Max Lipsey, furniture designer

Max Lipsey’s father is an architect, and his mother is an artist, but it might be Murray Moss who’s most responsible for turning the Eindhoven-based, Aspen, Colorado native on to design. In the early 2000s, Lipsey was attending NYU, studying design in what he calls an “extremely academic” way. On his commute every day from Chinatown through Soho, he’d pass the windows of Moss’s design emporium, which at the time highlighted the work of Dutch provocateurs like Maarten Baas, Hella Jongerius, and Marcel Wanders. “It sort of made me realize there was a place somewhere I could get my hands dirty and make things rather than writing about them,” he says. Lipsey applied and was accepted to the Design Academy Eindhoven — one of the rare Americans who ever attempt it — and by his first project he was hooked: “I made a belt buckle,” he remembers. “I was playing with sandcasting tin and I made a mistake where the sand broke apart and scattered in the mold, leaving tiny pockmarks where the crumbs had landed. When you polished it, it looked really nice, and it helped me learn to keep an eye open for mistakes. You have to play and experiment and you’ll discover things you wouldn’t have been able to imagine before.”

That kind of experimental, let’s-see-what-happens attitude would at first seem a rejection of the precision-based craft of his father’s architecture — except that the project that’s earned Lipsey the most notoriety since graduation is a series of dining chairs, loungers, and stools whose colorful steel frames are based on the manufacturing techniques and elegant geometries of classic racing bikes, which happen to be among the most meticulously crafted objects around. Called Acciaio (Italian for “steel”), the stools employ a metal-joinery technique known as fillet-brazing as well as a tapered profile and optional racing-stripe stickers that all call to mind the kind of vintage ride that Lipsey has long obsessed over. His breakout collection perhaps more reflects an idea he’s been toying with since his graduation project, for which he made a set of branch-shaped coat hooks that looked like trees growing through the wall and into the house. The project was about bringing the outdoors inside, a concept he’s been meditating on lately after so many years abroad. “I really miss being in nature. In Colorado everything you do for fun involves being outside. You don’t exactly feel that connection to wilderness in Holland.”

Thing you love most about Eindhoven:
“The people.”

Thing you hate most about it:
“The weather.”

Music most played while you work:
“It changes depending on the work. When I need to think and concentrate, it’s Goldberg Variations by Bach. When I need to get some energy and to crank out some production, Devo or Talking Heads. If it’s boring work that I need to distract myself from: podcasts.”

First thing you ever made?
“I made some fucking brilliant wood and paint compositions at our ‘wood workshop’ in kindergarten.”