From an outside perspective, the Brooklyn furniture-design studio Fort Standard exudes the aura of a successful business with a clear DNA. Yet that wasn't always the case: When co-founders Ian Collings and Greg Buntain first joined forces in 2011, after graduating together from Pratt, they had no idea what direction to take — they simply dove headlong into the making process. “We had one goal: to do our own thing,” Buntain said in a recent interview. Their stock may have risen since then, but behind the scenes, the pair still make an effort to keep things loose; to maintain a sense of discovery in their shared practice, they both do separate solo work on the side, little personal experiments and objects they create for their own homes. Occasionally these prototypes are developed into Fort Standard products, but most of the time they go unseen, as was the case for Buntain's marble Tombstone chairs before we spotted them on Instagram. When we approached the designer to ask him if we could share them with you in the interview after the jump, it turned out he had a home full of personal pieces he'd made but also never shared with the public, which he was kind enough to walk us through in the second half of this story.
It’s not very often that a designer’s work is accepted into the permanent collection at MoMA when he's just a year out of design school. But that’s what happened to the Israeli-born, London-based Royal College of Art grad Shay Alkalay, who debuted his Stack chest of drawers with Established & Sons at the Milan Furniture Fair in 2008 and saw it honored by the museum that same year. And no wonder: With Stack, Alkalay — who with his longtime partner Yael Mer forms the London studio Raw-Edges — stumbled upon a brilliant bit of reduction. The unit is made from a series of colored drawers, stacked atop one another, that can be opened from either side. There’s no frame and no back panel; in other words, it completely re-contextualizes what a storage unit can be. That same thinking went into the Book Case the pair constructed for their London flat, which is a bookshelf in the loosest sense of the word, seeing as there aren’t actually any shelves.
The way Jonas Damon sees it, designers these days fall into two camps: those who hold fast to the principles of legendary German industrial designer Dieter Rams and those who are partial to the camp and kitsch of pop artist Jeff Koons. It’s a theory Damon, creative director at New York's Frog Design office, picked up from his friend and fellow New York designer Ross Menuez — both of whom often produce work for Areaware, a design company that moves expertly back and forth along the Rams-Koons continuum. Damon is decidedly a Rams guy, which is perhaps why he feels so conflicted about the retro wooden enclosure he made for his iPad, one of the many things he’s built in his spare time for use around his apartment.
Hearing Sam Schonzeit talk about the dog sculptures he’s been making in his spare time — their faces clipped from an old breeders’ yearbook for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels he found at a thrift store — you can’t help but wonder if he catches the irony of it all. “These dogs look so nervous,” says the Marfa, Texas–based 37-year-old, a trained architect whose current day job is teaching at a local elementary school. “They’re pretending to be something else, and they’re sort of embarrassed that they’ve found themselves in this position. But that’s very human, which is why people like them — because everyone can relate to the feeling that you’re not where you’re supposed to be.” Ask Schonzeit if he ever considered pursuing a career as a conceptual artist, and sure enough, you get almost the same expression.
Believe it or not, Jason Miller’s a candle guy. Not to knock the chandelier that made him famous — or Roll & Hill, the eagerly anticipated lighting company he’ll launch this May — but there are times when the gentle glow of an incandescent filament just doesn’t compare to the real thing. After he renovated his new Brooklyn apartment last year, installing a carpeted conversation pit in the middle of the living room, Miller bought an armful of tapers and pillars from a shop in Woodstock and grouped them together on windowsills and side tables. It wasn’t long before he decided they needed their own purpose-built perch.
The piano — an upright, the kind you see in the back of saloons in Western movies — had been gathering dust at the antique shop for years. It sounded like hell, and its price had been marked down repeatedly. The tag said $300 the day Sebastian Errazuriz saw it, which struck him as a bargain considering he had zero intention of playing the thing: He would buy it, load it into a van with his brother, then string it up from the double-height ceiling of his Brooklyn design studio as a “constant reminder of the possibility of death — a kind of personal Post-It.”