“After concentrating on Europe, the Middle East, and Asia these last few years, we wanted to turn to another great nation of design,” says Philippe Brocart, Managing Director of SAFI, the company that organizes MAISON&OBJET. “The size and cultural diversity of the United States give rise to impressive design achievements, and we are excited to welcome the next generation of designers and their influences to Paris next September.”
“I think there’s a blue collar aesthetic to my design,” said Alex Brokamp, who is currently working towards a master’s degree in environmental design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Originally from Cincinnati, Brokamp grew up watching his grandfather work as a pipefitter, and today designs many of his products to resemble functional pieces that blend into their surroundings with charm. (i.e. shipping palettes, a laundry line, etc). His Handle With Care table is composed of glass boxes arranged like parcels on a mirror-finish aluminum palette base.
“He is a very positive example of young American designers who bridge technical knowledge with simple forms and a sense of lightheartedness in their work,” said Jerry Helling, who nominated Brokamp. “He could almost be the love child of Jamie Hayon and Jasper Morrison.”
“I’m probably the one hundred thousandth designer to say I’m inspired by natural formations,” the 23-year-old, who grew up in small-town Connecticut said. Deeply influenced by straight lines, he noticed them making their way into his work after completing his product design courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and moving to New York.
Specializing in sculptural furniture, Fontaine has a day job as chief caster for Fernando Mastrangelo, who creates functional objects from sand, salt, coal, and candy. On his own he explores concrete, rusted steel, and paper clay through floor lamps and dining tables.
Odile Hainaut, who along with Claire Pijoulat nominated Fontaine, described him as “a really passionate, ambitious, and talented young designer,” who “allows himself lots of freedom when imagining a new series of products. His simultaneous embrace of the roles of designer, fabricator, and entrepreneur is almost unique to young Americans.”
Ben Bloomstein, 31, and Aaron Aujla, 32, create custom furnishings and fittings for private clients as well as design their own products. At an ambitious rate of four collections per year, Bloomstein and Aujla use diverse materials like African mahogany, aluminum, and bamboo to craft the creations they sell out of a gallery in Manhattan’s East Village.
Aside from this work, these two also have an art space and design gallery in Brooklyn under the name Green River Project. The ad hoc art gallery was founded five years ago near upstate New York’s Green River, and they decided to keep the name after relocating.
“We try our best to treat each material as democratically as possible and see it not for its value or rarity but more for its visual quality and where we’re drawing inspiration from,” Bloomstein said.
Their latest collection utilizes coffee-stained Douglas fir upholstered in patterned corduroy by the fashion artist Emily Bode that ends up as stools. There are also fir, oak, and mahogany cabinets filled with objects by artist-friends.
Founded in 2015 by Reed Hansuld and Joel Seigle, design studio Harold (named after both of their grandfathers) creates racks for holding record albums, ceramic planters, and wood objects. Some of the rolling filters they design are made from a lumber business’s maple shavings that Seigle’s grandfather Harold founded.
“Reed and I were roommates when we started this company, and we started by making things that we needed personally,” he said. “We’re part of that generation that knew life before computers, which is weird to think about.” Seigle, 29, grew up in suburban Chicago and studied industrial design at Pratt Institute, while Hansuld, 31, is an artisanal furniture maker from Ontario. “It’s so hard to keep up with tech,” Seigle added.“The impulse was to “fall back on the old school way of making.”
Three years ago they started Liberty Labs Foundation, a nonprofit that gives young designers, artists, and furniture makers affordable studio space in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Everyone has use of a workshop modeled on an old-fashioned woodshop. But yes, they also have a 3D printer.
In 2017 Kira de Paola launched the design studio Kin & Company with her first cousin, Joseph Vidich. “There’s no husband-and-wife baggage, no sibling baggage. It’s the perfect amount of closeness.”
De Paola, 38, grew up in California and Vidich, 41, in Manhattan, but saw each other regularly. After De Paola moved to New York for college their social circles began to overlap and a professional bond was cemented with a shared interest in furniture design and fabrication. Vidich came to it through graduate school in architecture, De Paola through a job in high-end custom furniture.
Notably, for a 2017 exhibition at WantedDesign they folded a single piece of industrial sheet metal to create a chair that props against a wall or, with the metal bent the other way, forms a side table.
Their latest work takes De Paola and Vidich back to their art school ways, experimenting with various patinas and combining steel and stone in their pieces.
Rosie Li entered her career in a way many dream of. While giving her RISD thesis on a triangular sconce inspired by Frank Stella’s work, one of the critics, lighting designer Lindsey Adelman, took a photo and sent it to designer and producer Jason Miller.
“That launched my career in lighting,” Li, 30, who grew up in Palo Alto recalled. Miller also put Li on his staff at Roll & Hill, but today she works independently designing and producing decorative light fixtures. Her latest collection, Bubbly, is made in collaboration with glass blowers, and consists of clusters of solid and illuminated spheres.
Li’s ornamental style has its roots in analytical process. “With the proliferation of Instagram and other social media and being able to see anything, everything out there, it gets to be a little much,” she said. “Your mind just goes off into a million directions. But I find the role of the designer is to be almost like a sieve to filter out these coulda-shoulda-maybes in an effort to distill your idea into its purest form. At the end of the day I always ask myself: “What are you trying to do here? What is the clear vision?”