It seems ironic that the design school at Northumbria University's two most famous graduates would be Max Lamb and Jonathan Ive. At one end of the spectrum is Lamb, a designer so consumed with the act of making and the transparency of process that he films himself fabricating each piece from start to finish and posts the results on his website. On the other is Ive, who’s responsible for an object that’s more of a cipher, one that conceals its mechanics within and successfully erases any questions about how the way it works or the context in which it was made. But perhaps the difference between the two designers is as simple as the difference between their concentrations at university: Ive graduated from a Northumbria program known as Design for Industry, which focuses on consumer experience, while Lamb finished a course called Three-Dimensional Design, where the act of making is as paramount as the artifact itself. It’s the latter program that's yielded the Designers in Residence who have exhibited at ICFF, for two years running, a collection of products known as Tools for Everyday Life, and it’s in Lamb’s footsteps that those designers follow.
If you happened to step into the new Orior showroom during New York Design Week, you were rewarded with a serious feast for the senses — plush, vibrantly colored velvets, deep green marbles and glossy woods, all of it showing the mark of impeccable craftsmanship. Here was Atlanta, a sinuous cobalt-blue sofa wearing a tasseled skirt, and Nero, a glossy oak table with a Brutalist marble base. There was Mara, a walnut and marble credenza fronted by varicolored leather doors, and Futurist, a muscular couch whose tomato-red leather cushions sit atop ebony legs. This, you realized, was furniture with personality, and the coolest thing coming out of Ireland by a mile. So where exactly did it come from?
The pandemic may have prevented us from hosting our Offsite show this year, but we didn't want to entirely abandon our role as a platform for supporting the work of independent designers — especially since they haven't let it stop them from coming up with brilliant new ideas, even without a physical fair to debut them at. So for 2021, we decided to curate a special collection of furniture and accessories by 16 contemporary designers and launch it for sale exclusively on 1stDibs, starting today.