If there’s one thing that’s defined a Rich, Brilliant, Willing product since the studio’s three members graduated from RISD in 2007 and banded together to make furniture, it’s the idea of the mash-up. In most of their pieces, seemingly disparate materials and odd colors come together in a sort of joyful schizophrenia — a lamp with differently colored, awkwardly placed dowel legs, a wood-and-metal coat rack with copper, steel, and plastic pegs, and even a candle holder crowded with tapers, birthday candles, and fat, number-shaped votives. But a funny thing happened this spring: The trio released a series of cast-glass pendant lights with the Los Angeles–based design company Artecnica that were notable not only for their pretty, industrial aesthetic but for their adherence to a single, monochromatic material. “It’s unusual for any object to made of a single part these days,” says Theo Richardson, who with Charles Brill and Alex Williams makes up the trio, their surnames forming the basis for the studio’s cheeky name. “Most of the time, things are glued together, screwed together. But for us, this was going from assemblage work to something that’s made of a single piece.”
It’s another sign of maturity for a group who, while there’s nary a thirty-something among them, has been fortunate enough to produce work with four different manufacturers in the past year alone. But don’t expect it’s a signal they’re letting go of the loose-limbered quirkiness that made them famous in the first place. “We’re constantly trying to balance growing a creative business while retaining some of the specialness of what we’ve done so far,” says Williams.
So far, the balance has worked. The trio has pieces in production with Areaware and Roll & Hill in New York, and Innermost and SCP in London, but for the most part, those companies have taken on works that the three initially developed and produced in-house. It’s a process that’s left RBW with a surprising amount of creative control; for them, hooking up with a manufacturer has often come to mean they can expand their product line — a table upturned to become a pendant light, for example, or a floor lamp adapted into a sconce — and not that they are beholden to someone else’s vision.
So even as they’ve begun a ginger courtship with companies from Marset to De La Espada, they’re still tinkering and experimenting in the fifth-floor studio and workshop they share in a Lower East Side building that’s been home to everyone from John Derian to The Talking Heads. They recently invited us over to tell us what they’re working on next and to share with us a few of the inspirations that have informed their work so far.
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 first thing people marvel at when they see the furniture of the young duo Sebastian Herkner and Reinhard Dienes is its industrial, institutional cool — bare wood against metal against richly colored glass, in shapes evoking old spotlights and torches and desk chairs. The second thing is how these hip, talented designers — whose first collection this year caught the eye of Wallpaper, DAMn, and Monocle — landed in Frankfurt, a middling city of 650,000 without a glimmer of Berlin’s cachet.
For Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham, pattern is everywhere — in the flaking paint of street bollards and the crisscrossing beams of scaffolding, in the fashion photography of Mel Bles and the banded stiletto heels of Parisian shoemaker Walter Steiger. Together, Murray and Winteringham run Patternity, a studio and online resource for pattern imagery where each photo is curated, sourced, or taken by the designers themselves. Spend some time on the site, and their obsessions become clear: One week it’s rocks and strata; another it’s the vivid African textiles that line the stalls of the Ridley Road street market that runs daily in Dalston, the East London neighborhood both women call home.