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

Emeco

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

Why every designer needs to care about design integrity

Guest blog by Kenneth P. Baker IIDA, SBID, Assoc. AIA, Assoc. ASID, Assoc. RIBA – Gensler Co-Managing Principal, Southeast Region

The architecture and design industry is fueled by creative, imaginative and innovative people with a deep sense of passion for our work. We get emotionally attached to our projects, and take immense pride when that work is recognized by our clients and our peers in the industry. Gensler decided to become a board member of Be Original Americas because we believe that these elements of our industry’s culture need to be protected, and we need to ensure that every designer is practicing with the highest level of design integrity to ensure a prosperous future for everyone.

PNC Tower, Pittsburgh. Photo: Connie Zhou

Our firm has its own product design practice area, and since we’re putting the time, resources and energy into designing new and innovative products for our clients, we don’t want our products to be reproduced by other manufacturers looking to profit off our hard work. Because we are invested in protecting the power of our own brand, we only use products sourced from their original developer in our projects. We practice what we preach, and we’re trying to elevate the conversation in the industry so other firms can see the value in following suit.

We all love and are inspired by great design, and when we see a product that would be perfect for a client that simply won’t find the budget for it, the temptation to find a cheaper alternative can be overwhelming. The problem is, by failing to respect the work of our peers in the industry we are making it difficult for talented people to invest in the next round of design innovation. That’s not the kind of industry that we want to be, and it’s not the kind of professional that anyone ever aspires to be. So what’s the answer?

Continue reading “Why every designer needs to care about design integrity” »

Ask a Retailer: Soft Square

In the movement to support original design, retailers hold a key role: they are the bridge between manufacturers and consumers, bringing designs from the production floor to people’s homes. To find out more, we asked our member Soft Square to tell us about being a retailer that supports original design. 

Tell us a bit about how you got started in the design world.

We first started selling furniture out of a small warehouse. We gradually took steps into expanding the ever-evolving Soft Square. To be in the design business, you have to have a passion for what you do along with tenacity and grit. Modern furniture & timeless design is something we have always loved.

How do you choose which designs you want to represent in your store?

When we go to Milan, Paris or Cologne for trade shows, we must always consider our clients & what makes sense for our market. We are very meticulous with the brands we bring into our store and they have to be original designs. The quality of the product is one of the most important aspects. At the end of the day, we only choose what we love. When clients come in the store they can see the passion behind each carefully selected item.

In your experience, what are some common misconceptions consumers have about authentic design?

One of the misconceptions is that people think they can get a similar item for a lesser price. When you buy a knock-off, for instance, it is not going to be the same quality as the original and won’t last as long. It’s worth paying a bit more and having the original piece, which will wear better and longer.

Continue reading “Ask a Retailer: Soft Square” »

The Originals: Kasper Salto

Kaspar Salto

 

 

What does “original” mean to you?
If we are talking about a person [original] could be misunderstood as strange or hilarious, but in the context of an object in design, I see it as something interesting. Even if it was a person, I would still consider very positive to be original – as the world of cultures and the Internet makes people more and more alike, thinking the same thoughts everywhere – original is something very valuable I think. New York is so wonderful because of the different cultures and people.

 

How does drawing inspiration from nature push you towards innovation in your designs?
No matter what your starting point is, I think your design method will predict your outcome. If you start up a design project only being inspired by nature there is a good chance you will end up with a project that is detached from being a fully functional design object. Too much “shaping” without and research and analytical method means that after a few years, the product will end up in the landfill. Design is not art, and art is not design: they are two different ways of working.

 

How has traditional Danish furniture been influenced by advancements in industrial design?
Danish design has always been influenced by foreign culture. Poul Kjærholm’s lounge chair PK 22 is led out from the Barcelona chair – far from imitation, but refined to be simpler, lighter, more lean in production and overall very pragmatic. The SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen by Arne Jacobsen must have been started from admiration of The Lever House in New York, designed 1952 by Skidmore and Owens and Merril. It’s not a copy [of The Lever House] but it has some links to it, and I am sure there are several things that have been improved in the later SAS Royal Hotel since 1955. When I recently created my NAP chair with Fritz Hansen, I looked at the PK9 chair – that has always been one of my favorite chairs. So you can say that a lot of architecture and design through history is built on the shoulders of something prior. “Design is to take something and make it better.”

