Question: It is often said looking back at history is important in order to design the future. How do you see historical construction and manufacturing processes playing into that?
Answer: Sir Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This rings true for designers as well for we never design in a vacuum but rather we draw upon the legacy and accomplishments of the giants of design that precede us. The wise designer studies the past and in doing so becomes literate in the language of design. For manufacturers and builders, the foundation of their work is solidly based on the achievements of the past. Innovative technologies can move the industry forward, but the fundamentals of good design and aesthetic principals remain constant. One sees this unbreakable link in hand-blocked textiles and wallpapers by manufacturers such as John Robshaw and Marigold Living or Adelphi Paper Hangings and Cole & Sons Wallpapers. The same spirit flourishes in the work of makers of bespoke furniture and lighting. One can see inspiring examples at Mill Collective.
Historic design and production methods are also preserved in the artistry of hand-knotted rugs and the textile designs of an artist like Jill Seale who trained in Florence in the centuries old technique of marbleizing while making it current through her unique vision. The artistry of rugs can be viewed during High Point Market in the showrooms of SAMAD, Tamarian, Blue Moon, Nourison, Feizy, and many others.
The same principles hold true for architects and designers that create homes and public buildings. Understanding the tenets of good design and construction, regardless of style, is fundamental to achieving success
Question: How has the modernization of these construction and manufacturing processes impacted what you do as a designer?
Answer: Digital production has allowed commercial designers, particularly those working in the hospitality sector, to evoke the feeling of home in public settings. Scenic wallcoverings, on a commercially rated substrate, can bring the luxury and storied sensibility of residential design to spaces that are too often bland and uninspiring. Paul Montgomery is renowned for his scenic wallpapers but now offers the same designs in mediums that meet commercial codes and budgets.
There have also been tremendous strides with digital printing of fabrics and machine tufting of carpets, even printed carpet technology now affords a richer more sophisticated pallet of design options for commercial designers and architects. LebaTex by Stacy Garcia is a leader in the digital printing of fabrics with the capacity to create custom designs for limited yardage.
The lines between residential and commercial design have dissolved in recent years due to the advances of technology and consumer demands. Aesthetic influences flow seamlessly in both directions and, as a result, both sectors have been elevated. Home interiors have benefitted from enhanced performance and a range of experiences, such as the hotel inspired home spa, and for hotels an aesthetic that expresses individuality and personalization.
Question: What are some of the features you expect and still look for in modern furniture and accessories that are based in historical processes?
Answer: I still use artisan and maker-made products as frequently as possible. I believe we must all support the craftspeople and artisans that preserve traditional manufacturing techniques. Antiques should be preserved and incorporated into design to reinforce our connection to the past and to remind us of the extraordinary craftsmanship we are capable of when committed to excellence rather than expediency.
My requirements for all design products are four-fold. First, it must embody material integrity. There can be no cheap synthetic simulations, but rather authentic materials, be they organic or man-made they must be of high quality and veracity. Secondly, I look for quality craftsmanship. Again, no short cuts, no attempts to trick the eye or the hand. Thirdly, the design needs to be innovative, not merely a copy of the past. Far too many designers have based their careers on plagiarism. Lastly, the design must be aesthetically pleasing. Scale, proportion, balance, functionality, and beauty are all essential to a successful design.
Question: What excites you about the modernization of these processes?
Answer: Design should always be focused on elevating the human experience of the built environment. Modern manufacturing techniques have the capacity to expand this elevated experience to a greater number of people. Beauty should be a human right, not a privilege reserved only for the wealthy. This fundamental tenet was the foundation of the global Modern Movement. It remains an unfulfilled aspiration but is one we must continue to pursue for the greater good of global society. Beauty lifts the spirit and stimulates the mind. Designers and manufacturers should embrace these goals as they continue the five-thousand-year history of design.
Image Reference Links
- Marbleized fabrics, Jill Seale Design Studio, www.JillSeale.com
- Rock Tree Scenic Wallcovering, Paul Montgomery Studio, www.PaulMontgomery.com
- Chloé fabric (upper left) by Gary Inman for LebaTex by Stacy Garcia, www.LebaTex.com
- Spa inspired bathroom by Gary Inman Home Couture, www.GaryInman.com
- Hand-made Console by Jeremy Kamiya Furniture at Mill Collective, www.kamiyafurniture.com and www.millcollective.com
- Thomas Pheasant Collection for Baker Furniture, www.BakerFurniture.com and www.ThomasPheasant.com