British designer Faye Toogood believes that, whatever your domain of design expertise, the materials you can get your hands on are essential, “because you are always looking for a new way to interpret your designs and to explain your story.” This approach also pertains to her recent venture from designing signature interior spaces and environments (for high-profile clients), to furniture design.
Part of the exhibit What Would Have Been on view at Freidman Benda, her Maquette 259 seating (2020) realized in a rusty-peach-painted canvas over upholstery foam aligns with this aesthetic. Toogood’s products are designed with “honesty to the rawness and irregularity of the chosen material,” and are sculptural in form. Like her interior spaces, her furniture is considerate of both the two-dimensional design as well as three-dimensional space.
I love how it looks like a group of boulders just rolled together! Maquette 259 was manufactured in an limited edition of 8 pieces. Contact Friedman Benda Gallery in NYC for purchase information.
The classic Thonet Chair design gets a super artsy, post-modern treatment with Melting Thonet, from European design firm OrtaMiklos (which includes partners Leo Orta and Victor Miklos Andersen).
Generally informed by natural habitats and processes, the creative duo’s experimental approach activates their design works from the existing norms. Here, Michael Thonet’s innovative chair frame — created by bending wood with hot steam and forming it into curved, graceful shapes — is fabricated from a powder-coated steel, to create a frame that exaggerates the original’s bends and twists into an entirely different domain.
The absence of virtually all design shows for the year 2020 (Salon Art + Design, Architectural Digest Home Show, ICFF, and on and on) — which was probably my least favorite Covid cancelation — serves as the inspiration for Friedman Benda’s latest exhibit: What Would Have Been, which I visited a few weeks ago to get my design-fix on! The exhibition gives fans access to design that lost its intended platform; works shown briefly before museum doors closed or failed to open at all. A favorite piece in the gallery (and not just because it’s pink) was Chris Schank’s Grotto Mirror — which may look familiar to some readers.
The Grotto Mirror is part of Schanck’sUnhomely collection, which employs his Alufoil method of sculpting industrial and discarded materials, covering them in aluminum foil and then sealing each with resin.
Grotto Mirror Installation View
Each mirror is a unique piece and would surely be the center of attention in any room!
Would you like to relax and stretch out on a long, fluffy sofa the color of a giant egglant? Who wouldn’t? The Campana brothers are famed Brazilian furniture designers. Most celebrated for their design of the Vermelha chair — an iconic piece handmade from a huge length of rope, wrapped and woven to create the chair’s nest-like structure. As you can see by their Bolotas Sofa, in a vibrant shade of Aubergine, Umberto and Fernando Campana continue to create brightly colored, whimsical statement pieces for the home.
The Bolotas collection (2015) was initially inspired by stone walls, but the name came from the first prototype that appeared to be soft and round like an acorn (‘bolotas’ means acorn in Portuguese). Each piece is covered with sustainable leather, prepared with an environmentally-friendly tanning process. The brothers decided to use natural skins to bring comfort to the design: pillows of sheepskin for the armchair and the sofa carefully arranged on a stainless steel structure with feet made from Brazilian Ipe wood, which is naturally fire, bug and water-resistant. The Aubergine color was created in a series of eight pieces and sells for about $25,000 at auction.
Photographed in the Friedman Benda Booth at the 2019 Salon Art + Design.
What caught my eye immediately on flyers for the 2019 edition of The Salon Art + Design show was the included image of a vibrant Pink version of Chris Schanck’s Puff and Stuff Chair (2019). With it its quilted, glossy velvet upholstery and biomorphic sculptural base comprised of steel, aluminum, polystyrene, polyuria, aluminum foil and resin, the chair manages to look both organic and highly stylized simultaneously. The Pink Puff and Stuff Chair became my number-one-must-see item at the fair, but sadly my dream was not fully realized.
Puff and Stuff Chair Installation View
Friedman Benda, who represent the designer, chose to display Puff and Stuff only in a Sage Green. I was disappointed, sure; but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to write about the chair. Because, look at how awesome it is.
It looks like the walls of a futuristic space cave — and please note that no two are alike. These chairs and the accompanying peach-hued pedestal table are inspired by Schanck’s2018 solo exhibit at Friedman Benda entitled Unhomely, which focused on the designer’s acclaimed sculptural approach.
Unhomely featured 15 works with independent, stand-alone narratives woven into an otherworldly landscape. Synthesizing premeditation and spontaneity, Schanck’s highly individualized, low-tech, idiosyncratic technique, Alufoil (in which industrial and discarded materials are sculpted, covered in aluminum foil and then sealed with resin) was conceived in 2011 during his MFA studies. The process begins with Schanck’s imaginative drawings and models, which are then executed by a team of artists and collaborators apprenticed in his Alufoil method.
Hybrids of sculpture and furniture, Schanck’s bold constructions blend biomorphic forms with elaborately crafted symbolism. These assemblages draw from a wide range of influences ranging from Brutalist and Art Deco architecture to ancient Egyptian, Anatolian and Aztec iconography. Skirting the line between refinement and camp, Schanck’s figurative, at times anatomical, creations reference science fiction films and conjure up visions of ancient aliens, hidden cavernous chambers, and monolithic space operas.
Despite overt references to fantasy and meta-fiction, Schanck’s assemblages are grounded in the reality of humanity’s relentless inventiveness. “In my work,” the Detroit native admits, “I take inspiration from the people and forms around me and dip them into a futuristic skin.”
Photographed in the booth for Friedman Benda at the Salon Art + Design 2019 in NYC.
Furniture designer Misha Kahn’s work exists at the intersection of design and sculpture, exploring a wide variety of media and scales. Kahn’s approach melds an array of processes, from casting, carving, welding and weaving, to imaginative and singular modes of production. According to John Maeda, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design (where Kahn earned his BFA in furniture design in 2011), “Misha creates work for a parallel wonderland, where traditional perception of material and structure is pushed to the edges of the room to make space for one big party.”
This whimsical wall sconce, with its crown-like polished bronze fixture and extended lime green glass hand takes its name from the French word for ‘enchanted,’ which is commonly translated as ‘nice to meet you.” You might also hear “Enchanté” uttered by a character in a cheesy movie while kissing the back of a lady’s hand, which I am told is considered rude.
This piece is produced on-demand and can be purchased for $18,000 at this link.
Photographed in the Friedman Benda Gallery Booth at The Salon Art and Design in New York.