Where to Find Original Designs this Holiday

When it comes to the holidays, the mood can go from cheerful to overwhelming from one minute to the next.

What to do?

  1. Bring original design into your home
  2. Support local businesses
  3. Get your loved ones hooked on authentic design!

Giving the gift of original design is a sure way to keep spirits up and show you care. From accessories for festive get-togethers to interior accents to set the mood, here’s where you can find authentic designs this season.

Designs for Gathering

Ready to feast? Sempli creates geometric wine glasses and carafes with a unique sense of balance, while Chilewich’s colorful weaves add a pop of color to the table. Seeking that memorable gift that last a lifetime? Look no further than brands like Alessi and Ligne Roset, who work with whimsical design minds from young to iconic to create unexpected objects and exciting home accessories.


Sempli & Alessi

Chilewich & Ligne Roset


Know Where to Buy

Stop clicking and start walking! Find a local retailer who knows their way around design. Keep an eye out for stores like these:

They carry high-quality, original pieces, and have knowledgeable staffs who know what makes a design worth investing in.


Soft Square

Gabriel Ross

Merry and Bright

Beautiful spaces brighten the mood, and most people don’t know that cheap knockoffs not only harm the integrity of the original design itself, but could contain toxic materials, not last the year, and might be produced in places you’d never want to go!

Skip the cheap and think long-lasting. Bring something special to your space with contemporary lighting designs from FLOS, warm wooden accents from Ethnicraft, or even custom wall grilles from AJK Design Studio.

A company that values original design means they approach their work with making something timeless in mind. All it takes is one look at Design Within Reach’s manufacturer list to find innovative companies like Kartell, Luceplan, Magis, Emeco, Artemide and many more that invest in quality materials made to last.

FLOS & Ethnicraft


Magis & Artemide

And we are only skimming the surface. Stay tuned for our Keep It Real series to discover other members who will delight and excite you.

Where do you go to find your favorite original designs? Find inspiration from our members and tell us your story in the comments.

Design in the Era of Trump

What is the future of design in the era of Trump? Watch our panel discussion with industry experts to learn how recent tariffs have been affecting the design industry.

Moderated by Suzanne LaBarre, Design Editor, Fast Company, and hosted at Fuseproject in San Francisco, our panel of experts included:

Collin Burry, Design Director & Principal, Gensler
Laura Guido-Clark, Creative Director & Founder, LGC Design
Ted Boerner, Founder, Ted Boerner Furniture Design
Primo Orpilla, Principal, Studio O+A
Derek Chen, Founder, Council Design

What are your thoughts about how the recent tariffs are affecting the design industry? Let us know in the comments.

Originality, Authenticity, and the Maker Community

Guest blog by Greg Benson, Founder, Loll Designs

As a Maker, I have always had a strong urge to be original. And I know I’m not alone.

It’s really fantastic to be part of the Makers Movement happening right now, and heading up a small design and manufacturing company in Minnesota has been very rewarding. I started making furniture in 2003 as a way to repurpose unused material from our TrueRide skate park ramps, featured in more than 450 municipal parks all over the country. I wasn’t really a skate park designer, but the drive to innovate helped me achieve that success, and gave me the confidence to figure out how to make outdoor furniture, too. My goal was to create a piece unique enough to become known as the “Duluth Chair.” Why do the Adirondack Mountains get to have all the geographical glory? It was, and is, a bold venture – and I meant it to be.

Continue reading “Originality, Authenticity, and the Maker Community” »

Valuing Original Design: From Inception to Installation

Guest blog by Original BTC

Investment in original design means investing in the designers and the process that creates it, acknowledging that creative and cultural innovation is not always straightforward, and that developing a coherent concept can sometimes take months or even years. This may be particularly draining on time and resources, requiring complex problem-solving and acute attention to detail.

