today, with an emphasis on thinking outside national borders and culture.” They moved in 2009 to the London design district of Clerkenwell, then in 2014 to Lisbon, where they now reside.

    As they bring their designs to life, Busk and Hertzog believe that every product has a story. “Everything originates from something. We have designed a stacking chair starting from the backside, because that’s from where you see a stacking chair most of the time. The shape of an upholstered bench has come from studying how people interact with each other in public spaces, and we have designed lounge chairs where the shape is inspired by the architecture it is going to be a part of.”

    Each product’s story begins with a why – the reason behind the design. “We always start with an analysis of what the purpose of the new design is that has practical, commercial and aesthetic considerations.” Decorative elements are not without utility. “We believe in having a clear and clean design language, where decorations are an outcome of functional considerations, and shapes on forms are not only pleasing to the eye but also integrated features of the product.”

    Busk+Hertzog’s simple yet sculptural Softsquare (2016) and Softbench (2014) give the traditional pouf a twist. The designers believe that by rounding the corners to soften the shapes and working with the stitching details, they’ve created products distinctive enough to stand out, with clean and lasting designs that work in almost any setting.

    In 2008, Busk and Hertzog received the Danish Furniture Award, given to designers who have made a special contribution to the Danish design industry, a distinction shared with Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton and Poul Kjærholm. Several Busk+Hertzog designs are in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Danish Museum of Art and Design, and have been placed in the Royal House of Norway in Oslo, the Norwegian Embassy in Helsinki and The Modern restaurant at MoMA in New York.

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  • Poul Cadovius

    Poul Cadovius

    DENMARK (1911–2011)

    His motto was “Speed and action.” And whether at work or play, Poul Cadovius seemed to live it to the fullest, carving out a lasting design legacy and building an empire of companies with a global reach.

    Born in in Frederiksberg, Denmark, a municipality bordering Copenhagen, Cadovius thrilled at driving race cars at a young age but eventually turned to boating, trading a motor for sails to satisfy his need for speed.

    His path to manufacturing greatness began humbly in 1944 in a 1,200-square-foot wooden shed, where he and Hother Brønner began making Venetian blinds. But, like almost everything in his life, the business accelerated rapidly.

    Ten years later, after Brønner left the company, Cadovius became sole proprietor and was on his way to international fame through an astonishing array of companies he acquired and products he developed, from furniture to boats.

    Fueled by enthusiasm, determination and stubbornness, Cadovius liked his coffee black, sweaters baggy and beard neat. He was never without his sketch pad.

    By 1970, as Royal System A/S was celebrating its 25th year, Cadovius was chairman of six companies in all, manufacturing a range of products in licensed factories around the world and sending exports to 40 countries. A factory in Denmark was one of the most sophisticated in the world and among the first to use computers extensively in production.

    “He is a demanding boss but nevertheless has a good way with his staff,” said a company brochure that same year. “And his secret in getting them to pull a heavy load is that he demands at least as much of himself.”

    His contributions were significant, especially in boats, sailing, portable shelters, manufacturing and merchandising, and he holds 400 patents. But his Royal System Shelving, whose first iteration came in 1948, is considered one of his lasting contributions, a cornerstone of Danish design and one of the greatest success stories in the history of Danish furniture manufacturing. Its major innovation was the wall-mounting of shelves and especially storage units in endless modular configurations.

    “Most of us live on the bottom of a cube,” Cadovius said. “If we put the walls even with the floor, we get a lot of space to live on.”

    He died at age 99, one year after granting rights to allow Royal System Shelving to go back into production.

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  • John Caldwell

    John Caldwell

    U.S.A. (1937)

    John Caldwell got his first break as a furniture designer in Los Angeles in the 1950s. In the early days, he freelanced for Brown Jordan, a company that built steel army cots in Quonset huts during World War II and then went on to produce high-design modern outdoor furniture by Caldwell, Walter Lamb (who salvaged bronze tubing from sunken battleships off Hawaii for his pieces) and Van Keppel-Green (the partnership that created the majority of the patio furniture for John Entenza’s Arts & Architecture Case Study Houses). Since selling Brown Jordan his Mai Tai design in 1957 at the age of 19, Caldwell has designed outdoor furniture, office furniture and accessories, umbrellas, lighting and ceiling fans for markets in the United States, China, Indonesia and Mexico. He also taught design for 20 years at various Southern California colleges including Long Beach State, Pasadena City College and the Art Center College of Design.

    Caldwell has always been interested in using the latest lightweight, durable and easy-to-clean materials for his outdoor lines. The Mai Tai was one of the first furniture lines to incorporate extruded aluminum and vinyl lacing. Lately he has incorporated fabricated wood and all-weather wicker in his furniture, as well as die-cast and molded plastics such as polypropylene. And to complement today’s refined material technologies, Caldwell finds that the public is also more sophisticated about design. The “level of design recognition by the average person is extremely high because of their exposure to it in the media,” he said during a recent DWR interview. Because of this, he believes it is much easier to be a designer today than it was 40 years ago.

    Caldwell and his eight employees continue to produce new 21st-century designs in his busy South Pasadena studio.

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  • Louise Campbell

    Louise Campbell

    DENMARK (1970)

    Louise Campbell’s playful, experimental approach has brought her international recognition and the award of Danish Designer of the Year in 2005. Campbell was born in Copenhagen, raised by her English mother and Danish father and educated in both countries. This dual nationality is perhaps the source of her ability to twist everyday items and take materials in new directions.

    After graduating from Denmark Design School in 1995, Campbell established her own design studio. Working out of an old workshop in Copenhagen, Campbell always starts from scratch when beginning a project. “Everything is possible until the opposite has been proven,” she says, and her studio follows one simple rule: Dare to be different.

    Campbell has exhibited at venues around the globe, and her work is included in several permanent art collections, including MoMA in New York (Prince Chair, 2002) and Centre Pompidou in Paris (Veryround Chair, 2006).

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  • Joan Casas i Ortinez

    Joan Casas i Ortinez

    SPAIN (1942–2013)

    “Design for me means creating products for industry, for sale, that are functional and please thousands of people and that over the years will acquire classic status, becoming part of our surroundings,” said Joan Casas i Ortinez. One of Spain’s most prolific furniture designers, he built an extensive assortment of classic and contemporary European café seating.

    He began his formal training in industrial design after doing advertising work such as creating graphics and designing display stands and showcases. By immersing himself in available production methods and materials, he was soon designing for major companies such as Ausonia and Puig. Over nearly 50 years, Casas i Ortinez developed a style that resulted in distinctive modern Spanish furniture – often made from aluminum – with clearly defined silhouettes and functional, classic material pairings.

    Casas i Ortinez was also a lecturer, an illustrator for the “Opinion” section of Barcelona’s La Vanguardia newspaper and a painter. In addition to his aluminum and steel café furniture, he designed a varied body of work that included perfume bottles, small gift items of ceramic and glass, serigraphed window treatments, methacrylate lamps, injection-molded rubber household items and upholstered seating.

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  • Achille Castiglioni

    Achille Castiglioni

    ITALY (1918–2002)

    Achille Castiglioni’s designs were often inspired by everyday things and made use of ordinary materials like extruded aluminum and stainless steel. The genius of his inventive imagination was in his ability to use the minimal amount of materials while creating forms with a maximum effect. “Start from scratch, stick to common sense, and know your goals and means,” he often told his students, and he clearly took his own advice.

    Along with other postwar designers like Marco Zanuso and Ettore Sottsass, Castiglioni was a product of the artisan tradition of fine craftsmanship and a familial passion for sensual, expressive forms. With his brothers, designers Livio and Pier Giacomo, Achille helped establish the Milan Trienniale, the Compasso d’Oro awards and the ADI. And, like his contemporaries, Castiglioni took an active part in Italy’s postwar design renaissance. Lack of funds for large architectural projects forced designers to focus on small objects like furniture, tableware, lighting, radios, typewriters and office equipment.

    Castiglioni himself possessed a creative potency and flexibility that gave birth to an array of stylistically varied objects including the minimalist Parentesi Lamp, the “ready made” Taccia and the poetic Fucsia Hanging Lamp. One of his favorite design strategies was to place a familiar form in an unexpected context – a tractor seat atop a stool, an automobile headlight reflector as a table lamp.

    His highly individual work still displays an ironic humor, lively sense of paradox, and thoughtful concern for formal balance. During his long career, he was a professor of interior and industrial design at both the Politecnico di Torino and Politecnico di Milano, and was honored with eight Compasso d’Oro awards. Achille Castiglioni continues to be recognized as one of the most important and complex figures in 20th-century Italian design.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Don Chadwick

    Don Chadwick

    U.S.A. (1936)

    Chairs are for sitting on. It sounds obvious, but there are designers who seem to miss that point. Not Don Chadwick, however, who has developed some of the best chairs on the market – including the Aeron Chair with Bill Stumpf – by emphasizing the body and the fact that bodies move.

    Chadwick calls his hands-on studio in Santa Monica an “experimental lab,” one that contains the workman’s apparatuses of saws, grinders, lathes, drill presses and vises. It is not a place where design takes place by computer, number or hypothesis. “The only way to be sure a chair is comfortable is to actually sit in it and make changes along the way,” Chadwick says. “A computer can’t deal with the subtleties of chair design. It’s too complex.”

    Chadwick inherited his love of furniture design from his cabinetmaker grandfather, who taught him to use the tools of the trade – hand tools that required skill, precision and patience. Later, at UCLA in the mid-1950s, he focused on furniture design, and after a Charles Eames lecture there, was convinced. Furniture offered designers the chance to use materials in new ways and to make a real difference in people’s lives. After graduating from UCLA, he worked in the architectural offices of Victor Gruen & Associates and then established his own design office in 1964.

    Chadwick has long partnered with Herman Miller, designing a modular seating system in 1974 and then collaborating with former V.P. of design research at Herman Miller, Bill Stumpf. Together, they created the ergonomically based Ergon Chair, the Equa seating system and the highly innovative Aeron Chair, which was chosen as the Design of the Decade by the Industrial Design Society of America and Business Week magazine.

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  • Benjamin Cherner

    Benjamin Cherner

    U.S.A. (1956)

    Benjamin Cherner got an early start in the family business. As he remembers it, “in nursery school I was always building things. At 5 years old, there was a failed effort at designing and building a full-size rocket ship out of two-by-fours left over from a building site.” Cherner, an architect with degrees from Arizona State University and Columbia University, is the son of midcentury industrial designer and architect Norman Cherner, best known for his molded plywood Cherner Chair.

    In 1992, Ben Cherner established his own multidisciplinary design studio, Cherner Design, working on projects ranging from multiperson seating made of flexible molded plywood to a primitive modern coastal woodland residence.

    Cherner often works his father’s furniture and his own into architectural projects. His family’s home in New York’s East Village, a double-height modern box at the top of an early-19th-century townhouse, was fully renovated by Cherner and his wife, also an architect, complete with nods to the previous generation of Cherners, such as plywood cabinetry and flooring. Heirloom-quality Cherner Chairs also have their place around the table. Says Ben, “I just repaired one the other day – with teenagers it’s beyond a commercial level of abuse.”

    Repeated nudges from colleagues and friends about the Cherner Chair – that is, how to get one – inspired Ben and his brother Thomas to form the Cherner Chair Company in 1999. They brought the chair and other Norman Cherner designs back into production according to their father’s original specifications. The company also produces original furniture by Ben designed to harmonize with Norman’s signature pieces, foremost among them the Cherner Table (2004).

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  • Norman Cherner

    Norman Cherner

    U.S.A. (1920–1987)

    A pioneer both in molded plywood and prefab housing, Norman Cherner studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts Department and was an instructor at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1947 to 1949. Here he also explored the Bauhaus movement, embarking on a lifetime exploration of multidisciplinary design, from furniture, shelving, glassware, lighting and even toys to his pioneering work in low-cost prefabricated housing.

    Early in his career, Cherner envisioned houses as a total design concept and designed affordable furniture specifically for these low-cost modular dwellings. He wrote about his theories in Make Your Own Modern Furniture (1953), How to Build Children’s Toys and Furniture (1954), Fabricating Houses from Component Parts (1958) and How to Build a House for Less than $6,000 (1960). One of his first prefabricated houses was designed, produced and assembled in 1957 for the U.S. Department of Housing. After being exhibited in Vienna, it was shipped back to Connecticut and uncrated to become his first home and studio.

    Yet Cherner is best known for the molded plywood seating line he created for Plycraft, a manufacturing company in Lawrence, Massachusetts. After telling Cherner that his design for what is now known as the Cherner Chair (1958) had been scrapped, Plycraft’s owner continued to produce it, claiming himself as the designer. Soon after, the chair’s popularity was heightened when it appeared in Norman Rockwell’s 1961 painting “The Artist at Work” on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Cherner sued the company, and Plycraft agreed to pay Cherner royalties, yet the whole seating line was out of production by the early 1970s.

    For almost 20 years, Cherner’s seating was rarely seen outside of galleries, museums and the living rooms of a few lucky collectors. This all changed in 1999, when Cherner’s sons Benjamin and Thomas formed the Cherner Chair Company to revive the designs and produce them as their father originally intended. The repeated success of the chairs inspired Benjamin, an architect and designer in his own right, to create a coordinating table, the Cherner Table (2004).

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  • Sandy Chilewich

    Sandy Chilewich

    U.S.A. (1951)

    According to Sandy Chilewich, one of her biggest motivators is to create “a new function from something familiar,” exactly what she did when she produced her award-winning Raybowl, introduced in 1997. The first design from her studio, Chilewich, it consisted of a simple wire steel frame covered in stretchy power mesh. Chilewich already knew a thing or two about stretchy fabric: In 1978, she and Kathy Moskal co-founded legwear company HUE – a wildly successful endeavor that they eventually sold before forging out on their own in 1994.

    Chilewich continued experimenting with natural and synthetic materials, pushing their physical and functional limits. Leveraging the success of Raybowl, she moved on to create a completely new design material. In 2000, she introduced floor mats, placemats and totes made from her proprietary woven vinyl. Soft and flexible yet extremely sturdy, the material, which she dubbed “plynyl,” was the result of an intensive research process. “The durability of this extruded yarn, the intrinsic sheen of the material, its tremendous design versatility and the fact that it is washable inspired me then and continues to inspire me today,” explains Chilewich. It won her the coveted Editor’s Award at the 2001 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and solidified her career.

    Over the years, Chilewich has expanded her collection with new textures, colors and products, including wood-grain vinyl prints, striped patterns, asymmetrical placemats and floor mats and even iPhone cases. With her innovative textiles, she continues to redefine how people dress their tables and cover their floors around the world.

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  • Sir David Chipperfield

    Sir David Chipperfield

    ENGLAND (1953)

    A world-renowned British architect, Sir David Chipperfield applies values of intelligence, permanence and logic to his projects. He has firmly established himself in the middle ground between the other-worldly, over-the-top designs of Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid and the dull, lifeless design of so much modern development. “I don’t think architecture is radical,” he told the Guardian in 2011. “How can something that takes years and costs millions be radical?”

    After studying at the Kingston School of Art and the Architectural Association of London, the architect worked under Douglas Stephen, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster before establishing his own practice in 1984. David Chipperfield Architects gained notoriety first in Japan, then in Continental Europe, where his signature modernist austerity was revered. He was knighted in 2004, but it took his native England a long time to acknowledge his genius. Major contracts in Japan, Germany and the Unites States came long before acclaimed projects like the galleries Hepworth Wakefield and Turner Contemporary in his native country. He has continued to build his reputation with a wide assortment of notable buildings, including museums, retail spaces, hotels, office buildings and residences worldwide.

    Chipperfield received international accolades for his 2003 reconstruction of the Neues Museum in Berlin, which had been badly damaged in World War II and sat in ruins for more than half a century. Using materials like recycled bricks and adding elements that echoed the original structures without simply copying them, Chipperfield honored the past of the historic structure (part of the Museumsinsel, an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999) while infusing it with the modernist style of the new millennium. The building was controversial initially, with detractors accusing him of preserving too much of the Nazi legacy. But ultimately, Chancellor Angela Merkel deemed it “one of the most important museum buildings in European cultural history.”

    David Chipperfield has been the proud recipient of numerous awards, including the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2007 for his Museum of Modern Literature in Germany, the most respected architecture award in England. He has also applied his rational and well-researched design approach to products for Alessi, Cassina IXC, Artemide, B&B Italia and others. A thoughtful and intellectual architect, Chipperfield takes the long view when it comes to design. “The difference between good and bad architecture,” he says, “is the time you spend on it.”

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  • Poul Christiansen

    Poul Christiansen

    DENMARK (1947)

    Before founding interdisciplinary design firm Komplot Design, both Poul Christiansen and Boris Berlin gained expertise across several academic fields, business environments and world cultures – all of which they would eventually channel into their deeply personal work by approaching a project from several angles simultaneously. Christiansen graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in Copenhagen in 1973 and became a freelance designer for companies such as Kevi and Herman Miller. He also worked for Le Klint, where he transformed the company’s traditional pleated lampshades into sculptural shapes through his application of mathematical curves. Berlin graduated in 1975 from the Institute of Applied Arts and Design in Leningrad and was soon working as a freelance designer, producing industrial products and graphics for VNIITE. In 1983, he started Boris Berlin Design in Denmark and worked with Penta Design to develop a computerized workstation for the Danish Post and Telegraph.

    Christiansen and Berlin established Komplot in 1987, with the belief that “design is an intermediate body – a link that appears into existence in the tension of no-man’s-land: Tension between art and engineering, between manufacturer and consumer/user... between these polar contradictions is the condition of a design’s successful performance.” Over the course of their partnership, Christiansen and Berlin have produced critically acclaimed work for clients including Fora Form, Gubi and Hay. The Gubi Chair, one of their more notable products, has won several prestigious awards including the Innovation Award, Best of NeoCon in 2003; the Danish Design Prize in 2004; the RED DOT Design Award 2004; and the 100% Design / Blueprint Award in 2003 for Best Product.

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  • Aldo Ciabatti

    Aldo Ciabatti

    ITALY (1939)

    A contemporary of Mario Bellini and Gaetano Pesce, Aldo Ciabatti has a style that’s distinct from either. Pesce is one of the most radical and intellectual of Italian postwar designers; Bellini is one of the most original, if not overtly expressive. Ciabatti is one of the most thoughtful and humanistic, pursuing classical ideas like beauty, harmony and utility in new and individual ways.

    Ciabatti was born in Arezzo, a city in the beautiful Tuscan region of Italy, and received his Diploma at the Italian Art Institute in 1957. By the early 1960s, he had begun to focus on Industrial Design, collaborating with a number of different architectural offices. Ciabatti is a designer who understands the complexity of achieving simplicity. He has made it a life’s work to create objects in which there is an essential unity, an inherent harmony of material, shape and color. The diverse range of products he has produced possess what Ciabatti believes to be the four primary elements of successful design: beauty, utility, character and easy industrial realization. In other words, an object must give aesthetic or sensual pleasure, it must be practical, it must convey ideas and integrity and it must be easy to make. In Ciabatti’s design philosophy, to realize these criteria requires not only rational methods of problem solving, but the intuitive abilities of the artist.

    Almost every piazza in Italy seems to be furnished with Ciabatti’s simple chairs and benches. Notable among them is the stylish Mouse chair, with its wit, elegance and lively attitude.

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  • Antonio Citterio

    Antonio Citterio

    ITALY (1950)

    Antonio Citterio has earned a reputation for his uncompromising design and craftsmanship. Born in Meda, a small city north of Milan, Citterio graduated in architecture from the Politecnico of Milan in 1972 and established a design studio with Paolo Nava, who remained a close collaborator until 1981. Citterio also worked with architect Vittorio Gregotti on the restoration of the Brera Art Gallery in Milan. In 1973 Citterio began a long-term partnership with the furniture company B&B Italia.

    Since 1987, Citterio has worked with his wife, American architect Terry Dwan. Their studio, Citterio-Dwan has designed showrooms for both B&B Italia and Vitra and interiors for Esprit. By the end of the 1990s, his list of clients included the best design-oriented manufacturers in Europe, including Kartell, Vitra, Artemide, Flexform, Olivetti and Moroso.

    The 1990s marked Citterio’s first notable achievement in furniture design when he designed a new office-seating product for Vitra. Executed in steel, leather and fabric, its elegance and simplicity belied the strength of its functionality. Citterio went on to create a series of colorful folding tables and trolleys made from plastic, aluminum and steel, designed to provide an appealing option for office storage.

    Citterio creates visual interest and harmony by combining materials and forms in original, yet relatively thoughtful and decorous ways. For example, he may mix high-tech and natural materials or rework earlier forms with stark modernist lines, but without the “radical eclecticism” and irony of designers like Robert Venturi and other postmodernists. Citterio received Compasso d’Oro awards in 1979 and 1987 and has taught design at the prestigious Domus Academy.

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  • Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune

    Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune

    SWEDEN (1970) (1958) (1963)

    When does 1+1+1=1? When you’re a member of Swedish architectural and design firm Claesson Koivisto Rune. Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ola Rune are the embodiment of the old expression, “All for one and one for all.” Their close-knit partnership began with their meeting in 1990 at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design and continued through graduation in 1994 and beyond. “The three of us became really close friends at university and know each other like brothers now,” Claesson says.

    Their first project together was running a bar as struggling students. “We managed to finance many trips to Europe to go and see Corbusier buildings and things like that,” Koivisto recalls. Their next project led to the foundation of their Stockholm-based company in 1995, when they were faced with legal obstacles to getting paid. “We were forced into registering a company.” Claesson recalls. “And it’s still the same company today.” Known today for striking architecture and beautiful design, that company has designed homes, offices and galleries around the world, plus a wide range of furniture, kitchenware, storage, lighting, textiles and other items.

    Among its proudest works are the Sfera Building in Kyoto, Japan, and Inde/Jacobs Gallery in Marfa, Texas. Notable products include the Kelly Chair for Tacchini, Neo cookware for Iittala and just about everything for Arflex, which has become “more like family,” Koivisto says. Attribution always goes to the firm, never to an individual. “We always share credit because we are a true partnership,” Claesson says. “Our designs, more often than not, are tweaked between singular personalities into projects that are more us as a collective than one of us individually.”

    “In the beginning,” Claesson recalls, “we tried many times to define our own design principles. We were schooled by modernist professors with modernist principles. So it came naturally for young students to try to oppose all of that. One try was ‘Form Follows Emotion.’ Now, we don’t bother too much about any of that. Maybe experience and age teach you to follow your instincts rather than principles. What some others have said about us: ‘Clearly Scandinavian’ (probably). ‘With modernist roots’ (absolutely). ‘With a subtle twist’ (hopefully).”

    Early on, deciding to continue the partnership they had forged in college but with little money, they rented space and just a single table in another architect’s studio. “But you’re three people,” the architect exclaimed. “You’re supposed to rent three tables.” They responded, “Well, we’re all going to sit around that one table,” Claesson recalls, continuing a custom from classroom days. Today, they still work that way, and extending the unity that has always been a core principle, they also share a single email address – and not just for them, but for the entire firm.

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  • Dougan Clarke

    Dougan Clarke

    U.S.A. (1968)

    Born and raised in Coral Gables, Florida, Dougan Clarke believes his upbringing by the ocean informed his approach to design. “Nature,” says Clarke, “in all its wondrous forms and raw beauty, has inspired me through the years and brought me endless joy.” Self-taught, Clarke spent 10 years in the marine manufacturing industry, where he gained an expert’s understanding of the materials and engineering needed to withstand the corrosive effects of the sea, salt and sun. He combined that with his experience in leisure furnishings to launch Tuuci (“The Ultimate Umbrella Company, Inc.”) in 1998.

    Clarke says that the goal of Tuuci is to “complement the comfort and accessibility of natural environments through shade architecture.” His aim was nothing less than to “redefine what was previously known as an umbrella.” The results, like the Tuuci Manta and Hexagon, are shade structures that use marine-grade hardware but that embody both form and function – creating what he refers to as “shade sculptures.” Also an avid musician, Clarke draws so much inspiration from playing music that he installed a dedicated recording and rehearsal studio in the Tuuci factory. But it is still the ocean that is his primary passion. Even the process of naming his innovative outdoor inventions is an act of respect to the sea: “It is a pleasurable part of our creative process and usually involves a boat, a warm sunny day on the water and enjoyable company.”

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  • Kim Colin and Sam Hecht

    Kim Colin and Sam Hecht

    U.S.A. (1961) U.K. (1969)

    Kim Colin, originally from Los Angeles, studied art history and received a master’s of architecture from Southern California Institute of Architecture. In 1997, she moved to London to commission books on art and architecture for Phaidon.

    Early in Sam Hecht’s career as an industrial designer, he began to develop his belief in simplicity as a design goal. A London native, Hecht attended Central Saint Martins School of Art before interning with architect David Chipperfield. He went on to earn a master’s degree at the Royal College of Art in 1993, then worked for IDEO in California and Tokyo before returning to London as IDEO’s head of industrial design.

    Together, Colin and Hecht are partners in London-based design firm Industrial Facility, founded jointly in 2002, where they approach architecture and industrial design by carefully considering context in combination with minimalist aesthetics and real-world utility. Because they originate from different disciplines, their designs depend on collaboration and naturally result in what Hecht calls “a sense of equilibrium because the process, the result, is essentially holding those two points of view.”

    Industrial Facility designs cover a wide swath, including architecture, interiors, exhibitions, furniture, electronics, lighting, appliances and kitchenware, and the firm has ongoing advisory relationships with Muji and Herman Miller. They’ve created products for many international clients, including Epson, Hitachi, Issey Miyake, Kitchenaid, Louis Vuitton, Mattiazzi and Yamaha, among others. Their Run Collection (2016) for Emeco was developed with communal living and working in mind. In addition, a division of Industrial Facility called Future Facility explores engineering, product design and user experience for developing technology products.

    Hecht and Colin’s work is included in the permanent collections of MoMA in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Design Museum in London and the Art Institute of Chicago. Both have been appointed Royal Designer for Industry – Hecht in 2009, Colin in 2015.

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  • Joe Colombo

    Joe Colombo

    ITALY (1930–1971)

    One of Italy’s most innovative product designers, Joe Colombo kept “the environment of the future” in mind with virtually everything he created. Consider his predictions 35 years ago, long before the Internet and telecommuting entered our culture: “Traditional families are tending to give way to small groups created on the basis of affinity. People will be able to study at home and carry on their own activities there. Distances will no longer have much importance.”

    Born in Milan to an industrious father and artistic mother, Colombo was encouraged as a child to spend hours constructing elaborate Meccano (erector set) models, which took up entire rooms of the family home. Colombo studied painting at Milan’s Accademia di Belle Arti, where he experimented with futuristic abstract. But it wasn’t long after finishing the program that he started researching product design, to which he applied the same bold, curvaceous forms characterized in his paintings.

    Colombo was always one step ahead of the growing interests of the 1950s and ’60s. When consumers were fixated on the promise of a new way of living, he was experimenting with recently introduced materials and building technologies that would make this neoteric way of living possible. When his father fell ill in 1958, Colombo attempted to take over the family’s conductor manufactory, only to transform it into a playground for dabbling with fiberglass, ABS, PVC and polyethylene.

    In 1963 he began a mission to invent what he called a “new type of habitat.” In furnishing these living habitats, Colombo applied his newfound production processes and the new plastics he had fully adopted. His three-year experimentation with these living systems culminated in the Total Furnishing Unit, where all living spaces – kitchen, storage, bed and bath – are contained in a single unit. The design debuted in 1972 at MoMA’s Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, just not in time for Colombo to enjoy the acclaim.

    Thanks to his energy and optimism, Joe Colombo’s short career resulted in an extraordinary body of work, most of which continues to be relevant today.

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  • Peter Coolican

    Peter Coolican

    CANADA (1989)

    Peter Coolican studied urban systems and economics at McGill University in Montreal, but he ended up on a different path. “Through my urban systems study,” he says, “I got to take lots of architecture classes, and they caught my attention. I was also working summers building homes, and I started reading more about woodworkers like George Nakashima and Tage Frid and Wharton Esherick. And I began to connect the dots.”

    An inheritance allowed him to attend the Rosewood Studio School of Fine Woodworking in Perth, Ontario. “It’s a very small school,” Coolican says. “At points, there were three people in class and they brought in world-renowned woodworkers. It was the first time I was hopping out of bed at 7am just to get there early for class.”

    Next came a call from the office of Canada’s governor general, where someone had seen his work and wanted to commission several tables. “I didn't have a studio, so I moved to Toronto and set one up in 2015 to complete that commission. And then it was sort of step by step from there.”

    The shop, which Coolican calls Canada’s first small-batch furniture firm, employs just a couple of workers and maintains a small line of furniture, including the Madison Side Chair, with a handwoven Danish-cord seat, the Adelaide Bench, envisioned to aid pulling on boots, and the Lakeshore Dining Table, with a quarter-sawn oak top. Aside from the legendary woodworkers Coolican still admires, his work pays homage to Japanese minimalism, Danish classics and especially the Shakers.

    “I got pretty captivated by the Shakers,” he says, “particularly a lot of their architecture. I think their sort of design philosophy – make something useful, and when you make something useful, don’t be afraid to make it beautiful – was something that clicked with me.”

    A hallmark of Coolican’s joinery is leaving brass pins flush with surfaces. “I think it brings a level of recognition and authenticity to the pieces. And it’s not superfluous; it’s got a role. It’s never used just aesthetically. It’s used to strengthen the joinery of the piece.”

    Coolican, who favors white oak, believes being a designer who actually works with his material is important. “The more you work with it,” he says, “the more you are informed about how it behaves and what its limitations are. And those things in turn tell you what you can get away with in terms of proportion, what you need to do for strength, or for joinery. That’s valuable.”

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  • Omar De Biaggio

    Omar De Biaggio

    ITALY (1972)

    Omar De Biaggio has a vision: the chair version of an Apple computer. For De Biaggio, Apple products symbolize design elegance – bringing a feeling of calm along with the sense of inspiration that comes from interacting with a utilitarian object housed in beautiful packaging – and he seeks to replicate that emotional connection with his furniture.

    De Biaggio’s “Apple philosophy” led him to form his own company, which he named Job’s Chairs as a nod to Apple founder Steve Jobs. Job’s is based in Manzano, Udine, a commune in a region of northeastern Italy known for furniture production, particularly chairs, where much of the work is still done by hand. “In our area there is a strong tradition and respect for manual work.” This proximity to his manufacturers allows De Biaggio to evolve his ideas by trying different industrial techniques and to keep a close eye on every phase of production. He began marketing his work by making a list of the furniture stores and wholesalers that appeared in Elle Decor magazine. De Biaggio called around, then drove door to door with prototypes in the back of his car. That first effort resulted in orders for 300 chairs.

    Growing up in Manzano, he came by his do-it-yourself spirit honestly. “My father is an engineer and used to realize at home the objects he needed. So I spent a lot of time in my childhood in his laboratory, learning the art of craftsmanship.” More formal education took place at Manzano’s Technical Institute for Furnishing. “Immediately I worked in the most important firms of the district, where I could deepen my knowledge of raw materials – steel, aluminum, all the woods and derivatives, as well as fabrics and leathers.”

    De Biaggio handcrafted his early designs using handheld machinery, and he continues to build the prototypes for each new chair himself, taking satisfaction from watching his ideas turn into reality. “All my chairs are born without a drawing, and I shape them directly on the workbench.” Those chairs include the B-Pop (2006), a 1960s-feeling chair with tubular steel legs and a flowing molded seat and backrest that comes in poppy colors. More recently, the Bacco (2013), named for the Roman god of wine and the associated sense of relaxation, has become one of our most popular dining chairs. “My philosophy is to create objects where you can touch the authenticity and the warmth of materials, and comfort remains for me the key. The Bacco is an example.”

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  • Michele De Lucchi

    Michele De Lucchi

    ITALY (1951)

    A prolific, versatile designer, Michele De Lucchi organizes his work into clearly defined periods that take shape along the path of his personal artistic trajectory. Rather than develop his career within a single design discipline – be it industrial, furniture, interior, lighting or architectural design – he has chosen to move freely among them all, creating door pulls for Valli Colombo, laptops for Olivetti, desk lamps for Artemide and tape dispensers for Pelikan, while designing exhibitions, banks in Germany, apartment buildings in Japan and assorted chairs, vases and office furniture.

    De Lucchi reminds one of Alexander Calder, if only in spirit, for the way in which his precisely engineered objects ally themselves with the young at heart through playful tectonics and the use of color. Unlike Calder, he has no consistent style that carries through his body of work. Brightly colored objects covered in bold, geometric patterns produced for Memphis in the 1980s – including Kristall, a table that resembles a four-legged pet – appear to be made by a different hand than the sleek, pristine Macchina Minima (Minimal Machine) lamp he created with Mario Rossi for Produzione Privata, the experimental laboratory De Lucchi founded in 1990. Yet each period is characterized by an intellectual rigor derived from De Lucchi’s early experimentation with conceptual art. The fact that one creation can be so stylistically different from another may also be attributed to the designer’s ability to collaborate with and learn from other artists.

    It was through such collaboration that De Lucchi began to receive international attention. He was a key player in Memphis, the Milan-based design group organized around Ettore Sottsass of Olivetti. Sottsass, De Lucchi’s mentor, was instrumental in making radical design notions palatable to popular taste as early as the 1950s. De Lucchi exhibited with the group from 1981–1987. In 1988 he moved his studio to Milan, where he continues to work on a variety of industrial design and architectural projects. In an interview in Designer Monographs 1: Michele De Lucchi, edited by Alex Buck and Matthias Vogt (Berlin: Ernst & Sohn, 1993), De Lucchi confesses that he would like to be more at home in the world of electronics but that he believes his greatest challenge as a designer will be in the field of architecture.

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  • Lucia DeRespinis

    Lucia DeRespinis

    U.S.A. (1927)

    In the 1950s, very few industrial designers were women. Lucia DeRespinis was one of them. “I was the only industrial designer who was a woman. I was always the only industrial designer who was a woman,” DeRespinis recalls.

    In the minority from the start at Pratt Institute, she was one of just three women among 63 men in her class. She graduated in 1952 after studying under notables Rowena Reed Kostellow and Eva Zeisel, then went to work two years later at the Nelson office, where she was thrown into a wide range of work. “I did everything,” she recalls. “I designed everything from rugs to tableware to exhibits and trade shows to graphics to restaurants to interiors. Everything.”

    She soon began working on clocks with Irving Harper, George Nelson’s versatile wunderkind and design director. “I’d been at George’s about a year and a half, and I started doing the clock thing,” DeRespinis recalls. “That was really Irving’s territory. But he really felt comfortable with me doing some. Nobody else ever did clocks when I was there.”

    Vitra Design Museum credits DeRespinis with three clocks in its 2008 book George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher, but she also designed a fourth clock, the Turbine, mistakenly credited to Harper. Her most widely recognizable model is the Eye Clock, which resembles a large stylized eye, 28 inches across. She intended it to hang horizontally, but Vitra offers it with an option to hang vertically, in which case it’s sometimes called the “Lyre Clock.”

    Not the retiring type, DeRespinis continued to plunge into high-profile design challenges that would extend the reputation of Nelson Associates around the world, working with greats such as graphic artist Tomoko Miho and interior designer Delores Engle, Charles and Ray Eames, Bill Renwick, John Pile, Bill Katavolos, Don Ervin and Charles Pollock, who was a classmate at Pratt and remained a friend of DeRespinis until his death in 2013. Among the most celebrated large-scale projects during her Nelson years were the American National Exhibition in Moscow and the New York World’s Fair.

    While expecting a daughter, she worked in the Nelson office until early 1963, finally leaving when she was “too pregnant to lean over the drawing board.” Later she returned to industrial design, working mostly as a freelancer for the likes of Sandgren & Murtha, Minners & Co., Delco Tableware and others, designing lighting fixtures, glassware, ceramics, ceramic tile, restaurant interiors, cookware and tableware.

    Among her most recognizable work is the distinctive pink and orange logo of Dunkin’ Donuts, set in a typeface she calls “hot dog” lettering, in colors that were favorites of her daughter.

    DeRespinis remains active in design to this very day, continuing a 30-plus-year teaching career at Pratt. Among her former students is Brad Ascalon, designer of the Ascalon Menorah and Atlas Table for DWR.

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  • Niels Diffrient

    Niels Diffrient

    U.S.A. (1928–2013)

    One of the century’s preeminent American designers, Niels Diffrient endeavored throughout his storied career to emphasize the “human factors” of industrial design, using ingenuity and intuition to bring consumers products that met their needs. His emphasis on accommodating the human form was codified in the three-volume Humanscale, an influential sourcebook for designers that examined the movements and dimensions of the human body.

    From his early work with Eero Saarinen and Marco Zanuso onward, Diffrient was recognized for his integrity and vision with numerous accolades and citations, and he served as designer or consultant to the Fortune 500’s leading companies. His quest to create workplace environments that were fitted to the needs of their users is exemplified by the Freedom Chair, a high-performance task chair that senses the weight of the user and automatically adjusts to provide optimal support without an array of knobs and levers.

    Through his career, Diffrient designed all types of equipment, including computers, exhibits, trucks, airplane interiors and corporate identity programs. He was also broadly published in the field of design and human factors, most notably as co-author of the aforementioned Humanscale. Additionally, Niels spent eight years as adjunct Professor of Design at UCLA and was a visiting critic at the Yale University School of Architecture for two years.

    In the field of furniture design, most notably ergonomic seating, Diffrient won a total of 24 awards, including two Best of Show. He held more than 20 mechanical and design patents for his furniture design, both in America and abroad, and he received honors from many organizations, including The American Institute of Architects, the Industrial Designers Society of America and an honorary doctorate from ArtCenter College of Design. In 1996, Niels was named one of the Top 40 Design Innovators by ID Magazine and received the Chrysler Award for Innovation.

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  • Michele di Fonzo

    Michele di Fonzo

    ITALY (1984)

    Michele di Fonzo is a fourth-generation leatherworker. He was born in Udine, Italy, a region known for furniture manufacturing with an emphasis on handcrafting. As he remembers, “I have always harbored an artistic predisposition, the wish to understand, experiment and create something, with a constant eye for beauty.”

    Since 1921, the di Fonzo family company, founded by grandfather Giovanni, has been using traditional leatherworking techniques to make furniture. Their work is inspired by, among other things, fashion and luggage design, both of which use leather to provide structure as well as beauty. And what is it about leather? Di Fonzo says, “It’s a natural material that I love, both ancient and precious. Each leather hide is unique, firm to the touch but very softly scented. There are few materials that satisfy the senses like leather, and at the same time, it is tough to work with, and it takes decades of experience to understand how it behaves and how it can be used to cover an object. Every object is a new challenge, beginning with conscious planning and availing itself of the mastery of artisan hands that make it a unique product.”

    Di Fonzo studied industrial design at Instituto Europeo di Design in Milan. After graduating in 2008, he gained experience by working with Christophe Pillet in Paris, then with Piero Lissoni at Lissoni Associati back in Milan. Afterward came a choice, di Fonzo says: “I could either open my own studio in Milan or return to my hometown to work in the family company. My choice was quite easy, because in the family company my job would be more complete, allowing me to not only dedicate myself to the first planning stages but also follow the product in all its development phases, up to its introduction on the market.”

    In 2007, di Fonzo designed his first piece of furniture for the company, where he is now a designer and oversees research and development. His more recent designs include the Bottega Desk (2013) and the Vella Bed (2016), each constructed of a slender yet strong frame wrapped in hand-sewn leather. Both exemplify his overarching aim “to create objects that share a universal language yet are unique in their style.”

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  • Sean Dix

    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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  • Tom Dixon

    Tom Dixon

    TUNISIA (1959)

    Born in Tunisia and raised in England, Tom Dixon’s reputation frequently precedes him. His mystique as a bad boy – Dixon dropped out of art school following a motorcycle accident and spent time in his 20s playing bass with a rock band and organizing warehouse parties – is nearly as recognized as his unmistakable gift for design and emergence as one of England’s most influential designers.

    Having taught himself welding, but lacking a retail venue to sell his work, he opened Space in the mid ’80s. Dixon first received international acclaim with his S Chair, which was introduced by Cappellini in 1989. He launched Eurolounge in 1994 as a way to manufacture his lighting designs on British soil. For his own projects, Dixon gathers inspiration from the world around him, encompassing concepts small and large – from industrial revolution-era engines to the common paper clip.

    In 1998 Dixon began working as head of design at Habitat, becoming creative director by 2007. In 2004 he began a collaboration with Artek, which was founded in 1935 by Alvar Aalto. Dedicated to bringing Artek into the new millennium, Dixon is still focused on upholding the company’s legacy.

    Though he describes himself as “a self-educated maverick whose only qualification is a one-day course in plastic bumper repair,” it’s clear that Dixon is actually a very ambitious designer who’s driven by a powerful creative energy and strong entrepreneurial instinct.

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  • Nicholas Dodziuk

    Nicholas Dodziuk

    U.S.A. (1976)

    Nicholas Dodziuk is the son of an artist and a mathematician, so it’s no wonder he is able to combine creativity and precision in his work. Dodziuk got his first taste of good design at an early age from an Alvar Aalto table among his family’s furnishings. “I was always enchanted,” he says of the table, “with its relationships of parts to the whole, and how it seemed to work differently than other pieces of furniture.” Then one day he got his hands on a Sony Walkman (“the first product that just blew me away,” he recalls), and his aspirations as a designer were set.

    Raised in New York, Dodziuk graduated in 1998 from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in industrial design. From there, a Fulbright fellowship took him to Germany, and upon his return in 2000, he worked as a freelance designer for companies such as Unilever and Sony (in the post-Walkman era).

    In 2003, Dodziuk joined forces with Jeffrey Bernett at Consultants for Design Strategy in New York, and they have since collaborated on projects for B&B Italia, Bernhardt, Boeing, Herman Miller®, Knoll®, Teknion and, of course, Design Within Reach. Their awards include the Best of Neocon Silver in 2007 for the Dividends Horizon collection from Knoll, Best of the Year award in 2010 from Interior Design for DWR’s own Raleigh Sofa and Best of Neocon Gold in 2013 for Teknion’s Fractals.

    Dodziuk names “real-life observed behavior” as an inspiration for his creative process. “Once you dig deep enough into both stated and unstated needs,” he says, “rarely are there any bad ideas to work from.” He believes good design improves quality of life. “Design has to solve problems and capture the human spirit at the same time. It has to accomplish both if it is going to contribute to the common good.”

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  • Sally Dominguez

    Sally Dominguez

    AUSTRALIA (1969)

    Sally Dominguez graduated from Sydney University with a degree in architecture, but she is best known in her native Australia, and internationally, as an inventor and entrepreneur. Dominguez creates solutions that reflect real problems she encounters in her own life.

    In 2001, she and business partner Susan Burns launched BUG Design (Beautiful. Useful. Green.), a line of kids' furniture designed to complement the aesthetics of a modern living space. Their primary product, the Nest Highchair®, combines a form reminiscent of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair with a pedestal base and polyethylene seat. A mother of two, Dominguez designed the Nest as a response to clunky highchairs with wide footprints. In 2003, the Nest was awarded the prestigious Australian Design Mark for innovation in design.

    Moving in a different direction, in 2003, when Dominguez was unable to find a rainwater harvesting tank that could fit under her patio, she invented the Rainwater Hog. An especially smart design for the Australian market – where water use restrictions are both in vogue and the law – the Hog holds 47 gallons of water, and multiple Hogs can be put together if more storage is needed. Dedicated to conservation internationally, Dominguez introduced the Rainwater Hog in the U.S. in 2008.

    A creative and intrepid designer, Sally Dominguez has appeared as a panelist on the Australian television show The New Inventors, and her work has been covered in publications internationally.

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  • Rodolfo Dordoni

    Rodolfo Dordoni

    ITALY (1954)

    How is it possible that one city can produce so many great designers? Milan, Italy was the postwar home of the Castiglioni brothers, Vico Magistretti and Marco Zanuso, all of whom created what we know today as modern Italian design. Following these elder statesmen came Ettore Sottsass, Ciabatti and de Lucchi, creating products like furniture, lighting, office machinery and automobiles whose expressive forms captured the imagination of the world.

    Rodolfo Dordoni is one of the heirs to that tradition. He was born in Milan in 1954 and graduated in architecture from Politecnico University in 1979. Following a period of working as an architect, Dordoni redirected his talents to pursue industrial design. His approach to the process of design and production is broad and includes the development of image strategies, product concepts, design and the development of product marketing.

