For the final installment of AN's New York Design Week Q+A series, we talked with Todd Bracher about his Nest and forthcoming Asa collections, his design philosophy, and inspirations. And Kevin Stark stopped in to visit, as well. How did your collaboration with HBF come about? I reached out originally to Kevin Stark a few years ago, who was the vice president of design at that time. I've been in the [design] business for 15 years but worked mostly overseas, so I wanted to find the right partner [stateside]. HBF entered my radar because they produce European craftsmanship; their products are really high quality. A year later a mutual friend reintroduced us and that ignited the relationship. What was particularly enticing about working with HBF? I wanted to pick the best [company] that's out there; those that I know are reliable and bring quality products to market. But they also have to be fun to work with and trustworthy. So when I surveyed the landscape to see who was smart, growing—really it was a long checklist—there weren’t a lot of companies that landed on that list, but HBF did. They have a really European level of quality, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. In Europe, [furniture] is not just an industry but a passion, and HBF embodies that. What was your design intent for the collections? For Nest, we wanted to hit the perfect balance between lounge and workspace seating, and bridge productivity and comfort. It's about eye contact at the end of the day. That's what collaboration is fundamentally about. Physical spatial relationships and engaging is really important. We're designing for how you actually work. It sounds obvious but not a lot of [companies] do that. HBF is known for its wood work, as well as upholstery, and both are expensive, so we had to find a way to put the money where you need it most. For Nest, we steam-bent wood and used mesh from athletic footwear [on the back]. These design choices were 20 percent cheaper and faster to manufacturer. The mesh is lightweight, and [using it on the chair] was the perfect marriage to bring the material to market. You pay a lot of money to cover things up [with furniture] so if we make the insides beautiful we don’t have to. What were some of the challenges you faced? Probably cost. It's hard to make beautiful things affordable. The trick is to make the design manufacturable. You have to engage the full team and use their expertise, and pare down what you're doing without losing comfort and freshness. [Your design] has to be relevant to today, not [just] reminiscent of the past. Sometimes we get it right. Where did the name for the collection come from? For Nest, it’s pretty straightforward. It was all about the idea of keeping things, like our conversations, and containing your experiences. It’s like a protective container so you’re “Nested” in place. For Asa, the S of the word is the inspiration. The body is S-shaped and the frame is A-shaped. The name is a visual representation of the chair. What are the successes of the collection? Cost is always the challenge but that’s not specific to HBF. The real challenge is getting to solve collaboration in an elegant way, and that’s not always so. [You have to] do it in a way that you'd love to have [that piece] in your office space or in your home. A lot of times, you get a brief saying “solve collaboration” and then a block of plastic to work with but we’re solving this in a human way. We're using wood with tactile qualities, in ways that are familiar to HBF and their customer. That's pretty tricky to do. It’s about two mentalities coming together and you want it to have both [the designer’s and the manufacturer’s] identity. It also has to be strong visually, comfortable—all these things must lineup. [Nest] can go into a hotel lobby, a lounge area, and what I like about it is that you can spec it for power integration, or combine it with laptop table [for the office]. It’s not obvious but that’s what it’s designed for it. The difference with HBF is that it's not obviously collaborative furniture. The vocabulary of the furniture collection shouldn't look collaborative, and that's what [can] broaden the market. What inspires you? [I find inspiration in] loads of things, but I tend not to draw inspiration from design. It’s usually from food, travel, music; things I don’t know. If it's familiar it doesn't click as inspiration. though I certainly appreciate those things. For me, it’s more about the process. Before we design anything we create an ecosystem and define what's important for the collection. Maybe it's eye contact, privacy, comfort, but not too much. We really need to define the solution and once we do that the design appears. The more data we put into it, the better the outcome. I always use a tree analogy. You don’t think tree is good looking; you take it for what it is because it's not about the look but the solution. Look at nature. How often does she get it wrong? Is there a designer or architect you really admire? The architects that I love are long dead and buried. [You could say] I’m a fan of the older styles. Toward the end of the conversation we were joined by Kevin Stark, president of the brand and head of design. He offered his thoughts on the success of Bracher’s collections for HBF: We have worked with a great cadre of designers in the past and Todd has a different point of view. His way of aesthetically and functionally solving problems is unique and has been great for HBF. We spent a lot of time interviewing designers and architects about their needs and Todd solves problems first. The Nest [collection] has been a great success for us—and he is great for us. For me this [Nest lounge chair] is an iconic piece. He spent time to understand our craftsmanship and so we stretched our limitation in a good way. Todd gives a new view we haven't had in a while. Asa is one of the pieces that is familiar but totally fresh at the same time. It has a classic form and design but also a uniqueness to it; the scale in terms of lightness and even the arms the thickness of the back. It's one of the lowest priced pieces [from HBF] and he's pulled off a beautiful, contemporary, classic design at a great value. In terms of HBF’s direction, Todd has been integral and given us a glimpse of what we’ll look like in the future from a functional, problem solving, and aesthetic perspective. It's been a great relationship. We have a great history of lounge furniture for reception areas, and there will always be a place for that, but lounge seating is entering a new area. There is a more collaborative and interactive need. Todd's pieces fit well into that collaborative intent of how people are using those areas. And we're just at the beginning of that learning curve, in terms of this changing working environment and dealing with those issues.