Commitment to original design is needed from those outside the generative and manufacturing processes, too. When consumers choose to buy original pieces, they give designers credit where it is due. Their investment provides financial remuneration not just to the company producing the designs, but enables that company to support artists and sustain time-honored traditions. Of course, a buyer should also enjoy and cherish the products that they purchase, and by investing in authentic designs they get a sense of pride and satisfaction every time the piece is seen or used. This meaningful relationship helps to build a positive environment, whether in the home or in a public space where a designer crafts an experience of place for other inhabitants. For trade professionals, this uncompromising approach can set your work apart.

Handblown glass at Original BTC

Continue reading “Valuing Original Design: From Inception to Installation” »

#BEOAFellowship Week 8: From Design Students to Designers

In brief, tell us your main takeaways from this summer. What stayed with you? What will you take into your last year of school, and into your future as a designer?

Defne: After visiting so many companies, I was surprised to see how expansive the design industry is. There are companies that specialize in a design field, there are companies that specialize in a design element, there are companies that sell design, promote design, manufacture design or even assemble design! I found it incredible to see how everyone worked with each other and how most products on the market are a collective effort of many different companies and industries. That realization inspired me to combine different industries together in my studies as well. During my last year in college, I would like to specialize in lighting fixtures with a focus on flexible materials. However, I don’t want to just produce a series of products; I would like to consider my project on a holistic level from its manufacturing to its marketing and brand identity. I believe that’s the step I need to take to in order to switch from a design student into a designer.

Janell: Through this fellowship, we got the opportunity to see firsthand the ins and outs of running a business in the design industry. As the fellowship spans over a dozen companies, ranging from a small to large scale and from graphic design to architecture, it was very insightful to compare the challenges between them. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the prevalence of sustainability becoming an industry standard. A common theme throughout the companies was an effort to reduce waste through a made-to-order business model and to ensure durability to eliminate the constant need to replace products. However, Emeco took it a step further by using largely recycled materials — something I hope to explore during my last year of school. Using Emeco’s 80% recycled aluminum and products made of industrial waste as precedents, I will spend my thesis researching accessible ways to turn disposable plastic into a building material.

Congratulations to our fellows on a productive, educational, and inspiring summer with our members! Keep up with Defne and Janell‘s design paths on Instagram and take a closer look at their experiences this summer on our blog

#BEOAFellowship Weeks 6 & 7: Exploring Lights, Textiles & Digital Media

As the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship continues, Defne and Janell explore woodworking, textiles lighting and digital media. 

You spent a week in North Carolina at Bernhardt Design and Skram Furniture company. What differences did you see between the design industry in North Carolina versus in New York, Michigan, or California?

Defne: They have different values and priorities. In San Francisco, due to the vast amount of tech companies in the area, designers look for ways to combine emerging technologies with their products such as remote lighting solutions, wireless technologies etc. In New York, due to limited space available, most designers find it easier to have their creative studios or showrooms in the city while outsourcing design parts to outside manufacturing plants. In North Carolina, however, the relationship between craftsmen and the designer seems to be more personal because the space availability allows companies to have in-house manufacturing facilities, workshops, and equipment where designers can actively participate in the manufacturing process. The designs and crafting techniques are also more traditional compared to tech focused designs.

Bernhardt Design capitalizes on their abundance of space, opting to utilize in-house manufacturing.

Janell: While it was expected that the physical footprint of each company would vary greatly based on location, I was surprised by how this affected different aspects of the business. Those in more rural neighborhoods had opportunities to expand and, especially in the case of Bernhardt Design, opt to do most of the manufacturing. By having some services in-house, these businesses are able to offer easy customization and alterations. In contrast, companies located in more dense areas like New York and San Francisco appeared to be more specialized. In addition to the influence of the industries in their surrounding communities, the freedom to explore different manufacturers resulted in more adventurous designs.

Bernhardt Design and Skram Furniture Company both work extensively with wood. What did you learn about working with and manufacturing an original design with this raw material?

