Tim Liles, Furniture Designer

It used to be that if you left your big-city corporate job, moved your family to a small town in New Hampshire, did some soul-searching behind the wheel of a camper van, and opted to spend your days doing what you really loved from the basement of your house, you were most likely a 55-year-old man having a mid-life crisis. Twenty-seven-year-old RISD grad Tim Liles — who followed that exact trajectory after quitting a footwear-design job at Converse last fall — understands this perfectly well: "My girlfriend is a couple years younger and her friends don’t get it, they all live in Chicago and think we're just confused," he says, speaking to me from week five of the couple's two-month cross-country vision quest. "But in traveling around the country, I’ve met a lot of people my age who have quit a salaried job in search of something simpler."
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Mühlbauer Headwear

If you’ve recently strolled through the streets of Vienna’s city center, chances are you’re familiar with Mühlbauer, the 107-year-old hat-maker whose two flagships, tiny jewelboxes designed by the German-Italian architect duo Kühn Malvezzi, are located just a stone’s throw from Adolf Loos’s infamous American Bar. Ditto if you’ve been paying attention to the ever-changing hat wardrobe of Brad Pitt — who’s a fan — or if you’ve been shopping for accessories in chic department stores from Bergdorf’s to Le Bon Marché. The millinery has made such a name for itself in the past few years, collaborating with cult fashion labels like Fabrics Interseason and outfitting the likes of Yoko Ono and Meryl Streep, it’s hard to believe that in 2001, when Klaus Mühlbauer took over the company with his sister Marlies, “nobody even knew that Mühlbauer was related to hats,” he says.
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Inside the Zurich Design Museum Collection

For centuries, Swiss design was synonymous with watches, army knives, sewing machines, and other precision utilitarian objects. Then came the rise of Swiss graphics and typography in the 20th century, when the grids and sans serifs of talents like Josef Müller-Brockmann and Jan Tschichold created a legacy that dominates the tiny country's design reputation even today. But inside the 10,000-square-foot universe of the Museum Für Gestaltung Zurich’s collection archives — behind whose doors normally only curators and students are allowed — every chair, teapot, and cigarette lighter is either a product of or an influence on Switzerland’s industrial design history, which the museum strives to promote through the five to seven temporary exhibitions it produces each year.
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Mattiazzi's Udine Headquarters

An hour east of Venice, in the province of Udine, Italy, three small outlying villages make up an area quaintly known as “The Chair Triangle.” For centuries, the municipalities of Manzano, Corno di Rosazzo, and San Giovani al Natisone have been home to workshops and factories, woodworkers and artisans, tool-makers and sawmills, all devoted to producing the more than 40 million chairs that emerge each year from the region. The city of Udine itself is no slouch in the manufacturing department — it’s home to Moroso, one of Italy’s most storied brands — but the chair triangle is known more for its specialized production and for manufacturers who do anonymous, subcontracted work for the big brands.
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James Victore, Graphic Designer

Not everyone knows this about James Victore, but he actually doesn't use Sharpies anymore, his weapon of choice back when he first started scribbling dirty words and other provocative drawings across plates and hand-made posters. He packed them all up in storage a few years ago, opting instead for paint pens, and more recently, Japanese Sumi-e brushes. "Sharpies are a line I know," the Brooklyn-based designer explains. "I'm doing a job right now for Bobbi Brown cosmetics, and using a Sumi-e brush with India ink precisely because I suck at it. It's so much more interesting than being good at something — I like the idea of chance and mistakes. I can't wait until I’m 80 and have that shaky old-man handwriting."
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The Campana Brothers, Furniture Designers

This story was originally published on June 9, 2010. Veuve Clicquot's renovated Hotel du Marc is set to open this fall. // In their most famous works, Fernando and Humberto Campana construct by a process of accumulation, looping yards of sail rope around seat frames or folding velvet tubing in on itself to create amoeba-like sofas. So it's fitting that visitors to the brothers’ São Paulo studio should find behind its unremarkable metal grate rooms and shelves stacked high with stuff — weird material experiments by the studio’s half-dozen in-house artisans, miniature models and prototypes, artifacts the brothers picked up on their travels, miles of scrap, and dozens and dozens of sketches. In some ways, it all seems an extension of São Paulo itself, a city of 20 million that in the last century has sprawled so far and wide it’s annexed, at last count, five different downtown areas.
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Patternity, furniture and textile designers

For Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham, pattern is everywhere — in the flaking paint of street bollards and the crisscrossing beams of scaffolding, in the fashion photography of Mel Bles and the banded stiletto heels of Parisian shoemaker Walter Steiger. Together, Murray and Winteringham run Patternity, a studio and online resource for pattern imagery where each photo is curated, sourced, or taken by the designers themselves. Spend some time on the site, and their obsessions become clear: One week it’s rocks and strata; another it’s the vivid African textiles that line the stalls of the Ridley Road street market that runs daily in Dalston, the East London neighborhood both women call home.
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BCXSY’s Join Room Divider

On a sunny afternoon during this spring’s Milan furniture fair, blissfully unaware of the encroaching cloud of ash, I made my way through the maze of exhibitions at Spazio Rossani Orlandi, the former factory turned gallery and shop off Corso Magenta. As usual, there was plenty to see: During the fair, the gallery practically splits its seams with new work, giving over corners of the courtyard and even parts of the stairwell as exhibition space for young talent. In the basement, I encountered a bottleneck. Nearly everyone passing through the room occupied by the Eindhoven-based duo BCXSY was stopping to gape at the young couple’s latest offering: a trio of Japanese screens in hinoki cypress wood, each designed as two geometric shapes intersecting in beautifully woven grids.
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JM Dry Goods in Marfa, Texas

One recent March morning, I found myself in the Mexican town of Ojinaga sipping micheladas with Michelle Teague, owner of Marfa’s effortlessly cool ranchwear and housewares shop JM Dry Goods, and her business partner, glass- and soap-maker Ginger Griffice. Every six weeks or so, Teague and Griffice travel to OJ on buying trips. Teague scouts the small array of stores, filled with both the everyday and the bizarre, for items to boost JM Dry Goods’s border-town flavor. Griffice buys empty bottles of Topo Chico, a popular Mexican sparkling mineral water, at OJ’s Coca-Cola bottling plant, and they become the bases for the drinking glasses she sells at the store. By now, their trips follow an established pattern. Morning micheladas are an important part of the ritual.
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Introducing the Noho Design District

Even non-New Yorkers know Soho, the swath of land below Houston Street in Manhattan, colonized by artists in the '60s and now the domain of the rich and the retail-obsessed. Noho, on the other hand, still flirts with obscurity, despite having been home to some of the city's most legendary artists — Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Stella, and Chuck Close, to name a few — as well as its first Herzog and de Meuron building. Sure, as an emerging neighborhood with several hotels on the rise, its streets are often crisscrossed with ungainly spiderwebs of scaffolding, but beneath that lies a creative energy so strong we at Sight Unseen figured it would be the perfect place to create a new satellite destination during New York design week: the Noho Design District. All of the elements were already there.
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New Useless Machines at Oak & Rogan

Back in January, when we first began contemplating how we would program Noho Design District — the just-completed four-day design extravaganza produced and curated by Sight Unseen and held in conjunction with New York’s ICFF — one thing was clear: Come hell or high water, we’d find a way to pull off an exhibition we’d been obsessing over for months, ever since the re-release last summer of the 1966 Bruno Munari classic Design As Art. Among the late Italian designer’s musings, photos, diagrams, and sketches, we were reminded of his childlike fascination with hanging mobiles — or as he calls them, useless machines.
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Apartamento’s Tasca Dinner

Most people run around during ICFF frantically gathering design leads. But for Apartamento editor Marco Velardi, it was zucchini — about 6 pounds per night, to be exact. Tasked with organizing three dinners during the furniture fair in New York, "I had to pick them every day, individually, choosing ones that weren't too big or too fucked up as the skin was an important part of the dish," he says. "I got to know all the guys working in the fresh veggie department at Whole Foods, and I imagine they thought I was the crazy zucchini guy when I kept asking for more." The summer squash became a salad doused with lemon and olive oil, the second of four courses at the dinner Sight Unseen attended this past Sunday along with Todd Selby, Rich Brilliant Willing, the editors of Dossier, and half a dozen other New York creatives.
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