Posts tagged with "International Contemporary Furniture Fair":
On the opening day of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) at the Javits Center, AN sat down with Christian Rasmussen, the head of design for Fritz Hansen, to discuss the company's design strategies, its philosophy on collaboration, and to test out the new Favn and Ro seating that has just been released in the U.S. What are your impressions of ICFF? It's getting better every year and I'm seeing more interesting stuff. I was surprised last year and this one is even better. Last month we were in Milan but it's so big. I like that ICFF is more focused and offers a tighter overlook. You can spend more time in each booth as opposed to Milan where you have to move very fast to see everything. Overall it's really positive. How are the new releases being shown at ICFF this year significant for Fritz Hansen? We just released the Ro chair, which means tranquility in Danish. We wanted to design a chair where you could sit down and create your own atmosphere in the midst of this hectic life. Similarly, this sofa by Jaime Hayon, Favn, means embrace because its like two hands cradling you. Danish is a small language, spoken only by five million people, so it's nice to use these [names]. Denmark has a long history of furniture design and we've been a part of it since 1872. [Design] is really part of our culture and at Fritz Hansen we've helped create some of that identity. The reason we pick the Danish names, in addition to the fact that its hard to name a piece, is that it's its nice to [hear other languages] interpret the names in their own way. How would you describe the releases? You can divide our work into new and classic categories. I'm really happy with the Ro chair, because its close to the Egg Chair but it's still its own. It's like a cousin; they're very clearly related. It's very important to draw a red line between the past and present but still keep some of that design DNA. It's part of our philosophy to stand on the shoulders of the classics. We have a number of design values we follow very carefully to make sure we're on the right track in the design process. What constitutes good design for you personally? It is many, many things. To me, it's important that it's original and brings something new to the world. It should surprise you positively, and hopefully provoke a little, too. That depends on the brand, of course, but personally I like it to challenge me, particularly when it's based on an original idea and that comes across in the product. It also needs to last. Design-wise it shouldn't be too fashionable and you have to balance quality with design for longevity. If it's too fashionable it'll go out really quickly, kind of like clothing. For furniture, a lot of energy goes into it and it would be hard to spend on quality if people didn't keep the chair for years. We can't guarantee how long it'll be held but [of course] that's our ambition. I like things that are fashionable but it's not always simpatico. It has to be thought of in a longer perspective. The world is flooded with a lot of bad products and so we launch only one collection a year. But I like that; I'd rather launch something I believe in than launch 20 new products a year [and have to discontinue] half [of them] later. That is the company philosophy—our products should have a long lifespan. Is there a designer or architect you'd really like to work with? We spend a lot of energy and time getting to know designers before we work with them so we understand how to best release their creative potential. That's the most important thing for me. When they feel comfortable they can perform well. Our external collaborations should [last longer], like with Jaime [Hayon]. Working with a new designer each year wouldn't make sense [for us]. It's also about chemistry. He's a fantastic guy—50 percent artist and 50 percent designer—so he comes from a very different background with a different approach. It's a good challenge for our view and we have great design discussions. There has to be mutual respect to lift [the relationship] to a new level altogether. In that sense, it has been a great partnership. Additionally, some of the best interpretations of Danish design history come from abroad. Jamie isn't afraid of going close to our heritage. Which designers do you admire? The Boroullec Brothers are really clever and I admire them. They are very skilled. And I also admire Jamie because of his ability to combine art and design. He's really creative and I've never met anyone like him. He can zoom in and out, [thinking] abstractly one second and very organized the next. Its a very unique combination of control and open-mindedness on an abstract level. Some designers are strong only conceptually or otherwise, but he's balanced. He spends lots of time prototyping with us and I think that's different from other manufacturers. We want them to spend time with us because it needs to be a Fritz Hansen piece and a Jaime Hayon piece. The product should be born and raised in Fritz Hansen. The process is really important. That's what is different for us. Jamie has said working with us in Copenhagen is like doing yoga. When he started with the sofa, he was frustrated with the pace [at which we work] but he's learned to enjoy the process. We believe at the end of the day it makes a good piece. What are some of your plans for the future of Fritz Hansen? We'll focus more on laminate wood as we haven't done in a while. We understand that material and process well, so in a few years you'll see more experiments with laminated wood. We will make upholstered furniture, too, of course! We'll also be looking into new materials and technologies where you can create value but still support timeless design. The state of the materials can really make long lasting products. Right now, we 3d print legs and things like that for prototyping. Maybe in five or 10 years everything will change, so we're looking into it for larger production. It's the future and it will change everything. We will also collaborate with Jamie moving forward but there's more in the pipeline. We have a huge catalogue so maybe we'll reinterpret some of the classics. It's all about timing and making pieces relevant for today. What's one of your favorite parts of visiting New York? Walking to the Javits Center along the Highline.
