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.

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” »

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 

Summer Fellowship: Mid-Point Update

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Left to Right: Sandy Chilewich, Fellow Karina Campos and Fellow Sarah Ahart at Chilewich in NYC.

We caught up with the Be Original Americas Fellows to hear about their experiences and discoveries halfway through the inaugural Summer Fellowship Program.  Below, they share what it’s like to go behind the scenes at our member companies and dive into hands-on learning that can’t be reproduced in the classroom.

What has been the most surprising thing about your experience so far?

Sarah: The most surprising thing to me so far is how much human touch goes into the manufacturing and assembly of furniture.  I had always assumed that machines are doing a majority of the work, but after viewing some manufacturing facilities, I have learned that is not the case.

Karina: The most surprising thing so far has been the number of times my career path has changed. I’ve started keeping count and I think I am up to 32. Touring these incredible companies has fluctuated my design thinking and opened up design career possibilities I never knew existed!

What have you learned by being on site that you couldn’t have in the classroom?

Sarah: Being on site has showed me how many different people actually work on one product in order to bring it to market. In school there is not usually more than three people working on a team, where in the office each product goes through a bunch of different teams before it is ready to go to production.

Karina:  At school, our projects have an end date, once we turn in that PDF or a final mock of a product – that’s it, you’re done! And seeing real world design professionals working on projects and the communicating between departments shows that it goes beyond just designing, you have to work and collaborate with people who don’t necessarily speak the same “design” language. Projects are ongoing and there is a lot of push and pull among different people.

Has your perception of the day-to-day at a design company changed? If so, how?

Sarah: My perception of design companies has been solidified rather than changed.  I had always assumed that design companies were collaborative, but it was awesome to see first-hand how collaborative they really are. Throughout the entire design process, multiple teams are working hand-in-hand to make sure that the product is successful.

Karina:  Yes! Definitely! After seeing the environments of differently sized companies, there is an overarching theme that there is no theme, not every workspace is the same. Each company outlines its work in a different way that caters to their specific needs and tasks. Some are more rigid and some are loose but what I have observed is that everyone loves their job regardless of the structure because it’s what works best for them.

 

Fellow Sarah Ahart looks through textile samples at Carnegie.

Fellow Sarah Ahart looks through textile samples at Carnegie.

 

Based on your experiences so far, how do you think original products stand out from the rest?

Sarah: Original products stand out from replicas in the way that they are manufactured.  There is such a high level of craft and care that goes in to creating every aspect of the original product that is definitely not seen in a fake.  This ensures outstanding quality as well as a product that will last longer and serve its purpose better.

Karina:  As one of my design idols, Charles Eames, stated, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” Original designs stand out with their details. An overall silhouette may present itself with the same visual language, but the details are what set original designs apart. These companies design with integrity, passion and have the goal of the user in mind to deliver satisfying experiences. All things are considered, from joinery techniques to material choices, all to produce a product that is long lasting, beautiful and comfortable.

What are you most excited for next?

Sarah: I am looking forward to continuing to broaden my knowledge of the design world. Every new place I visit, I am exposed to new areas of design that I didn’t even know existed. I am excited to have a larger understanding of all of the directions that this career path can take me.

Karina: A few more weeks of traveling! I’m excited to see new places and design companies that will continue to change my design philosophy. I thought I had a pretty good definition of what it means to be a designer, but every moment on this trip has challenged that pre-established definition–and I like it. There is more room for a re-definition and reconstruction of my design process and goals.

 

Keep up with the Be Original Americas Fellows week by week on Interior Design to learn more about their experiences at some of the design industry’s most innovative, esteemed, and original companies. You can also follow along @beoriginalusa for updates behind the scenes!

The Originals: Nani Marquina

Nani2014_HR_crop

 

What does “original” mean to you?

For me, original is something unique. It can be a piece, a product, or a work of art that offers an idea, a new concept that changes what we are accustomed to experiencing.

 

Has being an entrepreneur encouraged you to take risks in your designs?

In a way, I think that designers have an entrepreneurial essence, as their contributions are novel and contain large doses of imagination, vision and daring. These are just some of the necessary elements it takes to build a business. I was always clear that my goal was to surprise people with my products and to achieve this it has been necessary to take risks and break the mold.

 

How does authentic design support ethical business and social responsibility?

Design is unquestionably a factor in social transformation. One of the primary goals is to improve the lives of people; I believe that design is increasingly sensitized to ethical and social responsibility. In our case, our products are 100% emotional design that presents an additional intangible value. We are committed to surprising and captivating our clients, passionate about improving the living conditions of the workers involved in the manufacturing process of each rug, paying the utmost attention to the care and maintenance of the environment around us.

 

True to her design roots, Nani Marquina launched her namesake brand in 1987, a time in which contemporary rugs were non-existent in Spain. After studying industrial design at the Escuela Massana of Barcelona, Nani launched nanimarquina, a brand dedicated to the design, creation, and distribution of rugs and textile products for the home, based on values such as observation, innovation, and enthusiasm, with the goal to use traditional craftsmanship and techniques to create contemporary pieces. In 1993, Nani Marquina  moved manufacturing facilities to the north of India. to further incorporate o craftsmanship and tradition as a new design concept and consolidate the brand. Throughout the years, the brand has garnered numerous awards such as the National Design Award and the Premi Cambra a la Gestió Empresarial (Chamber Award for Design Management) in 2005, as well as several nominations for the Príncipe Felipe Award for Company Excellence. Nani Marquina has also recently received the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, a personal achievement that led to the 2007 FIDEM Award for Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year. She has enjoyed tenure as the Chairwoman of ADP (Professional Design Association), and of Red (Reunión Empresas de Diseño). Starting in 2014, Nani Marquina is the President of the FAD, (Foment de les Arts i Disseny), in Barcelona. nanimarquina.com

May 2014: Be Original Americas at WantedDesign

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WantedDesign NYC hosted a standing-room-only crowd of design professionals and consumers as Amanda Dameron, Editor in Chief of DWELL lead a lively discussion about knock offs and their effect on the environment, our economic well-being, and ethically with Felix Burrichter, Editor & Founder, PIN-UP Magazine, Mark Schurman, Director of Corporate Communications, Herman Miller, Bonnie MacKay, Retailer Consultant, Nasir Kassamali, Co-Founder of Luminaire, and Paolo Cravedi, Managing Director, Alessi

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From the cost to create the molds for original design to the risks the authentic manufacturers take in creating original design, the conversation was lively and spirited.  Thank you to all who attended.

April 2014: Be Original Americas at RAPT Studio

Almost 100 design professionals and manufacturers attended the Northern California IIDA chapter event at RAPT Studios in San Francisco as Pilar Viladas, former Design Editor, T Style Magazine, discussed the difficulties design firms face in keeping the specification on the original design with Collin Burry, Design Principal at Gensler (SF), Simone Vingerhoets, EVP, Artek USA and Johanna Grawunder, designer.    

Material innovation is critical and it was suggested that brands use a “nutrition type label” as they do in food, so consumers know what they are buying.   Grawunder said buying copies is like buying “fake art”.  The Q&A was plentiful and powerful.