Vernacular architecture: In a small way, Jaklitsch practices his own sort of vernacular architecture with the Marc Jacobs shops, most of which have been inserted into existing structures. He takes pains to make each store location-specific and to honor the site's original intent, whether it's an old tobacco warehouse in Savannah, Georgia, a shop in strip-mall-happy Los Angeles, or a renovation inside Paris's Palais de Royale.

Stephan Jaklitsch, architect

In the world of retail, there is a tendency towards sameness, a familiarity designed to lull shoppers into a complacent state in which they might begin to feel it’s okay to spend a lot of money. A Zara, anywhere in the world, is immediately identifiable by its gold-toned lighting and rows of shoes lined up haphazardly underneath the clothes; a Marni boutique leaves its mark with swooping stainless-steel rails and elliptical cutouts in the ceilings. As a brand, Marc Jacobs has never been about uniformity, though — this is a fashion designer, after all, who’s gone from the most infamous collection of grunge in history to the luxurious heights of Louis Vuitton — so why should his stores? “There are certain iconic elements that are repeated,” admits Stephan Jaklitsch, the New York–based architect who’s been responsible for Jacobs's bricks-and-mortar for more than 10 years, “but in general, each store relates to its own specific building type, to the city’s specific urban condition, and to the architecture of the individual space. Although they’re identifiably connected, every one of them has a particular feel.”
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Zieta may be a designer, but he’s first and foremost a researcher: He’s spent the past eight years working on his PhD while refining the industrial processes behind his FiDU technology, the fact that he ended up with a hit furniture line on his hands being merely a bonus. At least part of that focus can be credited to his geneology: “My grandpa was a metalsmith, in a very, very old way," he says. "He made horseshoes, and we make this very innovative and modern art.”

Oskar Zieta’s Metal-inflating Facility

When Oskar Zieta was given the honor of creating a site-specific installation in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s sprawling central garden during this year’s London Design Festival, he had a fairly significant advantage. With his own high-tech metalworking factory in Poland capable of producing large-scale inflated-steel structures, he had the means to fabricate whatever flight of fancy he and his team might possibly dream up, no matter how ambitious. And yet standing in his way was an obstacle far more prosaic in nature, one it would take ingenuity moreso than technological muscle to surmount: teeny tiny doorways. “The doors were really small, and all the ideas of getting to the garden by a helicopter or by a crane had to be rejected because of the risk of destroying the museum’s façade,” he told the fair’s bloggers at the time. But for someone like Zieta — who’s spent the past eight years monomaniacally experimenting with the proportions of the metal sheets he welds at the edges and then blasts full of air — it read like an intellectual call to arms.
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When de Cardenas mentions he found this black dresser on the street outside his apartment, my eyes widen, but it turns out that it, too, is the work of his refinisher, who lacquered it for free — a job that would typically cost upwards of $3,000. He might get rid of it soon though: “I need something bigger,” he says. “I have a lot of socks.” Next to the dresser is another street find, a black chair that de Cardenas doctored himself. “At one point I had pink tape on the living room walls, which started peeling so I took it off. I used the extra to wrap the chair. I always do little projects here and there.” The photo hanging on the wall is of an explosion, by Reuben Cox.

Rafael de Cardenas, Interior Designer

If style is a sore subject for the up-and-coming interior designer Rafael de Cardenas, who bristles at the suggestion that he might have one, a therapist would likely lay the blame on his mother. A Polish-Swiss former fashion PR agent — who with his Cuban father moved the family to New York City when de Cardenas was six — she was constantly redecorating, stripping the house bare every time her tastes changed. “She’s into one thing carried throughout, she can’t mix and match,” says de Cardenas. “So once it’s something new, everything’s gotta go. There was an Armani Casa phase, and now it’s all Native American, with blankets and sand-covered vases from Taos. It scared me away from design to a degree.” After spending most of his childhood wanting to be a doctor, he eventually went to RISD to study fashion and painting, and ended up heading the menswear department at Calvin Klein for three years. But although he admits that interiors were something he never put any thought into back then, design began exerting its slow pull.
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For Isetan, Wilson also created a line of knitted piggy banks whose mouths squeeze open to accommodate incoming cash.

