If you were familiar only with Uhuru’s work, it would be enough to surmise that the Brooklyn-based furniture designers are experts at creating something beautiful from practically nothing. (The formal term for this, we’re told, is up-cycling.) In the half-decade since RISD grads Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf have been designing their own line, they’ve produced chairs from Kentucky bourbon barrels, loungers from the Ipe wood planks of a demolished Coney Island boardwalk, and scrapwood stools so stylish they were recently picked to decorate the café at New York’s SANAA-designed New Museum.
But while it’s true Uhuru are a resourceful bunch, step into their sprawling Red Hook studio and any assumptions you might have about their bootstraps process all but disappear. The 10,000-square-foot workshop is more like a complex, consisting of three or four buildings haphazardly connected and owned since the 1940s by the international fix-it company Golten Marine, which services massive engine blocks for container ships from its factory space beneath Uhuru’s. Upstairs, the place was practically empty when Horvath and Hilgendorf moved in in 2005, and their team built it up from scratch — installing the wiring and machinery, cobbling together the most impressive supply chest this side of the Hudson, and with their latest project, turning the factory’s former commissary into a street-level showroom and event space. “When we first got here, it was way too much room for us,” says Horvath. “But we’ve been growing into it ever since.”
Besides the sheer luck involved in finding real estate on that scale in New York City, he and Hilgendorf originally had an ulterior motive for investing in the massive space. “We actually originally had a third business partner who had this crazy idea to do a reality show with MTV where we would design and build a dance club. We figured if we were going to build this thing, we’d better have a bigger place. At the time, we were working with several other people from RISD in 1,000 square feet at the back of some girl’s loft.” Of the show, he says: “They actually ended up filming two or three episodes — but the video has never surfaced.”
This story was originally published on June 9, 2010. Veuve Clicquot's renovated Hotel du Marc is set to open this fall. // In their most famous works, Fernando and Humberto Campana construct by a process of accumulation, looping yards of sail rope around seat frames or folding velvet tubing in on itself to create amoeba-like sofas. So it's fitting that visitors to the brothers’ São Paulo studio should find behind its unremarkable metal grate rooms and shelves stacked high with stuff — weird material experiments by the studio’s half-dozen in-house artisans, miniature models and prototypes, artifacts the brothers picked up on their travels, miles of scrap, and dozens and dozens of sketches. In some ways, it all seems an extension of São Paulo itself, a city of 20 million that in the last century has sprawled so far and wide it’s annexed, at last count, five different downtown areas.
It's easy to imagine the backstory of a Prada print: Miuccia has a concept for the season, and either a high-end Italian fabric vendor or her own design team supplies prints just for her. But consider a patterned polyester work shirt from Kmart, and you'd never guess that a RISD textile-design grad like Amy Voloshin might be behind it, translating those runway looks into something that appeals to mainstream Americans. It's an art unto itself: "I have a list of things I roll through in my head when I design for those clients: Is the print pretty? Is it scary, thorny, or edgy? If it is, it's not going to work."
Despite what most people imagine, you don't just find 3,300-square-foot apartments in Berlin these days — they have to find you. In Judith Seng and Alex Valder's case, it was a newly divorced friend of a friend, abandoning the loft he'd lived and worked in with his musician wife, and searching for someone who could fill the sprawling space. Seng and Valder, two process-oriented product designers with a habit of accumulating furniture off the street, signed the lease immediately. In May, they moved their home from a 1960s Socialist housing bloc on the historic GDR boulevard Karl-Marx-Allee, then packed up their separate studios, creating a common office in the apartment's living area. There's a dishwasher and a fancy Duravit bathtub, a spare bedroom and a roof terrace. Space may be abundant and cheap in Berlin, but this is not the norm. Friends seeing it for the first time routinely gape.