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2014, Part I

This week we announced the 2014 American Design Hot List, Sight Unseen's unapologetically subjective annual editorial award for the 25 names to know now in American design. We're devoting an entire week to interviews with this year's honorees — get to know the first five Hot List designers after the jump.
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Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze Collection

We’ve heard of something being a product of its environment, but never has that phrase rung so true as it does with the pieces in Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze series, on view this month at Chicago’s Casati Gallery, which were made largely in a trough of ice outside Haulenbeek’s studio window during last winter’s deep freeze. Haulenbeek — who knows from frigid winters, having grown up and studied sculpture in Michigan and lived in Chicago for the better part of his adult life — originally conceived the series back in 2011, when he was fooling around with pouring wax into frozen puddles on Chicago’s city streets. But this winter’s extreme conditions — while providing little but consternation for everyone else — gave Haulenbeek the opportunity to take the whole operation onto a much larger scale. We recently spoke with the Chicago-based designer to find out a little more about the origins and making of his new collection.
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COS’s 50 Things From America Project

Each spring when we head to Milan, there are two must-see stops on our agenda that aren’t strictly part of the furniture fair circuit. The first is lunch at the no-frills Latteria, where we gorge ourselves on raw artichokes and lemony pasta with chili peppers. The second is the COS flagship on Corso Venezia, where we’ve been known to spend hours stocking up on the kind of simple, directional wardrobe staples that are the London-based brand’s bread and butter. For years, COS has been the secret weapon of pretty much every design-world tastemaker we know, and it’s become an excellent source as well for keeping up with what’s new in art and design, what with its print magazine from the people behind Fantastic Man and its blog highlighting work by talents like Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Charlie Schuck, and Julian Renault. When we heard COS was finally coming to America — stores in New York and L.A. are forthcoming this fall, and an e-commerce site is already up and running — we were thrilled. To celebrate the launch in its inimitable fashion, COS recently launched a project called “50 Things: A Collection of Things We Love From America,” which includes a mix of Sight Unseen regulars (Bec Brittain, Doug Johnston), amazing new discoveries (we’re obsessing over Utah’s Daniel Everett), and odes to some of the country's most beautiful examples of architecture and natural phenomena.
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The year-old, Brooklyn-based studio Bower created a stunner of a booth, showing off their tinted Shape Mirrors — which debuted at this year's Arch Digest Home Design Show — as well as their beautiful new Moire and Contour tables, which they were finishing in the days up to the show.

A Tour of the 2014 Show: Part II

Though your Sight Unseen editors have been in major curation mode for the past two weeks, we've also had day to day work to do as, you know, journalists. So for five days during our Sight Unseen OFFSITE event last week, Monica and I set up camp on the Astroturf-covered bleachers of the MOLD Future Food Café, where we caught up on emails and posted stories to this very site. It was the perfect vantage point from which to view our own event: We could see friends and VIPs on their way in, and we could overhear people heading to the elevator, on their way up to the second floor. The most common refrain we heard? "Oh my God, there's more upstairs?"
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Fort Standard’s Home Goods

Today, a trifecta of awesomeness: The entire home goods line from Brooklyn designers and Sight Unseen favorites Fort Standard, photographed by talented SU contributor Brian Ferry, and styled by Monica Nelson — a new name to us, but you can bet we've been perusing her portfolio of great work for brands like Urban Outfitters and Wilder Quarterly. Greg and Ian of Fort Standard have been majorly expanding the scope of their work lately — designing interiors for clients like Steven Alan Home and Harry's, furniture for Matter and Roll & Hill, and, you know, creating a massive beer luge for our Bowery Hotel party last year — but it's their growing collection of beautifully considered home goods that's making them a household name. Pretty, minty sand-cast aluminum bowls, hanging wood-plank cutting boards, geometric stone trivets — and they've never looked better than they do here.
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Our 2013 Honorees

