American Design Hot List 2023
Los Angeles and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, ohlastudio.com
Giulia Zink and Mat Trumbull of Ohla have one foot in Los Angeles and the other in Mexico, but it’s the latter that informed their first foray into furniture design, which debuted last year. In the city center of San Miguel de Allende, they created Sin Nombre, a residence and gallery, and filled it with their Alocer collection: slab-like travertine tables that reference early stone carvings, scalloped cast-aluminum chairs, copper lights, and more. Their gingko-esque lights and cast-aluminum coffee tables, with etched patterns resembling the moon’s surface, are the standout pieces in a collection full of knockouts.
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
American landscape paintings of the Hudson River School painters caused a stir of excitement in Europe in the mid-19th century. At the time there was a European perception about the Americas: lacking in culture, tradition, taste, etc. However, these paintings were expressing what the Americas did have: opportunity, adventure, discovery, vast rugged spaces framing the sublime.
And we can relate to that. I think our metaphor is very similar. We are fortunate to use formal tools and training to interpret and mimic these vast rugged idea-scapes — trying our very best to transmit something poetic and frame something sublime.
An example is our upcoming exhibit. While driving through central Mexico we stumbled upon a lonely desert truck stop in a hilly landscape studded with gigantic candelabra organ cactus. The proprietor is this jack-of-all-trades outsider artist, and he had crafted all of the restaurants’ furnishings by re-purposing the trash that had been discarded by passing truck drivers. And they were these rugged, extraordinary, and beautifully proportioned pieces — stools, chairs, and tables. Fast forward: We’ve been invited to participate at a gallery show at UNAM during Zona Maco (Mexico’s most notable university and Mexicos most notable art-fair). Ohla Studio is re-producing the truckstop “stool” design, working with three Mexican artisans in three distinct Mexican materials. We’re just connecting the dots, trying to accentuate and amplify the purity of the design and the narrative. Trying to call attention to what is otherwise overlooked, forgotten. Our goal is to celebrate the design, the designer, the maker, the material, the university, the event, the desert truck stop, the city…. The Americas…
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
This is an exciting time for us, and we are looking forward to the New Year. We have several things coming up. We are releasing a specialty design in collaboration with UNNO gallery for Zona Maco. We have a boutique hotel project in Merida, where we are leading the architecture, interior design and custom furniture design. We are renovating another property in Merida, and inside it we’ll launch a new capsule collection. We also have some new retail design projects in Europe and the US and there will be some exciting work travel. Stay tuned.
What inspires or informs your work in general?
We curate experiences which guide us to research. Although, we spend most of our time filtering thoughts, intentionally discarding 10,000 things and seeing potential emerge in few: Faberge egg jewelry, Mayan carved stone relics, Italian travertine quarries and palm tree farms in southern Florida. We see Tuscan wood fired ceramic kilns, we see anodized titanium.