    Dordoni has worked for several high-profile companies as a consultant and designer and is active in the field of architecture, as well as the design of retail shops, exhibits, showrooms and pavilions. As a designer, he has worked with Artemide, Crassevig, Moroso, Cappellini International and Arteluce among many other prominent companies. As an architect, he has designed for Dolce & Gabbana, Panasonic and Beiersdorf.

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  • Joseph D'Urso

    Joseph D'Urso

    U.S.A. (1943)

    Joseph D’Urso is known as a master of minimalist design, credited with being among the first to use industrial materials in his residential interiors. At the forefront of the high-tech movement that emerged out of the 1970s, D’Urso expanded the design vocabulary with new materials and graphic, streamlined forms. In the process, he became one of the most influential of contemporary interior designers, his work considered a critical step in the evolution of modernism.

    Born in Newark, New Jersey, D’Urso studied interior design and architecture at the Pratt Institute, graduating in 1965. He attended Manchester College of Art and Design (now Manchester School of Art) in England before returning to New York and working as an assistant to designer Ward Bennett, a pioneer in the transformation of industrial materials into home furnishings whom D’Urso credited with inspiring his own “total design” approach. D’Urso went on to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Art in London and began his own practice, D’Urso Design, in New York in 1967.

    D’Urso embraced minimalism for its challenge of tradition, then put his own signature on it. When Manhattan lofts – converted warehouse-like spaces with industrial lighting, exposed beams and visible ductwork – became fashionable, he was in demand for a style more functional than pleasing (once installing a rotating dry-cleaner’s rack in a client’s closet). One of his early residential projects was featured on the cover of Interior Design magazine, and through the 1970s and ’80s D’Urso became increasingly well-known for his spare interiors and embrace of materials such as black rubber floor tiles, restaurant stoves, gym lockers and marine hardware, set against white walls. The look led to scores of private clients, as well as design-centered companies like Calvin Klein and Esprit.

    Along the way, D’Urso was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, Josef Hoffmann and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, an earlier generation of designer-architects who veered from convention by conceiving everything from a physical structure to the furniture, fixtures and textiles within it. He began working on homes in the Hamptons in the 1960s, attracted by the opportunity to design indoor spaces that communicated with the outdoors through floor-to-ceiling windows. He moved to the area himself in the 1980s.

    Displaying the same clean-lined, engineered approach to furniture that he took with interiors, D’Urso designed his first collection for Knoll in 1980, leading his generation in collaborating with the legendary furniture manufacturer. He reconnected with Knoll in 2008 to introduce the D’Urso Collection.

    While reconfigured lofts remain in demand, D’Urso’s now-elegant interiors have mellowed and evolved to incorporate more warmth and depth. With an effect he likens to collage, he layers seemingly unrelated yet harmonious architecture, furnishings, even art, along with purposeful pops of bright color.

    D’Urso has taught at the Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design, in New York.

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  • Charles and Ray Eames

    Charles and Ray Eames

    U.S.A. (1907–1978) U.S.A. (1912–1988)

    Design is for living. That maxim shaped a widespread shift in design during the 1940s and 1950s. It was a revolution of form, an exciting visual language that signaled a new age and a fresh start – and two of its prime movers were Charles and Ray Eames. The Eameses were a husband-and-wife team whose unique synergy led to a whole new look in furniture. Lean and modern. Sleek, sophisticated and simple. Beautifully functional.

    Yet Charles and Ray Eames created more than a “look” with their bent plywood chairs and molded fiberglass seating. They had ideas about making a better world, one in which things were designed to fulfill the practical needs of ordinary people and bring greater simplicity and pleasure to our lives.

    The Eameses adventurously pursued new ideas and forms with a sense of “serious fun.” Yet it was rigorous discipline that allowed them to achieve perfection of form and mastery over materials. As Charles noted about the molded plywood chair, “Yes, it was a flash of inspiration – a kind of 30-year flash.” Combining imagination and thought, art and science, Charles and Ray Eames created some of the most influential expressions of 20th-century design – furniture that remains stylish, fresh and functional today.

    And they didn’t stop with furniture. The Eameses also created a highly innovative Case Study House in response to a magazine contest. They made films, including a seven-screen installation at the 1959 Moscow World’s Fair, presented in a dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. They designed showrooms, invented toys and generally made the world a more interesting place to be.

    As the most important exponents of organic design, Charles and Ray Eames demonstrated how good design can improve quality of life and human understanding and knowledge.

    Read More Eames® Molded Plastic Wire-Base Armchair (DAR)

    Eames® Molded Plastic Wire-Base Armchair (DAR)

  • Egg Collective

    Egg Collective

    U.S.A. (FOUNDED 2011)

    Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis and Hillary Petrie met as students at Washington University in St. Louis, and they’ve been working together ever since. What makes them unique is how they meld their individual areas of expertise – architecture, art and woodworking – when exploring new ways to solve problems.

    The trio founded Egg Collective with the aim of creating sculptural, heirloom-quality furniture, lighting and accessories that evoke their own personal histories and draw upon memories of those close to them. Some of their works include the Harvey Mirror, a nod to Ellis’ grandfather, aeronautical engineer Thomas Harvey, and the Morrison Storage Collection, named after longtime friend Morrison Mullen.

    Egg won a Best New Designer award at the 2012 International Contemporary Furniture Fair and was included on Forbes magazine’s 2014 “30 Under 30” list. The studio was also commissioned to design a seating area for the New York City Ballet’s David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

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  • Kristoffer Fagerström

    Kristoffer Fagerström

    SWEDEN (1975)

    Kristoffer Fagerström is a product designer and a partner at Stockholm-based Note Design Studio. He grew up in Botkyrka, Sweden, near Stockholm, in an environment Fagerström calls “open-minded, creatively nurturing and entrepreneurial. I have never had to follow a predestined path. The future is flexible, right?” Following instinct more than plan, he explains that “being a designer has never been a goal in itself. Human nature, though, is problem-solving, and that has always been an underlying ambition. Through a designer’s goggles, there are a lot of problems to be solved.”

    While still in high school, Fagerström worked as a news illustrator and graphic designer for a national TV channel, then at a motion graphics firm. “TV and video graphics was a blooming business then. TV channels screamed for identity work, and the digital special-effects scene in Sweden was just starting up.” He then started a post-production and special-effects company with partners, working on films, music videos and commercials.

    A restless Fagerström spent a couple of years snowboarding in Austria and working as a pool boy, “asking tipsy tourists not to bathe naked in the Jacuzzi.” Renewed, he returned to Stockholm and to special effects, doing craft-level digital restoration. “I consulted as a restoration designer, basically doing advanced Photoshopping, but at 1,500 frames per minute.”

    Ready to work in 3-D, Fagerström trained in woodworking at Nyckelviksskolan, in Lidingö, Sweden. That led him to Konstfack College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, where he studied interior architecture. While at Konstfack, he contacted the Swedish designer Gunilla Allard. “I assisted her in her work, and she mentored me in mine. I learned a lot from her design process and got a first glimpse of the furniture design world,” which he quickly realized was his passion.

    After a stopover at a large-scale architecture firm, Fagerström started his own interior architecture business, renting a desk at Note Design Studio. Soon enough, all his work was being commissioned by Note, and he joined the studio full-time.

    Founded in 2008, Note works collaboratively, giving a voice on each project to the studio’s product design, interior design, architecture, graphics and strategy team members. Note designers attempt to identify what is unique about a project and then emphasize that uniqueness. In that, Fagerström is aided by his children: “Their way of interacting with new and unknown surroundings and objects encourages me to think like them, and really that’s what being a designer is all about. Being able to observe the world through a child’s curious eyes is essential to look past your preconceptions of what can be done. First you have to forget everything.”

    In 2017, Fagerström and Note designed the Note Collection, including the Note Stacking Chair, for Design Within Reach. The brief called for creation of a modern café chair using the least possible means, while keeping the human being in focus. For Note, a chair is about the whole experience, not just the aesthetics, so the challenge was met with enthusiasm. Its team always wants users to feel it’s kept them in mind throughout the entire design process. For Fagerström, a simple yet crucial part of that entails bringing beauty to the world. “Your surroundings affect you,” he says, “and I want to play a small part in you feeling appreciated, harmonious and taken care of.”

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  • Christopher Farr

    Christopher Farr

    ENGLAND (1953)

    Educated at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and trained in textiles in villages in Peru and Turkey, Christopher Farr has made his mark as one of today’s preeminent rug designers. As a young abstract painter in 1975, he won a Boise Travel Scholarship to Peru. It was this trip that soon sealed the direction of his artistic life, because there Farr encountered pre-Columbian textiles for the first time and was seized by the magnetism and utility of the 3,000-year-old work. He began to search for ways to marry his love of abstraction to the ancient craft of textile art and spent months designing and making rugs in a village in Western Turkey. With time, his work fused the venerable techniques of hand-dyeing and hand-looming with a modernist concern for color and form. The result is abstract wool canvases for the floor.

    In 1988 he established a company under his own name, Christopher Farr, with antique rug dealer and restorer Matthew Bourne. For the first few years of the company’s existence, a collection of carpets designed by Farr was sold alongside high-quality antiques. Then, in 1991, the company collaborated with the Royal College of Art in London on Brave New Rugs, an exhibition of rugs designed by the college’s textile students. The instant success of this show convinced Farr and Bourne that the future lay in new production, and they went on to devote all their energy and resources to enhancing the profile and status of the contemporary rug. The company now has two showrooms, in London and Los Angeles, which feature Farr’s work, as well as rugs designed by Gillian Ayres, Kate Blee, Allegra Hicks, Rifat Ozbek, Gunta Stölzl and Georgina von Etzdorf, among others.

    Farr’s work has also been shown and sold in the United States at Ralph Pucci International, and in 2000 he launched Christopher Farr Cloth, a line of woven fabrics and prints. Farr co-wrote (along with Bourne and Fiona Leslie of the Victoria and Albert Museum) Contemporary Rugs: Art and Design, an encyclopedic reference tome on modern rug design around the world, published in 2002.

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  • Anna Castelli Ferrieri

    Anna Castelli Ferrieri

    ITALY (1918–2006)

    “It is not true that what is useful is beautiful. It is what is beautiful that is useful. Beauty can improve people’s way of life and thinking.” – Anna Castelli Ferrieri

    Anna Castelli Ferrieri is the embodiment of the Italian creative philosophy that advocates designing “from the teaspoon to the city.” Castelli Ferrieri has contributed designs to both.

    Trained at the famed Milan Polytechnic Institute as an architect, Castelli Ferrieri worked in the office of the postwar rationalist Franco Albini, who became a role model for her. Castelli Ferrieri started designing for Kartell in 1966, after being chosen as the architect for their headquarters. Famous for its critical role in the introduction to the consumer market of plastic as an acceptable material, Kartell was founded by Anna’s husband-to-be, Giulio Castelli. Castelli Ferrieri became intrinsically linked to the company, both as a designer and as its Design Director, instrumental in bringing such innovative designers to Kartell as Joe Colombo, Marco Zanuso with Richard Sapper, and Achille Castiglioni.

    In her own designs for Kartell, Castelli Ferrieri exploited new materials through innovative forms. For her “4970/84” container elements, Castelli Ferrieri treated the design as a mini architectural exercise, with units that are stackable and interchangeable based on the needs of the new lifestyle of the 1960s. For her beautiful and useful designs, Castelli Ferrieri has won numerous design awards, including the prestigious Compasso d’Oro, but the fact that most of her pieces are still in production bespeaks the highest praise.

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  • Ole Flensted

    Ole Flensted

    DENMARK (1950)

    Ole Flensted was 3 years old when his father, Christian, made a mobile to celebrate the christening of his first daughter, Mette, in 1953. The mobile, still in existence today, featured three storks suspended in flight and was later named Lucky Storks. At the time, the elder Flensted was an advertising agent and had been trained as a book editor to follow in the footsteps of his father, publisher of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.

    After a few more mobiles, Ole’s father and mother, Grethe, founded Flensted Mobiles in 1954 and soon needed help from neighbors on the island of Funen, Denmark, to assemble and package their creations, a practice that continues today with more than 60 local artisans.

    “I sort of helped with them, but it’s not really a kid’s job,” Flensted recalls. “I could do some of the simple work, but not assembling the mobiles. It needs some kind of accuracy to make them.” Flensted, the oldest of three children, made his first production mobile in 1970, and his father named it Futura after the typeface – and also as a suggestion of Ole’s future, which was realized in 1982 when he and wife Aase began running the company.

    “In the beginning, I didn't want to take over my father’s business, of course,” Flensted says. “I wanted to be either an architect or a photographer. But I ended up here like most kids do with the chance for taking over the company.” After a couple of moves to accommodate expansion, the company relocated to a former school in Brenderup, on the northwest shore of Funen.

    “I like to start a mobile by playing with the cardboard,” Flensted says, “and to cut it and fold it and to see how it goes from 2-D to 3-D. And then you combine it with other forms, put it together and suspend it from wire.” Flensted has designed more than 50 of the 160 or so mobiles the company has released since 1954. Most are made of cardboard, a few of wood or aluminum. Sales number in millions of units all over the world.

    “The two essential things about mobiles” Flensted says, “are movement and balance – our mobiles, at least. A mobile “is the only thing that moves in your house besides your human and your cat and dog, maybe. So it attracts your eye.”

    For relaxation, Flensted and family take to the air currents themselves. “We have our own hot-air balloon,” he says. “We call it our biggest mobile.”

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  • Mariano Fortuny

    Mariano Fortuny

    SPAIN (1871–1949)

    Celebrated by his contemporaries as “The Magician of Venice,” Mariano Fortuny was perhaps the last Renaissance man in the truest meaning of the term. Though trained as a painter, Fortuny was an accomplished and innovative stage-set designer, architect, inventor, couturier and lighting technician. Born in the ancient Spanish city of Granada to an artistic family (both of his parents were highly regarded painters), Fortuny was raised first in Paris then Venice, where he spent most of his life. Fortuny is now most remembered for his dress designs, which were fabricated from an innovative pleated silk, produced by machines designed and patented by Fortuny, and the forerunner to Issey Miyake’s efforts. Fortuny also patented numerous stage and lighting innovations, culminating with the Fortuny cyclorama dome, which could easily change stage lighting from a bright sky to a faint dusk. His reflector lamp, popularly known as the Fortuny Lamp, works on the same principle as the dome and clearly demonstrates Fortuny’s philosophy that “it is not the quantity but the quality of light that makes things visible....”

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  • Raphael Fournier and Martin Endrizzi

    Raphael Fournier and Martin Endrizzi

    FRANCE (1981) ARGENTINA (1977)

    Architect and designer Raphael Fournier knew by age 15 that he would become an architect. He bought his first book on the topic and began what’s become an ongoing education in design history, saying now, “I thought knowledge of what had been done in the past was crucial to producing meaningful projects, and I still believe it.”

    Originally from Finistère, a region in Brittany, France, known as the “end of the earth,” Fournier earned a bachelor’s in furniture and space design from L’Institut Supérieur des Arts Appliqués in Rennes, France, then a master’s in architecture from Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris. After several years working in locations as far-flung as China, Japan, Chilean Patagonia, Peru and Argentina, Fournier landed in Barcelona in 2015 and opened his own product and interior design studio, Atelier Raphael Fournier.

    Industrial designer Martin Endrizzi grew up and lives in Mendoza, Argentina. With plenty of space to explore and little access to store-bought toys, he made his own entertainment. “I built houses in the trees in spring and summer,” Endrizzi says. “Winter destroyed them all, and I had to start again the next year, building them better each time.” That love of handwork led him to local workshops, where he connected with carpenters, metalworkers and draftsmen. “I got to know people with lots of patience and love for their work, and I slowly became a designer. Years later, when I discovered there was actually a university course for this job, I knew I had found my way.” Endrizzi received a bachelor’s in industrial design from Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza, followed by a master’s in design and management from Sapienza Università di Roma in Italy.

    In 2007, he became a partner in Colbo ceramic factory, overseeing a refresh of what he calls “an icon of Argentinian design history” by introducing new technologies and updated designs to meet the contemporary demand for gourmet tableware. “Our work at Colbo is fundamentally one of craftsmen. Our hands are present throughout the process, and it is our decision to make that visible in the final product.”

    Fournier and Endrizzi met in 2014 when Fournier, living and working in Chile at the time, needed help with a ceramic prototype. He contacted Colbo, and Endrizzi took on the project, which led to more work together. Their first collaboration was the Tipi Table (2016). After presenting the prototype at the Stockholm Furniture Fair, they founded studio Raphael Fournier + Martin Endrizzi, focusing on furniture and interior design, creative direction and what they term “scenography” – designing exhibits for furniture fairs.

    Collaborating from separate continents, they communicate via drawings, written solutions and daily videoconferences. They’ve found that rather than being a limitation, geographical distance pushes them to be selective, stay focused and accept a slower pace.

    The partnership now extends to Colbo, where Fournier contributes to European distribution, art direction and brand strategy and marketing. Looking ahead, Fournier and Endrizzi intend to create a body of work relevant to both the furniture they admire from the past and the way people live today.

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  • Jean-Michel Frank

    Jean-Michel Frank

    FRANCE (1895–1941)

    Jean-Michel Frank was perhaps the most influential designer and decorator of the Parisian haute monde of the 1930s and ’40s. Various contemporary French designers such as Andree Putman and Bonetti and Garouste have cited Frank as a spiritual teacher and inspiration.

    Born into the wealthy European Frank clan (Anne Frank was a distant cousin), Jean-Michel came to interior design after being inspired by the artistic circles of Paris and Venice. Frank immediately established his reputation and his signature look with the design of the Paris apartment of the Vicomte Charles de Noailles and his wife, Marie-Laure. The Noailles were leading progressives of their day and patrons of the major painters of Paris; Frank’s style of understated luxury – vellum-sheathed walls, bleached leather, lacquer and shagreen – perfectly complemented the Picassos and Braques on their walls. Frank’s spare, rectilinear details were inspired by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, while the subtle use of rich, unexpected materials was purely Jean-Michel Frank. His blocky, rectangular club chairs and sofas have been endlessly copied and produced by many admirers, and he is credited for the design of the modern Parsons table, a stark form that Frank would embellish with the most luxurious finish.

    The look that Frank created, admiringly called by the French as “le style Frank,” continues to exert its influence through the powerful combination of the simplest forms and the most exquisite materials to produce objects that are noble and utterly modern.

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  • Enrico Franzolini

    Enrico Franzolini

    ITALY (1952)

    Modern industrial design was born in the great cities of Europe – Paris, Berlin and, of course, Milan. Following World War II, Milan became preeminent, leading the way with a stunning display of products from Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti and Antonio Citterio. The vitality of post-war design that flourished in the studios of Milan undoubtedly influenced Enrico Franzolini, one of the city’s young but most prolific furniture designers. On his way to becoming an international household name, Franzolini designed for the most prominent furniture companies in Europe and the United States, including Moroso, Cappellini, Crassevig, Accademia and Knoll International.

    Franzolini began his career as an artist – his work expresses sculptural elegance and aesthetic refinement. He exhibited work at the Venice Biennale, as well as other exhibitions and galleries in the 1970s, and then turned to design and received a degree in architecture in 1979. Like Magistretti and many other designers in Italy, Franzolini has been active across the spectrum of creative fields, from fine art to architecture to the various arts of the craftsman. He uses a variety of materials – wood, metal and all the varieties of plastic – with confidence on both a large and small scale. Franzolini’s work epitomizes the integrity, the technical innovation and the ingenious forms for which Italian design has long been admired.

    Franzolini’s Compasso D’Oro side chair and armchair received Italy’s top design award, the Compasso D’Oro, at the 1998 Venice Triennale. This award is one of the highest achievements that can be attained as a designer in Europe and is a tribute to Franzolini’s extraordinary talent. Franzolini also designed the Tapis chair and the Elan chair, elegant seating found in hotels and restaurants throughout Europe.

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  • Naoto Fukasawa

    Naoto Fukasawa

    JAPAN (1956)

    Naoto Fukasawa first discovered product design as a high school student when he read job descriptions in a magazine that characterized “product designer” as someone who, quite simply, makes people happy through objects. Fukasawa was intrigued.

    Originally from Yamanashi prefecture in Japan, Fukasawa graduated from the product design department at Tama Art University in Tokyo in 1980. He began his career with Seiko Epson, specializing in the design of microelectronics, along the lines of wrist TVs.

    In 1989, he moved to the United States and joined San Francisco–based ID Two, the predecessor of design company IDEO, where he continued designing electronics and computers, becoming something of a guru in Silicon Valley.

    He returned to Japan in 1996 to launch IDEO’s Tokyo office and, in 2003, founded his own studio, Naoto Fukasawa Design, partnering with companies around the world on interiors, lighting and electronics. An early project was the INFOBAR mobile phone, a trendsetter in cell phone interface design and function that went on to become an industry leader and precursor to the smartphone.

    Fukasawa approaches design as a process of improving on what already exists by creating products so intuitive, the user interacts with them in a way that’s both uniquely satisfying and unconscious – in his words, “without thought.” He went on to develop Without Thought into a series of workshops based upon his concept of products that fit seamlessly into the user environment. It was during one of these workshops that he conceived a wall-mounted CD player, a nod to an old-school kitchen fan, with an on-off pull cord and a spinning disc visible through the front. Produced by Japanese retailer MUJI in 1999, the CD player became a design calling card for Fukasawa, and it’s now included in the design collection at MoMA.

    In 2003, Fukasawa established household product and appliance brand ±0 (“PlusMinusZero”). And in 2006, he joined with British designer Jasper Morrison on Super Normal, their tribute to products that improve surroundings through modest design.

    Fukasawa has taught or lectured about product design at Musashino Art University, Tama Art University and Tokyo University Graduate School. In 2007, he was awarded the title of Honorable Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London.

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  • Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi

    Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi

    DENMARK (1975) ITALY (1978)

    Copenhagen native Stine Gam studied furniture design at the Aarhus School of Architecture, graduating in 2006. Originally from Pesaro, Italy, Enrico Fratesi studied industrial design at the University of Florence and the University of Ferrara, graduating in 2007.

    The two met in 2004, while Gam was an exchange student in Italy, and together they settled in Copenhagen, where they founded GamFratesi studio, focused on furniture and interiors.

    Their diverse backgrounds allow them to move between two design cultures – Danish simplicity and Italian intellectualism – with a fluidity that shows in their offerings. The cultural intersection has provided consistent inspiration for the designers and become a throughline in their work, in which an understanding of tradition allows them to experiment while remaining rooted in Scandinavian craft and functionalism.

    Considered furniture architects, Gam and Fratesi emphasize artisanal details while remaining focused on the basics of concept, story and utility. Within a body of work that likes to surprise is the Beetle Chair, inspired by the appearance and movement of the namesake insect.

    GamFratesi received the Elle Decoration International Design Award (EDIDA) as International Young Designer of the Year in 2013. Their pieces have been shown in La Triennale di Milano, Design Museum Denmark in Copenhagen, the Royal Danish Embassy in Tokyo and Art Basel in Miami.

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  • Jørgen Gammelgaard

    Jørgen Gammelgaard

    DENMARK (1938–1991)

    Jørgen Gammelgaard had a distinguished career as designer, educator and humanitarian. Following in the footsteps of Hans Wegner, he apprenticed in a furniture design workshop and worked for Arne Jacobsen, among others. As a consultant to the United Nations, he was influenced by indigenous designs he came across in his travels to Ceylon, the Sudan and Samoa, designing the celebrated Tip Top Lamp while living in the South Pacific. From 1987 until his death in 1991, he was a professor of furniture design at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, a prestigious position previously held by Jacobsen, Kaare Klint and Poul Kjærholm.

    Gammelgaard has left a legacy of well-conceived, artful and varied furniture. He designed one of his most popular pieces, the Crest Rail chair – reminiscent of Hans Wegner’s Round Chair (1950) for its similar but more substantial curving top rail – for entrepreneur Børg Schiang in the 1980s; the chair legs, with their unusual triangular footprint, are connected in an X-shaped seat support. The Schiang Collection also included Gammelgaard’s tables, desks, filing cabinets and desktop organizer. Other innovations include his Deck Chair for Rodolfo Dordoni, a sleek lounge resting on a round base, and the Mobile rocking chair for Erik Jørgen, with continuous curving armrests.

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  • Jesús Gasca

    Jesús Gasca

    SPAIN (1939)

    Jesús Gasca is the founder and principal designer of Stua, which is an acronym for solo tengo un amor, or “I have only one love.” This contemporary furniture company based in the resort town of San Sebastián, Spain, prides itself on producing a limited range of furniture, with each piece exquisitely executed out of the finest materials. The style of the work can be characterized as Scandinavian with a Mediterranean touch.

    The company’s mission is “to improve the habitat in which we live, by refining our designs, and using recyclable components and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.” Stua, which Gasca founded in 1983, has allowed him to develop his own work as a furniture designer. Trained as an engineer, Gasca specializes in technically proficient design with attention to detail.

    Gasca’s recent designs include the Globus Chair, Milano Table, Sapporo Shelving System, Gas Chair, Zero Table and the Deneb Collection. He has also collaborated with Josep Mora to create the classic Egoa Chair, which won the Innovate Design Melbourne prize in 1988. Gasca also received an ADI-FAD award for his Atlas Collection of aluminum containers.

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  • Jon Gasca

    Jon Gasca

    SPAIN (1967)

    “We try to make simple products that people will love for a long time,” says Jon Gasca, designer and art director for Stua, his family’s furniture business in San Sebastian, Spain. By “simple” he means neither “ordinary” nor “plain,” but quite the opposite – Gasca ensures that Stua designs combine precision and balance to provide extraordinary function and beautiful form. “We really like people to buy our furniture, not for us to sell it,” he explains. “So our main aim is to make it attractive enough for people to come to us.”

    Born in San Sebastian in 1967, Gasca earned his degree in industrial engineering from Universidad de Navarra. Afterward, he went to work at Stua for his father, Jésus, who founded the company in 1984. Together they’ve maintained an unpretentious and approachable aesthetic, evoking classic midcentury modernism. “We try to give people a sense of well-being, not opulence,” says Gasca. “We transmit freshness and a sense of belonging.” Under these guiding principles, Stua has received numerous accolades, including Spain’s National Design Award in 2009.

    Gasca’s enduring designs for the company include the Costura Sofa Collection, Eclipse Tables and Nube Armchair, the last of which he co-designed with his father. Like all Stua products, these pieces intentionally walk the line between residential and commercial furnishings. “Home and office: These are two different worlds,” notes Gasca, “but we try to take a middle-ground approach.” Put even more simply, when pressed on whether Stua makes furniture for offices or homes, he responds, “We just make furniture.”

    In addition to being an exemplary designer, Gasca is also a photographer, art collector and prolific blogger, applying his keen eye and exquisite taste to highlight the best of contemporary art and design.

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  • Frank Gehry

    Frank Gehry

    CANADA (1929)

    Frank Gehry is one of the most sought-after, internationally recognized and prolific architects and designers in the world today. His work defies categorization but has made him an icon of current architecture with such projects as the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis; and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Gehry’s newest architectural projects include a cottage-like hospital annex in Dundee, Scotland, and an extension to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Gehry’s birthplace of Toronto. In addition to designing over 30 existing buildings, Gehry has distinguished himself with a handful of furniture designs, created throughout his career.

    After studying architecture at the University of Southern California and spending a year at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Gehry established his own architecture office in 1962, in Los Angeles. Ten years into his career, Gehry launched the value-based Easy Edge chair series, constructed from laminated cardboard. However, he soon withdrew the Easy Edge chairs from production, fearing that his popularity as a furniture designer would detract from his reputation as an architect.

    In the 1980s, Gehry returned to furniture design and created his Experimental Edges furniture, again out of corrugated and laminated cardboard. The Experimental Edges series was “art furniture,” in many ways similar to the work of Ron Arad and Tom Dixon, who used materials such as corrugated iron, plaster, industrial girders and wicker. The concept was an indication of Gehry’s affinity for exploring structural strength and form in uncommon materials through mastery of engineering.

    The early 1990s brought the development of Gehry’s sculptural and gallery-ready Cross Check series for Knoll International. This collection of bentwood tables and chairs was a radically inventive use of materials: The chairs were made of “woven” strips of maple –taking inspiration from wooden apple crates – and required no additional structural support. Gehry also designed a series of Fish Lamps using ColorCore Formica, which are now in private and museum collections.

    In early 2004, Gehry completed his year-long collaboration with Emeco to create the Superlight™ Chair, a dynamic new aluminum design that debuted at Milan’s 2004 Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Weighing in at just 6.5 pounds, the Superlight blends strength with fluidity and comfort by gently moving with the sitter. Inspired by Gio Ponti’s Superleggera Chair, the Superlight illustrates Gehry’s architectural fascination with aluminum as both structure and skin and his proficiency in meshing components of engineering and design to create innovative, user-friendly furniture.

    Gehry has received numerous prestigious prizes and awards, including the Pritzker Prize in 1989.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Alexander Girard

    Alexander Girard

    U.S.A. (1907–1993)

    “Art is only art when it is synonymous with living.”

    There are two certitudes commonly assigned to midcentury designer Alexander Girard: He was the least well-known of the great designers at Herman Miller in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was the greatest colorist and textile designer of modern time. Although seemingly contradictory, both statements are accurate and are a reflection of Girard and the time period in which he worked. During his career, Girard energized the furniture designs of his Herman Miller colleagues with a new, vibrant color palette and an oeuvre of folk-inspired textiles. He was the first modern designer to define textiles as being more than just functional and to further emphasize form through the application of color and pattern.

    Born in 1907 in New York City to an American mother and an Italian father, Girard moved back to Italy with his family shortly after his birth. Raised in Florence, Girard was educated as an architect at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. In 1932, Girard returned to the United States and opened his first design office in New York City. Five years later, he moved again, to Detroit, where he opened a second studio. His career breakthrough came in 1949, when he was chosen to design the Detroit Institute of Arts For Modern Living exhibition, which focused on the design of common items and included the first public display of Charles and Ray Eames’ molded plywood chairs. In 1952, Charles Eames recruited Girard to become Herman Miller’s director of design for the company’s textile division. Girard’s tenure at Herman Miller continued into the 1970s and resulted in more than 300 vibrantly hued fabric and wallpaper designs.

    While working at Herman Miller, Girard received another career boost in 1959 when he was asked to design the interior for La Fonda del Sol restaurant in New York City’s Time-Life Building. The restaurant’s sunny interior, which included Girard’s first venture into furniture design with the Eameses, won a silver medal in 1962 from the Architectural League of New York. One year prior to winning this award, Girard, with Herman Miller’s blessing, had opened the Textiles & Objects store in New York City. The financially unsuccessful store sold objects that Girard had brought back from his international travels, as well as his own textiles and select furniture by other Herman Miller designers. Also in the early 1960s, Girard and his wife Susan relocated to New Mexico, where they began one of the largest collections of folk art to date – more than 100,000 pieces. Today, the Girards’ collection can be found in the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.

    In 1965, Girard was chosen to redesign Braniff Airlines’ visual persona, a project that, when finished, consisted of 17,543 modifications, including changes to plane interiors, logos, stationery, condiment packages, dishes, blankets and playing cards, among numerous other aspects.

    In 1967, Herman Miller introduced a line of seating by Girard, based on his work for Braniff. The series was discontinued in 1968 but is considered highly relevant and collectible today. Girard’s final design for Herman Miller was a series called Environmental Enrichment Panels, comprising decorative fabric panels that helped ward off the office doldrums.

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  • Milton Glaser

    Milton Glaser

    U.S.A. (1929)

    Working pro bono on a marketing campaign for the state of New York in 1977, Milton Glaser designed the now ubiquitous “I Love New York” logo – perhaps the most instantly recognizable logo on earth. Though he was arguably the most famous graphic designer in America, he didn’t expect the logo to take the world by storm. But he knows why it did. “To understand the design, you have to translate it,” he told The Telegraph. “First of all, you have to figure out that the ‘I’ is a complete word, then you have to figure out that the heart is a symbol for an experience, then you have to figure out that ‘NY’ are the initials for a place. We know that the issue in all communication is moving the brain, and puzzles move the brain. This one makes everyone feel good because they solved the problem.”

    Glaser started solving visual problems early in life. Born in the Bronx in 1929, he drew and illustrated his way through art school at Cooper Union, graduating in 1951, and then spent two years studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna on a Fulbright scholarship. On returning to New York in 1954, he joined up with fellow Cooper Union grads Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins and Edward Sorel to found Push Pin Studios. Together they created 86 issues of the Push Pin Graphic, which integrated Italian Renaissance influences with art nouveau and art deco styles to define a new kind of midcentury-modern visual language.

    In 1968, Glaser joined forces with editor Clay Felker to create the groundbreaking New York magazine, where he was president and design director until 1977. He left Push Pin in 1974 to create Milton Glaser, Inc., where he expanded his milieu to include interior and environmental design, corporate identity, restaurants, playgrounds, a museum and even a rug for Nani Marquina. He told AIGA that his print background wasn’t a barrier to this multidisciplinary approach. “I have been opportunistic and through the years have sort of blurred the distinction a little between professional practice in architecture, product design, interior design, graphic design and magazine design.”

    Brilliant, famous and prolific as he is, Glaser retains an endearing level of humility. “Fear of embarrassment drives me as much as any ambition,” he said at a 1998 TED Conference. His work can be seen throughout the world and in permanent collections at MoMA and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. He’s been honored with shows at Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Lincoln Center Gallery in New York, in addition to many other accolades – including the Cooper Hewitt Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

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  • Michael Goldin

    Michael Goldin

    U.S.A. (1964)

    Michael Goldin, who received a graduate degree in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley (his undergraduate degree was in biology), combines architecture, development and furniture design in his Berkeley-based studio and workshop. When he set out on his own in 1992, his first priority was to establish a wood- and metalworking shop. It has since blossomed into a state-of-the-art enterprise replete with a CNC (computer numerical control) machine and 3-D modeling and manufacturing software that he uses to create prototypes and handle larger-scale furniture production.

    Goldin Design, Incorporated has produced numerous Bay Area commercial interiors for start-up companies, including office space and workstations for Ask Jeeves, NightFire and The Roda Group. They also completed offices for Yellow Giant Corporation and the former Design Within Reach headquarters in Oakland. Swerve, Goldin’s furniture company, produces a variety of colorful, sturdy tables made of Plasticolor-coated Trupan; powder-coated steel legs with casters make them mobile. His designs have playful names – Parallel Play, Guitar Pick and Boardroom – coined by his wife, painter Deborah Oropallo. The original Parallel Play child’s worktable was made for their son Leo when he was a toddler. The tabletops are composed of two concentric arcs; a group of seven forms a circle, but they can also be arranged in a linear serpentine form.

    Goldin likes to build a piece out of a love for a particular object or a functional idea. From there, everything filters into his work. His hands-on approach to furniture design dictates that an idea is not real until it is fleshed out in the shop, which is essentially a laboratory for new materials. Goldin has recently begun experimenting with linen phenolic resin – a hard, durable and beautiful material in which you can actually see the weave of the laminated fabric. Look for new materials such as phenolic resin and powder-coated wood in his next generation of furniture.

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  • Stephanie Goto

    Stephanie Goto

    U.S.A. (1974)

    Stephanie Goto (pronounced go-TOE) began gravitating toward her eventual vocation when she was around 10 years old. “I was always rearranging the furniture in my room and doing photo shoots and creating scenarios of the space,” she says. “That grew into an interest in art and architecture history. All my high school history papers were on the architecture of Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Everything was focused on the idea of how building affects civilization, how it evolves, how it affects people.”

    With her eponymous architectural firm in New York City, founded in 2004 and now occupying a penthouse in Union Square, Goto has made a clear connection between those early papers and her design work on cultural institutions and restaurants. Her Manhattan projects include a renovation at the Calder Foundation, conception of Aldea Restaurant and collaboration with Japanese architect Tadao Ando on Morimoto Restaurant. She also designed a home kitchen for chef Daniel Boulud.

    Aside from her work, Goto is passionate about food, having grown up visiting fine restaurants with family in Tokyo and New York, and recognizes a connection between chef and architect. Her two biggest mentors, both former employers, include American architect David Rockwell, renowned for his restaurant design, and Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, for whom she worked six years early in her career. Goto has a degree in architecture from Cornell University.

    “There is a simplicity and a quietness, I think, that has strength,” she says of her firm’s spare but soulful style. “So we always look for the kind of 16th-of-an-inch detail that tells the essence of the story of who we are or what something is or what the building or the space is about. We like to take the very elemental qualities of things and bring them to life rather than trying to embellish with too many things.”

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  • Bernard-Albin Gras

    Bernard-Albin Gras

    FRANCE (1886–1943)

    Bernard-Albin Gras was the son of a draftsman and a homemaker in the small town of Saint-Raphaël, France. By the 1920s, he had become a tireless engineer and inventor with a passion for improving working conditions for ordinary laborers.

    Prolific in his work, Gras registered dozens of patents, including one for Lampe Gras in 1921. Few mobile lighting solutions existed then, and those that did were likely to shock anyone who attempted to move them. Gras sought a lamp that would shed light precisely where needed, with reflectors and supports for each task.

    Desiring one solution, he ended up developing three: a clamp lamp that could be moved from workbench to machine, a sliding lamp that could follow the user and a pivoting lamp that could be precisely positioned over a table. All are marked by his innovative Bakelite ball system and spring-balanced arm construction for flexible positioning – both well ahead of their time.

    His lamps soon found their way into machine shops, research laboratories, design studios and operating rooms. Architect Le Corbusier even seized upon the design for his own projects because it met his idea of the perfect object/tool: a form reduced to its pure function, free of superfluous ornament. Gras would lead a wave of other early adopters that included Eileen Gray, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Man Ray, among others.

    Lampe Gras stands as its maker’s defining work, with a screw- and weld-free articulated design that is just as functional and appealing today as it was in its early years.

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  • Eileen Gray

    Eileen Gray

    IRELAND (1878–1976)

    Elegant, intelligent and independent. Eileen Gray’s nonconformist and brilliant mind led her to a uniquely creative life in turn-of-the-century Paris. Born to an aristocratic family in Ireland, she first studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, settling in Paris in 1907, where she began a career that spanned seven decades. In Paris, she studied drawing, painting and, drawn to the austerity of the material, the techniques of lacquer. She also began to design furniture and interiors.

    Gray’s first commission for interior design came in 1919, a project for which she developed her famous lacquered “block screens.” In 1922, she opened her own shop, the Galerie Jean Desert, and that same year she exhibited work in Amsterdam, where it drew the attention of Dutch architect Jan Wils. The rational geometric forms of the De Stijl group in Holland impressed Gray deeply, and her work began to convey a stronger sense of modernity and unconventional use of materials and forms.

    Gray now began to create unique furniture, “suited to our existence, in proportion to our rooms and in accordance with our aspirations and feelings.” A brilliant formal play on the concept of asymmetry, Gray’s Non-conformist Chair displays her sense of irony, while her famous side table, the Adjustable Table E1027 – also asymmetrical – demonstrates the rational principles of modernism that increasingly defined her work.

    After 1927, Gray worked primarily as an architect, designing a modernist house for herself for which she also created appropriately minimalist furniture. She also exhibited several architectural projects at Le Corbusier’s “Pavillon des Temps Nouveaux” in 1937. Following that exhibition, Gray’s name faded quietly away until 1970, when collector Robert Walker began buying up her designs. After 30 years of obscurity, Gray’s work and its importance were again acknowledged. Today, she is recognized as one of the finest designers and architects of her day, and pieces like the Adjustable Table have become icons of modern design.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Susanne Grønlund

    Susanne Grønlund

    U.S.A. (1958)

    Susanne Grønlund is an accomplished furniture and industrial designer with clients around the world and many awards to her credit. But her path to success was anything but direct. Early on, her focus was fashion. “At the age of around 8 or 10,” Grønlund says, “I designed my own wardrobe, making it directly out of old sheets and clothes without any pattern, just my scissors and the machine. And my friends didn’t even believe that it was made by me.” An attempt to study fashion at the college level ended in disappointment and sent her in another direction.

    She turned to working with children, had two of her own and eventually resolved to pursue design. At 29, she was accepted into the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts to study textiles and related disciplines. “When I finally started, I also began a long journey experimenting with all kind of materials and constructions, moving from the world of fabric and arts and crafts to fashion and ending up on children’s products, industrial design and finally furniture.”

    That circuitous path to furniture design, however, paid an unforeseen benefit. “It has given me a quite free and unschooled approach to the furniture world,” Grønlund says, “and a broad-spectrum knowledge about materials and constructions. This is maybe the best gift to my design work: that I am able to make crossovers between different approaches to the product development field and find new ways to go. Flying straight is not always the best.”

    Working out of her studio in Aarhus, Denmark, founded in 1991, Grønlund has designed for Softline, Frederica Furniture and the Naver Collection, among many others. Her honors include four Norwegian Design Council awards, three Red Dot Design Awards and two Good Design Awards. Grønlund was born in Bloomington, Indiana, while her father was pursuing an academic degree and just a couple of years later the family moved back to its native Denmark, where she’s lived since.

    “My job is to improve people’s surroundings when it comes to aesthetics, functionality, tactility and sustainability,” Grønlund says. “That is the reason for choosing this work. It gives me a deep satisfaction to contribute to the world by optimizing people’s surroundings and making the world a better place to be.”

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  • Walter Gropius

    Walter Gropius

    GERMANY (1883-1969)

    Along with fellow architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius was a pioneer of modern architecture and the International Style. He’s revered as founder of the Bauhaus, a German art school that merged crafts and fine arts and had a powerful influence on the development of modernism across a range of disciplines throughout the 20th century.

    After two years studying architecture, Gropius took a job in 1908 with architect and visionary industrial designer Peter Behrens in Berlin, working alongside Mies and Corbusier. He and colleague Adolf Meyer left two years later to start their own firm, and together they designed the Fagus Factory in southern Germany, sometimes considered the first modernist building and now a World Heritage Site.

    Following four years in the German Army during WWI, Gropius was appointed master of the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Fine Arts in Weimar in 1919 and reestablished it as the Bauhaus, which attracted the likes of Paul Klee, Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky to the faculty. Gropius championed the avoidance of ornamentation, the blending of craft and fine arts, the use of glass, concrete and steel and the belief that a building’s design should derive from its function. “The Bauhaus strives to bring together all creative effort into one whole, to reunify all the disciplines of practical art – sculpture, painting, handicrafts and crafts – as inseparable components of a new architecture,” states his Bauhaus Manifesto.

    Amid rising political pressure, Gropius moved the Bauhaus to Dessau in 1925, designing a new school building that became one of his most famous works. In 1928, he resigned and returned to Berlin and his architecture practice until the rise of Adolf Hitler forced him to flee Germany for England in 1934, then move to the U.S in 1937. Gropius settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he worked the remainder of his life. He built a modernist home in nearby Lincoln that has become a National Historic Landmark known as Gropius House.

    He taught at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University from 1937 to 1952 and during that time established an architecture firm with protégé Marcel Breuer, who also was teaching at Harvard and who had been one of the first and youngest students at the Bauhaus years earlier. Among other work, they designed the Alan I W Frank House in Pittsburgh – a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, harmonized from the landscape down to furniture designed by Breuer into a singular vision, which sets it apart as an important American monument.

    Gropius established The Architects Collaborative in 1945 with seven younger architects, and it lasted until 1995. TAC designed many notable buildings, including the Graduate Center at Harvard University in the late 1940s, the first modern building on campus, and factories for Rosenthal porcelain in Germany in the 1960s. Gropius was active with it until his death in 1969.

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  • Greta Magnusson Grossman

    Greta Magnusson Grossman

    SWEDEN (1906–1999)

    Born and raised in Sweden, Greta Magnusson Grossman represents a literal link between European design and California modernism. In 1940, after already establishing herself as a designer in Sweden, she and her husband, jazz bandleader Billy Grossman, immigrated to Los Angeles. Although Grossman’s work was well known and in demand through the 1950s and ’60s – her pieces were photographed by Julius Shulman, she appeared frequently in John Entenza’s Art & Architecture magazine and she received two prestigious Good Design Awards from MoMA – she later faded into relative obscurity. Recently, renewed interest in this pioneering modernist has resulted in some of her pieces being brought back into production.

