Besides the 14-foot windows that overlook Manhattan’s skyline, a prototype of Gilad’s 2005 Dear Ingo chandelier for Moooi is the centerpiece of his 8th-floor studio. “My first studio was just above Ingo Maurer’s Soho shop, on Grand and Greene. I couldn’t not see his work every morning going down for coffee, and I decided to create an homage to what he was doing over there. At the time, lots of his chandeliers were combined from parts he’d found on Canal Street. I was looking for a very simple fragment that I could reproduce to create a larger piece, and I found it in a task light at Ikea.” In the rear are shelves lined with Designfenzider’s other best-known works, including red and yellow Fruit Bowls, Clipped Cubes, and Ran Over By Car vases.

Ron Gilad, Designer

One of the turning points in Ron Gilad’s career came late on a Sunday evening in January 2008, one of the coldest nights of the year. That’s when the designer, along with nearly 200 other artistically minded tenants, was evicted from his live/work loft building in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn — the result, the New York Fire Department claimed, of an illegal matzo operation being run out of the basement by the building’s landlord. No matter that the Tel Aviv–born designer was out of the country at the time. “I extended my trip a week, but then I came back to nowhere. For three and a half months, I was homeless. And that’s when I started really playing with the idea of spaces and homes, and what, for me, a home really is.”
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One of the living room walls hosts a makeshift art installation consisting of photos the pair took on a recent trip to New York, photos from past projects, gifts from friends, and in the upper right corner, their first art purchase — it's part of an art workshop a friend conducted with children in Africa. The chair halves were part of Seng's diploma project at school.

Judith Seng and Alex Valder, Designers

Despite what most people imagine, you don't just find 3,300-square-foot apartments in Berlin these days — they have to find you. In Judith Seng and Alex Valder's case, it was a newly divorced friend of a friend, abandoning the loft he'd lived and worked in with his musician wife, and searching for someone who could fill the sprawling space. Seng and Valder, two process-oriented product designers with a habit of accumulating furniture off the street, signed the lease immediately. In May, they moved their home from a 1960s Socialist housing bloc on the historic GDR boulevard Karl-Marx-Allee, then packed up their separate studios, creating a common office in the apartment's living area. There's a dishwasher and a fancy Duravit bathtub, a spare bedroom and a roof terrace. Space may be abundant and cheap in Berlin, but this is not the norm. Friends seeing it for the first time routinely gape.
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Paul Loebach on American Primitives

Two hundred years ago, when American pioneers were streaming across the country making homes for themselves in the uncharted wilderness, anyone who needed a corn grater or a mouse trap had to knuckle down and make one. “Everyone was a designer,” says Paul Loebach, who’s long been fascinated by such primitive, purpose-built objects, typically hand-carved in wood or crudely forged in metal. “Whereas Europe had a network of goods trading, for the settlers it was like, we’re limited to these five square acres. They had to be really clever to make the most out of what they had, and that kind of ingenuity is inspiring to me.” Already knowing this about the Brooklyn designer after interviewing him last November, Sight Unseen invited him to choose his favorite objects from the 1972 book American Primitives, which we found at an Ohio flea market for $2 and which contains several dozen annotated selections from Norris, Tennessee’s Museum of Appalachia.
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Crested Comb-Back Chair, above “Applying a seat to a frame feels superfluous somehow. I wanted to keep the same principles, but pare down the lines a bit.”

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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Doshi Levien’s Loves

Sighted on the website of London-based design couple Doshi Levien: A section called Loves, which reveals the inspirations behind the couple's colorful East-meets-West sensibility.
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Jerszy Seymour, Designer

Last summer I spent the month of June living and working in Berlin, which is also the home base of the designer Jerszy Seymour. Right-hand man to Vitra and Magis and inventor of the amorphous conceptual building material Scum, he'd just had his busiest year ever — mounting five exhibitions on his way to being guest of honor at the Design Parade festival in Hyères, France, with a monograph to follow. Having already known him from previous projects, I convinced him to spend the day with me discussing his Coalition of Amateurs project, the subject of all those shows; he offered to take me to Nowhere Land, which turned out to be an overgrown meadow just north of the hipster enclave Kreuzberg.
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Inspiration behind your Simple Machine(s) series: The inspiration for the Simple Machine(s) series came from the threaded end of a wooden broom handle. It's so honest and unassuming, and I love how the fastener and the handle are one and the same. The Simple Machine(s) series riffs on that idea by using the threads as fastener and ornament.

