The trio designed an end table to go along with Swell, their 21st-century take on the beanbag, and presented them both during last year's Stockholm Furniture Fair in the middle of a 19th-century building undergoing renovations. Obsessed with the language of construction, engineering, and industry, the three created plinths from cardboard boxes in a setting decorated only with chipboard and concrete. Called Form Us With Friends, the exhibition showed the trio’s latest work with Ateljé Lyktan, Bolon, and Arcona as well.

Form Us With Love, Furniture Designers

Does the world really need another beanbag chair? That was the question that presented itself to the Stockholm-based trio Form Us With Love when they visited the factory of Swedish furniture manufacturer Voice in the summer of 2009. “We were led on a tour of the facilities by the managing director,” they say. “Upon arrival at a production line of beanbags, the director stopped. The facility, once churning out bags by the minute, now stood motionless. Trend and low-quality copies had severely stunted production. The brief was concise — design a piece of furniture that would make the machines run again.” The group — made up of Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren, and Petrus Palmer, who met as students in the first-year design program at Kalmer University — responded the only way they know how: By stripping the beanbag of its passé, dorm-room connotations, and using a powder-coated wire frame and a sophisticated color palette to recast it not as a piece of childhood ephemera but as a contemporary take on the easy chair, fit for any modern-day living room.

Raw Edges in the V&A’s “Couples Counseling” Video Series

When it comes to the issues explored in the Victoria & Albert museum’s video series “Couples Counseling," which probes the relationships behind five London design duos, Raw Edges’s Yael Maer sums things up handily: “Working and living together — it’s a very problematic issue,” she says with a loaded smile. Adds partner Shay Alkalay: “We have to find a way to separate personal life and professional life,” before making it clear over the course of the subsequent seven-minute interview that the couple have managed to do no such thing. But although all five of the partnerships profiled — including FredriksonStallard and Pinch Design — admit that mixing love and professional collaboration brings its fair share of challenges, in the end the viewer understands that what gives their work its strength is the depth of character that results when a person’s greatest admirer is also his or her toughest critic.

Dokter and Misses, Furniture and Fashion Designers

There’s a lot that’s hard for Westerners to understand about Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin, the husband and wife who make up the South African furniture and fashion duo Dokter and Misses. First, there’s the fact that they hail from Johannesburg, a city whose art scene has held sway in the international market for years but whose few industrial designers are hardly household names. Then there are their references, which remain resolutely sub-equatorial: In our interview, we talked about game reserves, braais (the South African term for barbecue), a Nigerian dancehall/reggae musician named Dr. Alban, and an artist who uses the techniques of the Ndebele tribe, from the Mpumalanga region of the country. Perhaps most confounding is their name, which mixes English and Dutch honorifics and calls to mind everything from sci-fi movies to secretaries — and which the two refuse to explain. It’s lucky, then, that their work is so instantly likable and wonderfully easy to grasp.
The aforementioned collection of religious art above the bed is still in its fledgling stages and may eventually take up the whole wall. The crucifix is Mead’s Jesus Door Knocker, which the pair also keeps on the front door. “I think because Kiel and I were both raised Catholic, we have a big obsession with religious paraphernalia,” explains Boatright. Adds Mead: “Anything that’s religious we’ll collect and put up, and it’s weird that two people would see eye to eye on something so weird.”

Kiel Mead, Product Designer, and Sarah Boatright, Artist

On a shelf in the home office designer Kiel Mead shares with his girlfriend, the performance artist Sarah Boatright, sits a set of drawers stuffed with backstock of his Forget Me Not rings, little string bows cast in precious metals. Mead’s breakout design when he was still studying furniture at Pratt, the rings were the genesis of the 27-year-old’s fascination with casting objects into wearable reminders — of childhood, of holidays, of lost loves, of an old car he once drove. Boatright, 23, also deals with the preservation of memories in her work, dressing up in goofy wigs to make reenactment videos of family Thanksgivings or furtively recorded interactions between strangers, which go on to enjoy eternal life on YouTube. So if you’d expect the couple’s Brooklyn apartment to be decked out with the kind of overstyled chicness typical of two young creatives, one of whom practically runs the Williamsburg branch of The Future Perfect, you’d be mistaken: Like their creations, the possessions they keep on display are more about storytelling than status.
This winter, Lin designed United Bamboo’s second annual cat calendar — a cult favorite in the fashion world, shot by photographer Noah Sheldon — giving him the chance to work with a slew of paper-only techniques: blind-debossed months, a foil-stamped back, a silk-screened sleeve. “I envisioned it as more than just 12 photos of cats. On the back of each page, there’s information about the cat — their age, how their owners got them — and clothes silhouetted like a clothing catalog. It adds a bit more of a narrative.”

