The back office’s showpiece is the large plywood-covered wall pictured here, which Grajales put up a decade ago when she first moved in, and which forms the backdrop for the bulk of her art collection — from the Nan Golden photo in the center to works by Ross Bleckner, Pierre Molinier, and Tom Sachs. “It’s a funny story,” she says. “I wanted to use the cheapest wood I could find, but the lumber guy sent me beautiful plywood sheets, to do something nice for me. I returned them and said I don’t want your perfect plywood! I wanted the ones with character. I wanted to see the knots, and the grain of the wood.”

Cristina Grajales Gallery

At the Armory Show this past November, Cristina Grajales had an original Jean Royère Polar Bear sofa in her booth, which sold for “half a million in minutes,” she recalls. Grajales has had plenty of experience dealing in 20th-century masterpieces like these — both in her decade-long stint directing 1950 for Delorenzo and at the helm of her 12-year-old eponymous gallery in Soho — and yet her own most cherished piece isn’t some icon of modernism at all. It’s not even a design object, but a 19th-century Naga warrior costume she bought at the Tribal Art Fair, and as a mainstay of the large office and presentation room she keeps behind her gallery, only her clients and artists ever get to see it. Of course it’s they, if any, who understand Grajales’s working methods best; they come to her precisely because she looks at objects “as sculptures, for what they are,” and says she’s “not afraid to put together, say, an 18th-century Portuguese table with a contemporary silver tray.” Which is why we figured a privileged peek inside her back room, captured earlier this year by our trusty photographer Mike Vorrasi, might be the ideal way for our readers to get to know her, too.
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Max Lamb Outtakes from Paper View, Launching Today

It's official: Sight Unseen's first printed edition, Paper View, is finally out, and we've held it in our very own hands. Today, we've prepared something special for you in honor of the occasion, a series of outtakes from one of the articles published in Paper View: A catalog of Max Lamb's personal collections, which first ran on Sight Unseen early last year.
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Sam Baron’s Personal Collections

As a child growing up in the Jura mountains on a small farm on the border between France and Switzerland, the first thing designer Sam Baron remembers collecting were the stickers you scrape from the skins of fruits, heralding their arrival from someplace exotic — tomatoes from Mexico, say, or bananas from Guadeloupe. “For me, it was like a small souvenir from a trip I had never taken, an invitation to think about someplace else and another way of life,” Baron told me from his studio in Lisbon earlier this fall. Of course these days, the designer needn’t only imagine what life is like in faraway places: As head of the design department at Fabrica and a designer for outfits like Ligne Roset, Secondome Gallery, and Bosa Ceramics, Baron’s work has him constantly jetting from Paris to Milan to Treviso, where Fabrica is based; to Venice, where his glassworks are blown; and back to Lisbon, where he recently opened an office with Fabrica alums Gonçalo Campos and Catarina Carreiras, and where he lives with his wife.
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Andy Beach of Reference Library in 01 Magazine

Sighted in the seventh issue of the online journal 01 Magazine, an interview with Philly-based blogger extraordinaire Andy Beach. Despite having never met the two women behind the Vancouver-based publication, we feel a certain kinship with them: They meander across disciplines, they cover folks who are near and dear to us like ConfettiSystem and ROLU, and they even have a healthy appreciation for the absurd. But when we saw the story about Beach, in particular, we knew we had to repost it, as we've been trying to weasel our way into the man's home ever since we first met him in Milan two years ago, when he did a pop-up shop with Apartamento and sold us this book from his personal collection. For now, we'll settle for excerpting a Q+A that shines a light on the goings-on behind the scenes of his cult blog Reference Library, including the avalanche of inspiration binders that started it all
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Jo Meesters, Designer

Old or discarded objects may leave their mark on many a designer’s practice these days, but few so literally as Jo Meesters’s: Peer inside any one of the Pulp vessels or lamps he sculpts from a self-engineered slurry of newspaper and glue, and odds are you’ll see the imprint of whatever busted-up thrift store find he used as its mold. In fact, whatever time Meesters doesn’t spend designing, he tends to spend combing through second-hand shops, searching for abandoned items with intriguing materialities or archetypal forms. “When I’m developing new products, they’re always the forms I come back to, because they’re recognizable for most people,” says the Philippines-born, Eindhoven-based talent. Once he co-opts those historical influences into one of his own objects, “it becomes this weird sensation; you’ve never seen it before, and yet you can also relate it.”
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A rack full of Dries van Noten clothing waiting to be registered into MoMu’s digital cataloging system, which keeps track of the nearly 5,000 contemporary and 20,000 historical pieces in the museum’s collection. MoMu was originally based on the contents of a former textile museum in Vrieselhof, Belgium; when Antwerp inherited those items, it decided to parlay them into a fashion museum in 2001. “We retained everything from the old textile museum,” says Wim Mertens, a curator at the museum who specializes in historical dress. “We have floral tapestries which have nothing to do with a fashion museum, but it's an inheritance, and also napkins, tablecloths, bedspreads — you name it in textiles, and we have it.”

