Category Archives: Furniture in the Wild

Dwelling on the Extraordinary Simplicity

This is a guest post from designer Phillip Royster. Phillip created the R2 Coffee Table which is now available at If you would like to also contribute a guest blog, email us at

dwellOver the past weekend, many professionals and design fanatics convened at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Dwell on Design where designers showcased their creations. It showcased everything from furniture to flooring to prefabricated homes. Since this is my very first design conference and I just started designing furniture, I am developing my own story about how I design my furniture. So naturally I love hearing the stories behind designs and ascents into the design world from my peers. I met one designer that caught my eye beyond the others.

In a world where specialization has become commonplace and designs are simply shipped out to a separate manufacturer, a company called Rich Brilliant Willing (RBW) has changed this. RBW paired design with manufacturing and, in the process, captured a higher level of authorship. Sometimes, designers are paired with manufacturers, marketing agents, and other specialized agents and lose a lot of their initial ideas in the process. RBW takes the story about how their hands on approach to making things translated from college to their studio. This gives RBW an opportunity to design every little connection and detail. It even allows them to learn from the manufacturing process, which improves their design process. This company has only existed since 2007 and I would be willing to bet that it will only improve and grow from here.


Quart Table from Rich Brilliant Willing

Now, sometimes you are only impressed with the story and not the product. In this case, that’s not true. The language of RBW products pairs wood and metal in geometrically reduced form that captures the contemporary lifestyle beautifully. One product in specific that caught my attention was the Fawn End Table Oak. The way that it transitions from the sharply defined surface to the legs is effortless and reveals how the lateral forces in the legs are captured. Even the naming of their furniture describes the intentions perfectly. These artists from Rhode Island School of Design have taken their education and created more than furniture; they created a lifestyle.

I think that going to design conventions is similar to the design process. When I make something, I don’t know what it will be, but I know the story will evolve as I discover through creation. When I went to Dwell on Design, I didn’t go with an agenda of what I want to see, but I always hope to discover a story that inspires me. If you haven’t gone to one of these events before, I highly encourage it! Go and dwell on the extraordinary that exists in beautiful simplicity.

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The Guerrilla Truck Show in pictures

2 weeks ago Morlen Sinoway Atelier held his annual Guerrilla Truck Show in Chicago’s West Loop. The Truck Show is the local  maker showcase that goes on in the shadow of Neocon that we compared to New York’s Wanted Design earlier this month. This year’s event was bigger and badder than ever, attracting more Neocon visitors and Chicagoans than before. Check out some of our pictures from the night:


The line of trucks started forming around 3:30


We filled the truck with the R2 Coffee Table, ISA Chair, and something coming soon 🙂


The traffic was consistently heavy from 5:30-9:30. Great attendance and interest and no time to rest


We asked the visitors to give us their feedback on products we’re considering developing. Thanks to all who participated!


Designer Adele Cuartelon stopped by to hang out and get some shots with her ISA Chair 


The end of the night came really fast. We didn’t even have a chance to see the other 60 incredible trucks

The Guerrilla Truck Show exceeded our expectations once again. It is by far the best design event in Chicago and it’s unfortunate that we have to wait an entire year for the next one. If you missed it, don’t make the same mistake in 2014.


Even Virgil recommends it

Special thank you to Global A+D for supporting DIFFA and sponsoring our truck.

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NY Design Week in Review (Part 4), An encouraging design trend

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our review of NY Design Week.

When someone hears “flat-packed furniture”, why are people immediately turned off? Consumers can point to the big box retailers that have utilized it to great success for decades. They could also think to the poor quality and self-assembly that comes with it.

It’s not difficult to understand why designers are as turned off by flat-packing. If you’re a designer, why would you want to spend a significant amount of time creating a design that ultimately lacks the quality to last? And why would you put your name on a low-quality piece? It would only hurt your personal brand.