Alex Lin, graphic designer

If you were to chart the degrees of separation among young American designers, you might do well to start with Alex Lin. Since 2007, Lin — a Yale School of Art grad and former designer at 2x4 — has created all of the branding and collateral for Brooklyn-based furniture designer Stephen Burks, who often does work for the sustainably minded home accessories company Artecnica, who recently launched a line of pendant lights by Rich Brilliant Willing, who produce their Excel light series with Roll & Hill, who shared an exhibition space at this spring's Noho Design District event with Areaware, who commissioned a special 5-year anniversary piñata from Confetti System, who did the set design for United Bamboo’s Spring/Summer ’09 campaign. Confetti System also happen to share an 11th-floor Manhattan studio with Lin, who is the mild-mannered, super-talented graphic designer at the vortex of this Venn diagram–gone-haywire. Lin has headed up his own shop for only two years, but in that time, he’s worked with every creative on this list and then some.
One of 10 knitting machines at the Eindhoven factory where Emily Hermans designs and produces custom textiles for her clothing line, MLY.

MLY by Emily Hermans

When Emily Hermans started her own clothing line in 2004, she did something kind of genius: She found a local knitwear factory in Eindhoven that would let her produce her own textile designs on its knitting machines, and then slowly convinced its owner to take her on as a partner. He would get equity in her line — MLY — and she could crank out prints to her heart’s content without paying a premium. There was only one catch.
His best-known sculptures — like this one, from a 2007 solo show at Greene Naftali — demonstrate how Drain typically deploys those fabric scraps and homemade knits: Generously, and with abandon. The show’s slightly nonsensical press release at the time called it a “gender-bent amalgamism of bent tube steel and metal covered in a stylish frenzy of patterned fabrics, part Frank Stella and part parade float, part corporate sculpture and part strip club decoration.”

Jim Drain, Artist

It’s a wonder that Jim Drain isn’t a hoarder of epic, A&E-worthy proportions. Sure, nearly every corner of the 3,000-square-foot Miami studio he shares with fellow artist and girlfriend Naomi Fisher is crammed full of stuff — chains, knitted fabric scraps, yarns, paint cans, talismen, toilet tops, costumes, books, prints, past works, and parts of past works that have been dismembered, all jockeying for attention. But considering Drain has worked with 10 times that many mediums in his nearly 15 years of making art, fashion, and furniture — often incorporating junk found in thrift stores and back alleys — hey, it could be a lot worse. “My dad will find something and go, I got this weird thing I think you’ll like, and my friends do it too, and I’m like, I’m not a trash collector!” he insists.
Vernacular architecture: In a small way, Jaklitsch practices his own sort of vernacular architecture with the Marc Jacobs shops, most of which have been inserted into existing structures. He takes pains to make each store location-specific and to honor the site's original intent, whether it's an old tobacco warehouse in Savannah, Georgia, a shop in strip-mall-happy Los Angeles, or a renovation inside Paris's Palais de Royale.

Stephan Jaklitsch, architect

In the world of retail, there is a tendency towards sameness, a familiarity designed to lull shoppers into a complacent state in which they might begin to feel it’s okay to spend a lot of money. A Zara, anywhere in the world, is immediately identifiable by its gold-toned lighting and rows of shoes lined up haphazardly underneath the clothes; a Marni boutique leaves its mark with swooping stainless-steel rails and elliptical cutouts in the ceilings. As a brand, Marc Jacobs has never been about uniformity, though — this is a fashion designer, after all, who’s gone from the most infamous collection of grunge in history to the luxurious heights of Louis Vuitton — so why should his stores? “There are certain iconic elements that are repeated,” admits Stephan Jaklitsch, the New York–based architect who’s been responsible for Jacobs's bricks-and-mortar for more than 10 years, “but in general, each store relates to its own specific building type, to the city’s specific urban condition, and to the architecture of the individual space. Although they’re identifiably connected, every one of them has a particular feel.”
Zieta may be a designer, but he’s first and foremost a researcher: He’s spent the past eight years working on his PhD while refining the industrial processes behind his FiDU technology, the fact that he ended up with a hit furniture line on his hands being merely a bonus. At least part of that focus can be credited to his geneology: “My grandpa was a metalsmith, in a very, very old way," he says. "He made horseshoes, and we make this very innovative and modern art.”