Antwerp’s Mode Museum

If Antwerp’s Mode Museum (MoMu) is desperately seeking a second storage space for its growing permanent collection, at least part of the blame falls on Bernard Willhelm. He may donate his designs each season alongside the likes of Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela, and his onetime mentor Walter van Beirendonck, but inside the museum’s existing archive rooms — which Sight Unseen had the exclusive privilege of touring earlier this year — it’s Willhelm who clearly holds the record for overflowing racks. In fact, MoMu’s curation team rarely turns down a donation from a legitimate source, whether for the historical collection it originally inherited from an old provincial textile museum or for its cache of contemporary fashions by talents born or educated in Antwerp, but Willhelm’s contributions are so generous that the day we visited, there were clothes waiting to be graciously returned to his showroom. It’s not difficult to understand the designer’s enthusiasm, though, or that of his peers: The MoMu’s prestige in Europe far exceeds its diminutive size, and since it opened a decade ago, it’s become the largest repository in the world for contemporary Belgian fashion.
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’80s Issey Miyake: “My mom was always wearing avant-garde designers like Byblo and Yohji, and she loved Issey Miyake. One of the first pieces of designer clothing she gave me was an Issey skirt. He's amazing for what he was doing in that country at that time: peasant clothes, baggy things, geometric shapes. His clothes were very unisex. You could be any shape and you could wear them. It was always about movement. This was before he started on the pleats, and he was already developing his own fabrics. The designers I work with now are similarly trying to invent something new for this period. Anntian, for example, experiment with form and make bold moves, and Zucca uses amazing textiles. And yet I like that Issey’s clothes aren’t fancy even though they’re well designed. They still function.”

Jade Lai, Owner, Creatures of Comfort

If you ever have the privilege of chatting up Jade Lai, who owns the bicoastal cult fashion emporium Creatures of Comfort, don't be surprised if she tells you that, after returning from a trip to Morocco last year with no less than 15 carpets in tow, she was struck by the notion that she could totally see herself in the rug business. And when this is followed by the revelation that she’s looking to expand the Creatures of Comfort brand to encompass food, or that she’s been taking pottery classes, or that she hopes to run a bed and breakfast sometime soon, resist the urge to raise an eyebrow — these may sound like the ramblings of a dilettante, but make no mistake, Lai is both hyper-creative and legitimately driven. Consider, for example, the year she spent working as a product developer for Esprit in her native Hong Kong: She took the job after having graduated with an architecture degree, freelanced as a graphic designer, and started her own stationery line in L.A., but proceeded to become so good at it that she could eventually identify a fabric’s contents by touch alone — a useful skill for someone who now designs Creatures of Comfort’s in-house fashion line, and one that would certainly come in handy for any aspiring carpet slinger.
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Hecht and Colin divide their collected objects into five distinct categories: those that exhibit an unusual degree of Care in their manufacture or materials; existing products that have been Modified slightly in their function; objects that share a down-to-earth, Straightforward simplicity; Situation, for objects that meet the needs of a specific locality; and Duality (shown above) for single objects that share two functions.

Usefulness in Small Things

Yesterday on Sight Unseen, we featured a London design couple whose work seems to flourish under the very weight of their creative differences. Today, we turn our attentions to a London design couple whose outlooks are so similar, and whose work so beautifully streamlined, that it can often be difficult to tell where the mind of one ends and the other begins. We’ve been fans of the work of Industrial Facility’s Kim Colin and Sam Hecht since the very earliest days of our design journalism, but while the book they released earlier this year doesn’t include a single image from that output, it speaks volumes about the way the two begin to design together. Usefulness in Small Things: Items from the Under a Fiver Collection brings together the couple’s collection of mass-produced, locally sourced, everyday objects that Hecht has been amassing for nearly 20 years — cheese knives from Japan, plastering tools from Greece, vomit bags from the UK, wine bottle sponges from France, and the like, all chosen for low cost — under five pounds — and for their ability to tell Hecht when he traveled something about where he was. “Each of the objects I found appealed to me for a specific reason: the ability to address and identify a small and localized need, even when some were hopelessly flawed in their execution,” he writes in the introduction.
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Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien in their studio, a loft-like space in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood. The couple met in the ’90s as students at the RCA, where they remember being outspokenly critical about one another’s work; more than ten years after founding their own studio in 2000, they still approach design in markedly different ways, and yet the dialogue they’ve since developed is now a crucial part of their process. They balance each other out. (Though, as Doshi admits, “in a way you’re more brutal with each other because of the personal relationship. Communication can sometimes be harder because you’re not making allowances for the other person’s feelings.”)

Doshi Levien, Product and Furniture Designers

If you'd expect anyone to spend their days working amidst a snowdrift’s worth of process and ephemera, it’s London designers Doshi Levien. What you see piled atop the shelves and pinned to the walls of the couple’s Shoreditch studio, after all, is the product of two very different yet equally prolific minds working through their own approaches to the same tasks — Nipa Doshi being the Bombay-born lover of handicraft who collages, paints, and draws her way towards ideas from the ground up, and her Scottish husband Jonathan Levien, who spent his childhood in his parents’ toy factory and developed the more exacting methods of an industrial designer, prototyping proclivities and all. While both enjoy surrounding themselves with collected objects like Italian ice cream cups and Chinese pencil boxes, it’s impossible to understate the importance of the couple’s divergent interests to their work’s unique point of view; the designs that made them famous, after all, were daybeds and sofas for Moroso that combined industrially produced furnishings with hand-embroidery and textiles sourced from Indian artisans. It would be a cliché way of characterizing the pair if it weren’t so overwhelmingly true, even by their own admission: “After ten years of working together, I see it as an essential ingredient in what we do, almost a layer in the approach without which it would feel naked,” says Levien.
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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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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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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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