Up and Coming
Brutalist- and Bauhaus-Inspired Housewares and Lighting From the Duo Behind Material Lust
Christian Swafford and Lauren Larson, the creative couple behind Material Lust, introduced their sister line Orphan Work humbly enough, with a soft launch last year that had us wondering what, exactly, the brand even was. But since its debut, the label has evolved beyond its origins as “an exploration of orphaned material” and developed into a full-fledged brand. (Just don’t call it a diffusion line.)
Orphan Work now includes lighting, accessories, and what they call “monuments for your tabletop,” inspired at turns by Bauhaus and Brutalism, but mainly by the Vienna Secession; the focus is always beauty, proportion, and shape play. “There are a lot of holes in the market,” says Swafford, noting that much of the collection — which ranges from an alabaster and blackened brass sconce to a white epoxy table lighter — is drawn from the market-ready pieces he and Larson were creating for private label clients. Seeing what sold best was “eye-opening,” Swafford recalls, so the duo set about creating work that would lend itself to a variety of design schemes and layouts as well as a panoply of tastes. “Clients don’t really have baggage, they just like what they like,” notes Swafford. “It’s your job as the designer to introduce them to this world without knocking them over the head with it. The key is you have to listen to them.”
And so Orphan Work functions also as a release valve for the couple as they approach increasingly complex and challenging ideas through their practice as Material Lust, where projects have become more “grotesque,” as Swafford puts it. “It’s less about beauty and more about…God, I don’t even know.” That sense of melancholy feeds into the two labels in tandem, pushing the one deeper and darker while Orphan Work remains a breath of fresh air, tapped into the Zeitgeist but not beholden to it. And we could always use another chic sconce to pin.