The 25th edition of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) opened on Saturday, May 19, with approximately 500 exhibitors from around the world showing their wares to the design community. In addition to smaller designs studios from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Oregon, international designers from Belgium, Spain, Italy, Norway, Japan, and Haiti were also onsite with all manner of interior products. The fair closes on May 21, and is open to the public on the final day. LA2 Two 3Form LightArt A sanitary alternative to silk pendant shades, Two features 3Form's Varia Ecoresin—made of 40 percent preconsumer recycled content—formed around a fabric layer for greater ease of cleanability. The pendant comes fully enclosed with top and bottom diffusers for LED components that also feature dimming capabilities. Wall Stool Bennett Bean The Wall Stool is not just a clever product name: When not in use, the matte aluminum stool can be hung artfully on a lacquered metal shelf that matches its glossy interior finish. The stool measures 18-1/2 inches tall by 19 inches wide, with a depth of 13 inches. Atikka Blanco A new addition to Blanco's SteelArt sinks, Attika is formed from a single sheet of stainless steel and folded into shape, eliminating all seams, and is then hand polished. It measures 26 inches wide, 17 inches in length, and 10 inches deep. The Original and Svelto Collections Ercol Exhibiting for the first time in the U.S. at ICFF, the London-based, 93-year-old company is known for its work in elm, oak, ash, and beech. Shown at the furniture fair were Lucian Ercolani designs from the 1950s, as well as pieces from its newer Svelto collection. Maxwell Lounge & Ottoman Benjamin Klebba for Phloem Studio Inspired by Sam Maloof's wood and upholstered lounge chairs, the Maxwell Lounge & Ottoman is made in Portland, Oregon from North American timber and Maharam upholsteries, or is available COM. The chair's dimensions measure 28 inches tall, 25 inches wide, and 24 inches deep. The ottoman measures just 12 1/2 inches at maximum height, for discreet stowing beneath the seat of the chair. 3:1 Table TJ O'Keefe This powder-coated steel trio can be nested as a colorful occasional table or separated into its angular components. As an assembled cube, the table's dimensions measure 18 inches on all sides. Kokon Variér This Thomas Pederson-designed lounge chair swivels a full 360 degrees and can be locked into a fully reclined position. Available in a variety of fabric or leather upholsteries, the cross stitch detail can be specified in a matching or contrasting thread color. The chrome base comes standard.
New York City will be hit by a design storm this May. Along with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) taking place May 18 through 21 at the Javits Center, The New School is throwing its annual Parsons Festival, May 5 through 24, at locations across the city. Both events feature cutting edge design establishing NYC as a major design capital. The Parsons Festival features student work from a range of disciplines including architecture, interior design, lighting design, communication design, product design, photography, film, and fine art. The public is invited to preview and engage with the various works from the graduating class of 2013, such as workshops, interactive installations, gallery openings, critiques, and more. The event will culminate in the school's annual Commencement Ceramony. This year, the Parsons Festival will help kickoff the first ever NYCxDESIGN, a 12-day fair that will highlight NYC's diverse design talent with a host of film festivals, trade shows, panel discussions, installations, and exhibitions featuring works from 40,000 NYC designers. Below are images from past Parsons Festivals.