    Grossman opened her first store/workshop, called Studio, in Stockholm in 1933 with classmate Erik Ullrich. Here she took numerous commissions, including a crib for Sweden’s Princess Birgitta, and she became the first woman to receive a prize for furniture design from the Swedish Society of Industrial Design. This early success followed her to California, where in 1940 she opened her second shop, Magnusson-Grossman Studio on Rodeo Drive, which was popular with clients including Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Gracie Allen. Grossman’s compact, functional and visually lightweight modern aesthetic appealed to a previously ignored but ever-growing demographic: single, savvy, career-minded women. Some of her pieces, like the Cobra Lamp, designed in 1950 for Ralph O. Smith (and recently brought back into production by Gubi), and her 1952 Desk with Storage for Glenn of California, have become icons of California modern.

    Grossman’s creativity and brilliance were also evident in the houses she designed between 1949 and 1959. The homes – often built on spec, with Grossman living in them until she found a buyer – were defined by their diminutive scale and lightness of form and were frequently balanced perfectly on the edge of a hillside. Crafted of classic modern materials like steel and stone, they also incorporated rich woods and natural light to create warmth. Unfortunately, many of these residences have since been demolished, though several do remain.

    Grossman was quoted in 1951 as saying that California design “is not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions. It has developed out of our own preference for living in a modern way.” Her own preferences and groundbreaking work as a female designer have become recognizable parts of the visual vocabulary of American modernism.

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  • Max Gunawan

    Max Gunawan

    INDONESIA (1980)

    As architect and designer Max Gunawan was growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia, “buying a toy was a luxury that happened rarely.” Embracing that limitation as a challenge, he began making his own toys from found objects – and gained confidence in the process. Gunawan remembers, “I had to use my imagination to keep myself occupied. That's part of the reason I enjoy making things with my hands.” Making things also got him thinking in terms of “having more, using less,” a theme that would appear later in his work.

    Gunawan earned a bachelor’s in architecture from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he was inspired by the work of Japanese architect Tadao Ando. “I was immediately drawn to his simplicity in design, and the way he sculpted light into his buildings through simple forms really moved me.” That Japanese aesthetic stayed with Gunawan as well.

    After 10 years as a practicing architect, designing retail spaces, Gunawan became restless and started experimenting with product design – beginning with a folding modular house that would fit into a car. He now runs his own San Francisco-based design studio full-time. Always drawn to good lighting, he made his product debut with the Lumio Book Lamp (2013).

    The backstory: Gunawan was moving a heavy pendant light when it occurred to him how much empty space it held, and that gave him an idea for a light fixture compact enough to be toted from place to place. He jotted the thought on a piece of paper and placed it in his sketchbook. From there, multiple design references – origami, an unfurling bridge in London, that original modular house, even the sketchbook itself – influenced the final form of a traditional book. Ultimately, says Gunawan, “I was looking for a functional solution to how to make the design as portable as possible, and the book, something I always carry with me, was a natural solution.”

    “At the core,” says Gunawan, “I wanted to create beautiful lighting that people can experience wherever they are.” Uniquely versatile, the Lumio Book Lamp resembles a book when closed, then unfurls into a lamp that lights from within when opened. “It’s functional,” he says, “but I also love the parallel between the idea of a book that enlightens you intellectually and an object that literally illuminates.” Lumio can be laid flat, fanlike, or opened a full 360 degrees for a classic lantern shape.

    The origin story of Gunawan’s business is a modern one. First, he raised capital on Kickstarter, then went to Shark Tank, the TV show where hopeful entrepreneurs present their ideas to business moguls. Every host wanted to invest in Gunawan’s idea, and Lumio sales took off.

    After the success of Lumio the lamp, Lumio the company became focused on “creating objects that will impact people with their beauty and functionality,” says Gunawan. Lumio has won several awards, including the 2015 Good Design Award for Product Design, Best in Category.

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  • Urd Moll Gundermann

    Urd Moll Gundermann

    DENMARK (1980)

    Growing up in and just outside Copenhagen, Urd Moll Gundermann, who’s named for a Nordic goddess, was taken with fashion. “I’ve always been fascinated by fashion and textiles, and the fibers of the textiles and patterns and colors in combination,” she says. With encouragement from her father, drawing and sketching became passions as well. “I think it’s a part of me. It will always be a part of me. I feel that it’s my life.”

    She went on to study at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and earned a master’s degree in 2011 in fashion and textiles. “When I studied, in the beginning, it was fashion,” she says. “But in fashion, the interesting part for me was also the textiles. And I did all of the textiles myself. I did all the patterns and made the textiles before I created the clothes.”

    Along the way, she began also to make graphic books to provide a kind of canvas. “That’s also why I’m now into rugs, I think,” she says. “They’re like a canvas where you can create your stories in a way, like when you’re sketching. I’ve always felt a great passion for telling stories.”

    The move to rugs came in 2012 when she took a job with Danish rug maker Linie Design and eventually became head of design there. “As a designer,” she says, “you’re in an eternal dialogue with yourself. You’re constantly considering, debating and discussing with yourself whether a motif or a pattern works or not, or if the color or fabric of the design should be subdued or vibrant, and what your instinct tells you.”

    The spark for her designs often emerges by chance. “I always have my camera on me, and my eye seeks inspiration in the present moment,” she says. “It could be anything from old buildings, unusual surfaces, shadows, mirrored light reflected in the landscape, interesting people. My fascination for patterns, colors, materials and form has always been there for as long as I can remember.”

    Gundermann’s illustrations have been shown in organized exhibitions, “showing my playful work with art, textiles, fashion and graphics.” She abides by a personal motto and shares it unabashedly: “Not hate, anger, mockery or contempt, but understanding.”

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  • H

  • Chris Liljenberg Halstrøm

    Chris Liljenberg Halstrøm

    DENMARK (1977)

    For Chris Liljenberg Halstrøm, inspiration comes from observation. “If I want to design objects for real people, I have to know about them,” she explains. Born in Glostrup, Denmark, to a Swedish mother and Danish father, Halstrøm is also naturally influenced by her Nordic roots. “I have been drawing since I was very young, so that has always been a part of how I spend my days. My parents encouraged it, so I never lacked materials. My grandfather made garden furniture, and my grandmother was really good at crocheting and embroidering. So when I spent my childhood summers with them in Sweden I learned a lot.”

    More recently, she has taken cues from traditional Japanese architecture and design, with its focus on function. “My starting point is always some kind of everyday scenario that I analyze and figure out how I can improve the situation somehow.”

    After studying in Stockholm and Berlin, Halstrøm graduated in 2007 from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and established her own studio that same year. Close to the royal palace and Designmuseum Danmark, she’s located in “one of the oldest neighborhoods in Copenhagen, where all the buildings are crooked.”

    While Halstrøm mostly focuses on commercial products, she also organizes and exhibits in experimental design shows. “Participating in exhibitions is one of the areas I most love, a space where I can explore a certain theme or situation in depth and develop as a designer,” she says. “Many of my exhibition projects have been developed further for production, as in the case of the Georg Collection for Skagerak. The stool was originally part of the official Danish exhibition, Mindcraft, during the Milan Furniture Fair some years ago.”

    The Georg Collection (2013) went on to win an Elle Decoration Swedish Design Award for “Best Bedroom Product” in 2016. “When I was working on the Georg stool, my son Georg was ill, and I had him with me in the studio for a month,” she recalls. “He quickly grew tired of watching movies and started asking questions about the stool: Why are the legs like that? Why is the pillow sticking out? So when I had to name the stool, it naturally became Georg. My son Aldus is getting his own furniture line as well, which he is very much looking forward to.”

    In 2014, Halstrøm joined with textile designer Margrethe Odgaard to form Included Middle. Together they design products that draw on the inherent gap and intersection between their two fields, grounding themselves in the question, “What if color and pattern influence form, and what if form influences color and pattern?”

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  • Per Hånsbæk

    Per Hånsbæk

    DENMARK (1949)

    Raised in Løgstør, in northern Denmark, Per Hånsbæk graduated from Aarhus School of Architecture in 1976 with a master’s in architecture. Early in his career, though, he focused on industrial design. “I made a lot of different designs,“ he says, “technical devices for industrial use, mechanisms for upholstered furniture and loudspeakers – a lot of loudspeakers.” He also designed some wooden toys at one point.

    Hånsbæk established his company, Hånsbæk Design, in 1984, and then in 1987 began a collaboration with a family-run Danish furniture company founded in 1933. “We arranged a meeting and found out that we spoke well together,” he says. “We have been working together since then.” That partnership was his first foray into furniture design, which became his focus.

    “Development happens in a very simple way,” Hånsbæk says. “What do the customers need? And how do we make it rational in the most beautiful way? It takes analysis of those needs and production considerations for an appropriate and beautiful design. It’s as simple as that.”

    That process led to the development of several extension tables, beginning with a round one that expands in all directions with leaves stored centrally in the pedestal, which earned patents in the late 1980s. Hånsbæk also shared patents on several rectangular dining tables, one that expands to seat up to 20 people with the addition of multiple leaves and a clever system in which the legs split to double in number and support the top’s added length.

    Hånsbæk describes his design philosophy as “a good mix of aesthetics and functional and practical design with a Nordic expression.” These days, he works exclusively with furniture, designing chairs, sideboards, display cabinets and dining tables at his home studio in Højbjerg, a district of Aarhus. Since roughly 2003, he’s worked alone. “I decided to have my own business, only me,” he says. “I had partners before, and I had employees. I like more the idea of designing, not being a director for people.”

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  • Chris Hardy

    Chris Hardy

    U.S.A. (1984)

    Born in Houston, Chris Hardy went on to pursue an education in design, receiving a bachelor’s in fine arts from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, followed by a master’s in design from the School of Design at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. After returning to the United States in 2009, he began his career as a freelance designer, collaborating on industrial and graphic design projects. Hardy made his furniture design debut at Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan in 2011.

    “In my design work, I aim to develop pieces that can be connected with on an emotional level,” says the Atlanta-based designer. His work is “inspired by the challenge of personalization in the modern world and the increasing desire we have to own objects that match our own styles and philosophies – in the way that art does.”

    Hardy has collaborated with a wide range of clients, including interior design firms, retail stores, furniture and lighting manufacturers and design publications. He has developed furniture and lighting collections for both commercial and residential sectors, working closely with engineers and manufacturers alike.

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  • Irving Harper

    Irving Harper

    U.S.A. (1916–2015)

    “Chances are you haven’t heard of Irving Harper,” wrote Paul Makovsky in a 2001 issue of Metropolis magazine, “but you have seen his work.” In his 60-year career, Irving Harper designed everything from the Herman Miller logo to innovative melamine dinnerware to the now-iconic Sunburst Clock and even the venerable Marshmallow Sofa – all under the name George Nelson Associates.

    “I’m grateful to George for what he did for me,” Harper told Makovsky. “While he was alive I made no demands whatsoever. But now that he’s gone, whenever the Marshmallow Sofa is referred to as a ‘George Nelson design,’ it sort of gets to me. I don’t go out of my way to set things right, but if anybody asks me who designed it, I’m perfectly happy to tell them.”

    After studying architecture at Brooklyn College and Cooper Union, Harper got his start in the 1930s with Morris B. Sanders, where he designed interior exhibits for the 1939–1940 New York World’s Fair. Realizing a greater affinity for design than architecture, Harper then went to work in the early ’40s as a draftsman with Gilbert Rohde and a designer in the department-store division of Raymond Loewy Associates.

    Beginning in 1947, he embarked on one of the more prolific periods of his career after accepting a job offer from George Nelson, with whom he stayed on as design director for the next 16 years. One of his early projects for Nelson was Herman Miller’s first-ever ad. There was not yet any photography of the furniture, so Harper instead rendered a large “M” – for “Miller” – which is essentially the same logo design the company uses today. “There was no project to do a logo,” he says. “It was probably the cheapest logo campaign in advertising history.” In 1953, Harper designed a groundbreaking line of melamine dinnerware, Florence Ware, for Prolon (a consumer line by the Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Company of Florence, Massachusetts), which is now included in MoMA’s permanent collection.

    After Harper parted ways with Nelson, he and Philip George teamed up to form their own studio, Harper+George. They joined the ranks of Alexander Calder, Alexander Girard and Emilio Pucci as contributors to Braniff Airlines’ legendary brand – in the late 1960s, the duo was hired by the fashion-forward airline to design ticket counters and VIP lounges. Harper also collaborated with George on projects for Hallmark and Jack Lenor Larsen, among others. The partnership ended in 1983, but Harper continued to create, filling his house and barn in Rye, New York, with elaborate and innovative paper sculptures that serve as reminders of his skill at blurring the thin line between art and design.

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  • Jaime Hayon

    Jaime Hayon

    SPAIN (1974)

    Jaime Hayon has distinguished himself among a new generation of artist-designers with a style that’s playful, unexpected and a little flamboyant. His work spans fine art, interiors and functional design that is never merely functional. And in true next-generation fashion, Hayon is his own design creation, regularly including himself in photos of his work.

    Originally from Madrid, Hayon studied industrial design there and in Paris before joining Fabrica, Benetton’s communications research center in Treviso, Italy, in 1997, where he oversaw the design department. Since 2003 he has been running his own shop, working out of a home-based studio in Valencia, Spain, with a prolific design portfolio that includes lighting, furniture, rugs, wallpaper, fabric, floor tile, tabletop decor, ceramics, watches, shoes and product packaging. He’s even given his eye to a line of elegant bathroom fixtures. One installation piece, an oversized ceramic chess set laid out in Trafalgar Square for the London Design Festival in 2009, was pure Hayon – equal parts fantasy and hands-on interactive.

    Hayon has designed interiors for settings as varied as the Lladro ceramics boutique on Madison Avenue in New York, the Camper apparel store in Tokyo and the Info Center at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands. In a nod to the 1958 Arne Jacobsen-designed Room 606 at the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen (now the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Copenhagen, with Jacobsen’s room intact), Hayon designed his own room at the hotel, Room 506, contributing furniture, wall art, bedding and lighting. Other collaborations include crystal tableware with Baccarat and bejeweled lighting with Swarovski.

    Hayon can seemingly find inspiration in almost anything – the six wives of Henry VIII, the circus, fruit, candy – always emphasizing the highest level of craftsmanship and the preservation of traditional handcrafting trades. Among his recent designs are the Ro Lounge Chair (2013), represented in Room 506, for iconic Danish furniture manufacturer Fritz Hansen and the Réaction Poétique Collection for Cassina, a line of sculptural multiuse side tables and serving trays, inspired by the organic shapes of Le Corbusier’s architecture and L’Esprit Nouveau artwork.

    Hayon’s own art has been featured in multiple venues, including the aforementioned Groninger Museum, London’s Design Museum, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Art Basel exhibition, with some of his work residing in their permanent collections. He’s been recognized as an influential designer by Wallpaper magazine, included on Time magazine’s The Style & Design 100 list of “virtuosos” for 2007 and named the Elle Decoration Designer of the Year for 2016.

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  • Edith Heath

    Edith Heath

    U.S.A. (1911–2005)

    Edith Heath founded her own business in the 1940s, and for 60 years she was the driving force at Heath Ceramics. Her dinnerware combines a craft-based heritage with modern lines in a way that has been prized by many.

    The second of seven children in the Kiertzner family, Edith grew up on an Iowa farm. In 1931 she enrolled at the Chicago Normal School (later renamed Chicago Teachers College), where students were required to study art education. Heath excelled in this area, and after graduating she enrolled part-time at the Art Institute of Chicago, taking classes in the morning and teaching in the afternoon. An invitation to work at a Federal Art Project (FAP) training school led to Heath’s acquaintance with the ideas of leading artists, including Bauhaus designer László Moholy-Nagy. It was also during this program that she met her husband, Brian Heath.

    In 1941, Brian Heath became regional director for the American Red Cross, and the couple moved to San Francisco. On the drive to the West Coast, they stopped in New Mexico, where Edith Heath would make an important discovery. The work of one of the most influential Native American potters – Maria Martinez – captivated Heath, and she knew at that moment that ceramics was the work she wanted to pursue.

    In San Francisco, Heath taught art at Presidio Hill School while auditing classes at the California School of Fine Arts (later renamed San Francisco Art Institute). Access to pottery wheels was limited, so she and Brian converted a treadle-powered sewing machine into a wheel. Soon after, Heath successfully petitioned University of California, Berkeley to host a class on ceramic chemistry, which began her lifelong experimentation with clay and glaze. Working with a kiln in her basement, Heath became an expert in how different clay types affected aesthetic qualities of her wares. Her mastery of this science, combined with her modern sensibilities for proportion and form, made Heath a master ceramist.

    In 1944, The California Palace of the Legion of Honor hosted a one-woman show of Heath’s work. This exhibit led to a meeting with a buyer for Gump’s, and Heath was soon making dinnerware sets for the San Francisco retailer. Two years later, Heath was one of 10 artists invited to exhibit her work at the San Francisco Gift Show, where she met Nelson Gustin, who offered to represent her work nationwide and guaranteed to purchase a year’s output. With that, Heath Ceramics was born.

    In 1947, Edith and Brian purchased the space in Sausalito, California, where Heath Ceramics is still located today. Operated by new owners Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey since 2003, Heath Ceramics is one of the few midcentury American potteries still in existence.

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  • Thomas Heatherwick

    Thomas Heatherwick

    U.K. (1970)

    The work of Thomas Heatherwick and his Heatherwick Studio in London tends to spark wonder wherever it is. Vessel, for instance, a 15-story jungle gym of staircases, attracted a weeks-long waiting list of would-be climbers and Instagram posters when it opened in early 2019 in NYC’s Hudson Yards. His cauldron at the 2012 Olympics in London, with a flaming copper bowl for each participating country, had people oohing and aahing all over the world once lit. And his Spun Chair, a virtual grin-generator, brings as much joy to onlookers as to orbiting sitters.

    His studio has earned a reputation for an innovative approach to projects spanning a wide range of disciplines, from architecture and engineering to industrial design and project management. “Working as practical inventors with no signature style, our motivation is to design soulful and interesting places which embrace and celebrate the complexities of the real world,” says the designer of his team. “The approach driving everything is to lead from human experience rather than any fixed design dogma.”

    The studio takes its cue from Heatherwick, a London native who loved to build stretching back to boyhood. Encouraged by his parents, he made things such as mechanical greeting cards and even a go-kart. Heatherwick studied 3-D design at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) before earning a master’s in furniture from the Royal College of Arts.

    His projects, which focus on engaging people, fall into four major categories: buildings, spaces, infrastructure and objects. Landmark undertakings in progress include 1,000 Trees in Shanghai, China, an incorporation of living landscapes into two mountainous buildings, and Pier 55 in NYC, which elevates a 2.4-acre park in the Hudson River on nearly 300 pilings.

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  • Poul Henningsen

    Poul Henningsen

    DENMARK (1894–1967)

    Trained as an architect, Poul Henningsen is best known for a series of lighting fixtures that resulted from his fascination with the then-new technology of the electric light bulb. In 1925, one of these fixtures won first prize for modern lighting at the International Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris. The next year it was put into production by Louis Poulsen & Co. in Copenhagen, and it has been in continuous international demand ever since.

    Having grown up at the turn of the century in a small Danish town without electricity, Henningsen wanted to recreate the soft gas lighting of his youth with his electric fixtures. Composed of concentric tiers of reflective painted metal bands, his now-iconic PH Lamp design was carefully based on scientific analysis of a lamp shade’s function. The goal of even distribution of light and reduction of glare determined the size, shape and position of the shades. Variations of the PH Lamp design were made to accommodate various functions and spaces, and within a few years of its introduction the PH Lamp was being used in world-class institutions and homes across Scandinavia.

    Henningsen continued to design for Louis Poulsen well after these early successes, and in 1958 he produced yet another classic – the majestic Artichoke Lamp. Based on the same principle as the multilayered shade, the Artichoke employs leaf-like elements to compose the form. With its grand size, the Artichoke creates dramatic atmospheric lighting appropriate for elegant commercial settings and larger domestic spaces.

    It is a testament to the Nordic aesthetic – and Henningsen’s genius – that a group of lighting fixtures derived from scientific principles can exude such warmth, elegance and soul.

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  • Josh Herman

    Josh Herman

    U.S.A. (1968)

    Born in New York City, ceramicist Josh Herman found his aesthetic in West Coast midcentury form while at school at Pitzer College, outside Los Angeles. Studying under artist Paul Soldner – who is credited with inventing American-style raku, a traditional form of Japanese pottery that is used to create vessels for tea ceremonies – Herman learned to integrate Eastern philosophy with Western design elements.

    Herman continued to allow a deep Eastern influence to infuse his work. After graduating, he took a break from ceramics for six years while he embarked on a path of personal growth that included work in Hakomi. A present-centered psychotherapeutic modality, Hakomi integrates Eastern practices of spiritual mindfulness with Western concepts of psychic health. This practice, a cultivation of moment-to-moment awareness, empowered Herman’s work to take off in previously undreamed-of directions.

    Herman took this process-oriented approach and returned to ceramics with renewed vitality. His career exploded in 2007 after his pieces were selected for the museum store of the Orange County Museum of Art, alongside the renowned Birth of the Cool exhibit. Using improvisational jazz, volcanoes and fractals as just a few of his inspirations, Herman created pieces that are either wheel thrown or built using a coiling method. It took him many years to develop his proprietary “volcanic” glazing process, which requires sometimes more than 100 iterations of a single color before he’s satisfied. Color, texture, shine and crater size are just a few parts of the formula to create a unique Josh Herman piece.

    Herman’s psycho-spiritual therapeutic process has deeply informed his creative process: “As soon as I start making something, anything, I can look at what I’ve done and that clay that sits before me can inform where I’m going to go next,” he told the San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles in December 2008. “So the final piece ends up being something that was not anything I could have imagined ahead of time. And to me, that’s exciting…. You get this piece of art or sculpture, and it’s sort of bigger than you.”

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  • Matthew Hilton

    Matthew Hilton

    ENGLAND (1957)

    Matthew Hilton has learned from every piece he’s designed – because it allowed him to work in a new material, to work with a new manufacturer or for stylistic reasons. “All of my pieces are loaded with meaning and memory and are very personal to me,” says the British designer. Hilton, however, is quick to add that he doesn’t believe in design movements and instead prefers to think of the design process as part of the evolution of any object through history.

    From an early age, Hilton was interested in painting, sculpture and architecture, and yet the notion of being a “designer” didn’t occur to him until it was suggested by a tutor at Portsmouth College of Art. The idea suited Hilton, who enrolled in the renowned Furniture and Design course at England’s Kingston Polytechnic. After graduation he worked as an industrial designer and model maker until 1984, when he set up his own design studio/workshop. Two years later he launched a series of shelves at the Milan Furniture Fair, and in 1991 he designed the Balzac Armchair, which was first received with circumspect curiosity but then quickly embraced as a modern classic.

    Since the Balzac, however, Hilton’s work has taken on a less stylistic, more functional approach. He believes in creating furniture that people live with, and his inspiration often comes from long-established furniture forms. Updating and reinventing these forms, while keeping an eye on the future, is what shapes Hilton’s designs today. In 2006, Hilton’s Cross Extension Table won the annual Elle Decoration Design Award for Best in Furniture. The table showcases Hilton’s advanced wood-manufacturing techniques, as well as his sense of proportion, scale and functionality. Hilton designs with the end user in mind, and whether that means a household of 10 or one, he takes pleasure in finding the fluid, easily adaptable solution to fit today’s domestic spaces.

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  • Dag Hjelle

    Dag Hjelle

    NORWAY (1964)

    In the 1940s, lineage rights in the small Norwegian village of Sykkylven changed the lives of several second-son farmers, including Dag Hjelle’s grandfather, Lars Karl Hjelle. Knowing that their older brothers would inherit their family farms, these resourceful young men started making furniture in barns and back rooms to perfect their craft and earn income. Lars wanted to provide more jobs for these talented designers, so in 1945, he founded his furniture company LK Hjelle. To the surprise of the second sons, and certainly of their older brothers, the high-quality, streamlined furniture they produced transformed the small community into the heart of Norway’s furniture manufacturing industry.

    Dag Hjelle now runs the company his grandfather founded, drawing on his education in economics and marketing to keep the family business thriving. He’s also a brilliant designer, armed with precise skills he learned while growing up and working every summer in the factory. “Being part of this family business has taught me a lot about craftsmanship, materials and techniques,” he says.

    In addition to Dag’s work, LK Hjelle produces furniture by Andreas Engesvik, Anderssen & Voll, Fredrik Kayser and others. The company continues to make its furniture in Sykkylven, a remote area located between deep fjords and soaring mountains. This beautiful place is where the Norwegian furniture revolution began.

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  • Josef Hoffmann

    Josef Hoffmann

    AUSTRIA (1870–1956)

    By the year 1900, Vienna was becoming a center of activity for architects and designers like Josef Hoffmann. Hoffmann was a founding member of the Vienna Secession, a radical anti-historicist movement, and together with Koloman Moser created the Wiener Werkstatte cooperative workshop.

    Although Hoffmann’s designs for the decorative arts were influenced by the British Arts & Crafts movement, he embraced the advent of the industrial age and concentrated on abstract and geometric shapes in his work. While he did not reject traditional decoration out of hand, he succeeded in making it serve structural principles, which he believed should determine the form of buildings, interiors and objects. Hoffmann studied architecture at the Vienna Academy, where he was taught by Otto Wagner. Between 1901 and 1905, he designed four villas in Vienna and a sanatorium, for which he developed a “cubistic” language of form, with an emphasis on straight, unadorned lines.

    In 1905, he established the Kunstschau with painter Gustav Klimt and, two years later, founded the Deutscher Werkbund. Like Otto Wagner’s, his early projects were conceived as Gesamtkunstwerk (total works of art), and he produced both free-standing and built-in furniture for his interiors, pared-down rectilinear pieces, elongated to emphasize their structural role. Hoffmann is well-known for the simple, restrained, yet visually interesting dining chairs, several intended for cafés, that he designed early in the 20th century. His “birdhouse” chair, for example, reveals his way of using a decorative feature to emphasize structure. Hoffmann worked well into his 80s, continuing to use the geometric motifs that influenced the art deco style of the 1920s.

    In 1928 his work appeared in the Art in Industry exhibition held at Macy’s in New York City, where it exerted a strong influence on American designer Donald Deskey. Hoffmann is one of the seminal figures in the modern decorative arts movement of the first half of the 20th century.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Hallgeir Homstvedt

    Hallgeir Homstvedt

    NORWAY (1977)

    Hallgeir Homstvedt has always enjoyed making things. The Oslo native, whose family embraced the attitude that “anything can be made or fixed,” was encouraged to experiment by both his mother, who made costumes and clothing for the family, and his father, an engineer and inventor.

    Originally planning to study engineering in Oslo, Homstvedt instead followed a sense of adventure – and a girl – to Australia. After realizing engineering wasn’t for him, he switched focus and in 2006 received a degree in industrial design from the University of Newcastle in Callaghan, Australia. Noting that his father is a technical genius, he says, “What I did not inherit I’ve tried to make up for on the aesthetic side.”

    Back in Oslo, Homstvedt joined design collective Norway Says, and in 2009 he founded Homstvedt Design, operating out of a 19th-century factory building in the center of the city and focusing on interior and product design.

    Homstvedt sums up his philosophy as an attempt “to simplify as much as possible in order to get to the essence of the product.” Even in aesthetically driven product categories, he designs for improvement on what’s come before. “In a successful design I find that the details that make it unique are also the features that improve functionality over a previous generation.” The result: timeless, functional, tactile designs that engage the user.

    Homstvedt worked with designer Jonah Takagi for the first time on a project sponsored by the Norwegian Consulate in New York, which paired American and Norwegian designers for exhibition-oriented projects. As Takagi Homstvedt, the two have continued a long-distance partnership that relies on video conferencing and tag-team workdays in which Takagi picks up in the States where Homstvedt left off in Norway. So far, they’ve designed seating and lighting together, with a common appreciation for products that include what Homstvedt calls “considerate details – they don’t give everything away at first glance, but when you look closer you notice.”

    Homstvedt’s manufacturing partners include Hem, Menu, Muuto and Hjelle. He has contributed several pieces to the Furnishing Utopia design collective.

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  • David Irwin

    David Irwin

    IRELAND (1986)

    For David Irwin, design ideas grow out of his own observations – things that make him stop and wonder why, or how.

    Originally from Northern Ireland, Irwin was drawn to Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, by its reputation for hands-on training. Before graduating from the 3-D Design program in 2007, he won the New Designers Peter Walker Award for Innovation in Furniture Design with his final project, a steam-bent timber frame chair. The chair also caught the attention of the design director at Habitat, who picked it up for the company’s collection.

    In 2010, Irwin completed a post-graduate fellowship in the Designers in Residence Program at Northumbria’s School of Design, a program that furnishes workspace, equipment and mentoring to chosen graduates of the 3-D Design program.

    A year later, he founded his own studio in Newcastle, focusing on furniture, lighting and accessory design that combines a strong concept with fundamental utility, qualities evident in his Narin Folding Chair, Arca Wall Board and Trove Desktop Storage.

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  • Arne Jacobsen

    Arne Jacobsen

    DENMARK (1902–1971)

    Arne Jacobsen bought a plywood chair designed by Charles Eames and installed it in his own studio, where it inspired one of the most commercially successful chair models in design history. The three-legged Ant Chair (1951) sold in the millions and is considered a classic today. It consists of two simple elements: tubular steel legs and a springy seat and back formed out of a continuous piece of plywood in a range of vivid colors.

    Jacobsen began training as a mason before studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where he won a silver medal for a chair that was then exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that built on the country’s craft-based design heritage.

    First among Jacobsen’s important architectural commissions was the Bellavista housing project in Copenhagen (1930-1934). His best-known and most fully integrated works are the SAS Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel Copenhagen, for which Jacobsen designed every detail, from sculptural furnishings such as his elegant Swan and Egg Chairs (1957-1958) to textiles, lighting, ashtrays and cutlery.

    During the 1960s, Jacobsen’s most important work was a unified architectural and interior design scheme for St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, which, like his earlier work for the Royal Hotel, involved the design of site-specific furniture. Jacobsen’s work remains appealing and fresh today, combining free-form sculptural shapes with the traditional attributes of Scandinavian design, material and structural integrity.

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  • JDS Architects

    JDS Architects


    “Our projects are humanly designed, politically engaged, financially viable and structurally realistic,” says Julien De Smedt, founder and director of Copenhagen-based JDS Architects. With works such as the Maritime Youth House in Copenhagen and The Iceberg apartment building in Aarhus, Denmark, the internationally recognized designer and architect has generated a renewed awareness of architecture in Denmark.

    De Smedt was born in Brussels and received his diploma from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. Prior to founding JDS Architects, he worked with Rotterdam-based OMA and co-founded PLOT, an architecture firm in Copenhagen.

    His work can be viewed around the world, in cities including Copenhagen, Toronto, Paris, New York City and Sao Paulo, and has received multiple prizes, including the Golden Lion for World’s Best Concert Hall at the 2004 Venice Biennale, for Stavanger Concert Hall. In 2005, JDS Architects’ entry was chosen for the redesign of the Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo, which hosted the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in March 2011. It is the world’s first ski jump to be built of steel and rises 1,230 feet above sea level.

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  • Pierre Jeanneret

    Pierre Jeanneret

    SWITZERLAND (1896–1967)

    It is the fate of history that architect and furniture designer Pierre Jeanneret will be best remembered for his collaborations with his famous cousin, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (aka, Le Corbusier). The two began their partnership in 1922 with the Villa Besnus outside Paris. This famous familial duo went on to create some of the most esteemed icons of midcentury modernism, including the Villa Savoye in Poissy, France, and the Grand Modele seating collection.

    During his partnership with Corbusier, Jeanneret also worked extensively with Charlotte Perriand, and they joined forces with Jean Prouvé in 1940 to research the potential of prefabricated housing. Then came World War II, creating a shortage of materials – and a rift between Jeanneret and Corbusier that would last 10 years. Jeanneret, sympathizing with the Communists, joined the French resistance, while Corbusier’s authoritarian leanings led him to elicit work from the Vichy Government and Italian Fascists.

    After the war, in 1950, Corbusier again approached his cousin, this time for a project on a much larger scale: designing the city of Chandigarh, India, the capital of Punjab. Jeanneret accepted, and Chandigarh – the first planned city in India – became his home for 15 years. Corbusier worked out the high-level aspects of the design, but it was Jeanneret who executed the plans. Gandhi Bhawan, his famous building on the campus of Punjab University, evokes a lotus flower floating on the water.

    Jeanneret went on to become a revered figure in Indian architecture. He left his adopted home in ill health in 1965 to return to France, where he died in 1967.

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  • Markus Jehs and Jürgen Laub

    Markus Jehs and Jürgen Laub

    GERMANY (1965) GERMANY (1964)

    “In the design process, we think about things we would like to have ourselves and then design them,” says Jürgen Laub, one half of German design team Jehs+Laub. From Ulm, Germany, Laub grew up with a carpenter father who modeled creativity at home. As Laub learned carpentry himself, he began building furniture. Partner Markus Jehs, from Stuttgart, remembers being surrounded in his parents’ home by “goods with a high value of design from different countries, which influenced me into loving the good stuff.”

    Both studied industrial design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design) in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, and after a visit to Milan to see the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, they knew they wanted to show a piece of furniture there one day. Their friendship solidified while both were interning in New York, and after graduating, they opened Stuttgart-based Jehs+Laub in 1994.

    Reflecting on more than two decades of working together, Jehs says, “If a partnership is based on reaching the best outcome together and forgetting all the personal vanities, you will go much further than alone.” Laub agrees: “The most important part in our job is discussion. When there is something to think about, you also have to talk about it.”

    Influenced by the Bauhaus school, they believe the intended function of a product should contribute to its design. They resist overstyling, with elements that don't serve a purpose being eliminated along the way. In developing their Striad Chair (2016), Jehs and Laub went for straight-up comfort, and the resulting chair combines stability, body-cradling cushioning and ergonomic support. As Jehs explains, “It all started with a ski boot – a hard outer shell, getting softer and softer the closer we get to the human body.” Adds Laub, “We love the idea of stacking layers of density. The Striad is one of the most comfortable lounge chairs in the world.” Lucky for their families, they like to test new designs by living with them at home.

    The team intends their products to appear “as if they had designed themselves, like in nature. Design is like a human body – every element helps the other and provides stability and flexibility.” Clearly nature influenced their room at the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, in which ice blocks were carved and arranged to mimic ice floes. They worked for a week on their ice suite, an experience Jehs describes as “like being in a surreal movie.” Other interior projects include the master concept for Mercedes-Benz showrooms worldwide.

    Over the years, Jehs and Laub have worked with many international brands, creating furniture with Cassina, Fritz Hansen, Knoll, Thonet and Schönbuch; clocks with Stelton; and lighting with Nemo and Belux. They continue to “match technologies and materials with human needs,” says Laub. “If those change, then our designs change.” By not committing to a signature style, he believes their designs will be “longtime sellers and hopefully classics one day.” Recognition for Jehs+Laub’s work includes multiple German Design Awards and NeoCon Gold and Silver Awards, as well as a Compasso d’Oro Design Prize for the Bend Chair (2012).

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  • Thomas Jenkins and Sverre Uhnger

    Thomas Jenkins and Sverre Uhnger

    ENGLAND (1980) NORWAY (1982)

    Thomas Jenkins and Sverre Uhnger run separate studios in Oslo, Norway, but collaborate regularly as Jenkins & Uhnger. Jenkins, a native of England, moved to Oslo in 2006 with his design job and founded his studio in 2010. Uhnger, a Norway native and trained craftsman, established his studio in 2011.

    “The design scene in Norway is quite small, so we had known each other for a while before we started to collaborate,” Jenkins says. Their first joint project came about while designing an exhibition for which they needed a long table to display small objects. Unable to find a modular table to their liking, they designed one that could be expanded to almost any length and named it As Long As You Like, which is topped by a mix of solid oak and granite unique to Norway.

    “We actually have quite different educations,” Jenkins says. “I trained as an engineering product designer, and Sverre was trained as a proper, full-on cabinetmaker. And then we both kind of like moved to this sort of midpoint, which is furniture design.”

    “I would never design a remote control or stuff like that,” Uhnger says. “But Thomas knows a lot about plastics and models and these technical parts. And then I know a lot about the strength of wood or more of the furniture things. We play off each other’s skills.”

    Working out of a shared space in an 1893 building in the Grünerløkka section of Oslo, they typically begin a project by working through every aspect of the design together, including the category of product and materials to be used, along with extensive sketching. They then apply their specialties.

    With his engineering background, Jenkins does most of the 3-D modeling, while Uhnger, with his cabinetmaker experience, takes on full-scale prototyping.

    “We want everything to have a thought-through function that really brings out the benefits,” Uhnger says, “simple and kind of timeless.”

    Both designers are active in Klubben, an organization that promotes Norwegian designers and was co-founded by Uhnger in 2012.

    Jenkins is a graduate of London South Bank University with special interests in material usage, craft skills and industrial methods of production. Uhnger holds degrees from Bergen (Norway) National Academy of Art and Design and from Aalto University in Helsinki. He strives to create products that feel natural to the user and emphasize inherent qualities of the materials.

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  • Patty Johnson

    Patty Johnson


    Toronto-based designer Patty Johnson had already made a name for herself designing furniture for Sephora, Keilhauer, Nienkämper, Pure Design and other high-end companies when she began imagining the potentially positive effects of globalization and sustainable manufacturing beyond the Northern Hemisphere. The roots of what would become her award-winning North South Project – “a new model of design and craft collaborations in the developing world” – began in 2001 during a trip to Guyana, South America, where she was working as a furniture design consultant for the Canadian International Development Agency.

    There Johnson met Jocelyn Dow of the Liana Cane furniture factory and learned of the limited access to the global market that Dow and other companies in developing countries have. Johnson came onboard, designing a cane lounge chair, ottoman and rocker, and a line of patio furniture, all crafted from local, sustainable rainforest products.

    Around this time, Peter Mabeo of Gaborone, Botswana, contacted Johnson. He wanted to expand his custom furniture and millwork company output with an export line. Their collaboration resulted in Johnson’s design for the Maun Windsor Chair (2004), a new interpretation of a classic Shaker-inspired chair, produced by hand. Mabeo’s website describes the manufacturing of the chair as “ecologically, aesthetically and culturally sustainable,” while bringing long-term benefits to the local craftspeople and community.

    Johnson’s work has won many honors, including the Editors Award at New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and has been included in I.D. Magazine’s Annual Design Review Awards, the International Design Yearbook and Newsweek’s Design Dozen 2006. Recently, the North South Project, in partnership with Disenos + Artesanias Guanajuato, created a new ceramics collection, and they are currently working on projects in the Caribbean and Rajasthan, India.

    Johnson is an adjunct faculty member at the Ontario College of Art and Design and has lectured around the world. She holds an MA Design from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

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  • Hella Jongerius

    Hella Jongerius


    “My main focus when I design an object is the relationship between the object and the user,” says Berlin-based Dutch designer Hella Jongerius. “I want people to use that design and continue to use it.” Her practical approach begins with following a thread: “I always tell my designers to start by designing 
the yarn. You have to start with the basics, because the human scale is key. It helps you to realize the importance of attention to detail.”

    Jongerius has been combining her incredible attention to detail with an innovative approach to color to create textiles, rugs, housewares and furniture since she graduated with a degree in industrial design from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 1993. After completing her studies, she began working with the influential design company Droog, then created her own company in the Netherlands, Jongeriuslab, before moving to Berlin in 2009.

    Though Jongerius designs everything from housewares to chairs, she began a long and fruitful partnership with design-focused textile company Maharam early in her career. “After speaking at a conference in Aspen in 1998,” she says, “I was approached by Maharam design director Mary Murphy. She asked if I wanted to work on a project to celebrate their 100th birthday, and my reply was, ‘I’m not interested in simply doing a fabric.’ She still reminds me of that response.”

    More than “simply doing a fabric,” Jongerius ended up challenging the mill in Switzerland with a new kind of weaving. “Traditionally a pattern repeats every 35 to 70 centimeters,” she explains, “but I wanted a 3-meter repeat, previously never attempted on an industrial scale. It adds individuality to the textile – the pattern is bigger, but trickier to manufacture.” After some convincing, the mill was able to accommodate her – and the result, 2002’s Repeat fabric, was a huge success, both from a design perspective and commercially.

    Bringing creative craft to industrial production is Jongerius’ enduring legacy – and what lands her squarely in the modernist camp. “Within the materials hides the potential quality of a design,” is one of her mottos. She’s applied this mantra to her work with KLM, Vitra, Royal Tichelaar Makkum as well as Maharam. Her work is displayed at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, MoMA and galleries around the world.

    For Hella Jongerius, hands-on, high-quality design tells a story – she takes a humanist stance in her work, even on a commercial scale. “Good design doesn’t always mean polished perfection,” she says. “Sometimes it’s the apparent flaws, the quirks and individualities that we most appreciate in a product. These are the marks that make something stand apart, that tell stories of a life, of creation. Often they are the marks of the makers – signs of manufacture by careful, skilled human hands.”

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  • Finn Juhl

    Finn Juhl

    DENMARK (1912–1989)

    When you look at the graceful shapes and sensual curves of Finn Juhl’s work, you may be shocked to realize that he designed these pieces 60 to 70 years ago. A pioneering force in his own country, Finn Juhl is also credited, along with fellow Danes Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Borge Mogensen and Poul Kjaerholm, with introducing Danish modern to midcentury America.

    Although he initially wanted to become an art historian, his father persuaded him to attend the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture. By 1934, he had a prestigious position with architect Vilhelm Lauritzen and was exploring the functionalism movement by creating clean, geometrical buildings like the broadcasting house Radiohuset, a pinnacle of Danish architecture that now houses the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

    Juhl considered himself an architect of the interior as well as the exterior. He began designing furniture like the Poet Sofa (1941) for use in his own home, located north of Copenhagen. Juhl felt that furniture, handicraft and art should create a completeness of the house, which in his case was decorated with works by the Danish painters of the time. Today, the Finn Juhl House – an early example of open-plan design with views to its garden from every room – is part of the Ordrupgaard Museum.

    In 1937, Juhl began collaborating with master cabinetmaker Niels Vodder, and the pair was the buzz of the 1945 Cabinetmakers’ Guild exhibition with their expressive, sculptural pieces. One such item was the Model 45 Armchair (1945), which broke from tradition by freeing the upholstered areas from the wood frame.

    At age 39, Juhl made his U.S. debut in 1951 at the Good Design exhibit in Chicago and at MoMA in New York, and he represented Denmark in creating the interior of a meeting hall at the United Nations headquarters. A few years later, SAS asked Juhl to redesign the interior of its air terminals in Europe and Asia.

    Finn Juhl is still winning awards decades after his death: The Wallpaper Design Award 2010 was awarded to the Baker Sofa (1951) in the category of Best Reissue.

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  • Nazanin Kamali

    Nazanin Kamali

    IRAN (1966)

    A multidisciplinary designer and entrepreneur, Nazanin Kamali embarked on her career following graduation from The Royal College of Art in London, where she studied furniture design. Striking out as a freelancer, she went on to found the design collective Non Specific Creativity, where she spearheaded projects ranging from restaurant design to art installations and worked with brands such as Habitat, Harvey Nichols, Karen Millen and Global Village.

    Kamali later joined Aero, managing store installations and visual branding for its retail stores in London. In 2000, she collaborated with the British furniture pioneer Paul Newman to found a product design firm called Newman + Kamali, which was subsequently renamed INK (Interior Newman and Kamali). She continues there as creative director and designer, working with retailers including Heal’s, Crate & Barrel, Marks & Spencer, Futon Company, SCP and John Lewis. In 2005, Kamali began designing products for Case Furniture, a partnership that continues today.

    Along the way, Kamali has won several awards, including the Design Plus Award (1996 and 1997), a Good Design Award (1999) and a Grand Design Award (2008). She was also shortlisted for an Elle Decoration UK award in 2007.

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  • Peter Karpf

    Peter Karpf

    DENMARK (1940)

    In 1967, Interior Design magazine featured 27-year-old Peter Karpf alongside his transparent acrylic resin light fixture. The Danish architect-designer had already designed a series of lamps and innovative chairs of wood and Plexiglas. He had learned furniture design from Fritz Hansen and worked for Grete Jalk and Arne Jacobsen.

    Early in his career, Karpf experimented with adjustable chairs that could be ganged together to form multiple seating arrangements and stacked once the upholstery was removed. Into the 1980s and ’90s, he continued to ponder simple, flexible seating solutions incorporating ganging, stacking and folding as he developed his NXT, Oto and Tri plywood chairs. Karpf developed his first prototype for NXT in 1962, though the design was not patented until 1986. Over the years, Iform, Fritz Hansen and Dansk have manufactured Karpf’s designs.

