Eric Trine Wants to Bring Powder-Coated Joy to the Masses

In the three years since we met Eric Trine — who, at the time, was a grad student skipping his art-school graduation to show with Sight Unseen during New York Design Week — the Long Beach, California–furniture designer has emerged as a true talent. And though his powder-coated pieces — geometric, clean, bright, and fun — have wowed us from the start, over time he’s honed his approach and philosophy, shifting from a DIY mentality to a full-fledged operation with a driving vision behind it: to make great-looking, high-quality products that are actually affordable. “I went to a crafts-based graduate school, but I’ve kind of always felt like it’s easy to make an $8000 table,” Trine explains. “You get some brass, some marble, some live-edge walnut. I know how to do that, from a conceptual standpoint. I know how to make that big, expensive thing. But what I felt is really hard to do is: How do we do this thing for the middle class? That price point is really challenging. How do we get this good design stuff in our lives and make it more accessible? And can we do that domestically, production-wise?”

For Trine, the answer lies in working largely with metal. And, as he puts it: “I can’t design anything complex. People say, ‘Oh, you have such a refined sense of simplicity’ and it’s like, no, I just don’t know how to do something hard.” Self-deprecation aside, Trine’s focus on accessibility is not only about cost but part of a down-to-earth, gracious ethos. “Having great furniture in your house is so you can have people in your house. I love this dining table so let’s have food around it. Not ‘Let me tell you about this table, it’s from this guy…’ You should be having Spaghetti-os and Two Buck Chuck and laughing with your friends, not talking about your status piece.”

Still, his own story helped form his ideas about design. “I grew up going to the Long Beach flea market, and I was a thrift-store kid. I used to ride my Beach Cruiser four miles when I was 12 years old to check out the local Goodwill, and my fascination with objects came from me not knowing anything about an object and realizing I could make it up.” Trine eventually pursued fine arts as an undergrad before getting his MFA in 2013 in applied craft and design from Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland. “I like that immediacy of design, that direct, pre-verbal response — I don’t know what this is but I love it.

That’s just the kind of response his work tends to inspire, whether it’s the elegant woven leather and polished copper frame of a hexagonal Rod + Weave chair or a perfect cobalt blue perforated-steel side table — the likes of which he’ll be rolling out at next month’s Sight Unseen OFFSITE. There, he’ll unveil a whole family of products, including a set of nesting tables, a wall-mounted shelf, and a bath collection, inspired, in part, by his friend Ellen Van Dusen’s line of towels. We can hardly wait to show you. But in the meantime, we’ll tide you over with a closer look at Trine’s Long Beach studio and some insight into one of our favorite designer’s creative process.