Donna Wilson, textile designer

It's always seemed to me that being Donna Wilson is indeed as much fun as it looks. From her Aladdin’s cave of a studio in London’s Bethnal Green to her colorful, vintage fashion sense, Wilson actually does live and breathe her work. On the rainy November afternoon I visited her studio, which is filled floor-to-ceiling with bits and bobs of yarn, I asked what she might do if she had any spare time. She pondered: “I think I’d like to travel to Scandinavia and probably get a dog.” Which led into a discussion about the possibilities for a range of Scandinavian-style dog sweaters, as everything usually comes back to the knitting. Of course, though Wilson made her name creating woven poufs and rugs inspired by the Fair Isle sweaters of her youth in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, it’s not actually just about the knitting anymore but also about bone china, linens, melamine trays, totes, piggy banks, ceramic Staffordshire dogs, biscuits, packaging, furniture and more. At this point, there isn’t much that Wilson hasn’t turned her hand to.
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Maria-Klara Gonzalez, Barcelona. Text by Jo Walker, photos by Wai Lin Tse. Maria-Klara's Barcelona flat was a "sleeping beauty" when she and her boyfriend Roger first happened upon it three years ago while biking to his parents' house for dinner. "It had a kind of dreamlike atmosphere with different wallpapers in all the rooms," the illustrator and former architect remembers. "It had been empty for years and unfortunately the last inhabitant had been a heavy smoker and the flat was extremely stuffy. So it was a hard decision, but when we tore out all the wallpaper and painted the whole flat, the air changed completely."

Spaces, By Frankie Magazine

When it comes to its namesake subject matter, Spaces magazine doesn’t discriminate: There are live-work lofts in the wilds of Brooklyn, warehouses in Australia turned into artist communes, cafes in Hamburg lined with vintage shoe lasts and gumball machines, and even a section of so-called wall spaces, where entire spreads are devoted to close-ups of textile, teacup, or taxidermy collections. “We wanted an eclectic mix, somewhere between vintage, designy, and handmade,” says Louise Bannister, managing editor of the cult indie lifestyle magazine Frankie, who co-produced Spaces as one of the magazine’s twice-annual special projects. While past editions have included a recipe book or a small photo album filled with 110 snapshots culled from contributors around the world, the editors chose to focus on interiors after the success of Frankie’s only section devoted to them: Homebodies, where they feature casual portraits of the homes of musicians. For Spaces, the team scoured the internet from their homebase in Melbourne looking for creatives of all stripes, pairing large-format images with personal interviews about how they found their space and what they keep in it.
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19th-century sterling silver vulture brooch. "There are a few people in England I buy from, nice ladies who live in rural areas who can find better prices than I probably could. This brooch is my favorite new arrival. It’s the total opposite of most Victorian bird jewelry, which typically has sentimental and romantic symbolism with depictions of swallows and doves. This guy is huge and mean — there’s nothing romantic about a scavenger."

Russell Whitmore, Owner of Erie Basin

Certain areas in the Northeast are generally regarded as nirvana for antique collectors: Hudson, New York; Lambertville, New Jersey; Adamstown, Pennsylvania; Brimfield, Massachusetts. Red Hook, Brooklyn, isn't one of them. But that’s where 29-year-old Russell Whitmore decided to set up shop three years ago, on a corner just a few blocks from the East River wharfs. His much-loved store, Erie Basin, specializes in Victorian- and Georgian-era jewelry, furniture, and curiosities, with a dash of 20th century thrown in.
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Glass insulators: “They’re made out of a single material, but they have all these interesting textures. They often have a thread and text cast into them. Plus they’re usually beautiful colors. We looked at a lot of these when we were designing our Bright Side Lights (above),” says Williams. “People have had a really emotional reaction to the lights — they say it reminds them of an old appliance or a blender, or it makes them think of other experiences they’ve had, which I think is the mark of a successful object.”

