Monthly Archives: September 2012


Today we bring you some vintage pics from the Bloomingdale’s Book of Home Decorating, by Barbara D’arcy.  Printed in 1973, this was THE it guide to design.  What do you think of the pieces?  Many of the forms are still very relevant today!  Would you use these as inspiration for designing or buying furniture today?  We certainly will!


Keys to Custom Furniture – And A Festival! posted a great article in anticipation for the Design Harvest festival going on this weekend.  First, check out some excerpts from the article below.  It’s all about what to know when having custom furniture designed for your home.  We were most excited to see Unbranded Designs friend Dan Sullivan, of Navillus WoodWorks, featured in the piece!  Stay tuned for Unbranded’s own interview with Dan, which we will be sharing right here on the blog very soon!  As a sneak peak, take a look at Dan’s beautiful custom media cabinet pictured above.

Second, make sure to check out the Design Harvest festival!  It is being held this weekend, September 29&30, on Grand Avenue between Damen and Wood.

“Commissioning a custom piece is similar to having a suit custom-tailored versus buying off the rack,” says Carson Maddox, who will be showing work at the fest. “The one off the rack may work just fine, but nothing can compare to the fit, finish and feel of something crafted just for you.”

Commissioning your own special snowflake can be daunting for first-timers, so we talked to some artisans, dealers and designers to demystify the process.

1. The price might be right. Custom furniture isn’t necessarily more costly than ready-made pieces from a showroom or chain store, and can even be less expensive. “A large furniture manufacturer has a lot of invisible factors involved in its pricing structure,” say Jordan Mozer of Jordan Mozer Associates. “It has to pay a designer a flat fee and often a percentage of sales, and a factory to make the merchandise. Then there are taxes, shipping, advertising and overhead costs for the retail outlets, such as rent, insurance and even air conditioning. All these costs are rolled into the final sticker price.”

2. Is time on your side? It takes a while to design and build custom furniture, obviously, so it’s crucial to establish a time frame. “Once the project has been defined and designed, I tell my clients it will take eight weeks, give or take,” says Dan Sullivan of Chicago-based Navillus WoodWorks. “It’s not unusual to go through a few revisions before finding exactly the right size, materials and forms.”

3. Size matters. An experienced craftsman can make Goldilocks a bed that’s neither too hard nor too soft, but just right. “I designed a dining room table with eight chairs for a couple who were dramatically different in size,” says Lee Weitzman, owner of Lee Weitzman Furniture in River North. “The husband’s a big guy and his wife is much smaller, so we made one of the chairs shorter with a smaller seat. All the backs are the same height, though, so no one can tell.”

4. Knock off the knockoffs. If you like something you’ve seen in a showroom, on an episode of “Real Housewives” or on the pages of a shelter magazine, buy it and don’t expect anyone to make a discount doppelgänger for you. “Designers specializing in custom pieces already have a signature look and use of materials,” says Arrin Williams, proprietor of The Haymaker Shop, an Andersonville shop that focuses on local independent artisans. “They don’t want to be ripping off or borrowing from other folks’ designs.”

5. Pictures? Perfect. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t feel free to stockpile your smartphone with inspirational images and share them with a designer. “Showing clippings is an excellent way of sharing abstract concepts and visual experiences,” Mr. Mozer says. “I see the world differently than everyone else and don’t always have words to express it; clients are the same way at times.”

6. Go green. Custom gives you a way to control what your piece is made of. Rocky Levy of Chicago-based Icon Modern solely uses sustainable and recycled materials in his furniture, and says reclaimed urban wood is “the only way to go.” His company upcycles trees that have been torn down to make way for new construction, felled in storms, or axed because of age or disease, slicing and dicing them into handsome countertops, conference tables, and stools.

7. Invested interests. Custom furniture can enhance the portfolio as well as the pad. Wright, the Chicago-based auction house, recently put a collection of early-1990s Mozer-designed furniture from a Glencoe residence on the block, and nearly everything dramatically exceeded its high estimate. A sofa estimated at $3,000-$5,000 sold for $25,000. “It was thrilling for us,” Mr. Mozer says, “and I’m sure our clients were pleased that they had a chance to enjoy it for 15 years and then make that kind of profit.”

8. Singular sensation.Perhaps the most obvious reason for having a bespoke headboard or a one-off ottoman is that it’s going to be made just for you. “You will own something that no one else does,” Mr. Williams says.