Defne: I have always found wood to be a fascinating material to work with because it has so much personality to it that it can be unpredictable. I have seen that both in Bernhardt Design and Skram, those disadvantages were used as unique design elements that further enhanced the authenticity of their products. The veneering process was also something that I have never seen before and seeing two different techniques of veneering wood was definitely a remarkable experience for me.

Working with wood, the fellows explore the many ways the material can be used in design at Skram Furniture. 

Janell: Even though I have worked with wood before, there were a handful of applications and techniques I was introduced to during this fellowship. From making veneer to learning new kinds of joinery, seeing a common material throughout a range of companies shows its versatility and reliability. In addition, our visit to Skram Furniture Company emphasized the intimate nature of it. Not only is every piece of wood unique, but the material requires a personal touch throughout the whole process due to its variability. Although this hinders uniformity, the mindset of embracing imperfection ensures that each product is thoughtfully made.

Continue reading “#BEOAFellowship Weeks 6 & 7: Exploring Lights, Textiles & Digital Media” »

#BEOAFellowship Weeks 4 & 5: Learning from the Masters

Keep following along with the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship as Defne and Janell explore the world of design.

You visited Michael Graves Architecture & Design and experienced a full design team brainstorm. How did you find the process?

Defne: The experience we had in Michael Graves Architecture & Design was similar to the design process we follow at school which was reassuring to see. The brainstorming process was rapid with an all-welcoming approach towards all ideas. It really was fun working with professionals on a project and see how our college education helps us find a common ground and language in the real world.

Janell: Using a hypothetical project to help us understand the process of design. We started the day with a team brainstorm for a new housekeeping cart. Everyone was given a pen and a pad of sticky notes to write down anything and everything that came to mind, no matter how ridiculous. I was pretty unfamiliar with the process, but it started to feel like making spaghetti models in school — spaghetti is extremely affordable and easy to break and assemble with little to no tools. This approach of rapidly producing was initially overwhelming, but proved to be an efficient way to collect ideas.

Original kitchen designs by Michael Graves on display. 

You spent a couple of days touring various showrooms in New York: Artemide, Gandia Blasco, Tom Dixon, Moooi, Carl Hansen & Son, Marset, Alessi, and more. What did you learn about the importance of retail in the design industry?

Defne: Every company has a different style when it comes to design and the showrooms played an important role in reflecting their design principles in a very elaborate way. For instance, Moooi had a more playful and vibrant showroom with different wallpapers matching their rugs and furniture, whereas Carl Hansen & Son had different rooms to promote the “hygge” of Danish lifestyle which focused on coziness. Herman Miller used their space both as a place to cherish their history and a platform to connect with their customers through storytelling and user experience. These details showed us how furniture is a part of a bigger story and how the experience matters as much as the product itself.

Janell: After spending the first few weeks focusing on the design process, it was very insightful to switch gears and look at the retail aspect. Something that stood out to me was the thorough thought process behind Herman Miller’s showrooms. In their New York showroom, a hypothetical family of two parents and a little girl lives there, surrounded by trinkets from their travels and studies. The family and their story change every six months, with the goal of helping visitors understand the range of ways the pieces could furnish a home. While many of the pieces are beautiful in their own right, retail plays a large role in making design approachable and shows that the products are meant to be lived in.

Innovative lighting design at Tom Dixon

An exploration of showroom design at Blu Dot

From glassblowing to quality control, marketing and sales — what was the most surprising thing you learned at Niche Modern?

Defne: The creative director of Niche Modern, Jeremy Pyles, actually talked to us about the different departments of Niche Modern and how they operate and he also shared with us what he considers strengths and weaknesses of each department. Listening to him talk about his own company with a critical eye and seeing him striving for improvement in every aspect really made an impact on me. I was inspired to consider new ways to improve my own branding strategies as well as my marketing, photography and product development skills.