Rich Brilliant Willing, Furniture Designers

If there’s one thing that’s defined a Rich, Brilliant, Willing product since the studio’s three members graduated from RISD in 2007 and banded together to make furniture, it’s the idea of the mash-up. In most of their pieces, seemingly disparate materials and odd colors come together in a sort of joyful schizophrenia — a lamp with differently colored, awkwardly placed dowel legs, a wood-and-metal coat rack with copper, steel, and plastic pegs, and even a candle holder crowded with tapers, birthday candles, and fat, number-shaped votives. But a funny thing happened this spring: The trio released a series of cast-glass pendant lights with the Los Angeles–based design company Artecnica that were notable not only for their pretty, industrial aesthetic but for their adherence to a single, monochromatic material. “It’s unusual for any object to made of a single part these days,” says Theo Richardson, who with Charles Brill and Alex Williams makes up the trio, their surnames forming the basis for the studio's cheeky name. “Most of the time, things are glued together, screwed together. But for us, this was going from assemblage work to something that’s made of a single piece.”
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Things you keep around your studio or home for inspiration: “Succulent plants (shown with our mini-pedestals), coffee, colored pencils, music, crystals, currently eating a lot of arugula salads (good brain food) and our view.”

Iacoli & McAllister, designers

It’s hard enough to be a young American designer. The lack of government funding means that prototypes must often be self-financed, and the difficulty in working with most European manufacturers means that young design studios frequently end up handling their own production as well. Now try doing it all in Seattle, a city that’s not exactly famous for its flourishing industrial design scene. “When we started working together a few years ago, we felt really removed from the world that might be interested in what we wanted to do,” says Jamie Iacoli, one half of the Seattle-based design couple Iacoli & McAllister, who have become known over the last year or so for a pared-down industrial aesthetic that’s matched with a supreme gift for color — think wrenches powder-coated in bright magenta or wire-frame pendant lights in emergency orange or cyan. “The thing that’s weird about Seattle is that because it’s so laid back, you get people who talk and don’t do. There’s no pressure to create, in part because no one here is buying.”
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Harry Allen’s studio encompasses three large rooms in a building in New York’s East Village. He has an apartment upstairs, but spends half of his time living upstate with his partner John, a landscape architect. That house hides most of the antiques and iconic-looking objects that Allen collects as research for the Reality series, whose process he likens more to hunting and gathering than actual design. “When I was making lamps out of paper, I started looking at what makes something lampy,” he says. “It should have an urn base with a fabric shade and a finial on top. If you drew a lamp to go on grandma’s table in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, that would be the one. So you’re searching antique stores for the perfect thing, and it’s really time consuming.”

Harry Allen, Product Designer

Harry Allen is a happening guy. From his design studio in New York’s East Village, he makes ironic banana bowls and pig banks for Areaware and is one of only three American designers working with the hip Italian furniture brand Skitsch, along with Jason Miller and Todd Bracher. His new Bang perfume bottle is all over the ad pages of major fashion magazines, strategically positioned atop a nude Marc Jacobs, and the skateboarding store Supreme owes its interiors to him. Allen is so evergreen, in fact, that it’s easy to forget the most basic fact of his biography: He’s been doing this for nearly 20 years. “Everyone treats me like I’m some kid, but I’ve been around for a long time,” he says. “When I started in 1993, there was no Moss, no Wallpaper. Philippe Starck was king, and everything was shaped like a horn. I looked at Europe and thought: That’s what I want to be, I want to be like Starck. I want to be Starck.” But while he did follow that model when he set up his own design studio in 1993 — as opposed to joining a corporation like most of his American peers were doing at the time — part of the reason Allen’s presence in the design world always feels so fresh is that unlike Starck, he's constantly reinvented himself along the way.
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Hundley’s best-known series (pictured) involves photographing subjects jumping high into the air with their bodies tucked behind a piece of fabric or mylar, producing mysterious shots that seem to defy logic. “When I started, I had some fabric in my car I had planned to paint on, and I tried jumping behind it in midair to see what would happen,” he says. “I looked at the images and thought, that’s the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever seen: A piece of pink fabric four feet up in the air, so small there was no way a body could fit behind it, and all you see is my feet poking out and my hair. I latched onto it and would go out shooting with my friends, climbing on roofs and breaking ankles, and come back with hundreds of them.”

