When Egg Collective launched their debut furniture collection at ICFF in 2012 — snagging a Best New Designer award in the process — they seemed to the design world to have come out of nowhere. And in fact, though the three — Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie — met and began collaborating as 18-year-old freshmen at Washington University’s architecture school more than a decade ago, the truth is they had formally joined forces and had begun crafting an ICFF plan only six months earlier. “I remember the three of us sitting outside the Javits Center in our Budget truck, about to move in furniture that we’d been working on with no one having seen for six months,” says Beamer. “I was like, you guys, this is it. People could just walk by us the entire fair. But thankfully we seem to have struck a chord and the work resonated.”
That’s a bit of an understatement. In the two years since their debut, Egg has been showered with accolades — Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list, Martha Stewart’s American Made awards, and our own American Design Hot List, to name a few — and they’ve built a successful business despite the fact that their model — every piece made painstakingly by hand within the five boroughs — can be difficult to sustain from a retail perspective. They’ve slowly built up a client list of interior designers and interested individuals, for whom much of the work they do is custom. This year, they joined the New York showroom Colony and premiered their first licensed product, a mirror that appears to float in space (and was appropriately named after Ellis’s grandfather, an aeronautical engineer.)
It’s details like those that make Egg’s furniture so compelling. Every piece feels imbued with a personal history because of the care the three put into each aspect of its making, from the carefully chosen materials palette (lots of warm brass, bronze, and stone) to the fact that each piece is named after a friend or family member. When I visited their Navy Yard studio and asked if they each had a favorite piece, Petrie responded: “I think we feel too emotionally involved in each of these pieces to choose. When I look at a piece I know how many chipboard models were made, and how many long hours of discussion we had on it and the things that have changed with it. It’s hard to detach yourself from and really love a piece or really call it your favorite.”
We have a hard time choosing as well. Click through the slideshow at right for an introduction to Egg’s work as well as a better glimpse into their studio and process.
If you were familiar only with Uhuru’s work, it would be enough to surmise that the Brooklyn-based furniture designers are experts at creating something beautiful from practically nothing. (The formal term for this, we’re told, is up-cycling.) In the half-decade since RISD grads Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf have been designing their own line, they’ve produced chairs from Kentucky bourbon barrels, loungers from the Ipe wood planks of a demolished Coney Island boardwalk, and scrapwood stools so stylish they were recently picked to decorate the café at New York’s SANAA-designed New Museum. But while it's true Uhuru are a resourceful bunch, step into their sprawling Red Hook studio and any assumptions you might have about their bootstraps process all but disappear.
Even for struggling post-grads, the constraints under which Pete Oyler and Nora Mattingly of the fledgling design studio Assembly created their debut furniture collection would be considered rather limiting. The couple — he a Kentucky-born RISD furniture grad, she a Pratt-educated interior design major — were living in a cramped apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant with a third roommate, sharing a studio space in even farther-out Brooklyn, and commuting nearly four hours to a woodworking shop in Westhampton, Massachusetts, where Oyler had apprenticed for two years before grad school. But rather than chafing against such strictures of space, the two worked with them, creating pieces that were easily transportable and could be effortlessly placed in any small space: side chairs with smaller-than-usual footprints, glass-and-blackened-steel lamps with hand-blown shades hardly bigger than the bulb, even a stripped-down toilet paper–holder that doesn’t consist of much more than a brass cylinder that mounts directly into the wall.
Todosomething is a Los Angeles–based design and fabrication studio that specializes in custom furniture and cabinetry with precise, exquisite finishes and subdued color palettes. But in the last few years, as their studio has grown, partners Chad Petersen and Dakota Witzenburg have begun producing their own products as well, which are extensions of their minimal design aesthetic—the ’60s-inflected, powder-coated metal (S)tool, the paint-tipped plywood A(+) Chair, a scorched-pine slab table with spindly steel legs. Between the two practices, which overlap in more than just appearance, they’ve cultivated a reputation as representatives of a certain Modern American style, one influenced by everything from Sol Lewitt to Shaker furniture.