    Karpf collaborated with architect Fini Bolbroe on Spectaculume, a versatile consumer-assembled lamp for Dansk in which the kit-of-parts could be configured 119 different ways. While some early Karpf creations – such as the multi-spoked lounge chair and the string chair – were controversial, albeit valuable, experiments, other designs have endured. His candlesticks, monolithic molded plywood chairs and light fixtures have become Danish modern classics.

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  • Pat Kim

    Pat Kim

    U.S.A. (1987)

    Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, Pat Kim was curious. “I was always interested in seeing how things worked, fixing things, taking apart an electric pencil sharpener and then trying to put it back together.”

    An ingenious uncle who ran a deli next to his mother’s dry-cleaning shop had a big influence on Kim. “He grew up in the country, and he would teach me how to make little traps or slingshots or fashion little sleds out of whatever, farm material,” Kim recalls.

    Those experiences led naturally to an interest in industrial design and entrance into Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, after considering Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. “I went with my gut and went to Brooklyn,” he says.

    Following graduation, Kim’s career took an unexpected turn away from his intended path of product design. “I graduated pretty much right when the financial crisis happened,” Kim recalls. “So there were not a lot of jobs out there. But I got one working for a furniture maker. I was never really that interested in doing woodwork. But I felt like it was a worthwhile skill to learn. So he kind of took me under his wing.”

    With skills developed, Kim and likeminded colleagues opened a cooperative woodshop on the shores of the East River in Red Hook, Brooklyn. And that’s when an enchantment with the wood lathe emerged, along with the sculptural shapes it encourages. “Whatever chunk of wood I have left over from a project, I keep, I hoard. So whenever I’m on the lathe, I’ll just take a bunch of them with me and start turning them, just for form exploration,” Kim says. “I don't know what I'm going to make until I start cutting.”

    As he leaned toward sculptural forms, his inspiration shifted as well to “intersections in the natural world,” especially between living and nonliving material. “I really like spending time in the Adirondacks,” he says. “And I see a lot of trees that seem to be just growing straight out of a rock. Also forms of decay. I see river rocks, erosion and the way tree stumps will decay. I really like those forms, the mosses, the softness.”

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  • Poul Kjærholm

    Poul Kjærholm

    DENMARK (1929–1980)

    Poul Kjærholm’s pieces are sculptures in themselves, but with an understated, subtle quality that makes them ideally suited for accompanying art. In 2004, New York’s Museum of Modern Art installed Kjærholm daybeds, tables and chairs in its galleries and restaurant. In his furniture, Kjærholm emphasized use and wear, with a focus on materials that were durable and improved with age. He viewed each piece as an element to support an architectural space and was equally interested in how a chair or lounge positioned the sitter in relation to the surrounding floors and walls.

    Apprenticed as a cabinetmaker but drawn to the potential of steel, Poul Kjærholm brought craftsmanship and industrial materials together in the design of his PK series of furniture. His career was launched in 1952 when his graduation project from Copenhagen’s School of Arts and Crafts caught the attention of the Denmark design community. The project included a lounge chair crafted of a single piece of steel that demonstrated the type of material expressiveness that would soon become the signature of this designer. “Steel’s constructive potentials are not the only things that interest me,” said the designer. “The refraction of light on its surface is an important part of my artistic work. I consider steel a material with the same artistic merit as wood and leather.”

    Kjærholm experimented at length with materials and production techniques, which served him well when he was hired in 1955 to design desks for the architecture school at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Comprising a pine work surface atop a ready-made steel base, the desk showcased the designer’s ability to bring out the best characteristics of both materials. The contradiction made the cold materials feel inviting and warm, while the natural materials took on an element of control. For the rest of his career, Kjærholm’s furniture would combine industrial materials with natural ones, such as leather, cane and stone.

    As for how Kjærholm named his work, the numbers following his initials can appear random; sometimes a higher number has an earlier design date than a lower number, and sometimes it’s the other way around. The disciplined Kjærholm, however, left nothing to chance, so naturally there’s an explanation: The numbers refer to a type of item – for example, 10 through 19 for small chairs with armrests.

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  • Florence Knoll Bassett

    Florence Knoll Bassett

    U.S.A. (1917–2019)

    One of the most innovative architects and designers of our time, Florence Knoll Bassett had a profound influence on more than 50 years of interiors, especially the modern office. An early protégée of Eero Saarinen, whom she met while studying at the Kingswood School on the campus of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Florence went on to study architecture at Cranbrook. From there, she earned degrees at the Architectural Association in London and the Armour Institute (Illinois Institute of Technology) in Chicago. While in Chicago, Florence studied with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for what she called “a very valuable year.” She worked briefly in Boston for Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, and while working in New York for Wallace K. Harrison, she met Hans Knoll, who asked her to design an office for former Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Additional jobs with Hans Knoll followed, and in 1946, Florence and Hans married and became the driving forces behind Knoll Associates, Inc.

    Florence is famous for her philosophy of “total design,” and as the director of the Knoll Planning Unit she revolutionized interior space planning. Her approach of embracing everything about a space – architecture, interior design, graphics, textiles and manufacturing – was not the standard practice in space planning, but it caught on and continues to be the standard today. Florence was also a furniture designer, as well as a great eye for talent. It was under her leadership that many of the modern masters created collections for Knoll. These legacies include Eero Saarinen’s Tulip™ chairs and pedestal tables, and Harry Bertoia’s wire furniture.

    In 2002, Florence Knoll Bassett was accorded the National Endowment for the Arts’ prestigious National Medal of Arts.

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  • Henning Koppel

    Henning Koppel

    DENMARK (1918–1981)

    Henning Koppel is best known as one of the finest Danish designers of silver pitchers, vases and flatware, but he also earned acclaim for jewelry, glassware and ceramics. He did the majority of his work for Copenhagen-based Georg Jensen.

    Koppel studied in the mid-1930s at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, showing a knack for quick sketching and sculpture, with a special talent for capturing the essence of his subjects. During World War II, as Nazi influence rose in Denmark, he and his young family fled to Stockholm along with many other Jewish Danes. There, Koppel designed his first jewelry for a local shop, drawing on his sculpture background.

    The head of jewelry for Georg Jensen took notice, and upon returning to Denmark after the war, Koppel went to work there. Among his first pieces was the No. 88 bracelet (aka the “amoeba”), which can be found on collectible websites today. He expanded into hollowware (pitchers, bowls, coffee pots) while continuing to design necklaces, brooches and cufflinks. His work was at odds with the leading Danish design trend of the time, a brand of austere functionalism that rejected all ornamentation.

    Koppel remained a sculptor at heart, joining like-minded fellow artists in pursuing the marriage of organic shapes and function. “Things should not be too insistently practical,” he remarked, “otherwise everything drowns in boredom.” A perfectionist endowed with superb drafting skills, Koppel relentlessly pursued the “perfect pitcher,” to the consternation of those charged with executing his designs. His commercial breakthrough came with pitcher No. 992, nicknamed the “pregnant duck” for its protruding girth and narrow neck.

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  • Hanne Kortegaard

    Hanne Kortegaard

    DENMARK (1973)

    Hanne Kortegaard traces her interest in design to her girlhood dollhouse. “I was not playing with the dolls,” she explains. “I was making things for the dolls, things you couldn’t buy, like small candles and typewriters and things like that.” It was a natural way of playing for her. “And I think I’m still playing. It’s a kind of a hobby to design things. And, yeah, it’s a part of me, my lifestyle. I’ve always been doing things like that, but I didn't know before I was older that I was going to be a designer. But I knew that I was going to do something creative.”

    In keeping with her start, she studied interior decorating in Svendborg, Denmark, then worked as a visual merchandiser for several retail brands. The work took Kortegaard on the road for 100 or so days a year, which became a conflict with the impending birth of her daughter, so she returned to study furniture and interior design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

    After freelancing a couple of years, she took a design job in 2012 at Linie Design, a rug maker in Copenhagen. Her previous experience as a visual merchandiser comes in handy at Linie, where she designs all the exhibits for the company’s appearances at trade shows. But her focus is rug design. “I’m actually doing all kinds of carpets,” Kortegaard says. “But I think my design is always quite minimalistic and simple. I never add any details without a reason.”

    She extends that simplicity to her furniture designs, which consist mostly of chairs, including a hanging lounge chair that’s her modern take on an old-fashioned tire swing. “A lot of different things inspire me. If I see furniture, sometimes, I get inspiration for a carpet, and the opposite. My inspiration is from everything. It can be in nature. It can be a shadow between two objects, or it can be a surface, a structure or a color combination.”

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  • John Kostick

    John Kostick

    U.S.A. (1942)

    Inspiration struck for John Kostick when he attended a lecture by Buckminster Fuller in 1962. Kostick, a physics student at Brandeis University at the time, realized he could illustrate and explore sophisticated mathematical concepts in a straightforward way by building models. He was particularly interested in tensegrity, or tensional integrity, the principle of combined compression and tension giving a structure 3-D form. The exploration of “mathematically interesting forms and innovative and effective ways to build them” has motivated him ever since.

    After college, Kostick worked out of a storefront studio in Roxbury, Massachusetts, making furniture and developing his original designs, including the mathematical “models” that would become his Foldable Stars. Kostick began making Foldable Stars in 1965 and was granted a patent for them in 1970. The appeal of the stars continues to lie not only in their aesthetics but also in their tactile and interactive qualities. He found it “rewarding to make and sell novel objects with math and science content, expressed through handiwork and artisan skills.” And fortunately for Kostick, “the development of handmade, original design products intended to be affordable was very much in and of the spirit of the times.” By 1968 the process for making Foldable Stars was in place and has remained virtually the same since.

    Over the years, Kostick has put his accumulated skills and design talents to work on custom residential building and remodeling, and in the mid-’70s he became interested in sustainable agriculture and environmental activism, complements to his creative credo of “do more with less.” In the early ’90s, Kostick developed a program called STARS (Structural Transformations: Art Relating to Science) and presented it for the Philomorphs, a lecture series at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

    It was at a geometry lecture at Harvard in 1993 that Kostick met his wife, Jane, a woodworking artist and furniture maker herself. Together they continued home remodeling, with Jane focusing on custom cabinetry. After starting their own business, KO Sticks, they made the shift to working for themselves full-time as designers with a shared passion for what Kostick calls “mathematical truths that you can hold in your hand.” They continue to produce some of his early designs from the mid-’60s, as well as a range of magnetic puzzles and fine woodwork pieces based on the geometry that has inspired Kostick since his student days. KO Sticks is based out of the Kosticks home studio in Medford, Massachusetts.

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  • L

  • Doron Lachisch

    Doron Lachisch

    ISRAEL (1948)

    Born in Tel Aviv in 1948, Doron Lachisch was virtually steeped in plastics, having grown up in a family-run business that was just beginning to take advantage of mid-20th-century advances in flexible polymers. All aspects of plastics technologies – products, machinery, materials, molds and so on – became familiar sights and smells to Lachisch and were the foundation for his profound understanding of the material. After graduating from Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a degree in economics, Lachisch became designer and general manager of his own plastics business. By creating unique commercial products based on original molds and proprietary production techniques, he has since furthered the acceptance of plastic polymers as a legitimate material for indoor designs. Most recently, his Cubitec® modular shelving system was awarded first prize for Contemporary Design at the Israel Furniture Trade Show and can be found at Barcelona International Airport as well as in distinguished design showrooms, galleries, store displays, offices, trade show displays and homes around the world.

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  • Morris Lapidus

    Morris Lapidus

    UKRAINE (1902–2001)

    There are few ideas in the world that exist without opposition or rebound, and 20th-century modernism was not one of them. Contrary to the International Style’s glass and steel walls were the vivid, fantasy landscapes of Morris Lapidus, an unlikely contemporary of Mies van der Rohe. Considered a visionary of American dream architecture, Lapidus originated 20th-century luxury architecture with a number of Miami Beach hotels built during the 1950s. His work was everything the International Style was not: curvy, dramatic, showy, ornamented, accessible and whimsical, bringing him both critical backlash and commercial success over the next 30 years.

    The son of Russian emigrants, Lapidus began his journey to the fully realized American dream on New York City’s Lower East Side. His interest in architecture began with a trip to Coney Island where, awestruck by the festive carnival atmosphere, he decided to pursue architecture as a means of creating buildings and interiors of dizzying detail and device. He received training at Columbia University and started off designing innovative retail environments that changed the way people shopped. It was with these retail spaces that he honed his lifelong goal: to attract people and invite them inside with brilliant lights, compelling forms and opulent materials. Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau hotel, Lapidus’s first architectural commission, in 1954, served as a grandly scaled people-magnet by making Hollywood glamour more widely accessible. While the critics bashed his style of contemporary baroque, it quickly caught on in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City, spurring the building of Miami Beach’s Eden Roc hotel and Lincoln Road Mall.

    It wasn’t until the 1980s, when the borrowed excess of postmodernism came on the scene, that Lapidus’ architecture was ushered in as a viable example of 20th-century modernism. He was coaxed out of retirement to work with the likes of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, which led to a resurrection and acceptance of his vision. During this second phase of his career, Lapidus received such well-deserved honors as his own monograph and Cooper Hewitt’s American Original award. His work can be found dotting Southern Florida and throughout resort towns across the United States.

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  • Ferruccio Laviani

    Ferruccio Laviani

    ITALY (1960)

    Ferruccio Laviani is part of a generation of Italian designers who came to prominence as the Memphis Group made its mark on international design. Born in 1960, Laviani studied both architecture and design in Milan, graduating with a degree in architecture in 1986. Soon after, he took part in the 12 Newcomers Memphis collection in 1986 and the Living on Earth Memphis collection in 1987, launching his career with ties to the colorful and idiosyncratic design movement. Laviani went on to design whimsical, colorful furniture and objects that remind us of the Memphis Group’s exuberant and expressive mission. Laviani’s Orbital Lamp (1991), perhaps his best-known design, used color-saturated biomorphic shapes for the glass shades, and an angular, tapering metal base, bringing to mind the organic emphasis and optimism of the ’50s, while his Max Table combines multi-use practicality with his signature curvilinear forms.

    Ferruccio Laviani marks the transition between his generation and those before him through his collaborations with his elders and mentors. He’s worked with Kartell, Foscarini, Achille Castiglioni and Ettore Sottsass. Along with his talented colleagues, Laviani exemplifies the best of Italian design, present and future.

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  • Giulio Lazzotti

    Giulio Lazzotti

    ITALY (1942)

    The name of the town where Giulio Lazzotti lives and works, Pietrasanta, can be alternately translated as Saint Peter or “holy stone,” the latter being wholly appropriate for a designer and architect whose work in marble, metal and wood takes on a serene, sculptural presence. Lazzotti was educated at the prestigious University of Florence, where he later returned to teach architecture. Since 1975, Lazzotti has maintained a diverse practice encompassing architecture, interior design and furniture design, winning such awards as first prize for Design at the Moving Fair of Paris, the Torre Guinigi prize in Lucca for Urban Design for the historical center of Pietrasanta, a top ten in the International Chair Fair at Udine and, most recently, the Good Design prize from the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization.

    Following in the tradition of classic Italian sculptors and craftsman, Lazzotti’s furniture is produced with an artisan’s eye for material nuance and imbued with modernist simplicity. Internationally recognized for his work with stone, Lazzotti has organized symposia on the material and taught courses like “Design in Marble” at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, Italy (home to the famous white carrara marble quarries). Lazzotti has worked with many international companies, including Iveco, The Conran Shop, Mageia, Up e Up, Bernini and Smith & Hawken. His work is included in the permanent collections of MoMA in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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  • Le Corbusier

    Le Corbusier

    SWITZERLAND (1887–1965)

    Widely considered one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, Le Corbusier (born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris) is credited with changing the face of urban architecture, bringing it into the technological age. Connecting architecture with revolution, his legacy demonstrates a strong, if utopian, sense of purpose to meet the needs of a democratic society dominated by the machine. “Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city,” he said in 1923.

    Born in Switzerland, Le Corbusier was encouraged by a teacher to take up architecture. He built his first house at the age of 18 for a member of his school’s teaching staff. In 1908, he went to Paris and began to practice with Auguste Perret, an architect known for his pioneering use of concrete and reinforced steel. Moving to Berlin, Le Corbusier worked with Peter Behrens, who taught him about industrial processes and machine design. In 1917, he returned to Paris, where he met post-Cubist Amédée Ozenfant and developed Purism, a new concept of painting. In 1920, still in Paris, he adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier.

    Paradoxically, Le Corbusier combined a passion for classical Greek architecture and an attraction to the modern machine. He published his ideas in a book entitled Vers une Architecture, in which he refers to the house as a “machine for living,” an industrial product that should include functional furniture or “equipment de l’habitation.” In this spirit, Le Corbusier co-designed a system of furniture with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The tubular steel furniture – including the famous LC4 Chaise Longue and LC2 and LC3 seating collections – projected a new rationalist aesthetic that came to epitomize the International Style.

    Corbusier was both credited with and criticized for his reinvention of the modern urban skyline – notably, the buildings he pioneered in Paris’ banlieues, which were considered efficient but austere. Though Le Corbusier’s illustrious career came to an abrupt end in 1965 when he drowned while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea off Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in France, his influence is undisputed.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Arik Levy and Pippo Lionni

    Arik Levy and Pippo Lionni

    ISRAEL (1963) U.S.A. (1954)

    “I think really the world is about people and not about objects. We design for people,” says Arik Levy. It’s a wide world that artist-designers Arik Levy and Pippo Lionni inhabit. Levy was born in Tel Aviv, Lionni in New York, and they converged in Paris, by way of Switzerland, Italy and Japan, to launch L Design in 1997.

    Levy’s experience encompasses product design, set design and high-tech clothing. Lionni is primarily a graphic artist with an extensive background in research – he’s studied in Paris; Ankara, Turkey; Helsinki, Finland; Milan; and Brussels. Lionni’s visually artistic approach combines seamlessly with Levy’s experimental and boundary-pushing design sensibility. With L Design, these two cutting-edge creatives have embraced the beautiful mess of great design through the skillful development of product, brand identity, interior design and exhibitions. “As an act, design is the constructive translation of ideas into concepts, concepts into forms, forms into materiality,” says Lionni. “But it’s a client’s messy problems and frustrated desires, the inconsistency of intention and bluff that springboard us to the most interesting solutions.”

    Together, the pair are battling the phenomena of “low quality and culturally stupid objects” with projects for clients as diverse as Bitossi, Vitra, Adidas, Magis, Serralunga and LG, to name a few.

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  • Maya Lin

    Maya Lin

    U.S.A. (1959)

    Artist, designer, architect and environmentalist Maya Lin has created a singular and wide-ranging body of work, beginning when she was still attending Yale. During her senior year, her entry won the national design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, now on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. A study in simplicity comprising two polished black granite walls inscribed with 58,000 names, the monument is built into the land and is the first of Lin’s many works to merge history with earthy environment and to encourage interaction between the physical structure and its beholders. She’s since designed a series of monuments, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, and “The Women’s Table,” detailing the history and impact of women at Yale, where Lin studied architecture and sculpture as an undergraduate and earned a master’s from the school of architecture.

    Lin’s relationship with nature is rooted in her childhood in Ohio. Her Stones Collection (1998) seat and coffee table invoke the common childhood experience of learning the Earth is round and then trying to see the curve. Lin grew up in an intellectual and artistic household. Her father was a ceramicist and the dean of Ohio University's college of fine arts, and her mother was a literature professor at the same school. They moved from China to Athens, Ohio, a year before Lin was born. The family’s home, backing up to woods and a stream, included furniture and other household items made by Lin’s father, including clay bowls the family ate from. That backdrop formed Lin’s early relationship with and protectiveness toward the environment.

    Among Lin’s large-scale land art is “Wavefield” at Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York, a series of undulating grassy waves spanning 11 acres and flowing visually into the mountains in the background. She also designed a work to mark the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, a series of seven installations along the Columbia River illustrating the historic impact of the expedition on the native people of the Pacific Northwest and their environment. Architectural projects include the Langston Hughes Library in Clinton, Tennessee, and Museum of Chinese in America in New York City.

    In 2012, Lin designed her fifth and, she says, final memorial. “What Is Missing?” is an ongoing multi-platform project, including an interactive website and exhibits at scientific institutions. It was a passion project for Lin the environmentalist, who shifted her focus from memorializing groups of people to memorializing the planet, in advance, while raising awareness about and suggesting solutions for habitat loss and climate change.

    Lin and her work have been featured in Time, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker, and after multiple solo exhibitions around the world, several of her pieces have found homes in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, The Smithsonian Institution and the California Academy of Sciences. The film Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Lin was also awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2009 and Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

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  • Piero Lissoni

    Piero Lissoni

    ITALY (1956)

    Since the mid-1980s, Italian designer Piero Lissoni has been quietly and diligently building his reputation as an internationally renowned architect and product designer. Though not quiet in demeanor – gregarious and charming, he exudes Italian charm – he strives to create buildings and interior furnishings “that are clean and more or less silent.” Lissoni describes his approach as “humanistic,” meaning that his projects combine all aspects of the human experience to create something holistic. Like a classic modernist, he strives to combine the history and legacy of the chair or building, along with the technology, art and culture of the current day.

    Born in Italy, Lissoni graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1985 with a degree in architecture and hit the ground running as a designer, working for Boffi and Living Divani. In 1986, along with his collaborator Nicoletta Canesi, he founded Studio Lissoni, which initially focused on product design. In 2002 his studio – by then renamed Lissoni Associati – began to focus on architecture. Lissoni sees architecture as high stakes: “I put the architects downstairs because they are the most dangerous people in the world,” he told the German online magazine BauNetz in 2008. “If I design something ugly, nobody buys it and I don’t destroy anything. If I design something wrong in a building… I destroy the life for everybody.”

    He’s applied his measured and careful approach to design to building projects all over the world, including hotels in Milan, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Miami, Turks and Caicos and Istanbul; retail showrooms for Benetton, Cassina and Elie Tahari; and corporate headquarters for Glas, Matteograssi and Living Divani (for whom he also served as art director). Lissoni’s turn toward architecture hasn’t been at the expense of product design, however. His prolific studio, which employs around 70 people, has also created products for Alessi, Cassina, Flos, Fritz Hansen, Kartell, Knoll®, Olivari and Thonet, among many others. “We work in complete projects,” he told BauNetz. “We design the building, and we design the flowers inside.”

    “For me personally, architecture is a means of contemplation and a way to add calm accents, not exaggerate,” the designer told Deutsche Welle in 2010. “I do the same thing in design. When I can, I’m as muted as possible.” His gifts for muted, human-centered design, along with a passion and exuberance he attributes to his Italian upbringing, have made Piero Lissoni one of modernism’s most sought-after international designers.

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  • Neil Logan

    Neil Logan

    U.S.A. (1959)

    Neil Logan became an architect almost by accident. “I went to architecture school just out of the blue,” he says. “I didn’t even know what it was, frankly.” That was at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had served as head of the architecture curriculum from 1938 to 1958.

    “Even in the late ’70s, the Mies thing was still very alive, believe it or not,” Logan recalls. “But the school was not very interesting on other levels. I wanted to be in a more artistic environment.” He found that at the Rhode Island School of Design and after a year there settled on architecture. “I went, ‘OK, I’ll pursue that.’”

    In 1992, having also attended Columbia University and worked for the likes of architects Toshiko Mori and Edward Larrabee Barnes, he established his practice in New York City and built a portfolio of residential and commercial work, from ground-up construction to remodeling projects large and small.

    An interest in furniture design grew in part out of a fascination with what he describes as “the gulf between an object in a space and the space itself,” which emerged in his early career as he began building structures and designing interiors – in other words, defining spaces. He began to turn ordinary architectural features into furniture. A nook could become a bank of drawers, for example, and partition walls could become storage walls. “I made an effort to sort of turn everything into furniture at one point,” he says. “That made me interested in furniture at all levels.”

    At the same time, through friendships with two vintage-furniture dealers in Denmark, he began to buy classics there and ship them back to New York for his projects, which contributed to an education in the history of Danish furniture and influenced his work as an architect. “I learned a lot from that, seeing and understanding the furniture. It’s very different from something like Eames or Nelson. In Denmark, they weren't interested in mass production the way they were here.”

    Though he had designed plenty of built-ins over the years, his first try at traditional furniture design didn’t come until 2016 with the Lispenard Sofa for Herman Miller. But he brought well-formed ideas to the task. “A sofa, as a piece of furniture in a room, is often not a centerpiece. It has to go with other pieces. It’s a background, not a foreground piece. It’s an anchor for other things to be around and maybe even for showing off other things that are more spectacular.”

    His first sofa bears the same simple, clean lines that have been his stock in trade – ones that don’t call too much attention to themselves. “When I close my eyes, and I see a three-seat sofa, how different will it be from yours? Not so different probably. That’s the ideal.”

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  • Loll Designs

    Loll Designs

    U.S.A. (FOUNDED 2005)

    “We make outdoor furniture for the modern lollygagger,” explains Loll Designs visionary and founder Greg Benson. “Our furniture is for people who are looking for fresh design made in the U.S.A. using environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing practices. These people take everything they do seriously, whether it’s work or working out, but they also genuinely appreciate their outdoor relaxation.” The company strives to improve the relationship between furniture and the environments in which users enjoy it. Loll Designs manufactures its pieces from 100 percent recycled plastic sheet material reclaimed mostly from millions of single-use milk jugs. TrueRide, Loll’s former sister company, originally sourced the material as a durable, all-weather, maintenance-free alternative to plywood for municipal skate parks. All Loll furniture is designed in-house by Greg Benson, Jeff Taly and Nate Heydt.

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  • Ross Lovegrove

    Ross Lovegrove

    WALES (1958)

    While Ross Lovegrove may not yet be as widely known and revered as Charles Eames or Philippe Starck, his elegant product and furniture designs are rapidly earning him international recognition.

    Born in Cardiff, Wales, Lovegrove studied design at Manchester Polytechnic and subsequently trained at the Royal College of Art, London. He then worked for the well-known design consultancy frogdesign, on projects that included the design of the Sony Walkman and computers for Apple. As an in-house designer for Knoll International in Paris, Lovegrove designed the successful Alessandri Office System, and as a co-member of the Atelier de Nimes, along with Philippe Starck and Jean Nouvel, he acted as design consultant to Louis Vuitton, Cacharel, Dupont and Hermes.

    In 1990, he set up his own design office in London, Studio X. Since that time, his clients have included Sony, British Airways, Kartell, Cappellini, Phillips, Moroso, Apple, Luceplan, Tag Heuer and Herman Miller. Lovegrove has a unique ability to seduce the consumer with appealing fluid shapes, persuasive technology, rich color and beautiful materials. He is inspired by forms of the natural world, the possibilities of new manufacturing techniques and the ability to evoke an emotional response in users, with many of his designs addressing ecological issues.

    Whether creating a luxury leather bag collection or a plastic thermos flask, Lovegrove’s humanistic approach and organic sensibility have set a direction for design in the next century.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh

    Charles Rennie Mackintosh

    SCOTLAND (1868–1928)

    Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the most important exponent of early British design. While his own style was very individual, if not unmistakable, he joined with Herbert MacNair, Francis Macdonald and Margaret Macdonald to form “The Four,” later dubbed the “Spook School” of Glasgow. The Four exhibited together for the first time in Glasgow in 1894, in London in 1896 and in Vienna in 1900. That same year, Mackintosh married Margaret Macdonald, with whom he collaborated on many of his decorative schemes.

    Mackintosh designed several public buildings and private residences in Glasgow at the turn of the century, including his masterwork, the Glasgow School of Art (1896-1909). Hill House, Miss Cranston’s tearooms and his own house in Glasgow are examples of a unique genius that did not mimic the predominant art nouveau style but created its own world of color, pattern and form. Mackintosh’s elliptical high-backed chairs adorned the Argyle Street tearooms, and his later tearooms in Ingram Street and Willow Street are integrated works of art where he designed everything, including the cutlery.

    Mackintosh often designed rooms down to the last detail. His holistic approach to design included the use of symbols and stylized Celtic elements as well as the balancing of opposites – modernity with tradition, light with dark, masculine with feminine. In 1914, he left Glasgow and moved to London, where his work included designs for rhythmically patterned textiles and furniture with strong graphic lines.

    Unable to secure architectural commissions in London, he moved to Port-Vendres in the South of France, where he devoted himself to painting watercolors. Although clients seemed to desert him in later life, Mackintosh was the leading designer of the Glasgow School, and his influence was considerable. The high-backed chair, with its dramatically elongated backrest, is among the most famous of his pieces, its unusual proportions never failing to arrest the eye.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Vico Magistretti

    Vico Magistretti

    ITALY (1920–2006)

    For over 50 years, Vico Magistretti represented the rational face of post-war design, seeking timeless solutions to technical and formal problems. Based his whole life in Milan, he consistently produced designs that are as startling, spontaneous and original as they are logical and elegant. After studying at Polytechnic University of Milan, Magistretti worked as an architect in his father’s company and began his career as a designer by creating low-cost furniture for the inexpensive apartments built to house the homeless during World War II.

    Magistretti designs were simple, portable and practical – qualities that were to appear again and again in his work during the 1950s. In 1959, he was commissioned to design furnishings for the Golf Club Carimate clubhouse. The chair designed for Cassina as part of this project changed the course of his career. The Carimate chair was soon a familiar sight in restaurants and cafés throughout Italy and the rest of Europe.

    From the early 1960s on, Magistretti devoted his talents to furniture and lighting design for companies including Cassina, Artemide and Oluce. His furniture was comfortable and informal, colorful and playful. As with the work of Marco Zanuso and Joe Colombo, Magistretti’s experiments with plastic changed consumers’ perception of the material. Once dismissed as cheap and flimsy, it became thought of as stylish and sophisticated. The Selene chair (1969) was a simple design in sturdy ABS plastic with an S-shaped curve in the leg that strengthened its structure. It was produced by Artemide in bold, bright colors and rapidly enjoyed international success.

    Magistretti was, above all, a designer of great integrity and humanity. His elegant design solutions were always realized in the light of technological, economic and other practical concerns. Throughout his career, he was an ambassador for design that does not perpetuate the “throwaway” consumer culture.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Erik Magnussen

    Erik Magnussen

    DENMARK (1940)

    Erik Magnussen studied ceramics at The School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen. As a designer, he has developed a reputation for finding elegant, inevitable solutions to complex problems. He received the prestigious Danish ID Prize on several occasions, was recognized in 1983 as Designer of the Year in Denmark and was given the British design distinction Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) in December 2001.

    As a young ceramicist, Magnussen set up shop in his parents’ basement. He worked for the Danish porcelain manufacturer Bing & Grondahl, designing a popular porcelain set, Form 679, comprised of just 11 items rather than the usual 50. In addition to creating innovative ceramic tableware collections, Magnussen has since branched out to design tables, chairs, a vacuum jug, high-tech products and lamps. Often his tables and chairs employ tube steel frameworks, such as the Chairik series, which couples bent steel legs with birch or colorful melamine. While the materials have changed, Magnussen still handles them like a sculptor, molding the seat of the simple, armless Chairik Chair to provide comfort and back support.

    For his Click series of tables for Fritz Hansen (1994), Magnussen drew inspiration from fellow Scandinavian Bruno Mathsson’s self-clamping leg, developed for the Superellipse Table. Magnussen has taken the idea one step further. Not only can you simply click the table legs into place without using tools, but a groove along the underside of the table allows the legs to be located anywhere around the perimeter. Like Mathsson, Magnussen is also an architect. He recently completed the renovation of his mid-19th-century country house near Riberac, France.

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  • Javier Mariscal

    Javier Mariscal

    SPAIN (1950)

    It is difficult to categorize Javier Mariscal’s work: His creative endeavors cover the gamut of material and conceptual media. Working solo, in collaboration and since 1989 as principal of Estudio Mariscal, he has had a hand in the creation of the corporate image for the Barcelona Zoo; textiles for Nani Marquina; furniture for the Memphis Group; comic characters such as El Señor del Caballito and Twipsy; illustrations and stories such as Metrópolis; Cobi, the mascot for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, along with the corporate identity for the Games; and the Acuarinto playground at Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki. Some of his most provocative projects have been multidisciplinary, with art and humor – mingled through words, images and acting – conspiring to send subversive, witty and occasionally controversial or personal messages.

    While the artist has been dubbed the Peter Pan of Spanish design for his work’s simple, dreamy, childlike qualities, that label can be misleading because it disregards the presence of an underlying social commentary. However, to extend the metaphor, Mariscal, like Peter Pan, is at home in the alternate realities he creates. In Barcelona since 1971, he has drawn inspiration from city life for small projects, such as his postage stamp–sized pen-and-ink illustrations for Barcelona Un Dia, an anthology of stories about the city, as well as larger, more environmental installations like “El Gran Hotel” (1977), an exhibition of his own work set against the backdrop of an imaginary hotel from the 1950s that included a reception desk, bar, lounge, bedroom, bathroom, radios, televisions and furniture from the era. In 2000, in celebration of his own 50th birthday, Mariscal produced Colors, an ambitious multimedia play about the history of color and visualization.

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  • Nani Marquina

    Nani Marquina

    SPAIN (1952)

    “My job is chasing beauty,” Nani Marquina told DWR in 2007. “The fullest place where you can find beauty is in nature. I love to stare at spectacular landscapes.” A common thread that runs through her innovative and conceptual floor coverings, the natural world – its shapes, colors and textures – has informed Marquina’s work since she launched her company in 1987.

    Nani Marquina studied industrial design at the Escola Massana in Barcelona and began her career in interior design. When she couldn’t find rugs that were in tune with a client’s space, she filled the gap with her own creations, which led to a new career as an independent textile designer.

    A superb colorist (“I think all colors are nice,” she says. “The point is to mix them properly”), Marquina finds inspiration not only in nature but also in the challenge of creating something that hasn’t been done before. The designer is also a firm believer that a rug must surprise and captivate but never be too aggressive. The result is her striking depth in materials, ranging from low pile to long strands of felted wool to die-cut rose petals. In addition to her own work, Marquina’s collection includes the work of a select group of esteemed contributors, including Tord Boontje, Eduardo Chillida, Javier Mariscal and Joaquim Ruiz Millet. Nani Marquina is known internationally for her textiles and rugs, which have been exhibited in New York, Paris, Milan, Berlin, Osaka and Tokyo.

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  • Bruno Mathsson

    Bruno Mathsson

    SWEDEN (1907–1988)

    Bruno Mathsson descended from four generations of cabinetmakers in Värnamo, Sweden. A perfectionist to the core, he did not consider a piece of furniture complete unless it could pass inspection turned upside down. The designer experimented with carving, bending, laminating and finishing different types of wooden frameworks and fashioning them with innovative webbings made of hemp, linen or other fabric. Mathsson would make a chair or chaise lounge, then continue to create variations and refine the piece until he was satisfied it was pleasing to both the eye and the rest of the body. Each work of art was custom-made in his family’s shop in Värnamo and signed by Mathsson, who associated his own modern furniture with the traditional handicraft of his ancestors.

    Mathsson was an architect as well. He designed the Småland Art Archive in Värnamo and from 1947–1957 experimented with incorporating large areas of glass into local residential architecture. Although his experiments were not well received in the cold, conservative northern province where he worked, he completed over 100 architectural projects. But it was in the arena of furniture design that he had the most far-reaching impact. While his specialty was seating, he also created influential table designs.

    In 1959 poet and mathematician Piet Hein developed the superellipse (expressed mathematically as xn/an + yn/bn = 1) to address an urban design problem in Stockholm. Mathsson seized upon the superellipse as an elegant formal solution applicable to a smaller-scale problem: the tabletop. He also designed the self-clamping leg for a superellipse table made in collaboration with Hein. The V-shaped metal leg can be inserted without tools and anchored to the floor. The self-clamping leg has a direct descendant in contemporary Danish designer Erik Magnussen’s Click series.

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  • Alberto Meda

    Alberto Meda

    ITALY (1945)

    Alberto Meda represents the fusion of art and science, reason and imagination, technical innovation and formal virtuosity that characterizes the best of Italian design. He is among a group of designers whose individual talents became visible in the 1970s and continued to grow through the end of the century, making design a force that affects every aspect of modern life. Meda’s contemporaries include Matteo Thun, Ron Arad and Philippe Starck, none of whom can be contained within a single movement or aesthetic. At the same time, all have blurred the boundaries between technology and art.

    Meda first studied mechanical engineering at the Politecnico di Milano, graduating in 1969. Only a few years later, he was appointed Technical Director for the design-oriented manufacturer Kartell. In 1979, Meda made the decision to pursue independent work as a designer and engineer, becoming a consultant to Alfa Romeo and Italtel Telematica. In 1983, he began teaching industrial technology at the Domus Academy in Milan, one of the most prestigious schools of design in Europe.

    Meda is acknowledged for his ability to use state-of-the-art materials in ways that are visually arresting as well as structurally sound. For example, he created the sculptural LightLight chair using a Nomex Honeycomb core and a matrix of carbon fiber to achieve remarkable strength and lightness. The LightLight chair also exemplifies Meda’s interest in using industrial materials in a nonindustrial context. The wonderfully functional and comfortable Meda task chair, designed in the ’90s, combines ergonomic sophistication with a visual coherence that testifies to his engineering background.

    Meda’s portfolio is comprised of a wide range of products – everything from cars to high-tech lighting to cast-aluminum seating – some of which have earned him design accolades, including a Compasso d’Oro and Design Plus award.

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  • Kristine Five Melvær

    Kristine Five Melvær

    NORWAY (1984)

    Oslo-based Kristine Five Melvær chose to study design “because I considered it the most interesting intersection between my creative and analytical skills.” She earned a master’s degree in industrial design from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in 2008 and a master’s in visual communication from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2012. She also did an exchange year to study architecture at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. “I’ve had an interest in making things from as early as I can remember. Creativity had a central place in our home, since my father was very creative and loved to include his three kids in the process.”

    Melvær’s focus is the intersection of and communication between industrial design and graphic design. “I often combine the two disciplines through three-dimensional objects with graphic motives. And I’m very concerned with the communicational function of my objects.” Indeed, she sees the potential for an emotional connection to develop between her products and their users. In searching for that connection, she creates objects that combine a sensual element with Scandinavian simplicity.

    Her work is an eclectic mix of graphic design, furniture, lighting, tableware, glassware, pillows and blankets, including the Mikkel Throw (2015), a design that according to Melvær “combines inspiration from the Bauhaus movement and Norwegian traditional weaving on one side with a contemporary and exploratory use of color on the other.” Much of her work is textile based, such as flowing fabric room dividers and a lamp with textile “skins”; other pieces are fanciful, such as lampshades shaped like flower buds and vase-style lights that double as trinket holders and decorative objects. Says Melvær, “My objective is to design products that enrich the user in everyday life and last for generations.”

    Melvær has worked with many renowned European producers. She was the first Scandinavian designer to collaborate with Belgian company When Objects Work, creating a series of bowls, vases and soap dishes in glass, marble and wood. She also designs colorful glass vessels in nontraditional shapes for Norwegian manufacturer Magnor Glassverk. And her poster series Colour Fold is created in collaboration with Danish cooperative Paper Collective, which donates 10 percent of sales to causes chosen by its artists – in Melvær’s case, Project Nanhi Kali, supporting education for underprivileged girls in India.

    Melvær received the Riedel Award for her glasswork in 2014 and won Best Textiles in the 2015 International Contemporary Furniture Fair Editors Awards for the Mikkel Throw. A prototype of her Ray Lamp, with the textile skin shade, was part of the VitraHaus exhibition in 2012.

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  • Paulo Mendes da Rocha

    Paulo Mendes da Rocha

    BRAZIL (1928)

    Born in Brazil in 1928, Paulo Mendes da Rocha began his career in Sao Paulo in the 1950s as a member of the “Paulist brutalist” avant-garde. He received a degree in architecture in 1954, opened his office in 1955 and soon after created an early masterpiece, the Athletic Club of Sao Paulo (1957). Civic landmarks, museums, schools, hotels, private houses and apartment buildings followed, and Mendes da Rocha took his place in the pantheon of Brazilian architects, second only perhaps to Oscar Niemeyer, designer of the capital city of Brasilia.

    Mendes da Rocha has maintained a private practice, taught at the University of Sao Paulo and acted as President of the Brazilian Institute for Architects. He has received many awards, including the Mies van der Rohe prize for Latin American Architecture (2000), his first international recognition. The award paid tribute to the architect’s respectful renovation of the Pinacoteca do Estado, Sao Paulo’s oldest fine arts museum.

    One of the most consistently daring of 20th-century architects, Mendes da Rocha has worked notably in the public realm, creating concrete and steel forms of immense power and grace. For the Brazilian pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, he balanced a building on a single point of terrain with audacious elegance. The next year, he placed as a finalist in competition for the design of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Among his widely known built works is the Museum of Contemporary Art (1975) at the University of Sao Paulo, the Forma Furniture showroom (1987) in Sao Paulo and the Brazilian Sculpture Museum (1987–1992). Other projects include plans for the University of Vigo in Galicia, Spain, and the Boulevard des Sports complex in Paris for the 2008 Olympic Games.

    In the imaginative modernist spirit that marks his buildings, Mendes da Rocha designed the sculptural Paulistano Armchair (1957) for the living rooms of the Athletic Club of Sao Paulo. Made by bending a single steel bar and attaching a leather seat and back, the elegant sling chair pushes the limits of structural form, yet remains supremely comfortable and functional.

    In 2006, Mendes da Rocha received architecture’s highest honor as the Pritzker jury applauded his “deep understanding of the poetics of space” and “architecture of profound social engagement.” Jury Chairman Lord Peter Palumbo added, “Mendes da Rocha brings the joyful lilt of Brazil to his work... never afraid of innovation or taking risks... indeed, a worthy choice." In 2016 Mendes da Rocha received the Venice Architecture Biennale Golden Lion and the Praemium Imperiale Arts Prize from the Japan Art Association, and in 2017 he was recipient of the Royal Gold Medal for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

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  • Sergio Mian

    Sergio Mian

    ITALY (1944)

    At first glance, furniture by Sergio Mian seems like a perfect example of the clean-lined modern design Italy is so famous for, and on closer inspection, his pieces prove to be all that and much more. An emphasis on details, a love of materials and an intimate understanding of the human body combine in Mian’s designs to transform them beyond the ordinary.

    A long and diverse course of training brought Mian to furniture design. Schooled as an architect at the University of Venice, Mian worked on the restoration of old buildings before moving on to exhibition design, historical research and then industrial and furniture design. This varied background is brought to bear in every project Mian undertakes. In his furniture, one can see a respect for history, an understanding of spatial dynamics and a finesse of presentation. In Mian’s best-known works, such as the Baba seating collection, a mix of style and practicality is ensured through expert construction, use of durable and attractive materials and, most important, a deep understanding of how the human body interacts with its surroundings. Although it may look streamlined and minimal, Mian’s Baba seating expertly and comfortably cradles the body where it needs it the most; the reduction of parts does not infer a reductive aesthetic at work but simply expert knowledge of the body in repose. In Mian’s work, less is indeed more.

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  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

    Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

    GERMANY (1886–1969)

    The modern city, with its towers of glass and steel, can be at least in part attributed to the influence of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Equally significant, if smaller in scale, is Mies’ daring design of furniture, pieces that exhibit an unerring sense of proportion as well as minimalist forms and exquisitely refined details. In fact, his chairs have been called architecture in miniature – exercises in structure and materials that achieve an extraordinary visual harmony as autonomous pieces and in relation to the interiors for which they were designed.

    Mies van der Rohe began his career in architecture in Berlin, working first in the studio of Bruno Paul and then, like Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, for Peter Behrens. In 1927, a housing project called Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, Germany, would bring these names together again. Widely believed to be one of the most notable projects in the history of modern architecture, it includes buildings by Gropius, Corbu, Behrens, Mies and others.

    In 1928, Mies and his companion and colleague, designer and Bauhaus alumna Lilly Reich, were asked to design the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona. The purpose of the Pavilion was to provide a location that could be visited by the king and queen of Spain during the opening of the Exposition. With that in mind, Mies designed a modern throne – known today as the Barcelona® Chair – for their majesties. In the following year, Mies designed another notable chair, the Brno, with a gravity-defying cantilevered base.

