To say that the editors of Sight Unseen have a thing for Memphis design is a gross understatement. For years they’ve been predicting, and perhaps—given their influence—pushing the resurgence of ’80s Pomo style; it’s all over the Sight Unseen blog and it was everywhere you turned at their design week event, OFFSITE. Almost.
This year marked a larger showing from designers who take a more minimal approach with neutral color palettes and refined, pared-down material choices. Seemingly, the two groups couldn’t be more different: one is attention-grabbing and ephemeral, while the other prides itself on understated simplicity and longevity. However, they play remarkably well together, and are even creating some unlikely offspring. As these styles continue to blend, the real focus becomes less about aesthetics and more about process. What methods are these young designers incorporating into their practice? What’s their intention? As I moved through the impressive showing at OFFSITE I repeatedly asked myself, is this work good because it’s masterfully mimicking a “look” (be it Memphis, minimal, or otherwise), or is this object (this chair, this textile, this vase, etc.) made from these materials and in this shape by intent—or rather, by design?
Without dividing anything into one camp or another, here’s what stood out:
Seating by Friends & Family, a multi-disciplinary studio that does everything from branding and art direction to graphic design, interiors, and architecture.
This ridiculously luxurious sling chair, made by AVO in collaboration with Ladies & Gentlemen Studio. You’d think adding anything “extra” to the beautiful, simple form of the leather seat and the wood base would interfere, but the hand-painted pattern by AVO’s Brit Kleinman is a perfect finishing touch that makes this a true stunner.
Eric Trine’s woven leather riff on patio furniture that works equally well indoors. He showed some new finishes this year in a shared space with fashion and print design studio Dusen Dusen, which debuted some new home textiles.
I’ve been dreaming up even more ways to arrange these Bower nesting tables made from lacquered up molded plywood and pretty shades of smokey grey and nude glass.
How much do you want to work out with the Shapes Bundle by Visibility, made with Outdoor Voices for this year’s Wallpaper* Handmade project? This is likely the chicest gym equipment you’ll ever see (made from wood, cork, and felt).
The LED Line Lights by Fortmakers’s Noah Spencer. These look best in the dark so the black electrical cord doesn’t distract from the simple forms.
The ceramics by Object & Totem are functional and whimsical, with tactile finishings and unexpected details. This is what fun yet elegant geometry looks like.
These surprisingly lightweight, magnetic bracelets by multi-disciplinary studio Luur are endlessly customizable; buy a pair, snap ’em together, and then change up the color scheme by buying interchangeable pieces. This collection could become an addictive.
RoAndCo’s collaborative effort with Flavor Paper, Paper Chase Press, lighting designer Brendan Timmins, and prop stylist Olivia Sammons—more on their boundary-breaking booth later.
Last but most definitely not least is the Ford “Dynamic Sanctuary” installation by The Principals, an architecture group that creates everything from really fabulous dominoes to immersive experiences, like this “architectural light chamber that uses space, materials, and responsive technology to evoke feelings of peacefulness amidst the crazy schedule of New York design week.” This was a particularly cool and unexpected diversion. Once you stepped inside the overwhelming, other-worldly space, you put your finger inside a little sensor and suddenly the light-filled walls “pulsed” with your own heartbeat. I didn’t see a single person leave without a look of wonderment on his or her face.