There are some books that are quoted, referenced, or photographed so often in our line of work that they begin to feel like touchstones for design-world enthusiasts all over the world. The Nathalie du Pasquier–illustrated Leonard Koren bible Arranging Things: A Rhetoric of Object Placement is of those such books; the late-’90s graphic-design manifesto Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist is another. But recently, another book has begun popping up no matter where we look. Esprit: The Comprehensive Design Principle — a huge, softcover paean to every design aspect of the beloved 1980s fashion brand — was published in 1989 by its founder Douglas Tompkins, but has experienced a resurgence of late in these ’80s nostalgia–tinged, Memphis revival–happy times.
Every few seasons, it seems the internet cycles through a trending plant: flowering cacti, Fiddle Leaf Figs, Pilea Peperomiodies, Monsteras, succulent gardens, bouquets of dried eucalyptus (that you hang in the shower, natch), olive branches, an air plant in a terrarium. But here’s a wild proposal: Are we actually in the era of the 2-D houseplant? 2014 had a number of contenders, from the art-driven Strange Plants to Polly Brown’s study on office plants, to some sort of black and white Japanese ikebana reference on basically everyone’s Instagram feed (guilty as charged). A new contender for this category is Barcelona-based Flora Indoor, a line of minimal (but cheerfully colorful) prints of thriving houseplants.
Like most visually inclined folks his age, 25-year-old French artist Valentin Dommanget — who studied fashion as an undergrad before receiving his MFA at Central Saint Martins last spring — grew up with a steady diet of internet art. Having internalized a certain digital aesthetic that embraces all things geological and hypercolor, natural yet unnatural, he created a series of paintings that take those virtual influences and represent them through actual real-world handicraft, pairing paint-marbled canvases with torqued stretchers that mimic some kind of Photoshop rotation effect. Pictured above and below are selections from that series, plus other pieces that apply the same techniques to concrete tables, paper books, framed canvases, and crooked canvases that appear balanced atop geometric plywood cutouts.
Our first-ever From the Archives post, which looked back at William Sklaroff’s mid-century desk accessory set Radius One, dates back to November 10, 2009 — the very first day of Sight Unseen’s existence. But after that, the column pretty much petered out, partly because we didn’t have the time to research it properly and partly because, with millions upon millions of wonderful old things to potentially highlight, how could we ever choose just one? We’ve officially solved that problem today with the launch of our new and improved From the Archives series, in which designers and artists will do all the work for us: Each edition will invite a talent we admire to give a little history lesson on someone from the past who’s had a strong impact on their work. Our first subject is Brooklyn glassmaker Andrew O. Hughes, speaking about the California Light and Space sculptor DeWain Valentine (no holiday-themed pun intended).
Though we have a particular fondness for so many of the designers we’ve featured or worked with in the five years since Sight Unseen began, Huy Bui might be the only one who can lay claim to being both one of our favorite designers and the co-founder of one of our favorite New York restaurants. As the founder of Plant-In City — or what he calls architectural terrariums for “the 21st century” — Bui was one of the inaugural exhibitors at our Sight Unseen OFFSITE showcase last year. And as the designer and co-founder of the Lower East Side Vietnamese eatery An Choi, Bui’s provided the backdrop for many a late-night design date. So when Freunde von Freunden reached out with the opportunity to co-publish a story on Bui’s Brooklyn apartment and studio — complete with cameos by the designer’s sweet dog Loopy, one of the more popular attractions at OFFSITE last year — we jumped at the chance.
February: a month synonymous with diminishing New Year’s resolutions, potential polar vortices, and the world’s largest meet-up of Scandinavian furniture and lighting designs. Expectations for this year’s Stockholm Furniture Fair were higher than ever with positive winds sweeping through the industry (and Scandinavia in general, according to this week’s New Yorker). Although the Nordic vernacular for high-quality craftsmanship still prevailed, this year welcomed debate around experimental methods and their significance for contemporary design. From across both the larger halls and the Greenhouse display for independent designers, we’re highlighting some of our favorite products from the week here.
If you’re anything like us, the idea of receiving a big, overpriced bouquet on Valentine’s Day seems not only a little bit schmaltzy, but also a little bit of a waste, with all the amazing design objects out there your significant other could be spending his or her money on. Isn’t it more romantic or them to be so thoughtful as to gift you something you might really, actually want? With that in mind — and with a little nudge from our friends at Aether, whose strikingly minimalist Cone speaker we had on our own wish lists long before they reached out to us — we present the first ever Sight Unseen Valentine’s Day gift guide, featuring 11 items guaranteed to melt the heart of any design-lover in your life.