    In 1930, Mies succeeded Walter Gropius as the director of the Bauhaus, where he stayed until the school closed in 1933. In 1937, Mies emigrated from Europe to the United States, and a year later became the director of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The rest of his career was devoted to promoting the modernist style of architecture in the United States, resulting in rigorously modern buildings such as the Farnsworth House and the Seagram Building, designed with Philip Johnson.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Jason Miller

    Jason Miller

    U.S.A. (1971)

    Jason Miller opened his Brooklyn-based design studio, Roll & Hill, in 2010 to satisfy his desire “to make products that appeal to the American market.” Nestled somewhere between mass production and custom design, Roll & Hill creates lighting fixtures that assume a classic form and style while appealing to a contemporary American sensibility. As Miller sees it, Americans prefer more warmth and visual weight than their European modernist counterparts, who are stylistically rooted in minimalism.

    Miller came onto the design scene in a big way in 2003, not long after opening Jason Miller Studio, with the introduction of his Superordinate Antler Collection, a presage to the rustic chic aesthetic that emerged in the next few years. That sculptural collection exemplifies Miller’s approach, which blurs the boundary between art and design. This is unsurprising, because his background includes an MFA in painting from the New York Academy of Art, work in the studios of sculptor Jeff Koons and designer Karim Rashid and a stint as art director at the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather – diverse experiences that led to a dedicated career in product design. Since opening, Roll & Hill has evolved to produce not only Miller’s designs but also those by Lindsey Adelman, Jonas Damon, Paul Loebach, Rich Brilliant Willing and Jonah Takagi. With Roll & Hill, Miller aims to create luxury lighting designs that are “unique, responsible, innovative and add beauty to whatever space they occupy.”

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  • Lee Mindel

    Lee Mindel


    Architect and designer Lee Mindel likes to surround himself with the work of others. “The pieces I own are by the people who have made me what I am,” he said in 2015. His collection includes furniture and art by Hans Wegner, Frank Gehry, Ettore Sottsass, Antoni Gaudí, Tom Dixon, Poul Kjærholm, Jean Prouvé and Ron Arad. Mindel began collecting the work of these and other notables more than 30 years ago, and he got serious about it in the 1990s after buying and doing a major reworking of a penthouse in a former factory building in the Flatiron District of New York, a dramatic space that called for statement furnishings. (Making a U-turn in 2016, Mindel auctioned off well over 100 items in his personal collection in preparation for a move to an ultra-modern skyscraper in Tribeca.)

    At the University of Pennsylvania, Mindel studied under architect Louis Kahn. He went on to earn a master’s in architecture from Harvard, where one of his teachers was Gerhard Kallmann, designer of Boston City Hall, a building Mindel calls his favorite.

    Mindel co-founded the firm Shelton Mindel & Associates in 1978 with partner Peter Shelton. Following the death of Shelton in 2012, Mindel carried on under the name SheltonMindel, continuing to design architecture, interiors, furniture and products across residential, corporate, retail, cultural and hospitality spaces – even an airplane interior. Mindel’s Pocket Table was created exclusively for DWR in 2016.

    A photographer as well, Mindel took his own shots for his Architectural Digest column, The Architect’s Eye, traveling with multiple cameras because, as he explains, “I don’t know how to change lenses so I change cameras.”

    Mindel and Shelton were inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame and awarded the 2011 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award. SheltonMindel has been honored as one of the top 100 design firms of the 20th century by Architectural Digest and received 30-plus American Institute of Architecture awards. The work of Mindel and Shelton has been shown at the American Institute of Architecture, San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design.

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  • Rosita Missoni

    Rosita Missoni

    ITALY (1932)

    From tracksuit designer to international fashion house doyenne, Rosita Missoni is proprietor of one of the most widely recognized couture brands of this and the 20th century. It all started in a tiny Milan workshop with her design and newlywed partner Ottavio Missoni. When the young Italians met at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, he as 400-meter gold medalist of (and tracksuit designer to) Team Italia and she as a spectator, it wasn’t only a match of affections. The couple formed a mutual partnership in Ottavio’s newly launched tracksuit business, and it wasn’t long before they lapped beyond tracksuits into knitwear.

    Rosita Missoni was born in 1932 in a small Italian village in Varese, daughter and granddaughter to owners of an embroidered fabric manufactory. Preferring to be called an artisan over a fashion designer, Missoni draws her influence from the rich colors and patterns of folk art. Her approach to design has been to dream up colorful striped patterns and to blend multiple fabric types into one garment. The company Missoni, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013, has expanded into home and wearable accessories and now employs a staff of 200 that includes the couple’s three children. She has chosen to keep operations close to home in Sumirago, Varese, where her creative spark first ignited at her family’s embroidery workshop.

    In 2005, Missoni collaborated with Paulo Mendes da Rocha, designer of the Paulistano Armchair, to create a limited-edition cover. The Missoni Cover is a reversible floral and striped pattern available only at DWR.

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  • David Mocarski

    David Mocarski

    U.S.A. (1951)

    David Mocarski admits to “an unrelenting passion for all things art and design,” and the accomplished designer works very much as an artist. He pursues creativity and investigates materials and technology. He is inspired by “the idea, the expression, the process, the journey.” Whether creating furniture for Fiam Italia or designing his own loft studio, Mocarski seeks to bring art into life, to fuse aesthetics with practicality and simplicity.

    Mocarski earned an MFA from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Since 1971 he has exhibited internationally in the fine arts, as well as limited edition and commissioned furniture. In 1978, he joined the faculty of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he is Chairman of Environmental Design. Mocarski is principal of Arkkit Forms Design, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1982 as a multidisciplinary design studio.

    Free from the constraints of a single discipline, Mocarski works with an eclectic and international group of clients that includes Sony-Columbia-Tristar, Marvel Comics, Baron Philippe Rothschild, Taylor of Old Bond Street and the Vichon Winery. He has designed furniture for Artedi, ADR, Creative Elegance and DWR. Widely published, his work has appeared in Praxis, Domus and Marie Claire. A recent interiors project, “Seatrain House,” appeared on the cover of Dwell and was featured in The New York Times “House & Home” section, as well as in the book Prefab Modern.

    Mocarski has often turned to reinventing the language of furniture. The Libre Modular Sofa Collection, a sleek sectional that can be variously configured to fit any corner or face in any direction, exemplifies his approach to use, flexibility and comfort. In tune with the rigorous aesthetics of early modernism, David Mocarski is yet very much a part of the 21st century and the demands of day-to-day life.

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  • Børge Mogensen

    Børge Mogensen

    DENMARK (1914–1972)

    As a boy, Børge Mogensen made a cutting board one day at school and brought it home to proudly show his father. But his father, a bricklayer and occasional sock salesman, only belittled the board and the boy, who had encountered for the first time a material that would become his lifelong passion. “It was an uphill battle,“ says his son, Thomas Mogensen, “but he was determined.” Thomas recalls his own time as a boy walking beside his father in the woods and passing piles of logs. “Sometimes my father would pick up a stick and hit the bottom of the logs and listen to the sound. He loved wood.”

    That love, along with a decidedly democratic approach to design and a dogged work ethic, propelled Mogensen into the pantheon of Danish modern design legends alongside Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl and good friend Hans Wegner, among others. Born in Aalborg, Denmark, Mogensen began work as a cabinetmaker in 1934 before studying furniture design at what was then the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen and finally architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1942.

    He studied under and worked for Kaare Klint, the father of Danish modern design, and later was his teaching assistant at the Royal Academy. Klint’s emphasis on human scale, excellent materials, functionalism and craftsmanship influenced Mogensen, though he adopted an embrace of mass production and a hellbent calling to lighten the heavy Danish furniture of the past.

    Among his iconic designs – many still in production – are the J39 People’s Chair, the Spanish Chair, the Hunting Chair and Table and the Spokeback Sofa. His work was in demand, leading to prolific output that sometimes took him to the brink of exhaustion for a host of employers, including Danish companies FDB, Carl Hansen and Søn and Fredericia and Sweden’s Karl Andersson & Söner.

    In the mid-1950s, Mogensen’s obsession with organization inspired a project with architect and designer Grethe Meyer in which they meticulously measured every conceivable household and personal object, from scissors and cutlery to shirts and socks, in an effort to design systems of drawers, shelves and cupboards that would neatly accommodate the possessions of a typical modern family. Their work led to a construction manual for building storage systems.

    “His mind was so chaotic, messy and hard to live with that he attempted to bring order to the outside world,” says son Thomas in Børge Mogensen: Designs for Life, a 2015 documentary film. “His vision was to design furniture for the people at low prices. Design for the sake of design didn't interest him. He saw himself as a simple furniture maker.”

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  • Jørgen Møller

    Jørgen Møller

    DENMARK (1930)

    Like Hans Wegner, Peter Karpf and Jørgen Gammelgaard, Jørgen Møller is a talented artist who worked for Arne Jacobsen early in his career. And like many of his fellow Danish designers, Møller is an architect. He opened his own office in 1967 and has had work published in Living Architecture, Arkitectur Denmark, Graphis and Mobilia.

    Americans are most familiar with Møller’s designs for Georg Jensen Silversmiths. He has created watches, utensils and thermometers in stainless steel, anodized aluminum and other metals and synthetic materials for the company that originally manufactured silver products only. Georg Jensen has carried Møller’s Complet – a kitchen set including salad bowl, creamer, sugar bowl and salt and pepper mill – and his 345 Watch. He also designed an oil lamp for the Israel Museum and the molded wood Taburet M Stacking Stool. His work is included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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  • Niels Otto Møller

    Niels Otto Møller

    DENMARK (1922–1988)

    In 1944, Niels Otto Møller founded J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik in Denmark, a company that has received many awards, including the Danish Furniture Prize in 1974 and 1981. “My father never compromised on anything,” says Niels’ son Jørgen Henrik Møller. “When he designed a chair, he would find the materials and then design the furniture. Each design took him five years to complete.” This work ethic is why the Møller collection is relatively small for a company that’s been around for more than 70 years, but that’s what makes Møller so special.

    “Clean, simple designs and the quality of materials and workmanship are why Nordic design is timeless,” says Jørgen. “It’s because of these materials and skills that Møller chairs are passed down from one generation to the next.”

    In the 1960s, Niels’ sons Jørgen and Jens Ole Møller completed their cabinetmaking training and joined the company. Ten years later, they began exporting to Japan, which remains one of the company’s biggest markets due to the simplicity and quality of the design and craftsmanship.

    When J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik received the Dansk MøbelIndustri’s Furniture Prize in 1981, the judging jury explained that it was for the company’s ability to “combine the best craft traditions with modern furniture manufacture. The company has always obstinately held firm to its high quality level.”

    Today, J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik continues to be a family-run company, with Jørgen Henrik Møller at the helm.

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  • Sam Moradzadeh

    Sam Moradzadeh

    IRAN (1978)

    For Sam Moradzadeh, rugs are the family business. His father, Abraham, started out at age 18 in Iran with a small rug gallery, traveling the world to source antique rugs and textiles. After the family left Iran in 1979, Abraham established a new company in Los Angeles, naming it Abraham Rug Gallery.

    Sam grew up helping out at the gallery before officially joining it in 2005, following his graduation from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. The decision to work alongside his father and mentor was prompted by a conversation they had about long-term plans for the business, which at the time was centered mostly on wholesaling antique rugs.

    The younger Moradzadeh was up for the challenge. Abraham let him “run the business as if it were my own from the start,” and Sam began by expanding into trade and retail sales, as well as broadening the focus to include original designs. (Abraham still does most of the buying for antique and vintage rugs.) Now known simply as Woven – a name that better reflects a philosophy Moradzadeh describes as “grounded, elemental and cultured” – the company represents top rug designers and manufacturers around the globe.

    Woven occupies 10,000 square feet in the West Hollywood Design District, along with a second location in New York: gallery-like spaces dressed with elegant backdrops, furniture and accents, giving customers a feel for the rugs in integrated environments. Per Moradzadeh, rugs are part art, part culture and part history, and they should be displayed as such. The galleries have become a resource for retail customers as well as for interior designers, architects and even artists, and Moradzadeh is “excited to share our art, whether it was collected over the years or created by us.” For example, Woven’s street-art-inspired One Love collection is the product of inviting artists to paint directly on antique and vintage rugs.

    In 2016, Woven launched Studio Woven, a line that combines antique and vintage designs with contemporary regional and cultural influences, mixing new techniques and materials. As the creative director of Studio Woven, Moradzadeh feels fortunate to have a hand in “expanding the business creatively.” He considers the line a “milestone moment” for the business. “We have strived to create a series of modern classics where West Coast vitality meets Eastern tradition to create 21st-century rugs that create a feeling of home, culture and comfort.”

    Moradzadeh’s advice to rug novices: Avoid trends and buy “what will make you happiest in your daily life.” So what rugs make him happy at home? “A mixture of antique, vintage and Studio Woven. I also have an Esker Rug in the kids’ playroom because it works well with everything and it's so soft for my two boys to sit on and play.”

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  • Jasper Morrison

    Jasper Morrison

    ENGLAND (1959)

    Jasper Morrison considers himself to be, first and foremost, a conceptual designer. Unconcerned with the novelty of new or unexpected forms, Morrison takes familiar shapes, often banal, and reworks them until a heretofore-unseen work emerges.

    Born in England, Morrison was raised in both Germany and the United States before his family settled in London, where he attended Kingston College of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art. During school, Morrison was influenced by the work of the Memphis Group out of Milan for their conceptual approach to design. His early work caught the attention of critics, and when Morrison was asked to speak at a design conference in Milan, he instead staged a slide show of juxtaposed images. This became the basis of the book A World Without Words and piqued the interest of Rolf Fehlbaum, the chairman of Vitra.

    Since then, what has happened to Morrison’s career seems as inevitable as his designs. He has designed a series of plywood chairs and tables for Vitra, a chaise lounge and daybed for Cappellini and a tram for the city of Hanover, and he’s collaborated with the controversial English artist Damien Hirst on the London restaurant Pharmacy. Morrison’s austerely elegant designs have been elevated to cult status in Germany, where the work of Donald Judd, which also blurs the line between art and industry, is equally venerated. Although the main themes of Morrison’s work – practicality, comfort and timeless forms – have not made him a rock star of design like his contemporaries Marc Newson or Tom Dixon, by early in his career Morrison was already a mature designer with a style of his own.

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  • Serge Mouille

    Serge Mouille

    FRANCE (1922–1988)

    Serge Mouille’s parents, a policeman and a seamstress, were disappointed by his decision, at the age of 13, to enroll in the School of Applied Arts’ silver workshop. The youngest student there, he embraced metallurgy and silversmithing – and was so gifted at the trade, he started teaching at 25. After getting his degree, he worked for a few different companies and apprenticed under Gabriel Lacroix before starting his own workshop.

    In 1953, Parisian native Mouille introduced his first lighting design, the Three-Arm Floor Lamp. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of metals, as well as his interest in musculature and skeletons, the Three-Arm Lamp was both minimal and organic in form. The shape of the shades was inspired by one of his favorite things – the female form. “Lamps are there to be touched,” said the designer. Though his logic might be somewhat suspect, the design was anything but. The Three-Arm Lamp has gone on to become an icon of modern design, with originals fetching as much as six figures at auction.

    In 1956, gallery owner Steph Simon began showing Mouille’s work – all of which he handcrafted himself – alongside pieces by Charlotte Perriand, Isamu Noguchi and Jean Prouvé. It was around this time that Hollywood icon Henry Fonda literally showed up on Mouille’s doorstep. The Frenchman had no idea who this Mr. Fonda was, but when the actor refused to leave until Mouille made him a lamp, the designer relented. Fonda then received the first Mouille lamp to hit U.S. shores.

    In 1962, Mouille introduced his Colonnes Collection, a distinct break from the functional lighting he had become famous for. Using the newest in lighting technology – the fluorescent tube – his “columns” of light were more artistically motivated and were not as well received. When a potential partnership with Knoll fell through due to Florence Knoll’s opposition, Mouille retreated from lighting design and returned to his first love, silversmithing. By 1964 he had ceased production of his lights and spent his remaining years teaching at the School of Applied Arts and designing jewelry.

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  • Thomas Müller and Jörg Wulff

    Thomas Müller and Jörg Wulff

    GERMANY (1959) (1968)

    Since 2001, Thomas Müller and Jörg Wulff have run a design bureau together in Berlin, a city they describe as occupying the center of their inspiration, lives and work. They specialize in architecture, interior design, trade fair construction and furniture.

    “In our design work,” Müller says, “we are looking for a balance between artistic restraint and formal communication of the design idea.” He operates under the belief that every new product needs a story, and it should derive from function – but go beyond. “The opportunity for change, for an experience, for a memory, among many others, shows the emotional side of a product,” Müller says. “That is how furniture communicates to us over and above its pure function.”

    Müller and Wulff have designed furniture for a long list of companies throughout Europe, including Grüne Erde, Ligne Roset and Softline. “The human being is the focus of our ideas every step of the way,” Müller says. “The aim is to make life more pleasing and comfortable. With simple, surprising functions, we extend the scope of the product, adding to the value.”

    Müller studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart and the Royal College of Art in London, Wulff at UdK and the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Berlin and Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design in England.

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  • George Nakashima

    George Nakashima

    U.S.A. (1905–1990)

    It is not uncommon to hear of designers who are inspired by the classics and the master designers responsible for them, but George Nakashima was actually inspired by what he considered “bad” architecture and the builders who tried to incorporate too much into their designs.

    Although Nakashima held several degrees in architecture (including one from MIT) and employed himself as an architect for a period, he still took time to apprentice in Japanese carpentry during an extended stay overseas. When WWII broke out, Nakashima returned to his U.S. roots and set about reestablishing himself. He took an architectural tour along the Pacific Coast and was dismayed by the construction of many celebrated buildings. “They were badly, ignorantly built. The architects were overspecialized and knew nothing about building, like cooks who draw pictures of cakes but cannot make the batter themselves.” The extent of his frustration prompted him to take on a design and construction process more in the realm of his control, thus he turned to furniture.

    At each turn of his life – some positive, some altogether tragic – carpentry was presented as a valued craft and livelihood. From his birthplace deep in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula to the Japanese internment camp where he was mentored by an elder Japanese woodworker, Nakashima’s aesthetic is a direct result of his exposure to the wood and people who regarded carpentry as a noble art form.

    The tree as an artist’s resource was of utmost importance to Nakashima, who described felling as akin to cutting diamonds. From the appearance of Nakashima’s finished pieces, one can almost imagine him wielding his bare hands to shape the wood. He preferred, and was highly sensitive to, the distinctive nature of walnut, ash and cherry. And he would intentionally choose wood that might have been rejected by other woodworkers for its imperfections. Those imperfections were to become his beauty marks.

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  • George Nelson

    George Nelson

    U.S.A. (1908–1986)

    Possessing one of the most inventive minds of the 20th century, George Nelson was the rare person who can envision what isn’t there yet. Nelson described his creative abilities as a series of “zaps” – flashes of inspiration and clarity that he turned into innovative design ideas.

    One such “zap” came in 1942, when Nelson conceived the first-ever pedestrian shopping mall – now a ubiquitous feature of our architectural landscape – detailed in his “Grass on Main Street” article. Soon after, he pioneered the concept of built-in storage with the storage wall, a system of storage units that rested on slatted platform benches. The first modular storage system ever, it was showcased in Life magazine and caused an immediate sensation in the furniture industry.

    In 1945, Nelson became director of design at Herman Miller, a position he held until 1972. While there, he recruited other seminal modern designers, including Charles Eames and Isamu Noguchi. Nelson also developed his own designs, including his trademark benches, lamps and clocks, as well as the first L-shaped desk, a precursor to the present-day workstation.

    Nelson felt that designers must be “aware of the consequences of their actions on people and society and thus cultivate a broad base of knowledge and understanding.” He was an early environmentalist, one of the first designers to take an interest in new communications technology and a powerful writer and teacher. Perhaps influenced by his friend Buckminster Fuller, Nelson had the ultimate goal as a designer “to do much more with much less.”

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  • Royce Nelson

    Royce Nelson

    U.S.A. (1969)

    It used to be that all Royce Nelson needed was a skateboard and an empty swimming pool, and life was good. A sponsored pool skateboarder for two decades, Nelson and his stunts lit up the pages of Thrasher and Concussion magazines, among others. He stayed stationary long enough, however, to earn a degree in Industrial Design from California College of the Arts in 1994. Nelson finds inspiration for new products in everything he sees, from classic cars, architecture, nature, anatomy and sports to the neighborhoods all over his native San Francisco Bay Area. “Design, like skateboarding, is about creating fluid lines with balance and power,” he says. Although now a father of two, Nelson’s passion for play hasn’t diminished, and for the past 15 years he has developed toys and designed furniture for all ages. More recently, he’s branched out into designing outdoor furniture, housewares and accessories with the same clean, uncluttered aesthetic he applies to his extreme sport. Still not one to pass up a dry swimming pool, this designer reminds himself not to take it all too seriously: “Life, art and design are meant for fun.”

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  • Richard Neutra

    Richard Neutra

    AUSTRIA (1892–1970)

    Born in Vienna, Austria, Richard Neutra immigrated to the United States in 1923, where he became an undisputed master of midcentury-modern architecture. Intimately attuned to the environment, he created his unique indoor-outdoor living spaces as a corrective to the chaotic reality of modern urban life. His intention was to “place man in relationship with nature; that’s where he developed and where he feels most at home.”

    After fighting in World War I, Neutra and his wife Dione relocated from Austria to Germany, where he worked with architect Erich Mendelsohn. The couple then moved to the Midwestern U.S., where Neutra briefly worked under Frank Lloyd Wright before his friend and colleague Rudolph Schindler lured him to Los Angeles in 1925. Southern California’s dramatic coastal, desert and mountain landscape, combined with the urban sophistication of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, was an ideal canvas for Neutra’s brand of modernism. His buildings offered a bright and minimal respite from the demands of urban living. “Our environment is often chaotic, irritating, inhibitive and disorienting,” he said. “It is not generally designed at all, but amounts to a cacophonous, visually discordant accretion of accidental events, sometimes euphemized as ‘urban development’ and ‘economic progress.’ ”

    Neutra designed scores of residences and office buildings throughout his career, mostly in the United States, cementing his reputation as one of the pioneers of California modernism. The Lovell House (also known as the Health House), built in 1929 for naturopathic doctor Philip Lovell, was among his first masterpieces and brought him much acclaim. Other notable buildings include the 1959 Singleton House in Bel Air, Calif., later purchased and restored by Vidal Sassoon. The Chuey House, in Los Angeles, was built in 1956 for poet Josephine Ain and her husband, painter Robert Chuey. Ain wrote to Neutra: “You are an alchemist who has transmuted earth, house and sky into a single enchantment. I can only hope that I can in some measure grow up to the wholeness and balance embodied here.”

    Unfortunately, not all these historic buildings remain. The von Sternberg house in the San Fernando Valley was built in 1935 for movie director Josef von Sternberg and included a decorative moat – allegedly a favorite feature of photographer Julius Shulman – as well as a double-height living area and a high curvilinear wall around the front patio. The architectural marvel, later owned by novelist Ayn Rand, was demolished in 1971 to make way for condominiums. Neutra began collaborating with his son, Dion Neutra, in the 1960s, and Dion has continued to dedicate himself to the preservation of his father’s legacy. The Kaufmann House, built in 1946 in Palm Springs, Calif., enjoyed a restoration in the 1990s by Marmol Radziner. Through, Dion continues to work toward the preservation and stewardship of Neutra-designed buildings.

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  • Marc Newson

    Marc Newson

    AUSTRALIA (1963)

    Marc Newson is a former silversmith and self-taught architect and designer from Australia, known as a maverick in contemporary design. A book dedicated to his work, Marc Newson (Booth-Clibborn, 1999), details his design process; he has also appeared in numerous European and American magazines such as Blueprint, Domus and Time. His honors include a 1999 George Nelson Design Award for innovative design and pieces at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Paris’ Musée Des Arts Décoratifs, London’s Design Museum and Berlin’s Vitra Museum. His designs are widespread – one may relax in a Newson-designed Embryo Chair (Cappellini, 1999) while drinking from a Newson glass (Iittala, 1999). Other projects include an automobile, restaurants, a private jet interior, a bicycle, a drain stopper, a toilet-roll holder, a bottle opener, coat hangers and watches. No job is too large or too mundane for Newson, whose interest in designing stems from a desire to learn how things work.

    Newson’s immense popularity may be attributed to the fact that he has kept in touch with contemporary culture through traveling and working in cities around the world. After working in Australia, Tokyo and Paris, he opened an office in London in 1997, where he works for clients including Alessi, Apple, Swatch, Vitra, Flos and B&B Italia. He designed all elements in the tangerine-and-white Ford 021C concept car, from upholstery to pivoting driver’s seat to single headlight. Newson paid attention to the details and tried to build it the way he would a watch. The result was a uniquely coherent, streamlined vehicle.

    Since designing Lockheed Lounge (1986-88) – a chaise made of riveted aluminum that owes its shape to a sculpted foam prototype – his palette of materials has softened a bit to include felt, wicker, Neoprene, polyurethane and wood. A form to which Newson returns again and again is a loosely defined hourglass shape – notably his Orgone Chair. It is no wonder his work has been characterized as sensuous with a tendency toward the obscene. Some critics who witnessed his rapid ascent in the trendy world of design questioned whether his work is truly avant-garde or merely fashionable. Lucy Bullivant, who interviewed Newson for Domus, set the record straight when she wrote: “Marc Newson’s romantic media image is of an ageless surfer, a designer bracketed in with the audacity of the space age, but it’s prone to be a typecasting identity that overlooks the sheer incisiveness of his grasp of the human, material and technological possibilities of design.... Everything that comes his way... gets thoroughly scrutinized and reconstituted, a deep process achieving perceptually light and unhindered results.”

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  • Isamu Noguchi

    Isamu Noguchi

    U.S.A. (1904–1988)

    Perhaps more than any other midcentury master, Isamu Noguchi blurred the lines between public and personal, between art and design. His career was defined by experimenting, learning and creating. “You can find out how to do something and then do it,” he said, “or do something and then find out what you did.”

    Born in Los Angeles to an American mother and Japanese father, Noguchi lived in Japan until the age of 13. While later studying pre-med at Columbia University, he took night classes in sculpture and found his true calling. “Everything is sculpture,” he asserted. “Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.” In 1927, he left for Paris to study with sculptor Constantin Brâncuși, which led him to embrace modernism and abstraction.

    In and out of New York in the ’30s, Noguchi began to make a name for himself, partially through the diversity of his endeavors. “To limit yourself to a particular style may make you an expert of that particular viewpoint or school,” he said, “but I do not wish to belong to any school; I am always learning, always discovering.” In 1935, Noguchi began a lifelong collaboration with choreographer Martha Graham. He designed sets for her, for choreographers Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins and George Balanchine and for composer John Cage. After working with muralist Diego Rivera in Mexico City, he also became inspired by and known for large public sculptures, the first of which was commissioned by the Associated Press in 1938.

    All along, Noguchi was careful not to limit himself to one discipline. With a deep and abiding connection to Japan and its culture and to friends and collaborators in addition to Graham – including Buckminster Fuller, Louis Kahn and George Nelson – Noguchi kept his work and inspiration diverse and eclectic. In 1947, he began working for Herman Miller. His trademark glass-topped Noguchi Table, introduced the following year, remains in production today.

    A few years before his death in 1988, Noguchi opened the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in Long Island City, New York. Now known as the Noguchi Museum, it continues to be devoted to the preservation and interpretation of its founder’s work.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Norm Architects

    Norm Architects


    Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen focuses on shape and tactility. Kasper Rønn concentrates on technology and inventions. Together they are Norm Architects, founded with the aim of blending their complementary interests to produce furniture and architecture in keeping with the Scandinavian “norms” of simplicity, gracefulness, craftsmanship and timelessness.

    “Kasper is very much into the technical part of it, and I am very much into the aesthetical part of it,” says Bjerre-Poulsen. “But in reality, we assist each other in all aspects of the design process.” They also share a passion for finding that exact point where nothing can be added or taken away to make a product better.

    Based in Copenhagen, Rønn and Bjerre-Poulsen work as architects on commercial and residential projects and as designers on a wide range of products including dinnerware, kitchenware, lighting fixtures and even jewelry. Whatever the pursuit, they pride themselves on celebrating their culture and history and aspire to create new norms of Nordic design.

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  • Norway Says

    Norway Says


    Espen Voll, Torbjørn Anderssen and Andreas Engesvik began working together in 2000 and established Norway Says in 2002, after collaborating on several successful international exhibitions. With a portfolio of work that includes textiles, objects and furniture, among other things, the three men believe that “young Nordic designers are ‘born’ global but at the same time have a strong cultural heritage.” This, they say, is the reason there is so much inspiring work being created by young Scandinavian designers. When asked about their design philosophy, Norway Says is mute on the subject, but they explain their I’m Boo Carafe as “using a simple language to express a complex idea.” In 2007, the trio won the prestigious Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize, awarded by a jury who followed the designers’ work for a year and a half.

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  • Note Design Studio

    Note Design Studio

    Note Design Studio, a Stockholm-based multidisciplinary collective founded in 2008, emphasizes collaboration, with the studio’s product design, interior design, architecture, graphics and strategy team members bringing individual strengths to its Scandinavian-accented work. Note takes its name from what it aims to achieve: to take note and to get noted. With that in mind, the designers approach each project by identifying what is unique about it. The resulting design highlights that uniqueness while pushing boundaries, responding to new demands and elevating overall context.

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  • Roberto Palomba

    Roberto Palomba

    Both architects and designers, Roberto Palomba and Ludovica Serafini founded Palomba Serafini Associati in 1994, based in Milan. As partners, they have developed numerous architectural projects, designed sets for theater and film, created costumes and prepared cultural exhibitions such as Abitare il Tempo a Verona. Palomba and Serafini were selected in 1997 for the exhibition “under 35” organized by ADI and participated in the Fashion Design show, a part of the Pitti Uomo exhibition.

    In addition, the designers have taken part in the New York show Face, Galleria del design Italiano organized by Arbitare magazine in 1998. At present, they collaborate as designers for some of the world’s most respected design-driven companies: All Glass, Bosa, Cera Flaminia, Brabantia, Crassevig, Foscarini, Prandina and MOAB 80.

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  • Verner Panton

    Verner Panton

    DENMARK (1926–1998)

    Even if Verner Panton’s creative output were reduced to only the eponymous Panton Chair, he would still be considered a master of modern design. With that chair, the first single-formed injection-molded plastic seat, he created one of the most daring designs of the 20th century.

    Born on the island of Funen in Denmark, Panton studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. After graduating in 1951, he began an apprenticeship with Arne Jacobsen, assigned to assist the master on the iconic Ant™ Chair. Although influenced by Jacobsen’s organic modern approach, Panton first established himself at the forefront of the avant-garde with furniture based on extravagant geometric forms and use of strong colors, as seen in his Cone Chair (1958). Along with the Panton Chair – which was designed in 1960 but not produced until 1967 due to its technical challenges – Panton’s early work cemented his reputation as an original and uncompromising designer.

    Working with manufacturers such as Fritz Hansen, Louis Poulsen and Vitra, Panton fearlessly pushed technology to its limits and produced design icons including the Flowerpot Lamp and the Pantower. It was not the design of singular objects, however, that interested Panton. Rather, it was the development of complementary groups of furnishings, the design of entire spaces, that set Panton apart. Drawing on his architectural background, Panton designed groundbreaking domestic living spaces, fusing floors, walls, furniture, lighting and textiles into wholly original and integrated interiors. Marked by Panton’s characteristic geometric shapes and intense colors, which were on the cutting edge of emerging psychedelic sensibilities, these spaces both typified his approach and sealed his legacy.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Pablo Pardo

    Pablo Pardo

    VENEZUELA (1962)

    In the mid-1990s, a lamp by Pablo Pardo began appearing in hip restaurants in San Francisco and New York. Composed of a teardrop-shaped, cast aluminum body and a sandblasted shade, the Sophie Lamp turned an ordinary tabletop into a dreamscape for intimate conversations. Venezuelan-born Pardo comes from a family of designers, and his work is deceptively simple, often made from no more than a couple of materials, beautifully crafted and devoid of superfluous details. Once in use, however, his lamps take on a new character that is more experiential than simply visual. It is the experience rather than the look of an object that Pardo seeks in his designs.

    Trained as an industrial designer, Pardo cut his design teeth at DaimlerChrysler and Toylab (a San Diego–based toy consultancy) before opening his own studio in 1993. Since his first acclaimed designs, such as the Sophie Lamp and the Piccola Lamp, a witty leather beanbag of a table lamp that leans and sways like a drunken boxer (and the winner of ID Magazine Annual Review), Pardo’s designs have increased in technical sophistication without losing their pure form and poetic effects. His IO Task Lamp, for instance, is on par with the best Italian lighting yet retains the wit and personality often lacking in contemporary design. “My goal is not to design another beautiful object,” Pardo states. “It’s about challenging how we see things.” Pardo’s designs shed new light on how we view our world.

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  • Stefan Patte

    Stefan Patte

    GERMANY (1963)

    “Nothing is nicer than open space.” –Stefan Patte

    After training as a locksmith, German designer Stefan Patte set his inquisitive sights on product design, creating lamps and furniture at barely 20 years of age. After moving from Münster to Munich, he began exhibiting his work at the Munich Interior Design Fair, with many of his designs centered on hi-fi and TV storage. Patte’s first big success, the SOLITAER rack, comprising glass shelves set in a diamond ring-inspired bezel hold, was patented in 1992. A few years later, his focus had widened to include solar furniture, resulting in SolArt, co-created with partner Denise Slapansky. The SolArt series was included in the 1996 International Design Yearbook and, that same year, selected for an exhibition entitled “Consciously Simple,” which traveled around the world until 2005. Working with the theory that “furniture should not take space but create space,” Patte and his company have continued to develop high-quality, ingenious furniture and accessories with the likes of his Corner Me CD Rack, Patte Doormat and collection of mobile trolleys. His latest project returns to the diamond concept – adorning a collection of furniture with light-catching Swarovski crystals.

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  • Xavier Pauchard

    Xavier Pauchard

    FRANCE (1880–1948)

    Xavier Pauchard was born in the thickly wooded Morvan region of Burgundy, France, and began his career as a roofer and zinc worker, like his father and grandfather before him. It’s ironic that a young man who grew up surrounded by innumerable pine forests in an area with a thriving timber industry would go on to become the first manufacturer of galvanized steel domestic goods in France. Or, perhaps his upbringing is what inspired his interest in other materials. Either way, what cannot be debated is the enduring mark Pauchard made on French seating.

    The galvanization process that Pauchard brought to France involves taking iron or steel and dipping it in molten zinc to create an incredibly durable outer layer that is almost entirely impervious to degradation. In 1927, Pauchard trademarked the name Tolix and expanded his product line of small household items to include chairs, stools and tables. “One cannot describe Pauchard as an architect, designer or artist,” says French art historian Serge Lemoine, “for he was none of these; he was simply a manufacturer, one who made practical items that would sell. And it is therein that lies the talent of these pioneers: They were able to listen to the market, and to respond to it.”

    Still the most enduring of Pauchard’s designs is the A Chair (now the Marais A Chair), which, along with his Fauteuil C (Armchair C), embarked on the SS Normandie in 1935, ultimately crossing the Atlantic 132 times on the ill-fated liner. Though the ship was not a commercial success – it was taken over by the U.S. to be converted into a naval vessel and later burned in New York Harbor in an alleged mob boss sabotage – the Normandie was considered the vanguard of technology, style and sophistication when first built.

    After Pauchard’s death in 1948, his sons took over Tolix and continued to create the same hand-built quality seating to their father’s specifications. The company stayed in the family until 2004, when Chantal Andriot took over, reviving and expanding the brand.

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  • Jorge Pensi

    Jorge Pensi

    ARGENTINA (1946)

    Until the 1970s Spain did not play a large role in the narrative of 20th-century design. However, a renewed sense of vitality and freedom blossomed following the death of Franco, and in the city of Barcelona a new Spanish design movement emerged that would soon be recognized internationally. Many of Barcelona’s regional designers made reference to the style of Antoni Gaudi, as well as to the avant-garde heritage of painter Joan Miro. Others developed a more individual, modern and universally appealing style. Two of the most prominent of these architects and designers were Javier Mariscal and Jorge Pensi.

    Jorge Pensi studied architecture in Buenos Aires. In 1977, he joined Alberto Lievore, Oriol Pibernat and Norberto Chaves in founding the design consultancy Grupo Berenguer. That same year, Pensi acquired Spanish citizenship and established a second design office with Lievore in Barcelona. The Barcelona studio designed exhibition stands for Perobell and the SIDI group in 1984.

    During the 1980s Pensi was prolific in producing new designs for lighting and furniture and became widely known for his fluid, elegant chair designs. His cast-aluminum Toledo Chair won numerous prizes in Europe, including the First Award Selection from SIDI, Silver Delta Awards from the Associazione del Disegno Industriale and a Design-Auswal 90 Award from the Stuttgart Design Center. Pensi’s Orfilia chair, designed for Thonet, and his Olympia lamp for B. Lux came to exemplify Spanish design during this decade.

    In 1994, Pensi designed the exhibition Salon Internacionale de Diseno para el Habitat. One of Spain’s leading designers today, Pensi has worked internationally as a design consultant and created furniture for a wide range of manufacturers. His work for Kron, one of the finest furniture manufacturers in the United States, includes the dramatic Pensi Lounge Chair and Couch.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Charlotte Perriand

    Charlotte Perriand

    FRANCE (1903–1999)

    In 1927, at the age of 24, Charlotte Perriand designed a rooftop bar for the Salon d’Automne that drew the attention of Le Corbusier. Upon seeing the anodized aluminum and chromed steel furniture that Perriand had designed for the bar, the famed Corbusier invited Perriand to join the Le Corbusier studio.

    For the next 10 years, Perriand participated in the designs issued from the Le Corbusier studio, including the first tubular steel designs for systematized furnishings known as “Equipement intérieur de l’habitation” (1928–1929). Hard-edged and severely functional, the collection reflected strict ideas about moral and physical fitness. The best known of this group is the LC4 Chaise Longue. Perriand also collaborated with Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in the design of the LC2 and LC3 Collections (1928), which epitomize the International Style.

    Perriand and Jeanneret again collaborated in founding the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM), where she began to exhibit under her own name in 1931. In 1940, together with Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé and Georges Blanchon, Perriand established an architectural office for the design of prefabricated aluminum buildings. Over the next three decades, Perriand continued to design buildings, interiors and furniture, notably a prototype kitchen for Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, the London office for Air France and conference rooms for the United Nations in Geneva.

    Perriand also produced craft-based designs, such as the diminutive Synthese des Arts Chair (1955), and collaborated with artist Fernand Léger. She is one of the most remarkable figures in the development of modernist design.

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  • Gaetano Pesce

    Gaetano Pesce

    ITALY (1939)

    “I strive to seek new materials that fit into the logic of construction, while performing services appropriate to real needs.” –Gaetano Pesce

    Gaetano Pesce is principal of the New York City-based international architecture and design firm Pesce Ltd., which undertakes diverse commissions in architecture, urban planning, interior and exhibition design, industrial design and publishing. In more than 30 years of practice, Pesce has conceived public and private projects in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Asia, from residences to gardens and corporate offices. Pesce’s extensive body of work, recognized for its emotive and tactile qualities, unrestrained use of color and insistence upon innovative building materials developed through new technologies, was described by prominent architecture critic Herbert Muschamp as “the architectural equivalent of a brainstorm.”

    Born in La Spezia, Italy, in 1939, Pesce was trained at the University of Venice Faculty of Architecture. He has lived and worked in New York since 1980; previously, he resided in Paris for 15 years, which directly influenced the internationalism of his approach. Pesce has served as a visiting lecturer and professor at many prestigious institutions in America and abroad, including the Cooper Union in New York. He is currently a faculty member at the Institut d’Architecture et d’Etudes Urbaines in Strasbourg. His work has been the subject of numerous publications and exhibitions, and in 1996 he was honored with both a comprehensive career retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the publication of the seminal volume Gaetano Pesce: Le temps des questions. Pesce was the recipient of the influential Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design in 1993.

    On the subject of his work, Pesce has said: “For the past 30 years, I have been trying to give architecture back its capacity to be ‘useful,’ by quoting recognizable, figurative images commonly associated with street life and popular culture, and by generating new typologies. I strive to seek new materials that fit into the logic of construction, while performing services appropriate to real needs. Architecture of the recent past has mostly produced cold, anonymous, monolithic, antiseptic, standardized results that are uninspiring. I have tried to communicate feelings of surprise, discovery, optimism, stimulation and originality.”

    Pesce is closely linked with innovative clients such as B&B Italia, Cassina and Vitra International, and he has created a home design collection called Open Sky. His architectural work, which can be seen across the globe, includes the Organic Building in Osaka; the Gallery Mourmans in Knokke-le-Zoute in Belgium; and the Ruth Shuman residence in New York City.

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  • Eric Pfeiffer

    Eric Pfeiffer

    U.S.A. (1969)

    Industrial designer Eric Pfeiffer was his own first client. When he was in eighth grade, he wanted a snowboard he didn’t have the money to buy, so he designed and made one himself, in the process undertaking what he calls his “first experiments in molding plywood.” Growing up among a family of artists, builders and contractors, Pfeiffer “was taught at a very early age to make things and shown how to solve problems through building and shaping the environment around you.” Pfeiffer went on to earn a bachelor’s in landscape architecture from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and attended graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design. “I definitely knew I wanted to be a furniture designer,” he says. “The path has been a challenge at times, with twists, turns and fun along the way.”

    By 2000, Pfeiffer was vice president of design for Offi, overseeing product design, development and innovation, and in 2005 he moved on to found Pfeiffer Lab, his own Oakland-based design studio. Through Pfeiffer Lab, Pfeiffer and his team create what he deems “essential objects” – products that serve everyday needs well while also being elegantly designed, materially conscious and timeless, ranging from furniture to toys, tools and tabletop items. One of those essential objects is the Mag Table (1999), a multifunctional molded-plywood piece that works as a side table, laptop stand or stool, depending on how it’s positioned. Says Pfeiffer, “Our studio is very focused on addressing the evolving challenges of the workplace,” while at the same time working “to create closer connections between where things are made and the people who use them.” Pfeiffer has worked on products and projects with Burton Snowboards, Gap, Google, Loll Design, Steelcase, OXO and Williams Sonoma.

    Pfeiffer’s design philosophy, defined as “a reductive approach that creates essential forms driven by utility,” is also reflected in the midcentury Oakland home he shares with his family, a showcase for utilitarian design, as well as a platform for personal expression. Alongside select iconic pieces, including an Eames Lounge Chair and Eames “surfboard table,” sit some of his own designs. He maintains a workshop on the property, where he comes up with prototypes that often make their way into the house to be test-driven by the family.

    In contrast to Pfeiffer Lab, described as “strictly a product design business in which we design and develop items for a range of brands,” the collective Corral was created by Pfeiffer with industry partners “to produce finished goods designed by myself and a range of collaborators, offering an outlet to put products directly into the market and to help emerging designers realize new ideas.” Corral extends Pfeiffer’s design ethos of wrapping together utility and beauty and executing with honest materials, resulting in a collection of everyday objects by U.S. designers that have a uniquely American aesthetic, which continues to evolve.

    Pfeiffer’s reverence for plywood has only grown since he made that first snowboard, and in 2003 he co-authored Bent Ply: The Art of Plywood Furniture, about the history of bent plywood in modern furniture design. Four of his pieces are in the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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  • Warren Platner

    Warren Platner

    U.S.A. (1919–2006)

    Of the furniture and interior designers who began to make their talents visible in the 1960s, Warren Platner was among the less flamboyant. Nevertheless, he earned for himself an international reputation for elegant understatement, and the steel wire furniture he designed for Knoll has become an icon of ’60s modernism.

    Born in Baltimore in 1919, Platner studied architecture at Cornell University and, following graduation in 1941, worked in the offices of legendary designers Eero Saarinen and I.M. Pei. He opened his own New Haven office in 1967, which quickly became a significant design studio, creating furniture, lighting and textiles, as well as residential and commercial interiors.

    Modernism became more expressive during the 1960s, reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural values. In Platner’s words, “I felt there was room for the kind of decorative, gentle, graceful design that appeared in a period style like Louis XV.” To pursue that concept, he focused on the design possibilities of steel wire and ultimately arrived at a collection of chairs, ottomans and tables that rest on a sculptural base of nickel-plated steel rods. Introduced by Knoll in 1966, the Platner Collection has been in continuous production ever since.