 

Danish furniture designer Kasper Salto credits the beginning of his storied career to his design of the Runner chair, spotted in 1997 by Be Original Americas member Fritz Hansen. This marked the beginning of a successful and continued partnership with the company, including such iconic collections as NAP, Ice, and Little Friend. In 2004, Salto founded design company Salto & Sigsgaard with architect Thomas Sigsgaard, specializing in interior, product, and lighting design. Notable projects include winning a prestigious 2011 competition, allowing them to design new furniture for the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Today, the room is considered one of the three greatest Danish architectural masterpieces outside Denmark. Learn more at http://kaspersalto.dk/.

The Originals: Harry Allen

Harry_Allen_grande

 

What does “original” mean to you?

As a designer I make “original” happen every day. It’s part of my DNA. I am always seeking out new design territory — all of my products must forge new ground aesthetically, conceptually, and/or functionally. Otherwise, why design? Only original design is design.

 

How can trusting the intelligence of your audience lead to innovation in design?

For me, it’s not about dumbing down a product to fit a current trend, or copying something that has been done. I see it as my duty to lead, not follow, and it’s the best premise for design.  A good design mind is trained to see beyond what is already out in the world. It’s the definition of creativity — to create something new, and that is ultimately what consumers want — to be challenged, to bring great new products into their lives, to have their lives bettered by design. That is where consumer intelligence comes in — they can recognize a winner. Sometimes it takes some time, but if you design a great new product it always gets recognition — because people are basically pretty smart.

 

How effective is the use of new materials in helping to deter copycats?

I love new materials for all they can bring to a design. Right now I am working on a project with Ecovative, a material company that grows a wood-like product out of mushrooms, Designtex, who have developed a compostable fabric, and E2E who make a soy-based glue. I brought them all together in a new acoustic tile called” Weave” that will be manufactured by Ecovative. It is beautiful, functional, and environmentally sound. In fact, they are completely compostable. So in this case, the design of the product is great, but it is the materials that make it amazing. And I am pretty sure no one will be copying them anytime soon.

 

 

Harry Allen is the founder and president of Harry Allen Design. He has designed furniture, lighting, products, and interiors for a wide variety of international clients. His long-standing interests in art, new materials, and systematic design approach have led to some of the most intelligent products and interiors in the world today. Allen’s work is in the permanent collection of Museum of Modern art (NYC), the Brooklyn Museum of art, the Denver Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His awards include the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Modernism/Young Designer Award and two Industrial Design Society of America IDEA Awards. harryallendesign.com 

Focus On: Craftsmanship

Craftsmanship is what makes innovative ideas for authentic designs a reality. The skill of an artisan or a meticulously refined mechanical process incorporate the attention to detail and standard of excellence necessary to create objects that become a part of our lives and deepen our relationship with our environments. Fraudulent products, with their shoddy make and low-grade materials, fail to capture our imaginations with their rough approximation of the aesthetics and functions that make authentic products a success. Craftsmanship is the difference between objects that inspire, and ones that just take up space.

Designers of integrity know that their intended concepts for a new product or solution can only be articulated through the highest standards of materials and manufacture.  This month, we’re featuring some of our members who shared with us their stories of unique manufacturing techniques, material uses, and design practices that showcase the lasting value of authentic design.

 

Skram

SKRAM Collage

Skram Furniture Company emphasizes sustainable practices, authentic materials, and extraordinary workmanship. Their craftsmen utilize a mix of traditional techniques and cutting-edge fabrication processes to meet the highest standards of precision and durability.

 

Flavor Paper

FLAVOR PAPER Collage

Brooklyn-based wallpaper company Flavor Paper has mastered the art of large-format hand silk screening. Their diverse portfolio of expertly silk screened and digitally printed designs offer unparalleled customization and creativity to designers.

 

Cerno

CERNO collage

Vertically-integrated Cerno makes all of their lighting designs at their own facility in Southern California.Founders Nick Sheridan and Daniel Wacholder are involded in each step of production, which includes both handiwork and modern technology.

 

nanimarquina

NANI Colalge

nanimarquina brings manual production and contemporary design together by researching tools, looms, and craft heritage to achieve harmony between the design concept and finished product. In addition, nanimarquina produces their designs in developing countries to boost local economies and help build a brighter future for those involved in the rug-making process.

 

Emeco

EMECO Collage

 

The iconic Emeco Navy Chair is crafted through a detailed, 77-step process. Recently, the Be Original Americas Summer Fellows visited their facilities in Pennsylvania to get a hands-on look at the famous production – read more at Interior Design.

 

As our members show, when objects are created with the intention of improving the lives of the end user – and not just cashing in on stolen profit – the manufacturing process features a commitment to sustainable, responsible practices and a high standard for quality control and materials that create true value. Follow us @beoriginalusa for more stories of craftsmanship and inspiration.