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Rafael de Cardenas

New York, architectureatlarge.com We hesitated from including de Cardenas on this list for years because we thought he might be too well-known, having designed hip-yet-haute interiors for the likes of Nike, Cartier, and Jessica Stam. Then he nabbed the AD100 and Maison et Objet’s Designer of the Year, and we stopped overthinking it. Better late than never. What is American design to you, and what excites you about it? I think America’s greatest export is a certain kind of optimism. I’m excited by the problem of how to fold American optimism into American design. What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year? I can’t get too specific yet, but there are a number of upcoming projects I’m excited about. In general we seem to be working on a larger scale, coming up, which is great. But I also always love the smaller-scale project that allows us to work with a finer grain of detail. The line of eyewear we just designed with Gentle Monster, for example. Also, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the studio. We’re currently preparing a monograph to be published in celebration of the occasion. That will be coming out next fall. What inspires/informs your work in general? Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, David Lynch, Madonna. Bruce Springsteen, right now. I have a roster of about ten movies that serve as an endless source, for me — a source of more than I could hope to say. I keep coming back to them.
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Rafael de Cardenas

After an architecture education at UCLA and a stint designing menswear for Calvin Klein, Rafael de Cardenas founded the interiors studio Architecture at Large in 2006. Since then, the Cuban-born, Manhattan-raised designer’s neon fingerprints have been everywhere, from the Op Art–inspired alternative art spaces he designed in New York, Miami, Athens and beyond for OHWOW gallery, to interiors for the likes of Parker Posey and Jen Brill. In the spring of 2011, de Cardenas released with New York’s Johnson Trading Gallery his first collection of furniture — geometric armoires, benches, and consoles, all built around the rotation, mirroring, and multiplication of shapes. The necklace he’s made in collaboration with Architecture at Large’s lead designer Robert Passov is the first piece of jewelry ever created by the studio.
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When de Cardenas mentions he found this black dresser on the street outside his apartment, my eyes widen, but it turns out that it, too, is the work of his refinisher, who lacquered it for free — a job that would typically cost upwards of $3,000. He might get rid of it soon though: “I need something bigger,” he says. “I have a lot of socks.” Next to the dresser is another street find, a black chair that de Cardenas doctored himself. “At one point I had pink tape on the living room walls, which started peeling so I took it off. I used the extra to wrap the chair. I always do little projects here and there.” The photo hanging on the wall is of an explosion, by Reuben Cox.

Rafael de Cardenas, Interior Designer

If style is a sore subject for the up-and-coming interior designer Rafael de Cardenas, who bristles at the suggestion that he might have one, a therapist would likely lay the blame on his mother. A Polish-Swiss former fashion PR agent — who with his Cuban father moved the family to New York City when de Cardenas was six — she was constantly redecorating, stripping the house bare every time her tastes changed. “She’s into one thing carried throughout, she can’t mix and match,” says de Cardenas. “So once it’s something new, everything’s gotta go. There was an Armani Casa phase, and now it’s all Native American, with blankets and sand-covered vases from Taos. It scared me away from design to a degree.” After spending most of his childhood wanting to be a doctor, he eventually went to RISD to study fashion and painting, and ended up heading the menswear department at Calvin Klein for three years. But although he admits that interiors were something he never put any thought into back then, design began exerting its slow pull.
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Design and Art Are More Connected Than Ever at New York’s Newest Gallery

Whither Johnson Trading Gallery? The New York design gallery — which in its heyday introduced an American audience to the work of contemporary designers like Max Lamb, Kwangho Lee, Katie Stout, Aranda/Lasch, and more (not to mention Rafael de Cárdenas's epic first furniture collection) — had been relatively quiet of late. Now we know why: Earlier this month, it was announced that while JTG will continue selling vintage work, the contemporary artists in their stable will be absorbed into a new program at one of our favorite art galleries, Salon 94.
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The Best Gifts for Design Lovers, $250 and up

For our last holiday gift guide, we're letting loose. On our most extravagant list? A leather-topped turntable, an ombré wall mirror, and an epic pink armchair — among others — that will make you want to blow your rent check and never look back.
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Views by Designer Tom Hancocks

In his new Views series created exclusively for Sight Unseen, New York designer Tom Hancocks used the 3-D graphics software Blender to conjure six different rooms inhabited by various types of chairs, whose forms and relationships to their immediate surroundings were intended to convey certain moods and emotions.
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Week of December 15, 2014

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: new jewelry based on Superstudio sketches from the '70s, a new BDDW housewares line based in the middle of nowhere, and a tropical photoshoot by Studiopepe that basically makes us want to jump on a plane immediately and fly south.
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At Art Basel and Design Miami 2013: Part II

If you spent even an ounce of time at the pool while in Miami for Basel last week, or having cocktails with friends, or sleeping late thanks to an epic hangover, there's an excellent chance you failed to see everything that was on view at the various fairs and satellite exhibitions around town. We ourselves had so little time at Art Basel itself that we did an embarrassingly inadequate skim through what amounted to about a third of the show, promising ourselves we'd come back later in the week (yeah right). And then there were the personal moments we missed just by virtue of not being able to be at every gathering of friends, every party, or every impromptu beach hang at any given time — the weird, wacky, and wonderful experiences our friends had amidst the hyper-stimulation that is Basel, which we witnessed fragments of during the rare times when we were able to sit down and catch up on our Instagram feed. Because we couldn't be everywhere nor see everything, we decided to ask some of our favorite design-world folks to share with us what they saw — the one favorite photo they took in Miami last week, from droopy hot dogs to Modernist masterpieces.
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The Noho Design District, 2010-2013

In 2010, Sight Unseen launched the Noho Design District, New York Design Week's most exciting platform for new ideas and emerging talents. The design festival ran until 2014, when it was relocated and rebranded as Sight Unseen OFFSITE.
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Sight Unseen and HTC: A New York Design Tour

As you may have noticed, Sight Unseen isn’t just a web magazine: Considering all the time we’ve spent getting up close and personal with designers, we’ve become intimately involved in the design scene over the years — particularly on our home turf. What that means is that we’re frequently asked to bring the Sight Unseen experience to life for other brands and institutions, like with the pop-up shop we curated for Creatures of Comfort, the book launch we hosted with Rizzoli, and the panels we’ve led for the likes of DWR and the Museum of Arts & Design. Last month, we were approached by the London tour agency Urban Gentry with a new kind of proposal: to craft an insider’s journey through the New York design world for a group of international journalists, in town for the launch of HTC’s new 8X and 8S phones. After a bit of brainstorming and a flurry of phone calls, we managed to line up a two-day itinerary that would make any design lover swoon. Read on to follow our trek from the now-private Johnson Trading Gallery showroom in Queens to the Noho headquarters of Roman & Williams, and beyond.
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Our 10 Most Popular Instagrams of 2016

This week, we're reflecting back on some of the year's highlights, from the stories you loved, to the images you helped turn viral on Pinterest, to the Instagrams that sent our likes skyrocketing. We've excerpted 10 of your favorites after the jump.
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2016, Part IV

This week we announced our 2016 American Design Hot List, Sight Unseen's unapologetically subjective annual editorial award for the 20 names to know now in American design, presented in partnership with Herman Miller. We’re devoting an entire week to interviews with this year’s honorees — get to know the fourth group of Hot List designers here.
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