Jonah Takagi, furniture designer

Jonah Takagi claims he has ADD, and he may be right. Since graduating from RISD in 2002, the Japanese-born, New England–bred, Washington D.C.–based designer has worked as a cabinetmaker, a full-time musician, a set builder for National Geographic docudramas, and a producer for an indie-rock kids’ show called Pancake Mountain. In the weeks leading up to this story, we talked about skinned cats, prosthetic kidneys, and smoking pot out of an art-school professor’s peg leg. But Takagi’s work is anything but schizophrenic.
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"I was surprised by how many people asked if I was planning on showing anything, as I’ve never thought of the trade fair as platform for international galleries," says Sellers, whose most recent show, pictured above and featuring a series by Dick van Hoff, stretched across both London Design Week and the Frieze Art Fair, affording her crucial access to collectors. "But this year there were noticeable challenges to that convention, with more galleries springing up in new areas like Lambrate and international dealers using the Salone to give further air time to their stable of designers. Given that the entire city gives itself over to one great big pop-up event, perhaps I could reconsider."

Libby Sellers, Design Gallerist

Had you peeked into London gallerist Libby Sellers's diary for the week of the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this month, you would have seen all the requisite stops on the circuit: Rossana Orlandi one afternoon, Lambrate and Tortona the next, plus a stop at Satellite and a time out for breakfast at the Four Seasons with Alice Rawsthorn, her former boss. There was time made for shopping — Sellers is a self-admitted clothes horse, having transformed most of her London apartment into a walk-in closet — and for a visit to the 10 Corso Como gallery and bookstore. But despite what you'd expect from one of the world's most respected supporters of emerging design, who for the past two years has commissioned work from and produced pop-up exhibitions with talents like Max Lamb and Julia Lohmann, Sellers did not walk away from the fair with an arsenal of new relationships to pursue. Her scouting is done before she even gets there, in graduate degree shows and over the internet, so that in Milan — unlike the rest of us — she gets to relax and enjoy the show.
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Corvo, by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance

During the annual Milan Furniture Fair, booths bubble over with new items, carefully chosen props, and company spokespeople running around trying to sell you on the relevance of it all. Rare is the company that focuses its energies on a single product. But last week, in a quiet courtyard off Via Savona, the American manufacturer Bernhardt Design did just that, introducing its first product by Parisian designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance: Corvo, a warm, curvaceous wood seat with a complicated beveling system and legs that in the back resolve into shapely architectural T-sections.
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In the new Ventura Lambrate neighborhood of Milan, Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe mounted a retrospective of their work from 1998 to 2010, the bulk of which was represented by a pictorial timeline of process shots, sketches, and models.

Process at the Milan Furniture Fair

Tom Dixon, Bram Boo, e15, and Thomas Eyck all showed products in copper at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, which closes today. There was also a minor strain of fur-covered chairs — plus one hairy, Cousin-It-style storage unit by the Campana Brothers for Edra — and a tendency toward LED and OLED lighting. But as far as Sight Unseen is concerned, the only trend worth writing home about was the diaristic glimpse into process that so many designers chose to offer this year, supplementing their finished products with sketches, models, and real-time demonstrations.
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Jennifer McCurdy: One of the craftswomen showcased in Alhadeff's 2007 "Three Women" show at The Future Perfect, McCurdy makes wheel-thrown and hand-carved porcelain vessels so intricate, they look like they've been made in a mold or even rapid-prototyped.

David Alhadeff, Owner of The Future Perfect

As design-store owner Dave Alhadeff sees it, there’s a distinction between the kinds of craftspeople he is and isn’t interested in: The latter make objects primarily to show off their manual skills, while the former are motivated by a larger concept, a wish to make tangible some abstract artistic meaning. Carving toothpicks into forest animals? Skills. Carving porcelain into vases so mind-bogglingly intricate they appear to be made by machine? Concept. A subtle difference, but one that helps it seem slightly less absurd to picture Alhadeff — who runs The Future Perfect, one of New York’s most well-respected purveyors of contemporary design — roaming the aisles of a Westchester craft fair, chatting up potters and glassblowers. Concept, he explains, is what builds a bridge between pure craft and design.
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What inspired your Bonbon lamps? "While working on another lamp, the craftsman made me a lampshade which had bad dimensions. I was looking at that piece thinking how can I use it? I didn't want to throw it away, so I decided to knit some strings over it. Then I made different shapes and knitted over them, and now they're called Bonbons because they remind me of silk bonbons."

Ana Kras, Designer and Photographer

You only need to know a few things about Belgrade to understand where Ana Kraš comes from: It's been invaded countless times throughout history, even by the Nazis, after which it was then ravaged by Tito, Milošević, the Kosovo War, and the associated NATO bombings. When it finally emerged from its troubles in 1999, its government and economy were in shambles; the average salary in Belgrade is still less than 400 euros per month. To have become a designer in this context is exceedingly difficult — Kraš's design school had no workshop, materials, or experienced professors, and almost none of her compatriots can afford to spend money on furniture — and yet you won't find a trace of that struggle in the talented 26-year-old's work. At least not by looking at it.
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