9. Local options. “There are philosophical issues at hand when you buy locally made furniture,” says Mr. Mozer. “You’re supporting America, and the people that live and work around you.”

10. Payment plan. “Paying in steps allows for a client to maintain control over the commission,” says Mr. Mozer. Expect to put down a small deposit after the initial consultation, with the balance doled out over two or three additional stages, typically after approving designs and then upon final review.

11. Presto change-o. Many people turn to custom design because they have a space that’s oddly proportioned, or they want to turn design lemons into lemonade. Weitzman designed a television mounting system and cabinets to go around unwieldy circular support columns that run through the space of a new condo building, and disguised the sink an Orthodox Jewish family wanted in their dining room. If you’ve got something to hide, a good furniture designer can work magic.

Street Seats Design Challenge

Calling all designers!  Design Museum Boston is holding a Street Seats Design Challenge, a competition for outdoor furniture.  The winning pieces will serve as a functional display along the Fort Point Channel.

You can click on the above link, or read the article below.  This is an international competition open to the public – so spread the word!

Organized by Design Museum Boston, Street Seats Design Challenge is an international outdoor furniture design competition that will culminate in new waterfront seating, an outdoor design exhibition, and a walking tour around the Fort Point Channel. The competition is open to local and international artists, designers, and enthusiasts.

“Design is everywhere,” remarked Design Museum Boston Co-Founder, Sam Aquillano. “Therefore, Design Museum Boston is a museum in not one space, but many spaces; Street Seats embodies our unique approach by putting a design exhibition outside in a very public space, around the beautiful Fort Point Channel.”

Entries that meet the criteria will be displayed in an exhibition and event on February 28, 2013 at Factory 63, a new residential tower in Fort Point being developed by Gerding Edlen, a major supporter of Design Museum Boston.

In phase two, design experts and celebrity judges will review the finalists’ entries — sketches, renderings, models, and videos – and will choose the winning Street Seat designs.

Winners will receive a stipend from Design Museum Boston for fabrication and their seats will be installed, along with educational signage, around the Fort Point Channel from April to October 2013.

The deadline for entries is February 1, 2013.

Read more:

Designing an Economy

This is a great video posted by Crane TV discussing the impact of Europe’s economic recession on the design community.  Is creative design the key to jumpstarting cultural growth?  As Martin Roth, the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, states “Art creates a European identity.  If we have a declining situation, then we need even more culture and the arts and design keeping everything, the societies, together.”

Financial Times Design Critic Edwin Heathcote poses a different perspective.  “We are sitting on this bum-freezing Thomas Heatherwick bench which is a beautiful thing, but it is not going to save anyone’s economy.”  During times of economic struggle, should the design industry shift to manufacturing items to help impoverished communities?

Where do you fall on this debate?

Dwell on Design

Here is a great video showcasing some innovative plastic furniture design spotted at the 2012 Dwell on Design conference in L.A. this past June.  The video is brought to us by Plastics Make It Possible.  Created by the American Chemistry Council, Plastics Make It Possible is an online resource dedicated to providing the most current information on how plastic materials can be used to improve our every day lives.

Check out some of the highlights from Dwell on Design here.  The three day event featured all the latest in modern home creation.  Below are a few stills from the designers featured in the above video.  Enjoy!

This is the Flux Junior Chair by Dutch designers Douwe Jacobs and Tom Schouten.  It is brought to us by Cool Kids Company which distributes innovative children’s furniture from Europe to the U.S.  An adult version of the Flux Chair is also available.  As explained in the video above, this is made of one single sheet of durable polypropylene and can be folded up for easy storage or transportation.  We especially like how this picture is channeling our beloved Linus.  Even better, the back of the chair acts as the perfect shield from that pesky Lucy.

Next we have Loll Designs, which makes 100% recycled furniture entirely out of milk cartons.   These pieces are bright, colorful, fresh, and perfect for outdoor spaces!  Also, their website is having a September sale!  Nearly everything is 15% off!

Deck Chair

Alfresco Table

This is the 111 Navy Chair, or “Coke Chair” by Emeco.  Founded in 1944 as the Electrical Machine and Equipment Company (Emeco), they were commissioned by the U.S. government during WWII to build “chairs that could withstand water, salt air and sailors. Make chairs lightweight and make them strong, build them for a lifetime.”  The 1006, or Navy chair, was born.  In 2006, Coca Cola approached Emeco to make a recycled, Coke version of their iconic piece.  Each chair is made up of 111 recycled Coke bottles, which accounts for about 65% of the total materials used.  Always Coca-Cola, indeed.