Janell: As a company that does everything in-house, I was surprised to learn that the team is so small. It seemed as though everyone did multiple jobs in order to accomplish what they do — sales also acted as customer service, public relations also acted as a digital team, and the CEO also acted as product development. Jeremy Pyles, the founder and CEO, even mentioned that, in a sense, you have to “fake it till you make it.” I’m incredibly impressed by how Niche Modern puts in the extra effort to operate as a larger, more developed company.

Finding inspiration in the glassblowing studio at Niche Modern

Continue reading “#BEOAFellowship Weeks 4 & 5: Learning from the Masters” »

Design in the Time of Tariffs

Guest blog written by Ted Boerner, Founder of Ted Boerner Furniture.

A large part of what makes an original design successful is the alchemy of makers, materials and process. I trust our makers to craft our pieces with care, using the best materials and finishes available.  When the materials become scarce or the quality changes, the design is affected and we have to adjust.  From the perspective of a designer and business owner it feels like I am constantly attending to these fluctuations like a circus plate spinner.

We are all affected differently by the current administration’s imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum.  Usually the effects are felt later, but we felt them in advance when the uncertainty and chaos started even before the tariffs were imposed.  As the steel industry tried to figure out what it would mean in the future, their customers began buying up material to avoid the impeding tariffs.  This meant that the supply of steel was reduced drastically, leaving only lesser quality stock at higher prices.  We weren’t even sourcing our metal from the countries that would have had tariffs, yet everyone reacted.

Handcrafted production at Ted Boerner Furniture

Our company is small and the artisans we engage with have small spaces so they buy stock material as needed. We cannot compete with the huge companies that fueled this panic, so we are left paying higher costs for lesser materials.

But the effects go well beyond cost.

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#BEOAFellowship Week 3: Diving into design in San Francisco

Keep following along with the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship as Defne and Janell explore the world of design.

After visiting Laura Guido-Clark Design and learning about their approach to color, how has your view of color changed?

Defne: The visit to LGC made me realize that colors can be used in various ways to connect people together and create a sense of community, as well as convey a certain design language. Also there is so much to color than what meets the eye. Unlike what is usually being taught, red does not necessarily have to be a color that is passionate and aggressive. With different hues red can be warm, red can be inviting or friendly. Talking to Laura Guido-Clark made me realize that we have a rather narrow-minded way of looking at color and as designers, we should explore it more.

 Laura Guido-Clark Design teaches the fellows a bright & fresh outlook on color.

Janell: Visiting Laura Guido Clark was very inspiring because her outlook on color was extremely emotional. She emphasized that you don’t have to see color, you feel color — and through research, she actually found that humans were given the ability to see color in order to recognize human emotions. It really stuck with me when she phrased it as “color reminds us that we’re human.” Learning this made me understand why she is so passionate about empowering other communities through color. By transforming educational spaces, her nonprofit Project Color Corps has given students a sense of pride and ownership in their school, making them eager to learn and engage.

Designing a product is only part of the process, what have you learned this week about getting your product out there?

Defne: I learned that how you brand yourself, reach out to clients and sell your products has just as much importance as the design itself. There are so many products out there that you really have to stand out with your design outlook to show why you are different and why your design matters. Product packaging, logo and brand identity have to be compatible with the vision you have as a company but also answer to the client’s expectations. For example, if your designs are minimalist and modern, you really have to find that middle ground between keeping your packaging and branding simple while providing enough information to the customer. Easier said than done!

Hands-on with the designers at AJK Design actively pitching their products.  

Janell: From our company visits this week, I was definitely surprised by how the process differs based on company size. With a one and two-person team respectively, AJK Design and Council are very active in getting their products out there. We actually got to tag along to AJK Design’s pitch to an architecture firm during our time with her. Not only did this show the difficulty in playing all of the roles in a company, but also the possibility of gaining exposure despite all of her hard work. Derek Chan from Council mentioned that they usually hire representatives to get the products out there. In comparison, Fuseproject has a studio of 100 people and mainly focuses on the designs themselves, with the idea that the design will market itself.

Continue reading “#BEOAFellowship Week 3: Diving into design in San Francisco” »