    Platner’s architectural background enabled him to experiment in a number of design areas. Working in the office of architect Kevin Roche, Platner won acclaim for the interior design of the Ford Foundation headquarters (1967), using a muted color scheme to create warmth within the soaring steel, granite and glass building. Also notable was his design of the Georg Jensen Design Center (1968), a showroom for high-end Scandinavian furniture and lighting. Platner’s interior design for the glamorous Windows on the World restaurant in New York (1976) captured the public’s notice perhaps more than any other project. Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic of The New York Times, described the lush interior, with its subdued pastels, fabric-covered walls and brass railings, as an example of “sensuous modernism.”

    Platner also designed the interiors for Water Tower Place (1976), a vertical shopping mall in Chicago, and in 1986, directed interior renovation of the Pan Am Building lobby for its new owner, MetLife. While still active in his firm, Platner Associates, he died in 2006 at the age of 86.

    Warren Platner received the Rome Prize in architecture in 1955 and in 1985 was inducted into Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame.

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  • Jan Plecháč and Henry Wielgus

    Jan Plecháč and Henry Wielgus

    CZECH REPUBLIC (1984) (1982)

    After meeting and collaborating at the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design in Prague, Jan Plecháč and Henry Wielgus founded their eponymous studio in 2012 with a goal of “transcending the barriers between art, architecture and design.”

    Growing up in Prague, both were certain at early ages of their future paths: Plecháč to be a designer, Wielgus a painter. “A friend of our family was a designer at Porsche in Germany,” Plecháč says, “And he influenced me a lot.”

    At age 2, Wielgus wanted to follow in his late father’s footsteps. “To everyone, it was told,” he recalls, “that I am a painter already.” But then he became interested in architecture. “I preferred to work with some shapes, you know, not just the flat painting.” Plecháč, meanwhile, headed in a similar direction.

    The Academy of Art provided a path for each to satisfy broadening visions with a multidisciplinary program in architecture and design. Their work since reflects how they embraced that diverse approach in their design of commercial interiors and exhibitions, along with furniture, lighting, storage systems and accessories for the likes of Cappellini, Lasvit, Luminaire and Menu – always with a flair for whimsy and fresh thinking.

    In their first work together, for instance, they found a starting place in Prague’s Estates Theatre, a world-renowned opera house from the late 1700s and source of Czech pride. In just 10 days, they developed the idea to take the profile of the theater’s spectacular chandelier and spin it 360 degrees into a hollow glass pendant.

    Extending that idea to other landmark opera houses from New York to Moscow, they created the Neverending Glory Collection. “We try to take a piece of this special glory in these opera houses, the special soul or shine, and take it to your home,” Wielgus says.

    Among their many other achievements, the designers have won awards including Czech designer of the year in the 2014 Elle Deco International Design Awards; best lighting in 2013, also from Elle Deco; and runner-up designer of the year in the 2013 Czech Grand Design Awards. They have exhibited widely in Europe since the studio founding, including nearly every year at Salone del Mobile.

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  • Jacob Plejdrup

    Jacob Plejdrup

    DENMARK (1972)

    Jacob Plejdrup grew up in a true furniture family. “My grandparents had a very, very normal furniture factory,” he says. “No Eames, no Saarinen, no Jacobsen. Just real basic, very good, solid wood furniture.” Plejdrup recalls “running around these piles of pinewood and just loving the smell of it” as a boy of 6. Years later, he had an inkling of his eventual path back to those piles of wood, but it would follow a circuitous route.

    He spent his first two years of primary school in England, where his father had moved the family for a job, then returned to Denmark for college at the International Business College in Kolding. After that, he went on to Germany and finally to Switzerland, where he lived for 15 years while running his own business as a sales rep for Danish furniture companies. By the time he was 34, Plejdrup had spent half his life outside Denmark but was fluent in Danish, German and English, the last of which he speaks with a decidedly British accent.

    “I helped some Danish brands in product development – also for the sake of my own country – and I found out I was pretty good at it. I thought, maybe I should do it for myself instead of for somebody else.” Returning to Denmark, he founded dk3 in 2009 with the goal of making a few licensed classics along with new, sometimes groundbreaking designs using classic Danish woodworking practices.

    Having served as an apprentice woodworker after college, Plejdrup (pronounced PLY-drup) now works alongside other craftsmen in dk3’s carpentry shop, which dates to 1857. “The difference between me and a lot of people educated as designers at an architect school is they will be working with product design on a daily basis, where I’m very, very much self-made, self-taught, and I work from what I feel in my gut, so to speak.”

    One of his most visceral products was the Tree Table, whose rustic top is fashioned from two thick, wide planks with knots and defects typically visible but filled in, a departure from Danish refinement. “Our carpenters almost needed psychological help when we said to them, ‘You’re going to use whole planks,’ because that was against everything they were taught. Hans Wegner would kill me if he saw that table, probably, and say, ‘You’re not going to put my Wishbone Chair next to that table,’ which everybody is doing – classic Danish with my table – it’s kind of a contrast.”

    Plejdrup says everything his company does is something “we do for ourselves. We’ve never sat down at dk3 and said, ‘What does the market require from us?’ We do stuff that we really like.”

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  • Plodes® Studio

    Plodes® Studio

    U.S.A. (FOUNDED 2005)

    John Paul Plauché and Roya Plauché launched Plodes Studio in 2005, having met while studying architecture at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston. After Roya went on to study at Columbia University and John set out to explore product design ideas, they focused Plodes at the intersection of art, industrial design and architecture.

    John, a native of Texas, and Roya, of Iran, draw on their diverse origins for inspiration. “For both of us,” Roya says, “the stories of our childhood and culture become a layer in our design ideology, playing a role in the background as we sketch new ideas. The architecture we grew up with, the products we encountered, family, education and the environments we have lived in all have affected the way we design together.”

    Most of their products and furniture are designed in their Texas studio. “Our concepts,” John says, “sometimes present themselves from the most obscure inspirations or flash of thought. From there we curate, reinterpret and coax them out with rigorous process to distill them down to a balanced purity.”

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  • Charles Pollock

    Charles Pollock

    U.S.A. (1930–2013)

    Charles Pollock is best known for the Pollock Executive Chair, which was introduced in 1963 and remains one of the most recognizable and successful office chairs ever. It became an instant sensation upon release, at a time when many corporate offices began to reflect a sleek, modern aesthetic. The chair is ingeniously constructed with an aluminum rim that structurally and visually unifies the tufted seat and back.

    Born in Philadelphia, Pollock moved as a teen with his family to Detroit, where he was exposed to art and design at Cass Technical High School. He went on to receive a full scholarship to the Pratt Institute in New York and studied sketching and model making. While visiting Pratt one day, designer George Nelson saw a sculpture of Pollock’s that he admired. Pollock later gave Nelson the sculpture as a gift – a portent of exciting things to come.

    Pollock eventually took a job working for Nelson in New York and contributed to the development of the Swag Leg Collection, which became known for its innovative use of tubular steel legs after being introduced by Herman Miller in 1958. Building on the success of Swag, Pollock struck out on his own to open a studio in Brooklyn. Two years later, Florence Knoll discovered his designs and began paying Pollock a small monthly salary, which he put toward rent and product development. The Pollock Executive Chair came as a result of that relationship with Knoll.

    After the 1960s, Pollock disappeared from the forefront of American furniture design, spending time in Europe sculpting and painting. He was thrust back into the limelight in 2012 with the introduction of his CP Lounge Chair, which he designed after being wooed by Jerry Helling of Bernhardt Design.

    That same year, at the age of 81, he talked to The New York Times about his philosophy of designing chairs. “When you have a chair,” he said, “it’s like a sculpture of a person. It’s alive. It’s big. You can’t miss it. It’s a ‘look at me!’ item.” Pollock’s work is exhibited in museums throughout the world, where it undoubtedly calls out to viewers, “Look at me!”

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  • Bertjan Pot

    Bertjan Pot

    NETHERLANDS (1975)

    Dutch designer Bertjan Pot graduated from the Man and Identity department at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It was there that he discovered his passion for textiles. Graduation project: a knitted lamp.

    Pot teamed up with school friend Daniel White, operating under the name of The Monkey Boys, and when the two parted in 2003, he opened Studio Bertjan Pot in Rotterdam.

    Designing furniture, lighting and other home products, Pot emphasizes materials, which he sees as a critical but often overlooked element of the design process. Most of his projects are based in experimentation – starting small, playing with a material or technique, following a curiosity about how something might work, or might look.

    In the manufacturing stage, Pot continues to experiment, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in production and functionality. He’s attracted to the idea of creating products that become part of a home’s story, open to interpretation.

    In 2010, Pot’s willingness to let his materials take the lead resulted in his first mask. Stitching ropes together to make a carpet, he realized the form was becoming curved and held it up to his face. In Pot’s parlance, the material wanted to be a mask. The Masks series has been exhibited at the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, Netherlands.

    Material experimentation is also evident in Pot’s Random Light and Heracleum Pendant. Heracleum is included in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

    Pot’s work can also be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and MoMA in New York.

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  • Gio Ponti

    Gio Ponti

    ITALY (1891–1979)

    In a career that spanned 60 years, Gio Ponti – architect, designer, journalist, teacher, painter and poet – showed that factory-made goods could pulse with personality and proved that art and industry could coexist.

    Ponti produced startling work at every scale, from household objects to large buildings. As the young artistic director at the Manifattura Ceramica Richard-Ginori in Milan, he applied neoclassical motifs to ceramic bowls and plates, creating a fresh look in everyday objects. As founder and longtime editor of Domus magazine, he encouraged the overlap of art and architecture. And as an architect, he built “typical houses” that looked fairly conventional on the outside but were inventive on the inside, with flexible spaces and modular furniture.

    “Industry is the style of the 20th century, its mode of creation,” said Ponti. In the 1930s he celebrated modern industry with large architecture projects such as the Mathematics Department at Rome University and the Milan headquarters of Montecatini. In the 1940s he designed numerous pieces of Murano glass, created stage sets and costumes for La Scala in Milan and developed the La Pavoni coffee machine. His 1953 Distex Armchair and 1957 Superleggera Chair became classics of the period. And in 1956, he designed the Pirelli Tower, a love song to the future.

    Throughout his designs and his writings, Ponti shared infectious enthusiasm for the possibilities of architecture. “Love architecture,” he wrote in In Praise of Architecture. “Love it for its fantastic, adventurous and solemn creations; for its inventions; for the abstract, allusive and figurative forms that enchant our spirits and enrapture our thoughts. Love architecture, the stage and support of our lives.”

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  • Jean Prouvé

    Jean Prouvé

    FRANCE (1901–1984)

    As the critical reassessment of 20th-century design continues, no greater rediscovery has been made than the work of French engineer-designer Jean Prouvé. “Never design anything that cannot be made,” Prouvé once said. He betrayed his training as an engineer with a practical body of work ranging from letter openers and doorknobs to furniture and buildings.

    Prouvé was born into an artistic family in Nancy, France; his father, Victor Prouvé, collaborated with the great art nouveau artists Emile Gallé and Louis Majorelle as a ceramicist. Prouvé himself was trained as a metalsmith before attending engineering school in Nancy, and his intimate knowledge of metal remained the foundation of his work and career. After opening his own workshop in 1923, Prouvé began producing modern metal furniture of his own design as well as collaborating with some of the best-known French designers of the day, including Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand. His shelving units for the dormitories at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, designed with Perriand and the artist Sonia Delaunay in 1952, are perhaps the best-known examples of his collaborative work.

    Prouvé always regarded himself as more of an engineer, or “constructor,” than a designer. He never designed for the sake of form alone, concentrating instead on the essence of materials, connections and production. Prouvé strove for the most constructionally and materially efficient designs, with such classic end results as the Standard Chair of 1934 and the Antony Chair of 1954. Utilizing his innovative method of folding sheet metal, Prouvé designed a series of tables that have the perceived lightness of bridges and the presence of architecture. In the mid 1950s, Prouvé was forced to abandon furniture production and began devoting his time to the challenges of prefabricated architecture. His own house, which he designed as a prototype, is now considered a major development in prefab housing.

    Even though Prouvé has long been an influential force among designers, especially constructionally minded architects such as Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, and his vintage designs have been sought after for years by connoisseurs and museums, his work has remained relatively unknown to the general design public. Recently, however, the esteemed Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra reintroduced a series of classic Prouvé designs, shedding light once again on one of the greatest designers of the 20th century.

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  • Andrée Putman

    Andrée Putman

    FRANCE (1925–2013)

    It would not detract from her keen originality to call designer Andrée Putman the Coco Chanel of interior design. As Chanel did with clothing, Putman liberated French interior design from its proper, stuffy roots with her unmistakable vision of elegance, clarity and wit. Born in Paris, Putman enjoyed a budding career in music before becoming a journalist for prominent French interior design magazines. It was not long before her own individual style ushered Putman into the design limelight, and in 1978 she opened her first design studio, Ecart. In addition to producing interiors and stores for some of French fashion’s biggest names (Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Azzedine Alaia, to name a few), Ecart also reissued furniture by then-obscure designers from the early part of the 20th century.

    Putman was singularly responsible for the revival of now-venerated names of design such as Jean-Michel Frank, Eileen Gray and Mariano Fortuny by reproducing some of their best work. Putman continued to win the world over by designing interiors from Tokyo to New York, where her work for Ian Schrager at The Morgans Hotel launched the genre of designer hotels. In 1997 Putman opened a new design studio under her own name and continued to expand her product line to include furniture, accessories and interiors, as well as exhibitions, a line of perfume and the redesign of the Concorde interior. Justifiably called the “Grand Dame of Modernism,” Putman’s career spanned several decades, largely impacting the design field with her quintessentially French style, that is in turn, quintessentially Putman.

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  • Jeremy Pyles

    Jeremy Pyles

    U.S.A. (1970)

    Jeremy Pyles didn’t set out to become a lighting designer. In 2003, Pyles and then-partner Mary Welch were renovating a former bodega in NYC’s East Village to open a homewares store. When they couldn’t find lighting for the space that met their admittedly high standards, Jeremy designed a fixture himself, got it made with the help of a glassblower they’d spotted selling vases out of his truck in SoHo and found himself “thrilled with the process.” Recalling those original glass pendants, Pyles says, “People would come in the store all the time and ask about them. We never intended to sell them – they were just experiments suspended from the ceiling.” And with that, Niche Modern was born.

    Pyles, the creative director and CEO of Niche, earned a bachelor’s in fine arts from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied photography and design but was most passionate about art. He then headed to Japan, intending to save money to attend grad school, with a fine arts career in mind. An unplanned but successful foray into the software business tapped a “love of entrepreneurialism and the realization that if you have a good idea, believe in it and work hard, you can make anything happen.”

    As he remembers, “I had never pursued industrial design per se, but all things design were in my blood, so while the idea of taking a lighting product to market hadn’t occurred to me, it didn’t intimidate me either.” He designed the Stamen Pendant in 2004, and the next year he brought his collection of colorful blown-glass lighting to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, having just two short months to design and manufacture 10 more prototypes, along with pulling together everything else required to launch a company – from catalog to online retail store to business cards. “We had absolutely no idea what we were doing, but we pulled it off. The ICFF show put us on the map, and the orders started rolling in. We didn’t know anything about manufacturing, electrical, distribution or pricing. It kind of makes me laugh when I look back and think about it.” By 2008, Niche Modern had moved to Beacon, New York, a small artcentric town about an hour north of the city.

    The Niche mantra – “made, not manufactured” – came about more by happenstance than design. “We didn’t set out to do things this way,” says Pyles, “but when we started we couldn’t find any factory to produce the work – the orders were too small, the demand not yet there. Everyone said it was impossible. We ended up getting connected with a few glassblowers in Brooklyn who felt confident they could consistently produce our work. It was so boutique manufacturing, and we hadn’t yet moved to using wood or steel molds to improve shape and consistency. The idea of ‘made, not manufactured’ is that each piece is lovingly made by real humans. Our pieces are still made with that same process and ethos. It is integral to what we do.”

    Since 2011, the company has been housed in a 20,000-square-foot former bronze foundry in Beacon, keeping the business – from glassblowing studio to warehouse to marketing and sales offices – under one roof. In 2013, Niche introduced their tabletop collection, comprising an expanded line of glassware, including vases and votive candleholders.

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  • Q

  • Jens Quistgaard

    Jens Quistgaard

    DENMARK (1919–2008)

    With the introduction of his first products in the 1950s, industrial designer Jens Quistgaard was instrumental in bringing Danish Modern to midcentury American homes, and in the process, he transformed the way we look at housewares.

    Quistgaard was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark; his father, a sculptor, offered early design training. As a child, Quistgaard made his own toys from wood scraps, and after receiving a blacksmith forge and an anvil at age 14, he began making jewelry and knives. He went on to study at a technical school in Copenhagen and apprenticed with the renowned Danish silversmith Georg Jensen. During World War II, he worked with the Danish Resistance.

    By the early 1950s, Quistgaard had developed a line of hand-forged flatware called Fjord. Designed in stainless steel with teak handles, it was considered a daringly modern mingling of materials at the time. When American entrepreneur Ted Nierenberg saw Fjord displayed at the Danish Museum of Art and Design, he expressed interest in producing it on a large scale. Despite Quistgaard’s initial reluctance – he was certain his pieces could be produced only by hand – he agreed, and by 1954 Dansk International Designs had been established, making Fjord flatware and other products available to post-war Americans hungry for anything Danish Modern.

    The trend in residential architecture at the time was toward more open floor plans, including combined kitchens and dining rooms, which created a market for visually appealing cookware and tableware. Quistgaard was the right man for the time, seeing the potential for beauty in everyday household items. Elegant, well-made goods accessible to the average homemaker, his products bridged the gap between mere function and high design.

    He saw a place for enameled steel in cookware, elevating the lowbrow material to something considered polished enough to sit on dining tables. His now-iconic Kobenstyle line of vividly colored enameled steel pots and pans was released by Dansk in 1956. Dansk also produced Quistgaard’s sculptural teak pepper mill, an innovative design that combined a salt shaker on top and a pepper grinder on the bottom. Each was stamped with his initials, JHQ (sometimes IHQ, based on the Danish pronunciation of “Jens”).

    Quistgaard designed thousands of products during his time with Dansk, where he remained the principal creative force through the mid-1980s. Many classic Quistgaard pieces are considered collector’s items today, and his work is featured in the permanent collections of both MoMA and The Met in New York, as well as The Louvre in Paris.

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  • Karim Rashid

    Karim Rashid

    EGYPT (1960)

    “What I am trying to do is use furniture as a medium to talk a little more evanescently about the qualities of the digital age.” –Karim Rashid

    Karim Rashid believes in a holistic approach to design, in which the sum of the parts can be more beautiful than the parts themselves. On a more mundane level, well-designed objects can add beauty and reflect the lives of those who use them.

    Trained as a designer in Ottawa and Milan under the tutelage of Ettore Sottsass and Gaetano Pesce, Rashid creates soft and fluid biomorphic forms that convey his desire to actualize the contemporary zeitgeist of virtual reality and underground music culture. This former DJ stretches the limits of modern materials such as plastics, foams and synthetic fabrics to form his design vision for such diverse companies as Idee in Tokyo, Umbra and Nambe. His design for a wastebasket for Umbra is one of the most successful industrial products of recent years, and it inspired Rashid’s “Oh Chair,” which has equal global appeal.

    For Rashid, there is no distinction between high and low design; he is equally at ease, whether designing for mass-production companies or creating packaging and products for Japanese fashion innovator Issey Miyake. In the end, according to Rashid, the goal of his designs is always the same: to provide a quality experience to the users of the objects.

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  • Resident


    Founded 2011 (Auckland, New Zealand)

    Scott Bridgens and Simon James share a love of New Zealand design. James established Auckland-based Simon James Design in 1998 to distribute his own furniture and make compatible international brands available in New Zealand. Meanwhile, Bridgens worked in the U.K. as operations manager for Tom Dixon. Together, they founded Resident to bring New Zealand-designed and -manufactured furniture and lighting to the global market.

    Creative director James and managing director Bridgens met when Bridgens returned from the U.K. and strolled into James’ office in Auckland. They quickly realized they had the same vision: a design studio with an export focus. Whereas James had struggled on his own with the business side of exporting New Zealand designs, Bridgens used his experience with logistics to fill the gap. Their intention was always holistic and international, an approach Bridgens knew well from his time with Dixon. For his part, James learned from experience that designers and manufacturers work best together by maintaining autonomy, which is why Simon James Design has been outsourcing production to specialty manufacturers since its inception. Resident was set up similarly: Its headquarters and Simon James Design remain in Auckland, third-party manufacturing facilities are tapped across New Zealand and Europe, and a distribution center in the U.K. allows them to compete with European manufacturers on delivery times.

    All the while, Simon James Design has continued to feature furniture, lighting, homewares, jewelry, clothing and accessories in two retail showrooms in Auckland, offering both the company’s own work and that of a design collective. Pieces are marked by common materiality, clean-lined aesthetics and visible craftsmanship, combined with functionality and longevity.

    When launching Resident in 2011, Bridgens and James pulled items from Simon James Design that had done well at home, then approached a handful of designers whose work they admired, asking them to come up with pieces especially for Resident. The result is a line of products that the two deem “iconic, practical and dependable.” They now collaborate with multiple designers, all New Zealanders based in various parts of the world, including artists and even architects, who influence products to work in both residential and commercial spaces. A curated aesthetic is maintained by sticking with those who speak their language – emphasizing bold materials, simplicity, practicality and attention to detail, stressing endurance over trends.

    Under the Resident umbrella is Resident Studio, the brand’s own design team, creating what Bridgens and James call value-adding furniture and lighting. Working with diverse materials – steel, aluminum, brass, glass and ceramic, currently – Resident’s lighting collections include the Geometric Tri LED Pendant (2013) and the Geometric Hex LED Pendant (2013), the latter the recipient of Top Honors in the Home NZ Magazine Furniture and Lighting Design Awards the year of its creation. Resident exhibits at many international shows, including the Milan Furniture Fair, London Design Festival and New York Design Week.

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  • Ron Rezek

    Ron Rezek

    U.S.A. (1946)

    If all design practitioners were as ambitious as Ron Rezek, the innovation, quality and function present in daily life would increase by leaps and bounds. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Rezek spent his early career teaching in the school’s art and architecture departments, as well as at Art Center College of Design and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. In addition to his professorate, Rezek has been designing products for various markets for nearly 40 years, including a lifeguard rescue float in 1969 that is used around the world – and seen on the classic 1990s TV show Baywatch. After working for designer Deborah Sussman and architect Frank Gehry, Rezek started Ron Rezek Lighting in 1978 with the goal of modernizing the decorative lighting industry. Co-owned with Artemide, Ron Rezek Lighting produces state-of-the-art lighting that reflects the designer’s philosophy of “simplicity in form and economy in production.” Rezek was also responsible in 1990 for opening the first Highlights showroom, which is now a national retail “gallery of lights featuring the best modern designs.”

    Rezek’s penchant for sleek, modern and energy-efficient forms led in turn to The Modern Fan Company – another successful business that has since filled the gap left by traditional, Victorian-minded ceiling fans. Since 1997, Modern Fan – a charter member of EPA’s Energy Star Program and the first to produce ceiling fans that incorporate fluorescent lighting, upward lighting and low-voltage lighting – has made available 12 sophisticated ceiling fans that have virtually defined the genre’s 21st-century aesthetic. By minimizing components, and maximizing efficiency and economy of production, Rezek has originated a patented single-piece rotor for his fans. The rotor has accomplished the two things that didn’t previously seem possible in ceiling fan design: making installation easier and diminishing the proverbial wobble. Rezek’s leadership in the design of lighting and ceiling fans has expanded the two product areas beyond the realm of pure function to relevant, design-conscious expression.

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  • Rich Brilliant Willing

    Rich Brilliant Willing

    U.S.A. (FOUNDED 2007)

    “A lot of people refer to us as a band,” Theo Richardson told Architectural Digest in 2011. “To say our work represents three distinct voices singing in harmony sounds cheesy, but it’s actually not a bad analogy.... Everything we make ends up representing a shared vision.” Richardson shares that vision with Charles Brill and Alexander Williams, and together they make up Rich Brilliant Willing (RBW).

    The three friends and collaborators met at the Rhode Island School of Design, and they worked together to launch RBW in Manhattan in 2007. Starting out specializing in creative lighting designs, the trio has expanded its repertoire to include furniture, barware and, in 2008, something called Green Cell – a standardized rechargeable battery that would streamline gadget charging. Accolades have also flowed from the beginning for these eminent stars of the design world, as they were named among the “Top 40” designers by I.D. magazine back in 2009. More recent honors include the 2011 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) “Best New Designer” award and inclusion in the 2011 Forbes magazine “30 under 30” list for art and design. They’ve collaborated on products for the likes of Artecnica, Areaware, Urban Outfitters and Design Within Reach. For lighting designers Rich Brilliant Willing, the future is certainly bright.

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  • Jens Risom

    Jens Risom

    DENMARK (1916–2016)

    Jens Risom is widely considered to be a pioneer in introducing Danish modern furniture to the United States through early work with the Knoll company and to a greater extent through his own company, which thrived in the 1950s and ’60s.

    Risom emigrated from Denmark to the States in 1939 seeking an opportunity in furniture design but found that to be elusive. At 23, he had already attended business school, studied at Copenhagen’s School for Arts and Crafts and designed furniture for Kaare Klint and architect Ernst Kuhn.

    His U.S. breakthrough came when he met Hans Knoll, a German immigrant whose family had been in the furniture trade back home. Knoll knew sales but not design, so he and Risom made a balanced team. Their first task was to tour the country to survey the landscape, visit with architects and generally assess the potential market for a line of modern furniture.

    The result was Knoll’s first catalog, which contained a majority of furniture designed by Risom. Among his enduring pieces from that era is the Risom Lounge Chair, marked by distinctive and much-copied webbing made from surplus parachute straps, one of the few materials available during the scarcity of World War II. The chair is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

    Risom himself was drafted into the Army and served in the war under Gen. George Patton. Upon his return to the civilian world, he founded his own company, Jens Risom Design, on May 1, 1946, which he ran for 25 years. Throughout his life, Risom stayed true to the fundamental Danish approach to modernism, with its emphasis on traditional values and the human need for warmth, beauty and simplicity.

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  • Alberto Rivera

    Alberto Rivera

    U.S.A. (1959)

    Architect and designer Alberto Rivera believes that design is “90 percent common sense and 10 percent aesthetics.” His approach to design is simple and clear, but with an opportunity to be playful through his use of color. This is evident in the work he’s done as architect for Design Within Reach’s Studios, as well as in his first line of consumer furniture, the 9.2.5 Collection, launched by DWR in Spring 2006.

    “Since an early age, I was more interested in expressing ideas through drawings than through words. I have always been interested in figuring out how things are built and assembled,” says Rivera. This tendency compelled Rivera to earn a B.A. in architecture from UC Berkeley, followed by a year at the Architectural Association in London and a master’s degree in architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Rivera worked as the in-house designer for San Francisco-based retailer Esprit, then in Barcelona for Pepe Cortes. In 1994, he launched his own studio, Rivera Design, renaming it Dax Studio in 1999. A multidisciplinary design firm, Dax specializes in retail spaces, and its work spans the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Rim. His clients include Adidas, United Colors of Benetton, Dolce & Gabbana, Naartjie and Frette. Living and working in Los Angeles, Rivera is inspired by simple objects that possess tactile and compositional beauty.

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  • Martin Roberts

    Martin Roberts

    ENGLAND (1943)

    Whether designing furniture or retail environments, Martin Roberts brings a passion for discovery to everything he does. After earning degrees in industrial design engineering and design systems, Roberts went to work for Conran’s Habitat in London, where he created collections of innovative furniture and household items. It wasn’t long before his work was available in more than 26 countries, a success Roberts credits to how he works outward from the core to better interpret and identify a project’s essence. After more than a decade in London, Roberts moved to Chicago, where he started his own design company specializing in product design. He later became a partner in a company that helped define and launch corporate brands, and in 1990, Roberts founded GRID2 International, a specialized design firm that incorporates scientific methodology to inform and enrich design. In 2000, Roberts launched a furniture design company with his son and daughter.

    Possessing a unique blend of product design, retail psychology and branding expertise, Roberts is a frequent lecturer and has served as an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design in New York. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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  • Randy Rollner

    Randy Rollner

    U.S.A. (1971)

    “It’s all in the details,” says Randy Rollner, in part referring to his team of true craftsmen with artisan sensibilities – whose medium happens to be industrial metal.

    With his grandfather an architect and his mother an art dealer, Rollner grew up surrounded by design. “Thanks to my mother I was exposed to art at a very young age. Sculpting and painting were something I always did, and I idolized Calder and Serra. Then I started working with metal in high school.”

    When he was just 18, Rollner met artist and designer Sy Ross and custom motorcycle builder Lawrence “Indian Larry” DeSmedt and began welding and fabricating metal in their Brooklyn studio. “Back then custom bikes were nothing like the big business it is today. To pay the bills we all fabricated furniture and architectural elements. Sy was very creative and sculptural with his work, which had an organic feel. Some pieces defied what you could do with metal. Both Sy and Larry were my mentors. Without them I would know nothing.”

    Rollner went on to study industrial design at Parsons School of Design in New York, and in 2007 he founded Planterworx, a line of modern landscape products – planters, planting beds and retaining walls – with the clean, balanced lines one might associate with modern architecture. “Planterworx was born out of doing architectural metal fabrication. I prefer having a connection to the outdoors, and I was asked to do more and more outdoor metalwork. There seemed to be a real need for designer outdoor products.” Planterworx’s materials are suitably functional and weatherproof: Corten steel, stainless steel and powder-coated aluminum. Something else that’s in the details: Rollner is committed to sustainability, using a high percentage of recycled and recyclable materials in his products, including the Arena and Thornton Planters (2011). All design and manufacturing for Planterworx began and remains in Brooklyn, and Rollner’s designs have been included at NYC’s High Line elevated park and the United Nations complex.

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  • Francesco Rota

    Francesco Rota

    ITALY (1966)

    Francesco Rota was born in Milan, where he still lives, works and finds inspiration. In Rota’s family, design was always present. “My mom was a professor of fashion design at Istituto Marangoni and was always working on her designs at home. My grandfather was an engineer and had a company producing electronic items. Therefore the notions of aesthetics and functionality have been following me since I was a child.”

    An understanding of how things work in combination with innate creativity attracted Rota to product design, which he studied at Art Center College of Design in La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, graduating in 1994. After a bit of traveling, he realized Milan was the right place for his own business. At Francesca Rota Studio, founded in 1998, he works on product design, furniture, lighting, residential interiors, showrooms and offices, with clients including Arketipo, Fiat, Knoll, L’Oreal Paris, Nestlé, Daimler AG and Martini & Rossi. The studio’s eclectic portfolio includes ticket machines for parking garages, boat interiors, housewares and costume jewelry.

    Rota’s furniture combines nods to iconic designs with simplicity and basic functionality. “Most of the designs I work on are aimed at meeting a specific market need or answering to a particular social behavior, always striving simultaneously to achieve great comfort and a visually pleasing appearance.” Firmly in the “visually pleasing” column is Rota’s Jey Table (2016), comprising a solid marble base, a steel stem and, ticking the “functionality” box, a tabletop made of Fenix laminate, an ultra-durable self-healing material.

    Rota taught industrial design for a time at Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Milan. “Teaching offered an incredible opportunity to be in constant contact with young creatives. The interaction with students provided surprising new perspectives on what our eyes are already used to.” Since 2013, he’s been the creative director for Italian furniture manufacturer Lapalma, where he’s discovered that he enjoys the view from the other side of the business. “It permits me to understand the complete process and helps me as a designer to work with more attention to clients’ needs.”

    His work has been included in exhibitions including the Milan Triennial, and in 2012 he took part in a more experimental exhibit, Copper Trilogy, at the Milan showroom of copper manufacturer KME. Rota was asked to create a design in copper to illustrate the design potential of the metal. His set of hexagonal copper nesting trays in various states of oxidation grew out of his interest in working with materials that change with time.

    Inspiration for Rota comes from various passions and curiosities, including the seaside in Liguria, where he spent time as a child and where he still sails and windsurfs, and vintage boats, cars and motorbikes (he owns nine). “I find value in everything that’s created with great attention to detail and that has the potential to surprise or delight in some way.” Throughout, a thread in Rota’s designs has been timelessness. “I search for form, function and value by applying innovative materials and production processes that can make the products last a long time. Therefore my work is never subject to trends.”

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  • David Rowland

    David Rowland

    U.S.A. (1924–2010)

    David Rowland studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia and Eero Saarinen attended school. Early in his career, Rowland trained with both László Moholy-Nagy, the great Bauhaus émigré, and Norman Bel Geddes, the innovative American designer who streamlined industrial design and its production process. This unique combination of sophisticated European avant-garde modern design and American technical know-how allowed Rowland to create some of the most unique and comfortable seating produced.

    After opening his own office in 1954, Rowland pursued numerous experiments in minimal seating with the goal of accommodating large numbers of people. These exercises culminated with the much-lauded 40/4 Chair, designed in 1963 and awarded the grand prize at the prestigious Milan Triennale the next year. Designed as a solution for flexible, stackable seating and executed with a graphic sleekness, the chairs can be stacked 40-high in a four-foot-high space.

    David Rowland went on to design numerous other chairs that satisfy the rigorous demands of mass production while retaining a high level of design sophistication, but the 40/4 chair has not been surpassed, by Rowland or others.

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  • Eero Saarinen

    Eero Saarinen

    FINLAND (1910–1961)

    “The purpose of architecture is to shelter and enhance man’s life on earth and to fulfill his belief in the nobility of his existence,” said Eero Saarinen in 1959. Saarinen’s architectural legacy communicates this sentiment of giddy potential and unfettered optimism in post-war America. Iconic projects like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport Terminal and the Kresge Auditorium on MIT’s campus express his groundbreaking brand of midcentury modernism.

    Born in Finland to famed architect Eliel Saarinen and textile designer Loja Saarinen, Eero immigrated with his family to the United States in 1923. Settling in Michigan, Eliel co-founded the Cranbrook Academy of Art and designed most of the buildings for the campus – now a National Historic Landmark – while the young Eero worked alongside his father as a student apprentice. It was at Cranbrook that Eero met Charles Eames, beginning their lifelong collaboration.

    In 1934, Saarinen graduated from the School of Architecture at Yale University. As his career flourished, he was criticized for changing his style depending on his client’s needs and desires. The architect, however, saw his clients as “co-creators” and was dedicated to pushing the established boundaries of modernism, what he called the ”measly ABC.” Clients understood this creative potential. After his father’s death in 1950, Saarinen became principal partner of Saarinen & Associates, and the business thrived – landing him on the cover of Time magazine in 1956. Poised at the center of America’s post-war expansion, Saarinen created a visual vocabulary for both corporate and college campuses, including headquarters for John Deere, IBM and CBS, and buildings for Vassar College, MIT and his alma mater, Yale.

    Saarinen didn’t ignore the smaller sculptural pieces needed to furnish his ambitious projects. Though he started designing furniture in his teens, it wasn’t until he and Charles Eames won first prize in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition in 1940 that he was taken seriously as a furniture designer. Though their award-winning molded plywood chairs were never put into production, the acknowledgement launched the careers of both men – Eames going on to work for Herman Miller, while Saarinen partnered with his former Cranbrook associates, Hans and Florence Knoll. His Pedestal Table, Tulip™ Chair, Womb™ Chair and Executive Seating have all become easily recognizable icons of American modernism.

    Saarinen’s illustrious career was cut short with his untimely death in 1961, at age 51, while having surgery for a brain tumor. (Coincidentally, his wife Aline would die from the same affliction, a decade later.) His partners at Saarinen & Associates, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, completed his 10 remaining projects. In 2002, Roche donated Saarinen’s papers and drawings to the Yale University Library, which created a renewed interest in Saarinen’s life and work, including the establishment of Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, an exhibition and archival project dedicated to preserving the midcentury master’s legacy.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Kasper Salto

    Kasper Salto

    DENMARK (1967)

    Growing up in Copenhagen, exposed to Danish masters, Kasper Salto realized “little Denmark had something special in this field of design, especially furniture.” At home, creative influence came from Salto’s mother, an artist, and his father, an architect. In the background was grandfather Axel Salto, a Danish ceramist recognized in the mid-20th century for his use of earthy colors and organic forms, a style ahead of its time. Salto says of Axel, “The modern and also ‘wild’ aspect of his work has been known to me from a young age. He did what he believed in, and I think of him as a great master who invented his own universe.”

    Salto trained as a cabinetmaker in the workshop of Jørgen Wolff, an experience he recalls as “the best thing I have ever done for my professional life. To know the craftsmanship behind your field is essential.” Realizing his interest was in not only making things but also designing them, Salto studied industrial design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design, graduating in 1994 with a master’s in arts.

    After leaving school, Salto worked in the studio of furniture designer Rud Thygesen, where he met Peter Stærk, founder of Botium, manufacturer of Salto’s Runner Chair. Runner was seen at a design exhibition in 1997 by Bjørn Stegger, then design manager of manufacturer Republic of Fritz Hansen, which lead to a fruitful relationship between Salto and Fritz Hansen.

    In 2005, Salto founded Copenhagen-based Salto & Sigsgaard with architect Thomas Sigsgaard, working primarily in furniture and lighting design, as well as interiors. They recognized in each other an opportunity to take on broader projects by balancing their individual strengths: Sigsgaard’s big-picture thinking and Salto’s more detailed-oriented mind. In 2011, the two participated in a Danish Arts Foundation competition for the Trusteeship Council Chamber at U.N. headquarters in New York, designed by architect Finn Juhl in 1951. Channeling the “thoughts and visions of Finn Juhl,” they won the competition and went on to design chairs and tables that now reside in the space, considered an exemplar of Danish architecture. Their Council Chair was also made available commercially.

    As for where he finds inspiration, Salto points first to “a good brief – if the question is good, you have a good chance of giving a good answer to it.” Nature, the original designer, is a touchstone as well: utterly practical, sans superfluous detail and constantly adapting. But the constant, says Salto, is simply hard work, resting on a foundation of research into an identified problem.

    Salto’s Little Friend Table (2005) was sparked by, of all things, a Disney cartoon character. The “Little Helper” was a humanoid robot with a lightbulb for a head. Little Friend is portable, with a built-in handle, meant to be paired with stationary seating or a bed, and fitted with an off-center pedestal base that allows it to be pulled in close for working. In other words, problem solved.

    When he has the time, Salto prefers working with full-scale 3-D prototypes rather than drawings, feeling that “it gives the most exact feeling of the final product.” And that fits nicely with his design philosophy: “Make something very relevant for this world that is so functional and well made that it can last for a long time.” A recipient of the Finn Juhl Prize and the Danish Design Award, Salto became a member of the Danish Design Council in 2015.

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  • Tom Sandonato

    Tom Sandonato

    U.S.A. (1954)

    From a converted schoolhouse to factory lofts and even a teepee, Tom Sandonato served as his own test subject for discovering what it means to live off the grid. He readily sought out alternative living spaces from the moment he was old enough to move out of his childhood home in Paterson, New Jersey; those experiments in habitation would come in handy in the years to come.

    After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree, Sandonato moved to New York, where he apprenticed for an artists’ collective in SoHo. He moved on to designing merchandise installations for Robinsons-May, a division of Macy’s. This hands-on experience in the field opened the door to an executive-level stint in visual merchandising, culminating in being named VP of store design and planning at Warner Brothers.

    While looking for alternatives to traditional building on the desert terrain of his property in California’s Joshua Tree, Sandonato became convinced there was a way to construct a simple structure that would tread lightly on the earth. Frustrated by what the marketplace had to offer, Sandonato and his design partner Martin Wehmann decided to design their own prefab solution to meet a more conscious need for green design. Thus, in January 2007, Kithaus was born. Beyond Kithaus’ obvious use as an eco-friendly remote work or living space, Sandonato is looking ahead to more progressive applications and methods of architectural fabrication.

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  • Richard Sapper

    Richard Sapper

    GERMANY (1932–2015)

    The Tizio Desk Lamp has probably made an appearance on the desks of more architects and designers than any other object since the lead pencil. Richard Sapper, its designer, provided a model for product design that combines the rational approach and technical sophistication of his German homeland with Italian flair and originality. After receiving an engineering degree from the University of Munich, Sapper began work for Mercedes-Benz and then moved to Italy to work in the design studio of Alberto Rosselli and Gio Ponti.

    In 1959, he received a Compasso d’Oro for his Static Table Clock, subsequently collaborated with Marco Zanuso and finally opened his own design office in Stuttgart in 1970. He continued, however, to team with Zanuso, and together they produced a number of notable products, including a plastic child’s chair for Kartell that doubled as a construction toy. They also created the highly styled Doney television for Brionvega, a sewing machine for Necchi and the Grillo folding telephone. These products represented state-of-the-art technology, elegantly housed and designed to convey function with a visual clarity that was eloquently modern.

    The Tizio Lamp, created for Artemide in 1972, was matte black, minimal in form and operated in a completely new way, being equipped with an inner balancing mechanism that allowed users to alter its position by the lightest touch of the hand. It won the Compasso d’Oro in 1979. In 1980, Sapper became a consultant for IBM and is credited with the design of the ThinkPad laptop in 1992.

    He lent postmodern inflections to his high-tech style to create designs for Alessi, including the 9090 espresso maker and the 9091 teakettle, which features a two-note whistle in place of the shrill variety found on typical models. Sapper was a versatile designer who could create compelling, solution-oriented designs for the most sophisticated products and also respond to the simpler challenges of everyday objects, such as a set of flatware or a child’s chair.

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  • Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings

    Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings


    Through their Amsterdam-based studio founded in 2000, Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings have gained a worldwide reputation for striking product and furniture design, marked by a sophisticated use of color and pattern and a close collaboration with manufacturers. They struck immediate creative and romantic sparks upon meeting in 1999 and now work together while celebrating their marriage, which came in 2002, as a cornerstone of their partnership.

    “By creating together, the designs get more unique,” Scholten says. “I think it also has to do with the fact that we’re husband and wife. I think that’s the combination which makes our relationship very strong.” Baijings calls it a symbiosis. “As individuals, we never would have been able to make these designs. It really is Scholten & Baijings,” she says, referring to their studio’s name.

    Their projects begin with color exploration, even before any thought is given to shape or function. “To us, color is as important as form,” Baijings says. “We think in color. It is definitely not a choice we make afterward. It’s a way of working almost like an artist or sculptor. We make our own materials, we make our own colors, and we make our own models. By doing so, we get this layering that will, we hope, provide this quality to a product.”

    Model making sets the very foundation of their philosophy. “Instead of going from A to B as quickly as possible in the design process,” Scholten says, “the model helps us find new shapes, new possibilities. If you create a model with your own hands, you see the difficulties and sometimes you see new solutions, which you never could find on paper.”

    Their approach is a departure from that of many fellow Dutch designers, some of whom have gained attention for embracing conceptual design and disregarding manufacturing concerns. Scholten and Baijings (pronounced SKOLE-ten and BYE-ings) instead choose to immerse themselves in production, visiting factories and getting to know workers and methods while gaining insight into their work.

    Scholten is a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Baijings self-taught. They’ve produced tableware, textiles, rugs, lighting and furniture for Herman Miller, HAY, Maharam, Thomas Eyck, Georg Jensen and many others. Their work is held in permanent collections at museums in the U.S. and abroad.

    Material from Phaidon’s Reproducing Scholten & Baijings used with permission.

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  • Richard Schultz

    Richard Schultz

    U.S.A. (1926)

    “With outdoor furniture there is more freedom to be playful because of context. With interiors, form should not be so exuberant because you have a roomful of furniture.”

    For half a century, Richard Schultz has been designing outdoor furniture, first at Knoll, where he assisted Harry Bertoia and developed his own lines, and after 1972 as a freelancer. He later launched his own collection that included his reissued Knoll classics, including the Petal Table and Leisure Line chaise on wheels, plus new designs such as the Café 2000 Chair and Topiary Chair.

    Schultz has always managed to work independently, without clients or assignments, defining his own projects that he then sells to manufacturers for production. What interests him most are materials and techniques. “The challenge,” he said during an interview with DWR, “is creating a beautiful form that works as a chair.” It must be comfortable as well as aesthetically pleasing. He admires basic, irreducible Shaker designs and modern Eames furniture while striving for simplicity in his own work.