Oskar Zieta’s Metal-inflating Facility

When Oskar Zieta was given the honor of creating a site-specific installation in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s sprawling central garden during this year’s London Design Festival, he had a fairly significant advantage. With his own high-tech metalworking factory in Poland capable of producing large-scale inflated-steel structures, he had the means to fabricate whatever flight of fancy he and his team might possibly dream up, no matter how ambitious. And yet standing in his way was an obstacle far more prosaic in nature, one it would take ingenuity moreso than technological muscle to surmount: teeny tiny doorways. “The doors were really small, and all the ideas of getting to the garden by a helicopter or by a crane had to be rejected because of the risk of destroying the museum’s façade,” he told the fair’s bloggers at the time. But for someone like Zieta — who’s spent the past eight years monomaniacally experimenting with the proportions of the metal sheets he welds at the edges and then blasts full of air — it read like an intellectual call to arms.
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.
For Isetan, Wilson also created a line of knitted piggy banks whose mouths squeeze open to accommodate incoming cash.

Donna Wilson, textile designer

It's always seemed to me that being Donna Wilson is indeed as much fun as it looks. From her Aladdin’s cave of a studio in London’s Bethnal Green to her colorful, vintage fashion sense, Wilson actually does live and breathe her work. On the rainy November afternoon I visited her studio, which is filled floor-to-ceiling with bits and bobs of yarn, I asked what she might do if she had any spare time. She pondered: “I think I’d like to travel to Scandinavia and probably get a dog.” Which led into a discussion about the possibilities for a range of Scandinavian-style dog sweaters, as everything usually comes back to the knitting. Of course, though Wilson made her name creating woven poufs and rugs inspired by the Fair Isle sweaters of her youth in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, it’s not actually just about the knitting anymore but also about bone china, linens, melamine trays, totes, piggy banks, ceramic Staffordshire dogs, biscuits, packaging, furniture and more. At this point, there isn’t much that Wilson hasn’t turned her hand to.
Maria-Klara Gonzalez, Barcelona. Text by Jo Walker, photos by Wai Lin Tse. Maria-Klara's Barcelona flat was a "sleeping beauty" when she and her boyfriend Roger first happened upon it three years ago while biking to his parents' house for dinner. "It had a kind of dreamlike atmosphere with different wallpapers in all the rooms," the illustrator and former architect remembers. "It had been empty for years and unfortunately the last inhabitant had been a heavy smoker and the flat was extremely stuffy. So it was a hard decision, but when we tore out all the wallpaper and painted the whole flat, the air changed completely."

Spaces, By Frankie Magazine

When it comes to its namesake subject matter, Spaces magazine doesn’t discriminate: There are live-work lofts in the wilds of Brooklyn, warehouses in Australia turned into artist communes, cafes in Hamburg lined with vintage shoe lasts and gumball machines, and even a section of so-called wall spaces, where entire spreads are devoted to close-ups of textile, teacup, or taxidermy collections. “We wanted an eclectic mix, somewhere between vintage, designy, and handmade,” says Louise Bannister, managing editor of the cult indie lifestyle magazine Frankie, who co-produced Spaces as one of the magazine’s twice-annual special projects. While past editions have included a recipe book or a small photo album filled with 110 snapshots culled from contributors around the world, the editors chose to focus on interiors after the success of Frankie’s only section devoted to them: Homebodies, where they feature casual portraits of the homes of musicians. For Spaces, the team scoured the internet from their homebase in Melbourne looking for creatives of all stripes, pairing large-format images with personal interviews about how they found their space and what they keep in it.
Glass insulators: “They’re made out of a single material, but they have all these interesting textures. They often have a thread and text cast into them. Plus they’re usually beautiful colors. We looked at a lot of these when we were designing our Bright Side Lights (above),” says Williams. “People have had a really emotional reaction to the lights — they say it reminds them of an old appliance or a blender, or it makes them think of other experiences they’ve had, which I think is the mark of a successful object.”

Rich Brilliant Willing, Furniture Designers

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.”