William Hundley, Artist

The artist William Hundley — known for photographing plumes of fabric hovering enigmatically in mid-air and strange objects balancing atop cheeseburgers — recently began experimenting with self-portraits. Which wouldn't be out of the ordinary, except that Hundley happens to hate letting people know what he looks like, so he obscures the photos of his face with collages of weird body parts and other incongruous images. He’s also been playing with masks, shooting the results of elaborate tribal-inspired face-painting sessions with his fiancée. “There’s this perception that I’m this badass artist who doesn’t give a fuck, this imagined character,” says Hundley, a boyish Texas native who lives deep in the suburbs of Austin. “But I work at a hospital in IT. So that’s why I don’t like putting images of myself or a biography out there — I mean look at me, I’m all-American white-boy looking. It would ruin the illusion.”
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Journal de Nîmes no 6: The Dutch Issue

Two years ago, in the Nine Streets shopping area of Amsterdam, two lifelong friends, René Strolenberg and Menno van Meurs, opened a store called Tenue de Nîmes. Like a lot of very hip retailers these days, Tenue de Nîmes is devoted in large part to denim — Nîmes, France being the fabric’s birthplace — and also like a lot of very hip retailers these days, it publishes a semi-annual magazine, this one called Journal de Nîmes. The shop has become widely loved for its expansive outlook and inventory (great denim doesn’t have to be Japanese!, it seems to say), and the magazine, while nominally a vehicle to promote brands sold by the shop, has also become, over six issues, something much more. This is due in part to its excellent art direction and photography, which come courtesy of Another Something blogger Joachim Baan, but also because of its simple, very Sight Unseen–like aims: to reveal the personalities and the stories behind how things are made.
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"We've realized that the tiles actually make sense as simple objects on their own — you can buy them mounted on a beech frame or for use in murals or furniture — although we're frequently contacted by people interested in them for unsuitable uses and have to turn their offers down."

SuTurno, Graphic and Textile Designers

In some ways, Marc Jacobs is a bit like Oprah. With a flick of his influential magic wand, Posh Spice can suddenly be considered cool, Bleecker Street can become the place you simply must open your New York shop, and a Madrid-based, husband-and-wife graphic-design duo can go from virtual unknowns to the toast of magazines and blogs around the world. That’s what happened two years ago to Julia Vergara and Javier G. Bayo, co-principals of the print and pattern design shop SuTurno, whose Bolsaco tote — a simple canvas bag made from vintage stock found in an old warehouse in Spain — was spied by two of Jacobs’ buyers at the Madrid shop Peseta. “It was the first product we ever made with the SuTurno label on it, and it actually became our most hyped design to date,” says Bayo. The two were asked to produce a limited edition of bags for the Marc by Marc Jacobs stores in the States, and they promptly sold out within a few days.
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Things Organized Neatly: It’s also likely why I love flea markets, where you can often find random spots of order among the chaos, like these colorful yarn spindles I photographed last year at Brimfield.

Jill Singer, Co-Editor

In honor of Sight Unseen's first anniversary, we, the editors, decided to turn the lens on ourselves, revealing what inspires us as writers about and champions of design and art. If you're an especially devoted reader of Sight Unseen, you might have noticed that Monica — who spent her childhood putting bugs under a kiddie microscope and was at the head of her high-school calculus class — often tends towards subjects inspired by geometry and science, while Jill — whose love for color and pattern likely began with an uncommonly large novelty earring collection — favors maximalist, throw-every-color-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks types. We were interested to see how those formative experiences would play out in a documention of our own reference points. Here's a closer look at eight of Jill's editor's picks.
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