Let’s Get This Straight

Whoever said that straight is boring has never heard of Straight Line Designs.  Ironically, this custom design studio features some of the most playful and unconventional silhouettes we have ever seen.

With designer and founder Judson Beaumont at the helm, SLD has been based in Vancouver, British Columbia for the past 25 years.  Beaumont tests the boundaries of imagination and possibility, operating under the rule that “if you can draw and design it, you can build it”.  We like the sound of that!

You can check out SLD’s work on their website, in their book What’s Next, and right below!  In addition, Beaumont was just named the keynote speaker at the 2012 Wood Tech Summit in Vancouver.  The conference will be held on October 22 and 23.  Fore more information on how to register, click here!

Little Black Dresser


Beaver Cabinet


Tree Cabinet

Mickey and Minnie Cabinet

Canned Bench


Goofy Mirror

Anne Armoire

Boom Cabinet

Crash Table


Burnt Table

Joined at the Hip

Button Tuft Bench

Daddy Long Legs

Donald Cabinet

Pine Beetle Bench

Knick Knack


Tear Away Credenza

Bug Street

Carrot Car

Toy Story Munny – You know we HAVE to feature ANYTHING about Toy Story!

YVR Vancouver International Airport Installation – Fireplace

YVR Vancouver International Airport – Lighthouse

YVR Vancouver International Airport – Garden Maze

Shine On!

We are obsessed with this eclectic furniture by design firm Shine by S.H.O.

Based in California and created by Susan Hornbeak-Ortiz, S.H.O. captures the beauty of   contrast.  The pieces are colorful yet stark, vintage yet modern, traditional yet innovative.  In the words of Hornbeak-Ortiz herself, “I have always been drawn to capturing the essence of beauty in all its forms.”

Have a look at some of our favorite pieces below.  Most items come in a variety of fabrics and finishes.  Also, explore the S.H.O. look book, which is artistry in itself.

Casablanca Bed

Florence Bed

Ibiza Bed

Yves Sofa

Master Bench

Shanghai Chandelier Small in Pale Soft Polished Copper and Semi Precious Turquoise Magnesite Bead

Cary Armoire

Sophia Stool, Casablanca Side by Side Chest, and Casablanca 6 Drawer Chest

Dauphine Armoire

Gaultier Console

Catalonia Large Chandelier

Edinburgh Sofa

Onda Powder Coated Chandelier

Lolita Chair

Doucet Powder Coated Chandelier

Masters Double Chaise

Cary Buffet

Doucet Side Table

Yves Chaise

Edinburgh Chaise

Lola Sofa

Manhattan Ottoman

Masters Chaise

Siena Sectional

Yves Chair

Yves Wing Chair

Why Do You Design?

Check out this amazing video posted by office furniture powerhouse Herman Miller.  This is the first video in a series called “Why Design”, which features well known designers talking about their own inspiration.

In the video, Swiss innovator Yves Behar compares designing to the quick, free thinking, spontaneous attitude needed for surfing.  Check out Behar’s bio here, and his company the FuseProject here.  Below you can see two two pieces Behar did for Herman Miller.

Sayl Chair

Sayl Side Chair

The second video in the Why Design series showcases Don Chadwick.  “We’re set up to get dirty and take chances,” Chadwick says in his Herman Miller profile.  Sounds like Chadwick understands the Unbranded Designs mission statement!  Here are two Don Chadwick for Herman Miller chairs.

Aeron Chair

Aeron Work Stool

Check back into for the rest of the series.  Next Monday, Ayse Birsol will be featured.

Mystery Science Headboard

We just have to give credit where credit is due.

Recreate with Kate!

Watch this video of South African designer Katie Thompson as she transforms a car into a desk!  And not just any car, a Mercedes SL R230, to be exact.

Thompson, a self described hoarder, specializes in refurbishing and repurposing discarded items.  And her talents are not just in the auto department.  Her company, Recreate, features suitcases as shelves, bottles as lamps, and laundry tubs as ottomans.  Check out a few of her pieces below, and her website here!

Door Frame Bookcase

Porthole Table

Suitcase Chair

Ottoman Tub

Open sesame!

Teacup Lamp

Suitcase Shelf

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