Last week on L'Arcobaleno, Jill was asked to cover the recent rebirth of New York design, discussing the transformation with key players like Jason Miller, Lindsey Adelman, and Dave Alhadeff. "Once again there’s a scene that’s celebrated internationally," said Alhadeff, and we couldn't agree more — ever since we founded the Noho Design District in 2010, which is largely devoted to American talents, we have been asked countless times by global designers and journalists to share our take on all the exciting things happening on our home turf, and we're always happy to oblige. After a while, though, it got us thinking: Why wait for people to ask? Why not create an easy resource we can share with everyone? And so, introducing the American Design Hot List, a totally unscientific, unapologetically subjective portfolio of the emerging and semi-emerging furniture and product designers we think you should know now.
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Tony Smith’s Gracehopper, 1961/1988: “Two years later I launched a series of aluminum furniture forms at ICFF based on the same set of angles. The initial show included the Tidal Shelf (pictured), Jack Stool, H1 coffee table, Prop Bookends, and the A_Stool. These continue to be my best sellers 6 years later.”

Jonathan Nesci, Furniture Designer

When Jonathan Nesci was 23 — with a one-year-old at home, and working as a forklift operator at FedEx in Chicago while attending night school for 3-D drafting at a community college — one of his coworkers gave him a fateful nudge: “He knew I wanted to design furniture, and he was like, ‘You can do it!!’,” recalls Nesci, now 31. And so he cold-emailed Richard Wright, founder of the eponymous Chicago auction house, and promoted the heck out of himself until he landed a job managing Wright’s restoration department, where he stayed for five years before founding his own studio in early 2012. As he tells it, his cheerleader at FedEx deserves substantial credit for inspiring him to take the leap that changed his life. But to know Nesci is to realize that no matter what happened, the results would have been the same — he was destined to be a designer.
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Lukas and Oskar Peet, Product Designers

There's a reason why one of the first questions we always ask Sight Unseen subjects is "What did your parents do?" In the nearly two years we've been producing this site, it's become apparent that the ideas and habits of ultra-creative people usually germinate in childhood, and that the environments in which they were raised tend to have played a part — whether their formative years resembled those of Kiki van Eijk, whose father competed on the 1976 Dutch Olympic field hockey team but also taught her to paint, or Lauren Kovin, whose parents filled the house with Ettore Sottsass furniture. The more designers and artists in a given family, the more interesting things tend to get, which is why we decided to start this new Related column. In it, we'll periodically ask creative talents who are related to interview one another about their respective practices and what it was like growing up in close proximity. First up are brothers Lukas Peet, 24, and Oskar Peet, 27, up-and-coming designers who were born and raised in the Canadian mountain resort town of Banff, attended the Design Academy Eindhoven together, and whose Dutch-born father Rudi Peet immigrated to Banff in 1974 and has since established himself as a successful jewelry designer there.
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The aforementioned collection of religious art above the bed is still in its fledgling stages and may eventually take up the whole wall. The crucifix is Mead’s Jesus Door Knocker, which the pair also keeps on the front door. “I think because Kiel and I were both raised Catholic, we have a big obsession with religious paraphernalia,” explains Boatright. Adds Mead: “Anything that’s religious we’ll collect and put up, and it’s weird that two people would see eye to eye on something so weird.”

Kiel Mead, Product Designer, and Sarah Boatright, Artist

On a shelf in the home office designer Kiel Mead shares with his girlfriend, the performance artist Sarah Boatright, sits a set of drawers stuffed with backstock of his Forget Me Not rings, little string bows cast in precious metals. Mead’s breakout design when he was still studying furniture at Pratt, the rings were the genesis of the 27-year-old’s fascination with casting objects into wearable reminders — of childhood, of holidays, of lost loves, of an old car he once drove. Boatright, 23, also deals with the preservation of memories in her work, dressing up in goofy wigs to make reenactment videos of family Thanksgivings or furtively recorded interactions between strangers, which go on to enjoy eternal life on YouTube. So if you’d expect the couple’s Brooklyn apartment to be decked out with the kind of overstyled chicness typical of two young creatives, one of whom practically runs the Williamsburg branch of The Future Perfect, you’d be mistaken: Like their creations, the possessions they keep on display are more about storytelling than status.
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