    Outdoor furniture, Schultz explained, must also withstand rigorous physical and environmental testing. There is the salt spray test, for example, in which furniture is put into a chamber and alternately sprayed and dried in an effort to simulate the environmental abuse found at the seashore. Such testing standards are often set by the automotive industry, particularly for corrosion. “That’s why we don’t pop things out in a hurry. We don’t want the customer to do the testing.”

    After refurbishing the Leisure Line (reissued in 1992 as the 1966 Collection) with mesh woven from vinyl-coated polyester yarn – making it more durable, less susceptible to ultraviolet damage and easier to clean – Schultz continues his quest for better ways of sitting using textiles that are different from the mesh, webbing and cushions found today. His most recent work also explores anodized and coated aluminum sheet metal, materials that may not be new but are rarely found in outdoor furniture.

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  • Françoise Séjourné

    Françoise Séjourné


    Designer and entrepreneur Françoise Séjourné got an early start on her career. When she was just 4, her mother rearranged her bedroom – furniture to toys. Séjourné remembers, “She asked me if I liked it and I said yes, but when everyone was asleep, I got up and rearranged everything the way I thought it should be. That was the defining moment for me, realizing that you could place objects within your environment to make you feel good. I’ve never looked back.”

    She was precocious, perhaps, but also in tune with her parents’ views on creativity and expression. Séjourné’s mother is a painter, and her father was an electrical engineer at IBM who worked on development of the first mainframe computers. Séjourné was 7 when her father’s job took the family to France, and weekend road trips around Europe provided a backdrop for an education in art and history – from marveling at the Sistine Chapel to collecting lava rocks at Mount Vesuvius. “Both my mother and father ingrained in my brother and me that nothing was beyond our reach and encouraged us to create and to think beyond books.”

    Back home for high school, Séjourné became a track star. Ambivalent about committing to the serious training necessary to pursue sports, she decided to spend a year focused solely on academics to see if she missed the track. Instead, what she missed was art and design. She scrambled to compile a portfolio and was accepted at Rhode Island School of Design, where she earned a bachelor’s in fine arts. It was the right decision, she says. “RISD’s emphasis on foundation, art theory and, most important, learning to think was suited to my personality. I never felt restricted to one area, and I bounced around between fashion, architecture, graphics and industrial design, absorbing anything I could. Eventually, I settled on textiles, as this seemed the best way for me to learn about color.”

    After RISD, things developed organically. “I’ve always seen an opportunity, something that appealed to me, and then made it happen.” Séjourné began painting on silks, and Barney’s picked up her first line. Soon she was traveling all over the world. As she looks back now on her meandering career path, Séjourné describes “a series of sketches to build upon while letting things evolve. To me, that’s what is exciting.” She’s designed shoes for Sam & Libby and clothing for Esprit, where she learned how to steer products from concept to market. “I was inspired working with the factories, making something abstract into something useful and beautiful.” She co-founded Blue Marlin, a vintage sportswear company, designing commemorative baseball caps and apparel, and later applied her knack for predicting color trends to consulting for Gap. Along the way, Séjourné has been inspired by her love of international travel and surfing, the latter reflected in her most recent venture: a line of performance surf wear.

    The idea for her Eazy Bean Everest Chair (2010), Séjourné’s upscale take on the kitschy beanbag, came to her after years of extensive travel, as she wished simply for “a comfortable place to rest.” Shaped like a mountain to offer head and neck support, Eazy Bean has been used in the offices of Uber and Google, among others. It also has the distinction of being the piece that led to the founding of Séjourné Studio, created by Séjourné to bring her multiple endeavors – ceramics, furniture, apparel and interiors – under one umbrella. Throughout her career, a focus on environmental and social conscience has been tied to a love of creating. “To me success is knowing the pleasure people have enjoying what I make.”

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  • Ludovica Serafini

    Ludovica Serafini

    Both architects and designers, Ludovica Serafini and Roberto Palomba founded Palomba Serafini Associati in 1994, based in Milan. As partners, they have developed numerous architectural projects, designed sets for theater and film, created costumes and prepared cultural exhibitions such as Abitare il Tempo a Verona. Palomba and Serafini were selected in 1997 for the exhibition “under 35” organized by ADI and participated in the Fashion Design show, a part of the Pitti Uomo exhibition.

    In addition, the designers have taken part in the New York show Face, Galleria del design Italiano organized by Arbitare magazine in 1998. At present, they collaborate as designers for some of the world’s most respected design-driven companies: All Glass, Bosa, Cera Flaminia, Brabantia, Crassevig, Foscarini, Prandina and MOAB 80.

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  • Shelley Simpson

    Shelley Simpson

    AUSTRALIA (1963)

    Based in Sydney, Australian designer Shelley Simpson studied music and dramatic arts before finding herself seated at the pottery wheel in her roommate’s backyard. It took her two years to muster the courage to approach the pottery shed, but when she finally did, she threw a pot on her first try. Two years later, in 1994, a shortage of sophisticated dinnerware suitable for cosmopolitan settings but simple enough for everyday use prompted Simpson to found Mud Australia. She enlisted friends in Sydney’s restaurant industry to test her pieces, ensuring that the thicknesses and curves were as pleasing to use as they were to the eye.

    Rather than seek out a manufacturer, Simpson differentiated her product from already-available mass-produced ceramics by starting her own factory. Although doing so is labor intensive, she believes her decision to handcraft each piece “accentuates the handmade nature of the items by leaving unique ‘fingerprints’ that don’t compromise the functionality but allow the user an emotional connection that machine-made ceramic can’t replicate.” Today, Simpson continues to expand her porcelain dinnerware by adding new shapes to the collection and experimenting with glazing techniques.

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  • Jens Martin Skibsted

    Jens Martin Skibsted

    DENMARK (1970)

    What do poetry, design and bicycles have in common? Namely, Jens Martin Skibsted – a Danish designer and entrepreneur who has studied philosophy, published a collection of poems and acts as the energetic creative director of Biomega Philosophy Aps, the company behind the Biomega bicycle.

    Grounded in a humanistic Scandinavian design tradition, Skibsted is a visionary who has made an extraordinary impact while still early in his career. At the age of 20, he founded the art association AV-ART and soon became the editor of AV! and Start, with support from the Danish Arts Foundation. In 1994, Skibsted graduated from the French film school ESEC in Paris, followed by studies in philosophy at Copenhagen University and in project management at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2004, he published a poetry collection, Kavesom.

    Skibsted has founded and co-founded a number of companies, among them the bicycle company Biomega, an ethical consultancy called Actics and Skibsted Ideation, which creates “radically new concepts for brand owners.” As an industrial designer, creative consultant and concept developer through Skibsted Ideation, he has worked with some of the world’s leading designers including Marc Newson, Ross Lovegrove and Karim Rashid. He is one of a select group who has worked with Puma, along with the likes of Philippe Starck and the late Alexander McQueen.

    Skibsted’s celebrated Copenhagen bicycle has been displayed and exhibited in numerous museums and exhibitions worldwide, including the Danish Design Centre and Danish Museum for Craft and Design. Wallpaper* magazine chose his Copenhagen bike as the most promising means of urban transport and voted it one of the top Danish design products. In Skibsted’s words, it has become an “instant classic” rather than an “object of fashion.”

    Featured in a host of international design magazines, Skibsted was honored with a place on the I.D. 40, International Design magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world of design. In 2005, he received the I.D. Design Distinction Award for consumer products, and in 2006 his Puma bicycle was acquired for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

    Referring to the Biomega bicycle, Skibsted says, “There are loads of good bikes for specific sports, but few are built just for getting around town.” The bicycle is designed for “urban mobility,” with the intent of “making towns and cities lovelier, beautiful and cleaner places to be.” Beyond creating an object of beauty, “We want to spread the love we put into our bikes to the people who ride them. We believe that a kind of osmosis from the bike to the rider takes place, spreading our feel for quality and originality.”

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  • Paul Smith

    Paul Smith

    U.K. (1946)

    Paul Smith is an internationally revered designer known mostly for fashion but also for lending his signature style to a wide range of items, from textiles and furniture to motorcycles and cars. Considered by many to be the leader in British fashion design of his generation, he was named a Royal Designer for Industry in 1991 and knighted by the queen in 2000.

    Born in Nottingham, England, the son of a draper, Smith was an avid cyclist of 17 aspiring to professional racing when a serious accident changed the course of his life. Later, at a local pub, he met Pauline Denyer, a fashion graduate of the Royal College of Art, who helped him open his first store in 1970 and design some of his early collections before becoming his partner.

    Smith gradually took over design duties himself and showed his first major menswear collection in 1976 in Paris, already bearing his “classic with a twist” flourish, as he termed it. He later expanded into childrenswear, womenswear and fragrances. In 2002, his Mondo collection for Italian furniture maker Cappellini was unveiled at Salone del Mobile in Milan, marking the beginning of many collaborations beyond fashion. “After working with clothes for so many years,” he said, “it was nice to work with hard materials.”

    In 2003, he began what would become a long relationship with Maharam to design textiles, typically bearing his signature stripe pattern. He’s collaborated with several British companies: For Triumph, he restyled the Bonneville motorcycle; for Land Rover, a special edition of the Defender SUV; and for Anglepoise, the Paul Smith Edition of the Type 75 Desk Lamp.

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  • Giorgio Soressi

    Giorgio Soressi

    ITALY (1948)

    Giorgio Soressi recalls drawing at an early age in his family’s home in Cremona, in northern Italy. “I was, I think, 3 years old. Very, very little,” Soressi says. “I began to draw on the floor with white gesso. You know white gesso? And now I paint, also, all over the walls in my studio. I write, I paint, I design on the wall. I like, a lot, going on the wall. Also the floor.”

    Not much has changed. These days, whenever he’s not traveling, Soressi rides his bicycle a mile to his studio in Treviso, just north of Venice, where he not only draws and paints on as many surfaces as he can find but also designs furniture and, most of all, plays guitar.

    “I love, absolutely, music,” he says. “Every moment of my life is music. Everything I see and I think, I report everything in the music. The stars in the sky go around in a melody, the river – everything is music. The color is vibration, is music. When we meet people, we make music.”

    His father was a concert violinist, and there was always music in the house. At 13, Soressi picked up the guitar, and by the time he was 17, he was playing professionally in bars and clubs. Eventually, the requirements of domestic life came calling.

    “At a certain point, there is the wife, there is a little girl,” he says. “I decided to stop going around to play. And so I take my first talent, to design, and I begin to design. I don’t have school. I don’t have any of this. I work.”

    Soressi became a prolific designer, working mostly for Italian clients. The work, besides furniture, covers a diverse range, including lighting, rugs, ceramics and glassware (a particular favorite of his).

    “When I make a thing, all the experience, all my years, all the people I have met, all my music go inside it. If you make a thing without soul, it is nothing. I think everything we make also, if you don’t put something of yourself into it, this thing is nothing.”

    His style leans heavily to the modern but is not bound by it. “To be modern but also with respect for the older, the past,” he says. “This is more or less what I think when I do something. I don’t change the world with a sofa. I go into the world. Why go into the world with stupidity, arrogance, violence? It is better to go into the world with simplicity.”

    An intensely private man, Soressi cannot be found on social media, nor does he have a website. “I stay in my studio to paint, to design, to think, to play. This is my life. It’s nothing particular, but I like this.”

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  • Ettore Sottsass

    Ettore Sottsass

    AUSTRIA (1917–2007)

    It would not be an exaggeration to call Ettore Sottsass the godfather of Italian design. His designs are smart, elegant, always surprising and idiosyncratic, all hallmarks of true Italian design.

    Although born in Austria, Italy became the adopted home for Sottsass and his father, a well-respected architect of the rationalist movement (Sottsass always referred to himself as Ettore Sottsass, Jr., in deference to his father). After architecture school in Milan, Sottsass worked at the office of George Nelson in New York before returning to Italy as a design consultant to the Olivetti company. This appointment produced numerous concepts for adding machines, computers and furniture, culminating with the Olivetti Valentine typewriter (1969) that he designed with Perry King. A cherry-red portable plastic typewriter, it broke away from the office equipment stable. Meant for use in any place but the office, the Valentine supremely embodied Sottsass’ constant challenge to the predictable everyday object.

    As Sottsass moved away from the pure functionalism of his school days, he began to experiment with designs that had explicit social and historical dimensions. Sottsass became an acknowledged leader in the Anti-Design movement, which opposed the “correctness” and “good taste” of functionalism.

    In 1981, Sottsass led a group of designers who were interested in an alternative to the coolly functional designs of the period, exemplified by the matte black electronic box. Memphis, as the group called themselves, exploded riotously with colors and materials the design world had not seen before. Under the aegis of Sottsass, a design movement was born. Memphis’ colorful, multifunctional and ambiguous pieces were designed by a stable of talented designers that included Michele De Lucchi, Andrea Branzi, Michael Graves and Sottsass himself. These designers broke with conventional forms and poked fun at the seriousness of functional objects. Neon, exotic veneers and wildly patterned plastic laminates became signatures of the group.

    Even after the Memphis movement had crested, Sottsass continued to produce provocative work and question the rigid parameters of the functionalist movement. Constantly challenging the status quo with new forms, he reaffirmed the need for design itself.

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  • Erik Spiekermann

    Erik Spiekermann

    GERMANY (1947)

    Professor Erik Spiekermann is an internationally renowned type designer (FF Meta, ITC Officina, FF Info, FF Unit, Nokia Sans, Bosch Sans et al), as well as a prolific writer and creator of wayfinding systems worldwide. “Information designer” is the phrase he feels best expresses his work, which began when he was a teen. “A neighbor was a printer,” explains Spiekermann, “I used to hang out at his shop. When I was 15, I got a small printing press and started messing about with metal type.” He started working as a printer and typesetter while studying art history and English at university.

    In 1979, Spiekermann founded MetaDesign and built it into Europe’s largest design studio, departing in 2001. In 1989 he started FontShop, the first independent mail order distributor for electronic fonts. Until 2014, he ran Edenspiekermann, with offices in Berlin, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Los Angeles (he’s now on the supervisory board), and he now heads up galerie p98a, a letterpress workshop in Berlin.

    Spiekermann’s clients include Bosch, Deutsche Bahn (German Railways), The Economist, Pioneer Investment, Messe Frankfurt, Nokia and Birkhäuser Verlag. He wrote Stop Stealing Sheep: And Find Out How Type Works, with E.M. Ginger. He is an honorary professor at the University of the Arts in Bremen, Germany, and recently received an honorary doctorate from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena.

    When designing new fonts, Spiekermann begins by drawing on paper rather than on screen. “If I design a typeface, I just look if it needs to be thicker or thinner or softer or harder, and that’s so easily done with a pencil. I spend about two days sketching to develop the basic essence of it, and then it becomes technical.” Of the design process, Spiekermann points out that “you don’t actually design the black, you design the white: the space inside it and the space around it.” The reason, he explains, is that we read contrast.

    In 2006 Spiekermann’s system of typefaces for German Railways (designed with Christian Schwartz) was recognized with the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany, the most prestigious award in the country.

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  • Mart Stam

    Mart Stam

    NETHERLANDS (1899–1986)

    Steel tubing, applied to furniture for the home, was one of the most dramatic innovations in 20th-century design, creating a radically new profile for chairs, dining tables, coffee tables and desks. The industrial material also transformed expectations of the domestic environment from one characterized by bulky upholstered chairs and sofas to one of cool, clean simplicity.

    Mart Stam started the revolution. Stam had studied drawing in Amsterdam from 1917 to 1919 and then worked as a draftsman for an architecture practice until 1922. Upon moving to Berlin, he met a number of avant-garde architects and artists, including the Russian constructivist, El Lissitzky. While in Berlin, Stam constructed a prototype of a cantilevered chair made of welded gas pipes and plumber’s elbow joints and took his experimental drawings to a meeting of architects held in Stuttgart to discuss the organization of the Weissenhof Exhibition.

    Stam’s revolutionary concept immediately inspired Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design his own version of the chair; Mies went on to produce an elegant and stylized version of the cantilevered chair in 1927, perfecting his design in 1930 with the Brno Tubular Chair. Marcel Breuer also designed a tubular metal chair, the Wassily, reputedly inspired by his recently purchased Adler bicycle. Breuer continued to pursue this form as the ideal modern chair. Eileen Gray also used tubular steel, combining it with organic materials to offset the cold quality of the metal.

    Stam, a founding member of the Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, also worked as a town planner while he continued to design functional furniture in accordance with his socialist ideals. However, it is Stam’s cantilevered S 33 Chair, with its flexible tubular steel frame and radical new form, that won him a reputation as one of the great designers of the 20th century.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Philippe Starck

    Philippe Starck

    FRANCE (1949)

    School dropout Philippe Starck jump-started his career by designing two nightclub interiors in Paris in the 1970s. The success of the clubs won the attention of then-President François Mitterrand, who asked Starck to refurbish one of the private apartments in the Élysée Palace.

    Two years later, Starck designed the interior of the Café Costes in Paris and was on his way to becoming a design celebrity. In quick succession, he created elegant interiors for the Royalton and Paramount hotels in New York, the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in Los Angeles. He also began to produce chairs, lamps, motorbikes, boats and a line of housewares and kitchen utensils, like his Juicy Salif for Alessi.

    During the 1980s and ’90s Starck continued his prolific creativity. His products have sensual, appealing forms suggestive of character or personal identity, and Starck often conferred upon them clever, poetic or whimsical names (for example, his Rosy Angelis Lamp, the La Marie Chair and playful Prince Aha Stool). Starck’s furniture also often reworks earlier decorative styles. For example, the elegant Dr. No Chair is a traditional club chair made unexpectedly of injection-molded plastic. While the material and form would seem to be contradictions, it is just such paradoxes that make Starck’s work so compelling.

    Starck’s approach to design is subversive, intelligent and always interesting. His objects surprise and delight even as they transgress boundaries and subvert expectations. During the ’90s Starck also began to promote product longevity and stipulate that morality, honesty and objectivity become part of the design process. He has said that the designer’s role is to create more “happiness” with less. One can almost hear echoes of Charles and Ray Eames, who “wanted to make the world a better place.”

    For all his fame and fashionableness, Starck’s work remains a serious and important expression of 20th-century creativity.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Gunta Stölzl

    Gunta Stölzl

    GERMANY (1897–1983)

    Gunta Stölzl spent 12 years at the Bauhaus, beginning in 1919, when she was invited by Walter Gropius to join as a student, and ending in 1931, when she was forced to resign as director of the Weaving Workshop. What made her departure so surprising was that Stölzl’s artistic strengths and technical abilities made her precisely the type of designer the Bauhaus hoped to create.

    Stölzl arrived at the Bauhaus after studying painting at the School of Applied Arts in Munich and spending two years working as a Red Cross nurse behind the front lines during World War I. She’d been drawn to the school after reading Gropius’ prospectus, which spoke of breaking down the barrier between art and craft and promised an environment where women were on equal terms with men. In her preliminary courses, taught by Paul Klee and Johannes Itten, Stölzl displayed a sophisticated understanding of color and abstract composition, but like all the women at Bauhaus at that time, she was encouraged to pursue crafts deemed suitable for the Women’s Department. (The lack of female faculty also pointed to the less-than-ideal circumstances at this “egalitarian community.”) Rather than being frustrated by this, Stölzl saw opportunity in pursuing a subject that didn’t interest the men. Free to make the Weaving Workshop her own, she explored ways to reinvent weaving and, in the process, evolved it from craft to industrial design. In 1922, Stölzl passed her journeyman’s exam and continued to work in the Weaving Workshop. She became the Workshop’s technical director in 1925, and two years later became a senior member of the faculty, making her the first woman to hold this senior position.

    Under her leadership, the Weaving Workshop thrived. Stölzl had an affinity for color and an equal fascination with technical innovation, and the textiles produced by her and her students made the department one of the most commercially lucrative areas of the Bauhaus. It’s ironic that at a time when Stölzl’s work was building the Bauhaus reputation for excellence in design, she would be forced to resign. However, the growing right-wing political climate in Germany was reaching the Bauhaus, and Stölzl had lost her German citizenship when she married Palestinian architect Arieh Sharon in 1929.

    Forced to exile from Germany, the family moved to Zurich, where Stölzl started a private hand-loom weaving business. After several years, Stölzl started another company, producing hand-woven fabrics for upholstery, draperies and wall coverings, as well as knotted and woven rugs. She ran this business for 30 years, until 1967.

    Despite how Stölzl was treated by the Bauhaus in 1931, she remained positive about the experience. In 1968 she wrote, “Even today, I believe that most important of all was life itself. It was brimful with impressions, experiences, encounters and friendships that have lasted over decades.”

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  • Nils and Kajsa Strinning

    Nils and Kajsa Strinning

    SWEDEN (1917–2006) (1922–2017)

    Although little known in the U.S., architects Nils and Kajsa Strinning were pioneers in a design that revolutionized storage systems in homes and offices in their native Sweden and eventually around the world, from the late 1940s well into the 21st century. And it all began with a humble dish-drying rack.

    Studying at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology from 1940 to ’47, Nils fell under the spell of functionalism, which had swept the country in the 1930s, and one of its leading proponents, Eskil Sundahl. Functionalism held that design should emerge solely from the function of an object or structure and that beauty would result naturally from adherence to said function. Participating in a school contest to conceive an artist’s villa, Strinning designed a wall-mounted dish-drying rack made of wire for the villa’s kitchen, an ingenious invention that turned out to be the seed for his life’s work.

    He and his wife sold the design to Arne Lydmar, owner of Elfa, a Swedish engineering company, which put it into production in 1948. Working together, Lydmar and Nils had discovered how to coat the rack’s wire with plastic to help prevent rust, which led to the Elfa “Diskhylla,” a sensation all over Sweden. The next step would turn out to be an even bigger success for the Strinnings with further impact.

    In 1949, the Bonnier Folk Library announced a competition to design a bookshelf that would be affordable and easy to ship, assemble and install. The couple had been working on a bookshelf prototype using the plastic-coated wire from the Elfa project, Nils providing the inspiration and Kajsa meticulously working out the design details. The key idea came suddenly to Nils one day to use a pair of coated-wire “ladders” fastened to the wall and connected to each other by tiers of wooden shelves – a departure from shelving supported by brackets extending from the wall. Out of 194 global entries, their design was chosen. A year later, Elfa began manufacturing String Shelving, whose other key feature was expandability, and Bonniers took over in 1952, forming String Design AB. Elfa went on to become a world-renowned maker of storage systems in its own right and still operates today.

    In 1951, the Strinnings established their own architectural firm in Stockholm, and then in 1959, intending to take a one-year sabbatical, moved to Lausanne, Switzerland. They were soon back to work and branching out to design furniture for companies that included Casala, Thonet and Deutsche String, which had been set up to provide shelving to the German market. Their work included furniture using coated wire along with conventional wood and upholstery, kitchenware, household goods and even textiles. The couple divorced in 1978, and Kajsa moved back to their former home outside Stockholm, where Nils returned in 1990 after the death of his second wife.

    Awarded a gold medal at the Milan Triennial in 1954, discontinued in 1971 and revived in 2005 – 50 years after its splashy debut at the Helsingborg Exhibition in Sweden and a year before Nils’ death, just in time for him to appreciate and participate in its rebirth – String continues to enjoy remarkable longevity.

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  • Studio 7.5

    Studio 7.5


    Studio 7.5 operates with few rules. In fact, there’s just one rule: “Join lunch,” says Carola Zwick, one of the partners of the company, which is based in Berlin. “Lunch is special. It’s eating and chatting and getting everybody on the same page. And that’s every day. It’s really the only structure we have in the office.” When she says that, she’s not exaggerating. Studio 7.5, established in 1992, operates as a completely flat company of one woman and two men without a managerial hierarchy. The three partners make all the decisions in concert, including those on product design. “For us at 7.5,” says Burkhard Schmitz, another partner, “we have redefined design as a team sport.”

    Aside from the daily lunch, they may spend time apart working on individual projects, yet they remain connected. “Even if we don’t talk to each other,” Schmitz says, “we anticipate what the others will say; I’m always thinking about the others when I’m working at something.” Partner Roland Zwick, Carola’s brother, credits their work relationship to how well they all know each other. “It’s just the blind way we trust each other,” he says.

    One important ideal they share is attention to the smallest of details, or what they call EMC – every molecule counts. “If you ask specifically for what terms we use,” explained partner Claudia Plikat prior to her death in 2013, “there is one German word: It’s called einfach – simple, but not too simple.” It’s the concept of always being on a mission to boil things down to their essence. “We don’t expect anybody to read instruction manuals.”

    Case in point is the Mirra Task Chair. Ten years after designing Mirra, the team decided to revisit the chair to see how it could be improved. The final product, reintroduced as Mirra 2, featured upgrades throughout while using 25 percent less material. Studio 7.5 even designed the manufacturing process for Mirra 2 to more closely integrate it with the design, resulting in a spry form that yields to the occupant. “A chair,” Plikat explained, “actually should act like your own shadow: It should be there, it should be supporting you, but it should not bother you. And it should never interfere with your natural way to move.” Mirra 2 is a reflection of Studio 7.5’s mission, which is focused on the workplace. “We’re not making furniture,” Plikat said. “We’re making equipment.” Her spirit is still very much a part of the ethic at Studio 7.5.

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  • Bill Stumpf

    Bill Stumpf

    U.S.A. (1936–2006)

    What does jazz have to do with design? Everything, according to Bill Stumpf, who once said that he liked to collaborate with other designers the way a jazz trio improvises, playing together with no fixed destination. The approach requires complete attention, and you have to trust your instincts. Design should make room for spontaneity and discovery, said Stumpf, “blending the pleasure and pain of life into something wonderful.”

    Stumpf trained at the University of Illinois and then studied environmental design at the University of Wisconsin. Soon after, he was commissioned by Herman Miller to design an office chair to be sold alongside the Action Office II workstation. The resulting Ergon Chair was one of the first chairs whose design was based on ergonomics – the way people sit. In 1994, Stumpf and Don Chadwick co-designed the revolutionary Aeron Chair for Herman Miller, earning themselves and the chair a place in the permanent design collection of New York’s MoMA.

    Stumpf was a skillful innovator and something of a philosopher who envisioned a world where design serves civility. And yet, when he looked around, he saw design that too often “denies the human spirit” and “architecture that acknowledges money and not people.”

    He addressed those issues in his book, The Ice Palace That Melted Away: Restoring Civility and Other Lost Virtues to Everyday Life. Civility, according to Stumpf, “is the something extra – comfort, hidden goodness, personal worth, helping others, play – the joy we take in our achievements and the compassion we show toward our all-too-human faults.” His work is certainly evidence of those concerns.

    In his work for Herman Miller, as Stumpf transformed the company’s approach to problem solving and research, he also had profound influence on the way people work in office environments around the world.

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  • TAF Architects

    TAF Architects


    Mattias Ståhlbom and Gabriella Gustafson founded Stockholm-based architecture and design studio TAF Architects in 2002. (The TAF name was pulled from Gabriella’s surname, Gustafson.) The pragmatic duo use subtle innovations to make objects or buildings less ordinary, in line with the philosophy that “everyday objects by their very commonness can be made uncommon.” TAF’s work has been exhibited at MoMA in New York and the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm.

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  • Jonah Takagi

    Jonah Takagi

    JAPAN (1979)

    At times, Jonah Takagi would rather be playing music. Born in Tokyo and raised in New England, Takagi studied furniture design at the Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 2002, then went on to work with a cabinetmaker in Portland, Oregon, before landing in Washington, D.C. There he put his plentiful energy into set and prop building for theater and film, playing in indie rock bands and making his own furniture – simultaneously. By 2005, he had so much furniture stocked up that he needed a venue to both store and showcase it, so he founded Atelier Takagi. With a multidisciplinary approach, Takagi creates furniture, tabletop pieces and lighting.

    Takagi doesn’t approach his designs with a set philosophy, and self-evaluation doesn’t come naturally. “It’s a little bit hard for me to see trends or an arc when I look at my body of work, but people tell me that it’s playful,” he explains. And given his one-foot-in approach to his design career, it’s perhaps not surprising that Takagi doesn’t wear his success effortlessly. When asked at our 2016 Design Week photo shoot what he’d be doing if he weren’t a designer, he responded, “I’d probably be playing drums in the band that I play drums in when I’m not designing. They're on tour right now, and I’m at Design Week doing this. I’d rather be playing drums, to be completely honest.”

    The drum theme has made its way into Takagi’s Pleat Drum lighting, designed with Hallgeir Homstvedt. Takagi and Homstvedt worked together for the first time on a project sponsored by the Norwegian Consulate in New York, which paired American and Norwegian designers for exhibition-oriented projects. As Takagi Homstvedt, the two have established a long-distance partnership that relies on video conferencing and tag-team workdays in which Takagi picks up in the States where Homstvedt left off in Norway. Their Pleat Drum Lamp and Contour Chair display their common appreciation for products that include what they call considerate details.

    Takagi is also the co-founder and creative director of Field, a collective of international designers creating thoughtful products, all made in the U.S. by independent craftsmen.

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  • Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton

    Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton

    U.S.A. (1976) (1977)

    Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton, who co-founded Observatory design studio in 2001, grew up with differing backgrounds but a shared passion for design They each found their way to industrial design and then to each other while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, where they remain active in teaching roles in addition to their design work.

    Born in Bronxville, New York, Takase moved with her family to Japan when she was 2 years old and found herself immersed in both traditional and modern objects. “Design was everywhere,” she says. “And I had a mother who was very design-object conscious.” Takase developed a passion for art but also showed an aptitude for invention. “I just loved making things,” she says. “‘Oh, I need a shelf,’ and I would just go make it out of cardboard.”

    Takase was drawn to industrial design, attracted to its jack-of-all-trades nature. “I was like, wow, that’s some magical occupation,” she says. “You have to think about people and psychology. You get to make things. You have to do research. You have to do analysis. You have to do math. It’s just everything.”

    Hutton was similarly engaged from the very beginning. “I grew up working on old houses with my parents,” he says. “So understanding how to make things and using my hands was always really important to me.” But he’s best known in family lore for an opposite pursuit. “He took his mother’s sewing machine apart when he was 4 years old,” Takase says. “And no one could reassemble it,” Hutton adds.

    Born in New Hampshire and raised in a host of states, Hutton pursued studies in architecture but switched to industrial design after a family friend introduced him to it. “I’m very much a problem-solving, gear-headed thinker,” he says, “but also very much interested in the way things look and how we experience them.”

    These days, the designers work in Providence in a converted carriage house divided into a design area for the staff up front and a shop in back for modeling and prototyping. In their work, which ranges from a razor for Gillette to desks for Herman Miller, they strive for empathy with imagined users. “It’s study and research,” Takase says. “We become that person who will be using the design. There’s a lot of discussion and brainstorming. Then we sketch ideas and make mock-ups to see the design at the real scale. We’re very hands-on. We have to make it and experience it before we are satisfied.”

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  • Gabriel Tan

    Gabriel Tan

    SINGAPORE (1982)

    Gabriel Tan grew up wanting to be an aircraft pilot, completely unaware of the design origins of products all around us. But while serving in the Singaporean Navy, something changed, and he began devouring everything he could find on industrial and furniture design. “It felt like a new world opened itself to me as I read about Charles and Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto and other great designers,” he recalls. “I remember my bunkmates looking at me curiously as though I’d been bitten by some art bug.”

    Tan was soon studying industrial design formally at the National University of Singapore, and he attended his first Milan Furniture Fair in 2006. A year later he returned to Milan, this time as an exhibitor with startup design collective Outofstock, a collaboration among Tan and three other designers based in Barcelona and Singapore. After Milan, the group succeeded in producing a steady stream of furniture for clients in France and Denmark and interior design work for clients in Singapore, including a prototype restaurant design for Burger King.

    These days, Tan runs his own firm, Gabriel Tan Design, with offices in Singapore and New York. In 2016, he partook in Furnishing Utopia, a project aimed at exposing modern-day designers to classic Shaker furniture. Along with Norm Architects, Studio Tolvanen and nine other designers, Tan created a range of new pieces: a small simple chair meant to be stored on a reimagined Shaker peg rail, a stool with a leather carrying handle and a bench, all made simply in wood.

    “Solid wood is a dense and relatively heavy material,” Tan says, “but if shaped in a certain way it can feel visually light and even soft.” That soft spot for wood betrays a passion not only for the Shakers but also for the work of the modern masters of last century. “I’m still amazed by the work of Hans Wegner whenever I sit in one of his chairs,” Tan says. “I also love the work of George Nelson and Jean Prouvé.”

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  • Michael Thonet

    Michael Thonet

    GERMANY (1796–1871)

    With all the talk about form and function, we sometimes overlook the importance of the advances in materials technology in the 20th century. Without doubt, the development of bent and laminated wood veneers was one of those significant innovations, making it possible to construct furniture using fewer pieces and allowing designers to obtain greater visual unity and fluidity. One can hardly imagine the work of Alvar Aalto or Charles and Ray Eames without this technology.

    Michael Thonet is one of the most important innovators in bentwood furniture making. Thonet patented a process of bending under heat several layers of wood veneer glued together and laminated, and he used the new material to create curved back-rails and legs on chairs, contoured headboards for beds and scrolled arms for sofas.

    By 1900, the curvilinear furniture made possible by Thonet’s techniques was widely produced by furniture manufacturers in the United States, where the process was exploited for mass production of simple, inexpensive chairs and tables.

    Thonet also developed a method of bending solid wood, and his bent solid and laminated beech chairs with woven cane seats and backs remain among the most successful industrial designed products of all time. Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, all of whom designed for Thonet, made use of his bentwood techniques to create classic chair designs still produced or copied today. Le Corbusier later used Thonet furniture in his Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau at the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Julie and Mika Tolvanen

    Julie and Mika Tolvanen

    U.S.A. (1970) FINLAND (1975)

    Being husband and wife and also design partners at Studio Tolvanen, Julie and Mika Tolvanen spend a lot of time together talking about their work. "We are constantly looking at things," Julie says, "and pointing things out to each other in a kind of never-ending conversation about design that later shows up in our work. Neither of us ever gets tired of thinking about design, so we are a good match."

    Julie is American, raised in Oregon, and Mika a native Finn who speaks flawless English. They met at a birthday party in Helsinki, where Julie had come in 2009 to study for a master’s degree. “I thought Finland sounded like an exotic place to spend two years, which makes most Finns chuckle.” They were married in 2012 by her brother in his backyard in Portland, Oregon. “He bought a license for $16 on the internet,” Julie says. In 2015, they founded Studio Tolvanen, which is now located on Lauttasaari, an island in Helsinki.

    They come to design work from different directions. Mika recalls being “blown away” when he first walked into the art and design library at Aalto University in Helsinki. “The library is entirely devoted to design,” he says, “and I spent most of my time there during school. “I realized I wanted to focus on household things instead of industrial design. I once designed a snow grooming machine, but furniture is my true passion.”

    Julie landed in design almost by accident at the tail end of architecture school in St. Louis. During her last semester, she took a furniture course and designed a complicated tête-à-tête chair that took her several months to build. “It was the first time I started feeling comfortable in the workshop,” she recalls. “I got really cozy with the router.” That experience inspired her to take a two-year apprenticeship with one of her mentors from the course and then to a 10-year career as a professional woodworker before moving to Helsinki to further her studies.

    Studio Tolvanen has produced a number of products, but most of them have been designed independently by either Julie or Mika. In fact, they only just completed their first project together in 2016. “We are both very independent minded,” Julie says. “We also have basic differences in how we describe things that come from speaking different languages. That leads to some pretty amusing misunderstandings but also inadvertently pushes designs in unpredicted directions – and usually they improve along the way.”

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  • David Trubridge

    David Trubridge

    ENGLAND (1951)

    David Trubridge is a trained naval architect and self-taught woodworker who is passionate about the environment. And this passion isn’t expressed while sitting behind a desk, rather while being out in the world and living in extreme situations. In 1982, Trubridge and his family moved aboard their 45-foot cutter, “Hornpipe,” and spent the next four years exploring the Caribbean and Tahiti. Along the way, Trubridge designed and built entire houses of furniture for clients living on the islands. “Facilities and supplies were very limited, and I had to design around what was available and what I could do there,” says Trubridge. “It was a very valuable lesson in economy and creative design. Mostly I worked in a tiny shed with about one machine, and if I had to, I bought time on larger machines nearby. In Tahiti I worked out of the clients’ garages, and they could wander out and watch their furniture being made. Electricity came from generators that did not run all the time, so I had to work around that too.”

    At the end of four years, Trubridge and his family settled in New Zealand, which continues to be their home. In 2004, Trubridge was selected for the Antarctica New Zealand program, which takes two artists to the ice each year. Trubridge explains that the intent of the program “is to communicate something of this amazing and unique place through the sensitivities of artists of all disciplines, rather than through the normal scientific journals or National Geographic-type articles.” The experience, combined with his relationship with marine life, furthered Trubridge’s dedication to live in ways that support a delicate footprint. A firm believer in reuse, he created his studio out of an abandoned joinery shop in a closed meatpacking district. In 2007, Trubridge was honored with the Green Leaf Award for artistic excellence, presented by the Natural World Museum and the United Nations Environment Programme. These awards celebrate an artist’s ability to inspire and engage the public in environmental awareness and action.

    “Designing is like the kids’ game of rolling a number of balls into holes. Each time you get one in, the next pops out. The design that gets every ball in the hole, everything right, is very rare, because all the criteria are competing. So you learn to make the best compromise, which may sound a bit negative, but isn’t really. It’s one of the skills of designing.”

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  • Christina Tullock

    Christina Tullock

    U.S.A. (1973)

    Christina Tullock describes her style as “modernist, organic, handmade, timeless and irreverent.” As design director of LA-based rug gallery Woven, she gets to translate that style into original rug designs, influenced in part by personal interests ranging from Japanese design to 1960s West German pottery to British abstract painting.

    For Tullock, a Los Angeles native, creativity began at home: Her father was an aerospace engineer who designed satellites, and her mother has worked in architectural lighting for thirty-some years. A degree in theater from New York University further set the stage. “As soon as I realized I could get paid to creatively solve visual problems,” she says, “it all clicked for me.”

    After time spent working in an antique shop and helping to run the gallery of rug designer Christopher Farr, in 2015 Tullock became design director at Woven, a position that gives her a hand in anything and everything visual pertaining to Woven and Studio Woven, the company’s contemporary and modern line. She was drawn to Woven by the “history of the antique rug collection started by Abraham Moradzadeh 50 years ago and the opportunity to design a new collection of rugs with the level of freedom I was granted by the Moradzadehs.”

    Tullock likens the collaborative process at Woven to a creative lab. New design ideas might originate with her own paintings and drawings, inspired by something as everyday as watching a movie (recently it was Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams). She’ll “draw or paint an image and show it to [creative director] Sam Moradzadeh, and he’ll think of a weave he’s been dying to try out.” Alternatively, Moradzadeh “comes up with an idea, I’ll draw it up, we’ll discuss it more, then colors are picked and samples are created.”

    Tullock thrives on every stage of the process, from concept to finished piece. The reward: seeing a Woven rug installed in a client’s home. “It’s such a great feeling!”

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  • V

  • Gerard van den Berg

    Gerard van den Berg

    NETHERLANDS (1947)

    Had it not been for designer Gerard van den Berg, Dutch design might not be all that it is today. Taking a radical departure from the Netherlands’ tradition of solid-wood furniture, van den Berg paved the way for a Dutch design renaissance. With van den Berg’s designs, the Netherlands quickly became a resource for distinctive modern design in the latter half of the 20th century, joining the ranks of Italy and Denmark.

    Van den Berg attributes his innate talent for design to a natural curiosity, a creative, open mind and a love of adventure. But he also gained the necessary skills while apprenticing as a furniture maker in his father’s company in Hellevoetsluis, Netherlands. Of his apprenticeship, which began in childhood, Van den Berg said:

    "There I learned to practice the craft to its technical perfection. Under the guidance of extremely experienced craftsmen, I was able to polish and fiddle with my models for weeks, and I could try out all kinds of materials and manufacturing skills. That is why I really know how people sit and how to build a seat. My technical knowledge is an essential contribution to my artistic creativity."

    Van den Berg designed furniture for his father until founding Montis with his brother Ton in 1974. Allowing the upholstery to direct him, van den Berg began changing the shape of Dutch furniture – literally – with seating that was graceful and slim while remaining solid and comfortable. Today, Montis designs can be found in homes and businesses around the world.

    In 1989, van den Berg opened his own design studio, where he continues to design seating under the name of Gerard van den Berg Design for such companies as Molteni, Perobell and Wittmann. In addition, in 1991, van den Berg began the company LABEL, carrying forward the earlier success and prestige of Montis. In keeping with van den Berg’s unwavering vision, LABEL seating designs place paramount emphasis on comfort, quality and a casual aesthetic. Without exception, van den Berg’s seating shows a tension between the design and the material chosen – angular metal legs set against a full, rounded seat. For every seat, a base is designed to highlight the form, thus creating the beauty and counterpoint of each of his designs.

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  • Ellen Van Dusen

    Ellen Van Dusen

    U.S.A. (1987)

    Designer Ellen Van Dusen has always been attracted to textiles, the more brightly colored and patterned the better. Raised by two architects in a vibrant, creative home, Van Dusen started creating her own fashions in high school. She painted designs on clothes to wear at concerts with friends, and she started frequenting thrift stores, picking up garments to take apart and remake in her own style. Shortly thereafter, she moved on to buying fabric and making her own clothes from scratch, at one point running a one-woman business knitting hats and selling them at school.

    Still, Van Dusen didn’t imagine she could sustain a career in textiles or fashion. Instead, at Tufts University in Boston, she designed her own degree centered on the psychology of design, studying the visual system, how we experience aesthetics and how the brain reacts to visual stimuli. During college, she created costumes for the theater department, anything from Victorian dresses to animal costumes, which gave her an opportunity to become proficient at sewing and tailoring.

    After graduating from Tufts, Van Dusen moved to New York and worked a series of internships, including those with fashion designers Norma Kamali and Proenza Schouler. In 2010, at the age of 23, she founded Dusen Dusen, based in Brooklyn. Once on her own, she could translate her fondness for vibrant colors and geometric, doodle-like patterns into simple, wearable clothing. Her inspiration is at times unconventional, ranging from midcentury resort architecture and Scandinavian textiles to fine art, native design and even handwriting. Business quickly took off for Van Dusen, with orders coming in from New York boutiques, and as her clothing line has continued to grow, she has created new textiles for each season. Her work has been written up in numerous publications, including Refinery29 and Vogue.

    In 2015, Van Dusen expanded her company to include Dusen Dusen Home, a home-goods line of bedding, rugs, towels, pillows and blankets – all with her trademark look – through which she can work on a larger scale with color and pattern.

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  • Maarten van Severen

    Maarten van Severen

    BELGIUM (1956–2005)

    Maarten van Severen’s modus operandi was to take the modern legacy of strict geometry and use of industrial materials to its logical conclusion. The results were often severe, minimalist objects of great presence and form.

    Trained in architecture at the Ghent Art Academy, van Severen continued the tradition of architect-designed furniture with his first steel and aluminum tables. Van Severen approached the design of his suite of furniture – tables, credenzas, shelvings, chairs – as he did a building, so although they are simple in appearance, details of his pieces require a technical complexity worthy of a large building. Van Severen extended the palette of his materials to include both solid wood and plywood, leather, glass and polycarbonates. Although most of his designs were custom-made for individual clients, for major manufacturers like Vitra and Bulo, he adapted his technical feats for mass production without loss of form or structural integrity.

    Van Severen often collaborated with architects, most notably Rem Koolhaas, for whom van Severen designed the metal stairs for the Villa dall’Ava in Paris and the kitchen and infamous elevator/room at the Maison Bordeaux.

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  • Massimo and Lella Vignelli

    Massimo and Lella Vignelli

    ITALY (1931–2014) ITALY (1934)

    Massimo and Lella Vignelli were raised and educated in Italy, but they made their most significant contributions to design while living and working in the United States, where their work is seen daily by millions of Americans. They were born just 250 miles apart in Northern Italy – Lella in Udine, into a family of architects, and Massimo in Milan, where he developed a fascination early on for the city’s architecture. They met while studying architecture at the University of Venice and married in 1957. Both went on to further study and work in the United States, and they founded Vignelli Associates in 1972.

    Lella focused her career on commercial interiors, while Massimo gravitated toward graphic design, including books, corporate logos and public signage. They both worked on furniture and product design. “They were exquisite in doing their own areas,” says Alan Heller, who worked with the Vignellis on many products. Lella and Massimo shared a minimalist design philosophy and a common mantra, “Design is One,” which became the title of their 2004 book. “The basic concept is that the discipline of design is one,” they wrote, “and if you can design one thing you can design everything.”

    The notion of oneness extended to their personal and professional relationships as well, which were uncannily and seamlessly bound. Everything they did, they did as design partners, confiding and consulting with each other continually. “This book is affectionately dedicated to Lella, my wife and professional partner,” Massimo wrote in The Vignelli Canon, published in 2010. “Together we shared our intellectual experiences and growing process from the very beginning of our professional lives.”

    Together, the Vignellis created work that is distinguished by clean, bold lines and a confident use of pure color. Among the most prominent work, credited to Massimo, is directional signage for the New York City and Washington, D.C., subway systems and for the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.

    Other work by Vignelli Associates includes corporate identity programs for American Airlines, Xerox, Cinzano and Ford Motor Company; glassware for Venini; showrooms for Artemide and Hauserman; interiors for the Minneapolis Museum of Fine Arts, Joseph Magnin and the United States Postal Service; and furniture for Sunar, Rosenthal, Morphos and Knoll. The Vignellis designed extensively for Heller, which continues to produce Heller Dinnerware and the Vignelli Bench. Their work lives in the permanent collections of museums around the world. In 2010, the Vignelli Center for Design Studies opened at the Rochester Institute of Technology, established on a donation of the entire archive of the Vignelli’s work.

    In a documentary released in 2012 and titled, just as the book, Design is One, they said their favorite work was the interior of Saint Peter’s Church in New York City, which included a massive wooden altar designed by Lella. Massimo died in 2014; his ashes reside in a columbarium inside Saint Peter’s.

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  • Clara von Zweigbergk

    Clara von Zweigbergk

    SWEDEN (1970)

    Clara von Zweigbergk began drawing and making things at an early age, then moved on to sewing and knitting clothes, making jewelry, practicing calligraphy and exploring typography as a teenager. “I was sure I wanted to do something in the creative field,” she says. After studying graphic design and illustration at Beckman’s College of Design in Stockholm and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Zweigbergk spent five years as founder and partner in a multidisciplinary design studio in Stockholm, then four years as a senior graphic designer at Lissoni Associates in Milan.

    Returning to Stockholm in 2006, she founded her own studio with the intent of expanding into areas beyond graphic design – a continuation of her boundless youthful curiosity. “For me, it did not change with age,” Zweigbergk says. “I am curious to try new things, and designing products usually comes with a lot of research in materials, production technique and thoughts on function, which I find interesting.”

    Daughter of an architect and museum curator, Zweigbergk was raised in a home where every room was a different hue, which may have planted the seed for an effortlessly natural approach. “I have always used a lot of color – in my clothing as well as my work. I think it is a large part of the communication, and sends messages and creates moods. A color choice can make a big difference for a product.”

    A prime example is her Kaleido Collection, a set of mix-and-match trays in a range of shapes, sizes and colors. “The idea for Kaleido actually came while I was working on another project,” Zweigbergk recalls. “I had a leftover rhombus-shaped paper lying on my desk and saw a little tray in it. Quite quickly the other shapes followed, and it was developed into a modular puzzle.” At the time, Mette Hay, co-founder of Danish design company HAY, happened to be starting an accessories line and asked Zweigbergk for ideas. “I was so happy when she said OK to my proposal of doing nine colors right away,” she says. “Finally, I had met someone who understood the power of color!”

    Beyond Kaleido and many other products, Zweigbergk played a key role in forging HAY’s approach to marketing – beginning with the design and art direction for its first catalog in 2011 and then the development of the company’s visual identity, which employs her first loves, graphic design and typography.

    Other clients include Louis Poulsen, Nike and TID Watches, for which she designed a line of wristbands knitted from brightly colored fishing line, betraying an interest in textiles, another one of her seemingly endless fascinations. Would she ever select a single focus? “I do not see a reason anyone would have to choose,” Zweigbergk says. “On the contrary, working with several disciplines makes you grow, I think. I might get into even more things in the future. It’s important to stay curious.”

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  • W

  • Jonas Wagell

    Jonas Wagell

    SWEDEN (1973)

    Jonas Wagell was born in Linköping, Sweden, about 100 miles southwest of the capital, Stockholm. He began his career as a graphic designer and project manager but, in his late 20s, switched his focus and returned to school to study interior architecture and furniture design.

    Now a well-established industrial and furniture designer, Wagell continues to draw on lessons of that early work experience. Just as a graphic designer might do, for example, he strives to pare down his products to simple, intuitive and easy to understand forms. “I try to reduce unnecessary details and emphasize a function or main character,” he says. “I am fascinated by how a chunk of wood, some threads of yarn or a piece of plastic can take on a form that suddenly creates emotions and affections.” He calls his approach “generous minimalism.”

    Wagell began his design studies in Stockholm, continued in New York at Parsons School of Design and finished back in Stockholm, where he earned an MFA in Interior Architecture and Furniture Design from Konstfack, the largest university of arts, crafts and design in Sweden. Not long after, he won praise for his Mini House, a 160-square-foot prefab structure intended for use as a guest or weekend house. Mini House helped him earn inclusion in Wallpaper magazine’s 2008 list of the world’s 50 hottest young architects.

    In 2008 Wagell launched Jonas Wagell Design and Architecture, a small firm that occupies a former milk shop on the ground floor of a 1940s apartment building. Spanning just three rooms, JWDA studio is in Stockholm’s gentrifying Södermalm district – actually an island – which Vogue called the coolest neighborhood in Europe. Referred to by locals simply as “Söder,” it’s the stomping ground of fictional Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was home to its late author, Stieg Larsson.

    Since he began in 2008, Wagell has designed for a range of companies, including Muuto, Normann Copenhagen and Design Within Reach. Over that time, as his attention has turned more toward product and furniture design, he acknowledges a professional evolution that reflects itself in more mature and confident work.

    “I try to create objects,” Wagell explains, “that are based on my own aesthetical expression, detached from immediate trends – products that I can be proud of and that can be justified and appreciated for years to come.”

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  • Kevin Walz

    Kevin Walz


    Lighting design seems to spark the imagination, eliciting some of the most inventive, intriguing and poetic forms. Take, for example, Baldinger’s Four Arc Lamp by Kevin Walz, a cluster of translucent diffusion panels that resembles the head of a graceful flower set atop a slender stem. Walz, an American designer who now resides in Rome, studied fine arts at Pratt Institute and New York Studio School. While he never studied design, his first paid design job, for Italian fashion designer Adri, captured the spirit of the moment and was published in over 30 magazines around the world. Today, Walz has successfully completed projects in architecture, interior design, product design, graphics, packaging, advertising and film sets. His work can be characterized as innovative, accessible and practical. Walz himself might be described as a maverick, a designer who questions accepted ideas and solutions.

    Interiors magazine called Walz one of New York’s “most creative and artistic interior designers,” while Interior Design noted his “sense of finesse, the delightful surprise of common materials taken to uncommon heights.” Walz himself has said, “Much of my work is forward thinking; other times, it is responsive to the past. I like the process of working within the vocabularies of time periods, within the sensibility of cultures, with ideas from other visual disciplines. Innovation is not defined by clever form; that is called showmanship. Invention can be presented in ways that are understandable yet fresh to the eye.”

    Walz’s client list includes the American Academy in Rome, actress Dana Delany’s residence and Richard and Carole Rifkind’s residence. He has product licenses with Arc International, Baldinger Architectural Lighting, Designtex, KorQinc, Tufenkian Tibetan Carpets and Jado. In 1994, Walz was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. He was also named to the Metropolitan Home Design 100 Hall of Fame in 1997. That same year, his work was featured in an exhibition entitled Kevin Walz: Art at the American Academy in Rome.

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  • Marcel Wanders

    Marcel Wanders

    NETHERLANDS (1963)

    If someone ended an email to you with “bumblebees and sunshine,” you might assume that person wasn’t quite grown up. But Marcel Wanders is fully grown, and he’s not childish so much as he is childlike in his sense of wonder and appreciation for the world in which we live.

    This is the guy, after all, who wears floral trousers in a sea of dark designer garb. Who designed his lumpy Egg Vase (1997) by stuffing latex condoms with hard-boiled eggs. Who smiles and laughs with refreshing frequency. And who, when asked “What is important to you in seating design?” responds with, “My butt; to understand a good butt.”

    At the same time, Wanders can be “serious” too. He designed the Square Light Pendant (1998) and the Container Table (2002), both exemplars of clean lines and pure function. His Can of Gold (2001) is a gold-plated soup can that sells for $200, with the proceeds going toward food for the homeless. And Wanders must be able to meet commitments, because he’s in demand all over the place – designing soap for Bisazza, a lamp for Flos, tables for Cappellini.

    The secret of his success? A fresh vision born of innocence. “I’m a sort of amateur, and amateurs aren’t so sure about things, so they investigate and bring new ideas that experts might overlook,” says Wanders. He adds, “I work with durability in design – products worth bonding with for a lifetime. I have an overall respect for ourselves and the world, and I think this respect is the basis of good design.”

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  • Elish Warlop

    Elish Warlop

    U.S.A. (1977)

    From as far back as she can recall, Elish Warlop wanted to be an architect. “I always loved art – mostly drawing, building blocks – and making forts for my sister and me.” When she was 10, her family built a new house. “My father had a booklet an inch thick on how he wanted it done,” she says. “I remember meeting with an architect, seeing the plans, watching the construction. I think that definitely influenced me in later life.”

    She was born Elizabeth Frances Warlop, after her two grandmothers, but her nickname soon became “Elish” (pronounced like “delish” without the “d”), a shortened form of “Eilish,” Gaelic for Elizabeth. Growing up in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, the family lived only a dozen miles or so from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Encouraged by her mother and father, a high-school teacher and a large-equipment salesman, respectively, she took art classes there each summer and gradually assembled a portfolio that would take her to Cornell University, where in 2000 she earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture.

    At that point, she seemed headed for a career in architecture, but circumstances would shift the focus. After six years working first in a small residential construction company in Colorado and then in a large commercial firm in New York City, Warlop took what was planned to be a one-week vacation to volunteer in Biloxi, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina. She ended up staying nine months. “It was a transformative experience – from the people I met to the kind of work I got to do.” Part of that work was in construction management, which she continued at her next stop, Connecticut, working for a small company on a medical building.

    Before long, she was running her own company, managing construction of a 15,000-square-foot bank in Westport from a trailer. “Being out on the job site instilled the importance of seeing things come together, understanding a process, and I think contributed to me becoming a better architect and designer.”

    In 2014, she established her design studio, in keeping with an M.F.A. she earned from Rhode Island School of Design with an emphasis on lighting. ”Light can be both sculptural and functional. I think my work lives somewhere between those two places, between art and industrial design. Light can be both practical and poetic, and that is something I would like to push even further with my work.”

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  • Jeff Weber

    Jeff Weber

    U.S.A. (1963)

    Jeff Weber wants to bring truth and beauty to the nuts and bolts of industrial design. In his work, he strives for a genuine user benefit (“truth”) coupled with design elegance (“beauty”). This standard, against which Weber measures all his designs, has its origins in his work with renowned industrial designer Bill Stumpf. Weber credits Stumpf with the “uni-part theory,” which says that “all components of any given object must have a functional purpose as well as an aesthetic one.” He adds, “Bill Stumpf left an indelible impression on me relative to art, design, value and life.”

    Inspired by the human body, Weber sees a challenge in the fact that while the workplace has undergone many changes over the years, the human element has stayed very much the same. “How can I produce something that will actually improve that condition?” he asks. His solutions employ design as a blend of art and science.

    Early on, Weber had the good fortune to work with Stumpf and his team on the Aeron Chair for Herman Miller (1989). Looking back, Weber says, “The Aeron chair is one of the rare objects that represent the convergence of the right problem, the right vision, at the right time, involving the right people and organization.” Together they formed Stumpf, Weber & Associates in 1999, going on to design the Caper Stacking Chair (1999) and the Embody Task Chair (2008), also for Herman Miller. Following Stumpf’s death, Weber founded Studio Weber & Associates, his Minneapolis-based design firm, in 2009. Studio Weber continues his focus on workspace solutions. “We are involved in multiple seating projects for the office, higher education, healthcare, laboratory and residential applications, as well as a series of digital living products and hydroponic gardening systems. We are interested in advancing the arts of daily living, touching every aspect of people’s lives.”

    Weber has a lifelong interest in how things work. “I was always tinkering – either building things or tearing them apart,” he says. “Working on farms as a youth enlightened me in regard to the need to be mechanically resourceful.” After his grandfather, an artist and high school art teacher, suggested industrial design as a possible path, he “never really thought about doing anything else.”

    Weber is a proponent of what he calls “empathic design,” a belief in the designer’s responsibility to research, empathize with and advocate for all involved in a product’s life cycle, from manufacturer to distributor to end user, before starting work. “Empathy makes good business and allows designers to identify human problems that lead to solutions that can culminate in legitimate commercial and altruistic ventures.” The resulting design’s most essential qualities will be so intuitive they go almost unnoticed.

    Empathic design has had real-world applications for Weber. Following a foot injury in 2006, he discovered first-hand how disagreeable walking with standard crutches could be. “I quickly identified that the standard-issue mobility aid caused secondary trauma. So I began to determine how to humanize a crutch architecture that would eliminate the secondary trauma and enable people to convalesce from injury while continuing to participate in life’s activities with dignity.” The result was Mobilegs: ergonomic, user-friendly, technologically advanced crutches.

    Weber was awarded the Best of NeoCon Gold for the Caper Chair in 1999 and the Best of NeoCon Silver in Ergonomic Desk and Task Seating for the Embody Chair in 2009.

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  • David Weeks

    David Weeks

    U.S.A. (1968)

    From wooden robots to sprawling sectional sofas, designer David Weeks takes a hands-on approach to his work, driven by the belief that design must hold universal appeal. Though he moved to New York in 1990 with an art degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and the intention to be a painter, it wasn’t long before he instead applied his sculptural sensibility to product design.

    Weeks transitioned from art to design while apprenticing under jewelry designer Ted Muehling soon after arriving in New York. He started a metal-fabrication shop, where he constructed curtain rods, tables and bookshelves for friends, eventually gravitating to lamps. It was in lighting design that he found his true expression, even if it took some time to get David Weeks Studio off the ground – he sold and delivered his first handmade desk lamps from his VW Beetle. In 1996 he launched his studio from a factory in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn.

    With a commitment to “democratic design,” Weeks applies a technique called “formal reduction” to his pieces, which involves slicing away at generic shapes like orbs and cones until new forms emerge. After achieving acclaim for his sculptural lighting pieces, Weeks began to expand his design repertoire to include furniture and toys. His Sculpt Sofa Collection, which avoids right angles and takes its cues from topographic maps and modernist stone sculptures, received the 2008 Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum. His playful wooden animal and robot toys were also embraced by the design community, proving to be just as popular with adults as with children and earning him another Good Design Award in 2009. Weeks’ work has been used in projects for Barney’s New York, Kate Spade, Saks Fifth Avenue, MGM Grand Las Vegas, Bliss Spa, Brasserie NYC and the W Hotels. Additional honors include several nominations for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and being chosen as one of seven designers to represent New York at Berlin’s 7+7 Designmai exhibit. Weeks was also featured in the 2003 Cooper Hewitt National Design Triennial: Inside Design Now.

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  • Hans Wegner

    Hans Wegner

    DENMARK (1914–2007)

    Hans Wegner stands among designers Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, Poul Kjærholm and Verner Panton as a master of 20th-century Danish modernism. More specifically, he was instrumental in developing a body of work known as organic functionalism. His early training included both carpentry and architecture, and in the early 1940s he worked for Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen designing furniture for the Aarhus City Hall, in Aarhus, Denmark, before establishing his own furniture studio. Until the 1960s, Wegner typically collaborated with cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen to realize his designs, most notably gracefully tapered and curved solid-wood chairs, often composites of wood and woven rattan or leather. He occasionally experimented with laminates, as in the Three-Legged Shell Chair (1963), or steel and oxhide, as in the Ox Chair (1960) for Erik Jørgensen. While he is best known for his chairs, Wegner has also created memorable cabinetry, desks, tables, beds and lighting.

    The debut of the Peacock Chair (1947) at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild of Copenhagen was a turning point in Wegner’s career, and from then on his work was in demand. For years he was compelled to produce a new chair for the show each spring, designing such well-known pieces as the Folding Chair (1949), the Round Chair (1950) and the Flag Halyard Chair (1950), completing over 200 chairs in all. He frequently turned to traditional furniture for inspiration for his modern designs. The Chinese Chair (1944) draws on 17th-century Chinese seating, while the Peacock Chair, with its fanlike back, recalls the hoop form of the Windsor chair.

    Over the years, Wegner perfected the design and production of his work, although the entire process remained lengthy. The Danish King, Frederick IX, waited two years for a four-legged Valet Chair (later versions had three legs) while Wegner tested the prototype at home. It is so-called because the hanger-shaped chair back is designed to keep a jacket wrinkle-free and the seat tilts up for use as a pants hanger, revealing a box for cuff links, keys and watches. Wegner’s preferred method of working was to start with a sketch from which he would make a 1:5-scale model and then a full-scale model. Before beginning production, each piece of furniture was drawn at full scale on a single sheet, with the drawings – two elevations and a top-down view – superimposed on one another.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Martin Wehmann

    Martin Wehmann

    U.S.A. (1968)

    Much like the way Steve Jobs got his start, Martin Wehmann planted the seed for his first business in his parents’ garage in suburban Los Angeles. Silver Stream Production & Design, thriving today, is a fabricator of retail environments for retail giants including Neiman Marcus, Patagonia and even Apple. Since the beginning, Wehmann has collaborated with design partner Tom Sandonato on a variety of projects, the latest of which is Kithaus.

    Taught at a young age by a German-trained master carpenter, who just happened to be his father, Wehmann had little choice but to execute projects with great precision while learning his trade. His skill and breadth of vision have helped to earn Kithaus status as a groundbreaking alternative in the world of prefab. “Kithaus is the most exciting venture I have been a part of to date,” said Wehmann. “I can almost see the history of my experiences in the design and manufacturing industry in each unit we produce.” Viewed as a modular alternative-living solution, Kithaus applies different rules to prefab with its patented frame and clamping system and gentle impact on the environment.

    Driven by his passion for modern design, his desire to build something to be proud of and a fervent loyalty to his team, Wehmann continues to reinvest his company’s resources into his ideas and infrastructure. “I have been fortunate to be able to develop and maintain a core business that has enabled me to expand into other realms of design.”

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  • Louis Weisdorf

    Louis Weisdorf

    DENMARK (1932)

    After graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1954, architect and designer Louis Weisdorf went to work for Poul Henningsen, assimilating ideas that would influence his own philosophy. Henningsen, creator of the iconic PH5 Pendant and a legend of lighting design, believed in creating fixtures that diffused light, “so as not to have it shine directly in your eyes, but indirect, modularized somehow,” Weisdorf says. “I was very inspired by him. My lamps were mostly designed with the same principle. So the light is covered.”

    Weisdorf designed his first fixture, the Konkylie (Conch) Hanging Light, for Tivoli Gardens, a famous amusement park in Copenhagen where he was the right-hand man of Henningsen’s architect son, Simon, from 1961 to 1971. Konkylie (1963) was made of 12 identical flat loops of brass assembled each on its own tier to form a hollow globe resembling a conch shell, shiny on the outside and yellow and orange on the inside. The lamps were hung around the park and emitted a spectacular light. A few still hang there.

    The design represented two other ideas that became cornerstones of Weisdorf’s philosophy: using sets of identical parts to build lamps and creating a dynamic appearance. “I think it came from my job working in Tivoli,” Weisdorf says. “Visitors walking around should meet new impressions from different views. Just the same with lamps, meaning that they too should offer a varied view instead of a permanent view. But the variation must be a natural result of the lamp construction, as with the Konkylie. Not some fancy effect added on.”

    After Konkylie was produced, a claim was made that Weisdorf had borrowed its design from the Moon Pendant by Verner Panton, for whom Weisdorf also had worked. Taken aback, Weisdorf sought judgment from his old mentor, Henningsen, who delivered a Solomonic verdict. “I do not think that either of them is a lamp,” he pronounced. “I would rather call them ladies’ hats. And as ladies’ hats, they are quite different.” Weisdorf was relieved, especially because Panton was another mentor, and he had learned from him that “design can be more colorful and exciting than classic Danish design.”

    Weisdorf designed lamps for about 15 years in a diverse 60-plus-year architecture career that has included the design of homes, schools and two amusement parks. He likes to say that he is “specialized in versatility.” With boundless curiosity and a lifelong fascination with precision, he began working with CAD in 1978 and continues to this day. “My dad is probably the oldest computer nerd there is,” says son Simon. “He’s been cutting-edge at 3-D design for as long as I can remember.”

    Weisdorf’s favorite lamp is his Turbo Pendant (1967), but he is best known for the Multi-Lite (1972), which departs from his other designs. It maintains a dynamic quality, but rather than deriving it from a fixed design element, it features two adjustable shells that allow users to change its profile at will. “I like very much to design products giving the user the possibility to be involved in the result.”

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  • Hee Welling

    Hee Welling

    DENMARK (1974)

    The first thing an American notices about Hee Welling is his unusual first name. “It is also very rare in Denmark,” he says. “It’s an old family name on my father’s side, and it comes from a small town in the west part of Jutland (the major peninsula that forms Denmark). And the funny thing is, next to the town of Hee is another small town called Velling. Today, there are three Hees in the family – my uncle, my nephew and me.”

    The son of a cabinetmaker, Welling grew up in his father’s shop, right next to the family home in Jutland. “In the beginning, I was not allowed to use the real machines,” Welling recalls, “so I did a lot of stuff by cutting and drilling. I remember I built a lot of boats, cars, slingshots and bows and arrows – all in wood.” Drawing was also a major pursuit, “so I always knew that I would like to work in a creative environment.” Despite the upbringing, he didn’t discover a passion for furniture design until attending an art and design folk school. Soon after, he was accepted at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts to study furniture design.

    Establishing his own studio in Copenhagen in 2003, Welling got his first big break with a chair that, being made entirely of metal, was quite a departure from the cabinetmaking shop. “The Hee Collection for HAY was my breakthrough,” he says, referring to the Danish design firm. “During my studies, I got very fond of steel, due to the strength, production methods and simple constructs it makes possible. There was also an environmental aspect because one of the biggest challenges when recycling furniture is separating all the different materials. But by using only one material, that is made much easier.”

    Showing the chair at the Copenhagen furniture fair in 2004, in a special area for upstart designers, Welling quickly had four manufacturers interested. Then on the last day of the show, Rolf and Mette Hay, founders of HAY, came by the booth and made an immediate connection. “Rolf and Mette came with a passion for design, energy and knowledge that was really incredible and inspiring,” Welling recalls. “So we started our cooperation the day after and have worked together on different projects ever since.”

    The most major of those became the About A Chair Collection, which began with an idea for a special base and grew into a large assortment of side and lounge chairs and stools. Rolf Hay had wanted to develop a simple chair and asked Welling if he’d like to join the project. “There was no doubt,” Welling says. “I was ready.” Independently, he had been working on a swivel base that could be made knocked-down, a novel approach. “That base was integrated into the project and together with a veneer base and a chair shell – with and without an armrest – we had our first models in the AAC collection,” Welling recalls. “Today there are more than 80, with the variations.”

    Like the name Hee Welling, the About A Chair name garners immediate attention for its unusualness. “We were working with alternatives,” Welling recalls, “but one day Rolf called me and said, ‘I got it! The name is “About A Chair” because that’s exactly what it is: We are telling a story about a chair.’”

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  • Judy White

    Judy White


    Judy White’s passion for design comes from a love of exploring and adventure. Whether she’s working on bedding, tableware, lighting, textiles or travel accessories, she’s driven by the discovery of solutions that lead to the realization of new products. Based in New York, White has international design experience in all aspects of home furnishings. She trained as an industrial designer, studied the fine arts and has an expertise in art history, but the greatest gift to her career was the time she spent working as a product designer in Japan. Surrounded by a culture “where a refined aesthetic and great design are exhibited in all aspects of everyday life was a defining point in my career,” explains the designer.

    When White returned to the United States, she was hired by Calvin Klein to be the creative force behind the brand’s modern luxury dinnerware and giftware collection. After a decade of successfully building that business, she became the head designer for the Hotel Collection, one of the most successful bedding and bath lines for Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Even spare white china becomes something special in the hands of Judy White, whose collection for Nikko Ceramics is used at upscale hotels and restaurants worldwide.

    In creating bedding for Design Within Reach, White was inspired by the Case Study Houses. “The DNA of DWR is rooted in midcentury design, a period of optimism, as evidenced by its vibrancy, boldness and confidence in design to create a new world,” she says. “I like to think we’re continuing that legacy.” Her bedding for DWR has been featured in The New York Times, adding to the extensive recognition her work has received, including honors in Architectural Digest and Metropolitan Home Design 100.

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  • Samuel Wilkinson

    Samuel Wilkinson

    ENGLAND (1977)

    While studying furniture and related product design at London’s vibrant Ravensbourne, Samuel Wilkinson won several design awards, including the prized RSA Student Design Award. After earning his degree, he worked several years as a consultant, designing for clients such as Audi, Samsung and Virgin Airlines, before opening his own studio in 2007.

    Avoiding superfluous details, Wilkinson has an affinity for simple, well-made items that are at the same time visually appealing. His commitment to sustainability is premised on building products that will last rather than simply using recycled materials in his work, because recycling itself consumes energy and resources.

    Wilkinson completed his largest and arguably most visually arresting project in 2008: L’arbre de Flonville in Lausanne, Switzerland, co-designed with Swiss designers Oloom. In this modernistic interpretation of a town square, a metal tree rests at the center, with a slatted wood canopy that offers shade and steel seating fashioned to resemble tree roots.

    In 2009, Wilkinson narrowed his focus from the outsized L’arbre de Flonville to a decidedly smaller conception when he designed an energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb, the culmination of a yearlong effort to marry design and technology. Now part of the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Wilkinson’s design won the 2011 Design of the Year grand prize from the London Design Museum.

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  • Sylvain Willenz

    Sylvain Willenz

    BELGIUM (1978)

    Sylvain Willenz discovered his passion for design in the woods of New Hampshire, of all places. From ages 10 to 16, Willenz went to summer camp in that state, making the trip each year from his native Brussels. “I loved making artifacts such as baseball bats, bowls and pencil holders in the wood shop,” he recalls. “Though I was always rather creative, I think this is where my interest for making things was born.”

    From those rustic beginnings in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Willenz went on to become a designer of a broad range of products – from rugs, mirrors and light fixtures to chairs, shelving and electronics – for customers around the world, including Design Within Reach.

    His favorite product is still his first that went into production: Brackets Included, a steel shelf with impressions of support brackets molded into the shelf itself, ingeniously eliminating the need for extra hardware. “I came up with the product when I was thinking about an idea of merging shelving and wallpaper.” The design is now manufactured by Hay of Denmark in various colors and sizes. “It’s amazing to see them used across the world,” Willenz says.

    He moved with his family when he was 5 from Brussels to Connecticut for his father’s job at Yale University. They all moved back when he was 10 but continued visiting Vermont and Maine every year, helping foster in him a love of moose and loons and a fluency in English to rival his proficiency in French and Dutch, widely spoken in Brussels alongside French.

    After first heading toward a career as a comic-strip illustrator, he discovered furniture design at Nene University College in Northampton, England, and went on to earn a master’s degree in product design in 2003 from the Royal College of Art of London. A year later, he established the Sylvain Willenz Design Office in Brussels. In 2009, he was named Belgian designer of the year by a panel of industry authorities.

    Willenz is inspired by the work of Scandinavian greats Børge Mogensen and Poul Kjærholm along with countrymen Jules Wabbes and Maarten Van Severen. But he most admires Austrian designer Ettore Sottsass. “What’s interesting is his capacity to be so organic,” he says, “and then industrial as well.”

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  • Donna Wilson

    Donna Wilson

    SCOTLAND (1978)

    Growing up in rural northeast Scotland, the daughter of two farmers, Donna Wilson always knew she wanted to be a designer. True to her youthful ambitions, today she is known for her whimsical prints and knit objects – citing Stig Lindberg and Alexander Girard as influences – which draw upon her idyllic childhood and the landscape of the Scottish countryside. Wilson, who is regarded as one of the most exciting young textile designers in the industry, studied textiles at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland, and earned her master’s in mixed media and constructed textiles at the Royal College of Art in London.

    While at the RCA, Wilson developed a fascination with tutor Freddie Robins’ method of freehand knitting, prompting her to begin a collection of odd knit creatures. She presented the collection for her final show and, with Robins’ encouragement, approached local design shops to carry her creatures. They sold out immediately (as did her final show) and generated enough profit to pay Wilson’s rent during college. When she graduated in 2003, she set up her studio and workshop in London.

    In 2010, Wilson was honored with Elle Decoration’s British Design Award for Designer of the Year. Her portfolio includes solo exhibitions and collaborations with retailers such as SCP and John Lewis, and her collection has expanded to include cushions, lambswool blankets, home furnishings and accessories. Wilson’s products, which use natural fibers and support UK-based manufacturers and suppliers whenever possible, are available in more than 25 countries around the world.

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  • Edward Wohl

    Edward Wohl

    U.S.A. (1942)

    Edward Wohl had his first encounter with wood in shop class at Roosevelt Middle School in Cleveland, Ohio. Although the experience left an indelible memory, it would be many years and a winding road before he returned to wood and decided to make it his life’s work. After studying engineering and architecture at Ohio State University, he joined the Peace Corps in 1963 and spent two years in Pakistan. Returning, he entered Washington University in St. Louis and earned a B.S. in architecture, which he says is an apropos label for his architectural prowess.

    Still interested in the Peace Corps, he joined Marshall Erdman and Associates of Madison, Wisconsin, which was involved with the agency in Tunisia and Colombia. “I loved living in a foreign country and looked forward to going overseas with the company,” Wohl says. At the same time, he entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and, in a design course focused on ergonomics, met Bill Stumpf, a fellow student who went on to co-design the revolutionary Aeron Chair with Don Chadwick.

    “We became close friends. He was a real genius and incredible craftsman,” Wohl says. “He paid extraordinary attention to every detail, every round, every curve. I think I learned the essence of design and craftsmanship from him in a way I never would have from anyone else.” The two collaborated for many years and remained close even after Stumpf moved away and until his death in 2006.

    In 1972, Wohl and his wife, Ann, moved into a small farmhouse 40 miles west of Madison built by Alfred Larson, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first stonemasons. Wright’s fabled Taliesin was just 5 miles away, and the Wohls visited often. In 1981, they bought 45 acres nearby and built a house and a shop where Wohl still makes wood furniture. His cutting boards, for which he is best known, are made in a second shop nearby. “I had always made cutting boards,” Wohl says. “At first, every one was different. But when we moved and built the house and shop, I needed to increase my income considerably.”

    The Wohls had resisted wholesaling the boards but relented in 1991 and ramped up production. With just a few employees, they now produce more than 10,000 a year, with unique shapes, silky finishes and distinctive figuring of bird’s-eye maple, his wood of choice for boards and sometimes furniture. Wohl spends most of his time in the main shop, and Ann runs the business. He says she is the only person in their company with a title: COE – chief of everything.

    “I have always wanted to live and work in a quiet, beautiful, open place,” Wohl says. “With the help and support of Ann, and a goodly amount of luck, we’ve found that place. If people see beauty in my furniture, it may be because I find beauty in my everyday surroundings.”

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  • Terence Woodgate

    Terence Woodgate

    ENGLAND (1953)

    It takes a great designer to work within the confines of a material and get both form and function in line. British designer Terence Woodgate repeatedly meets this challenge with his modern wood furniture, and he has emerged as a thoughtful and innovative designer. Born in London, Woodgate initially trained as a design engineer, but in the mid-1980s he returned to London Guildhall University to pursue furniture design. Attracted to the conceptual as well as the hands-on aspect of designing furniture, Woodgate opened his first studio in London in 1988 and began designing lighting, modular cabinets for Spanish manufacturer punt mobles and the standard-setting communal seating system that is used in Heathrow Airport.

    To be closer to his European colleagues, Woodgate moved his studio to Belgium in 1991, where he designed for such internationally recognized manufacturers as Cappellini, Casas and Teunen & Teunen.

    In 1996, Woodgate returned to England to build his current studio in Sussex. Merging manufacturing technology with artistic craftsmanship, Woodgate has produced several award-winning designs that have the presence and quality of modern heirlooms, ranging from beautifully grained oak consoles to streamlined, upholstered seating to architectural glass tables. Examples of his work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museu de les Arts Decoratives in Barcelona and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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  • Frank Lloyd Wright

    Frank Lloyd Wright

    U.S.A. (1867–1959)

    American architect Frank Lloyd Wright played a leading role in transforming the practice of architecture early in the 20th century. Trained as an engineer at the University of Wisconsin but strongly drawn to architecture, he began his career as an architect in Chicago, working in the offices of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. At the age of 29 he set up his own practice and began work on a number of residential projects, chiefly in the Oak Park area of Chicago. These “Prairie Houses,” designed in the early 1900s, are characterized by their use of natural materials – stone, brick and wood. Their low elevations and gently sloping roofs create a strong horizontal emphasis.

    Wright claimed to build “organic” architecture that seemed to grow naturally out of the surrounding landscape. He believed the internal space, furnishings and decorative details of a house to be intrinsic to its architecture. Many of his projects incorporated site-specific furniture and fittings. These unified projects were intended to possess a natural “organic” beauty that would promote the life of the human spirit. Instead of walls, furnishings were often used as spatial dividers, thereby creating more open interiors and a sense of flowing space.

    Wright’s preoccupation with geometric forms and intersecting planes in his architecture led him to develop a similar style for furniture. For example, a series of metal desks and chairs designed for the Larkin Building in Buffalo, New York, were designed to be functionally and visually unified with their surroundings. They were also among the first metal items for indoor use that did not mimic wood. The chairs were made of painted steel with leather-upholstered seats and rigidly geometric backs with square perforations. In addition to furniture, Wright designed stained-glass windows, ceramics and glass, metalwork and textiles. Wright’s work became distanced from its Arts & Crafts origins as he began to explore the structural and decorative potential of industrial concrete blocks, which he used in the design of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and four houses in Los Angeles.

    During the Great Depression, Wright founded a community known as the Taliesin Fellowship and published an autobiography. His career and reputation had flagged during this period, but commissions for the Johnson Wax Administration building and Fallingwater, Edgar J. Kaufmann’s residence in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, breathed new life into the charismatic architect. These projects, like his later Guggenheim Museum, built in the 1940s, incorporated reinforced concrete cantilevered construction that liberated architecture from the “Box.” All of Wright’s works express his reverence for nature and his belief in the “soul of humanity.” His influence on design and architecture in America and in Europe was, and is, profound.

    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Y

  • Sori Yanagi

    Sori Yanagi

    JAPAN (1915–2011)

    With his designs, Sori Yanagi achieved significantly more than the bridging of East and West. Active in the post-World War II era, he created pieces that embodied the optimism of the new industrial age without losing the delicacy and lightness that is so indicative of traditional Japanese design. Yanagi’s sensibilities meshed seamlessly with organic midcentury shapes, appearing repeatedly throughout his prolific career in everything from seating and lighting to flatware and teakettles.

    Beyond merely updating traditional Japanese forms for the modern age, Yanagi transformed raw materials into objects of functional poetry, drawing inspiration from nature, like the butterfly in his stool of the same name. “True beauty is not made; it is born naturally,” Yanagi believed.

    His Butterfly Stool, designed in the same time frame as iconic furniture from Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, embodies the perfect fusion of Eastern aesthetics and Western technology. Constructed of two identical molded plywood forms held together with a simple brass stretcher, it could be likened to Japanese haiku – succinct, graceful and atmospheric.

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  • Nathan Yong

    Nathan Yong

    SINGAPORE (1971)

    Designer Nathan Yong earned recognition as a trailblazer in the Singapore design scene when he founded design company/retail store Air Division in 1999 with three friends. Air Division was the first Singaporean company to sell its designs to high-end furniture retailers. However, Yong’s propensity for innovation began years before, in childhood. Growing up in a seaside wooden hut with limited materials at hand required Yong to invent his own toys using treasures he collected from the beach. He continues to utilize that same practice when designing furniture – creating with indigenous resources and relying on readily available materials, such as wood and steel.

    Yong has a degree in Industrial Design from Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore and graduated from the University of New South Wales in Australia with a master’s in Design. After serving as the creative director of Air Division from 1999–2009, he launched a consultancy called Nathan Yong Design, as well as Folks, a furniture label that honors Asian furniture craft. In terms of scale, Yong’s pieces are influenced by the congestion of city living, placing value on function and simplicity. “My work is a reflection of my yearning for nature in a concrete jungle like Singapore. Spaces are smaller and people are busier,” says Yong.

    Today, in addition to running his own furniture label and consultancy, Yong also serves as design director for Grafunkt, a Singapore-based company that focuses on Asian designers and products. He received the Red Dot Concept Design Award in both 2006 and 2007 and the Singapore President’s Design Award for Designer of the Year in 2008. Yong’s work has appeared in international design magazines including Abitare, Wallpaper*, Monocle and Dwell.

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  • Sean Yoo

    Sean Yoo

    KOREA (1968)

    Currently residing in Mexico City, Sean Yoo was born in Seoul and raised in Los Angeles, making him emblematic of the multicultural, globally fluent designers of his generation. His first career was as a city planner, but a visit to the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York, inspired him to pursue design. “I was particularly attracted to the way Noguchi applied sculptural qualities to common household objects,” says Yoo. “It seemed to give meaning and purpose to otherwise meaningless objects.”

    Yoo immediately enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, graduating in 2000 with a degree in industrial design. After a successful debut at the 2001 Salone Satellite in Milan, he and Angela Tarasco launched their studio, Apt 5 Design. Yoo’s work embodies versatility, with projects ranging from a compact bed and desk unit designed for a South Central Los Angeles housing project to Opus Shelving, a recyclable shelving unit that was inspired by a repeating pattern he noticed in the ruins of Pompeii. “I don’t think I intentionally try to design multifaceted work. It’s not that I don’t respect traditional typologies, but I’ve never really been afraid to mix it up a bit,” explains Yoo. “I grew up in a rough part of L.A. with mostly other immigrant kids, so it was never a big deal to learn, adapt and incorporate different cultural values as a part of my own. We all spoke at least one other language besides English and had to learn to be flexible and versatile to cope with culture clash at home and in the streets.”

    That multicultural sensibility has continually informed and inspired Yoo’s work. Upon relocating to Italy, he found a supportive and open environment for design, one that embraces a global perspective. In 2002, he became the first non-Italian to win the prestigious Concorso Young & Design Award at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, and in 2006, his work was selected by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Design Museum of Milan to be included in the I.DoT (Italian Design on Tour) 2006–2007.

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  • Michael Young

    Michael Young

    ENGLAND (1966)

    Born in Britain, international design maverick Michael Young got into the field because he believed it would allow him to do, basically, whatever he wanted. For this renowned industrial designer, this has turned out to be true. After studying furniture and product design at Kingston University, he launched Michael Young Studio in 1992 and soon after headed to Iceland. His studio then moved to Brussels, Taipei and, finally, to Hong Kong, where he now resides. Sometimes. “I’ve actually always wanted to get my life to a point where I can be wherever I want at any point in time,” he says.

    Setting up shop in Hong Kong was a savvy and calculated move for Young. It places him in the center of manufacturing and has given him direct access to the Asian factories that build his creative concepts. And all this without the pretense of the European scene: “Design isn’t about marketing,” says Young. “It’s about industrialization.” In his work – which has included all types of furniture, interiors and products like the City Storm bicycle for Giant, the Sabar Sextoy vibrator for Kiki de Montparnasse New York and state-of-the-art wireless speakers for EOps – Young pulls influences from all these experiences, melding East and West. This is evidenced in his intricate use of folded paper, which he specified for a furniture collection for Established & Sons, as well as the interior of Pissarro restaurant in Hong Kong.

    Art, design and manufacturing merge holistically in the creative eyes of Michael Young. He has boldly refused to adhere to traditional modernist design constraints and has, through his unique eye, created a new visual language.

    To hear more from Michael Young himself, check out this video on the life and legacy of the designer.

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  • Marco Zanuso

    Marco Zanuso

    ITALY (1916–2001)

    One of the elder statesmen of modern design, Marco Zanuso contributed to the Italian design movement in the years following World War II. Trained in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano (1935–39), he opened his own design office in 1945, and his work was marked by rigor and originality during a long, illustrious career.

    Zanuso was professor of architecture, design and town planning at the Politecnico di Milano from 1945 to 1986, played a role in founding ADI (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale) in 1954 and helped to organize the first postwar Milan Triennial. He served as editor first of Domus from 1947–1949, and then of Casabella, from 1952–1956.

    Zanuso’s early experiments with bent metal brought him recognition at the International Competition for the Design of Low-Cost Furniture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1948. Further exploration of materials yielded sleek designs in plastic and upholstered furniture. Witness, for example, his breakthrough designs for Arflex, a division of Pirelli. In 1948, the company commissioned Zanuso to design its first furniture models using foam-rubber upholstery. Zanuso’s Antropus Chair was released in 1949, followed by the elegant Lady Armchair, which took First Prize at the 1951 Milan Triennial. The chair offered not only comfort and sensual contours, but also a previously unimaginable potential for efficiency in production.

    During the 1960s, Zanuso enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration with widely respected German designer Richard Sapper. One of their first projects was a children’s stacking chair for Kartell. Light, functional and manufactured in playful colors, the simple chair was among the European designs that began to transform the perception of plastic from a cheap material to an appropriate, even classy, material for the modern home.

    Zanuso and Sapper also earned their place in design history as consultants to Brionvega, developing products that have since become icons of modern industrial design. The Doney 14 (1962) was the first completely transistorized Italian television, while the LS502 (1964) was a battery-powered portable radio that folded into a neat box. The Doney television won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro prize in 1962. Continuing their creative partnership through the 1960s and ’70s, Zanuso and Sapper also designed the characteristically minimal Grillo folding telephone for Siemens (1965), as well as highly styled household products for Necchi.

    Alongside his contemporaries and countrymen, Mario Bellini, Joe Colombo and Ettore Sottsass, Zanuso was one of the great Italian designers of the 20th century.

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  • Eva Zeisel

    Eva Zeisel

    HUNGARY (1906–2011)

    Eva Zeisel was continually intrigued by what she called her “playful search for beauty.” A person of delightfully defiant spirit, the designer was just beginning her career when she declared war on the fashionable avant-garde. “I didn’t accept the purism of modern design,” she said. “In my definition, if it gave beauty to the eye, it was beauty.”

    Zeisel was born Eva Striker in Budapest in 1906. Her father ran a textile factory and her mother was an outspoken feminist and one of the first women to earn a doctorate at the University of Budapest. It was through her mother’s urging that Zeisel switched from studying painting at the Hungarian Royal Academy of Fine Arts to pursuing the more practical career of ceramist. She apprenticed herself to a potter at a porcelain factory, an unusual path for an educated woman at that time. Zeisel persisted, graduated to journeyman status and became the first woman admitted to the local pottery guild. It was during this time that her work took on the sensuous, flowing and biomorphic forms that would continue throughout her career.

    In 1932, Zeisel moved to Russia, explaining, “It was curiosity that moved me. I wanted to see what was behind the mountain.” She found a job working for the Communist government as artistic director of the glass and ceramics industries. In May 1936, everything changed. “At 4am, there was a knock at the door, and so began a different life,” she recalled. Accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin, Zeisel was sent to prison for 16 months, 12 of which were in solitary confinement. The accusations were fabricated, and Zeisel never knew who was responsible for her release or how that joyous day came to be. “I hadn’t seen any colors for a year and a half,” said the designer.

    Upon her release, she married Hans Zeisel. They lived in Vienna briefly, before the threat of Hitler made them leave for America. “I saw the Statue of Liberty, and my fears came down. It was a very touching reception,” said Zeisel of her October 1938 arrival. The next day she went to the magazine China and Glass and was immediately commissioned for ten ceramic miniatures for $100. She was also hired at New York’s Pratt Institute, where she became the first person to teach ceramics as industrial design for mass production, rather than handicraft. Zeisel’s work continued to gather acclaim, and in 1946, her all-white modern dinner service – a first by an American designer – was honored with an exhibition at MoMA. Her work is included in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. In 2005, she was awarded the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

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