When we started out, we met a number of people who were adamant about this position and understandably so, but that hasn’t consistently been the case recently, especially at ICFF. More and more, designers are embracing the flat-packing and for a number of great reasons:

  1. Production efficiency: Designers are beginning to understand the production benefits that come with flat-packed products and are beginning to embrace those processes. This includes building good processes, managing inventory, and leveraging advanced technologies. Just having a better understanding improves how designers can interface with manufacturers or utilize their own facilities to maximize output and efficiency.
  2. National and global customers: Logistics is a problem that has not yet been solved for furniture. Even the big boys won’t deliver to every ZIP code in the country. How many customers can afford to pay hundreds of dollars in shipping in addition to the cost of your products? Flat-packing allows you to go from a white-glove service to UPS or Fedex. How many more customers could you reach if you could easily ship your products?
  3. More interesting design challenge: Designing a high-quality product to be flat-packed is an even greater challenge than just designing a great piece of furniture. Not only does it have to be well-designed when put together, it has to be broken down and easy to assemble.  Hitting all these goals in one design is a major achievement that many designers are beginning to strive for.

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Even this is sent in a flat pack!

We’re very encouraged by this trend given that Unbranded Designs is a web-based company and we hope to reach customers in different regions. In no way are we proclaiming that we are a flat-pack company but we fully understand the complexities in trying to reach customers everywhere. In fact none of our current designs could even be packed in the ways we discussed with designers at ICFF. We’re just glad to see that there’s a large contingent of talented designers that are embracing this mentality to create amazing products and you should too!

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NY Design Week in Review (Part 3), Why designers attend

Part 1 and Part 2 of our review of NY Design Week.

Since this was our first trip to ICFF, we had a number of questions regarding the event including price, timing, trade vs. non-trade, etc. As we were hastily registering for the event, waiting for a credit card screen or some explanation, we had marked down Unbranded Designs as a retailer. We’re a retailer from the basis we sell furniture to consumers, but we think of ourselves as so much more. We consider ourselves a tech company since we’re exclusively web-based. We are a design company due to our community of designers. We could even be considered a manufacturer because we manage a supply chain and source components of our designs from different vendors, sometimes completing assembly. And yes, we’re definitely an e-commerce retailer.

In this instance it was in our benefit to select retailer because it afforded us the opportunity to have several engaging conversations with designers. The main things we learned about the designers we spoke with at ICFF and Wanted Design echoed what designers struggle with here in Chicago and everywhere else. These designers were all looking for partners to 1) manufacture their products and/or 2) carry their products for sale. These designers exhibited the skills to design magnificent pieces and also had the resources to transport their products to New York City, yet they still needed a major partner to bring their designs to the next level.

Coming to ICFF, we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew based on our early research that this was a problem affecting the furniture design community but perhaps the luster of ICFF had made us assume these designers were vastly different. If they were showing at ICFF, surely they’d have the resources to accelerate their designs.

In reality the designers at ICFF face the issues that all designers face. Marketing, sales, manufacturing, and funding impact need to be done well by everyone. After this trip, we’re even more encouraged by our business model, how we can help designers, the amount of amazing designs we saw, and the number of designers that were interested in getting involved with our company. We welcome all of the designers from ICFF, Wanted Design, and anyone else to sign-up and showcase your work. We’d love to work with you!

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NY Design Week in Review (Part 2): Wanted Design: ICFF:: Guerrilla Truck Show: NEOCON

Part 1 of our review of NY Design Week

In our last post we discussed our inaugural trip to New York City’s Design Week and how amazed we were by the designs and designers throughout the city. The Cliffnotes version: mark your calendar and visit New York a year from now for Design Week.

Since you’ve just agreed to go – and I’m sure you booked your flight – you need to know where to go. The major draw is the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. You could easily spend a few days walking around the gigantic facility, admiring the work and meeting designers, but if you go just to visit ICFF you’ll miss the rest of work sprinkled throughout the city. Luckily there are a few hubs that you can check out in Brooklyn, NOHO, SOHO, and at Wanted Design.

We didn’t get a chance to visit the different neighborhoods but we did spend an afternoon at Wanted Design. Looking back, if we were forced to choose between spending a few hours at ICFF or Wanted Design, it would be a tough decision. Wanted Design is much smaller, but it’s a curated show of talented designers from all over the world and held in a great space. Designers came from Sweden, Chicago, Puerto Rico, Brooklyn, and dozens of other places.

The Wanted Design show, now in its third year has built as much excitement as ICFF. Its opening night party brought a line outside a thousand people long – which seems big, even for New York. People that live and breathe design in NY, who have grown “meh” towards ICFF make sure to walk the Wanted Design halls.

This show reminded me of the Guerrilla Truck Show in Chicago. 8 years ago Morlen Sinoway founded the Guerrilla Truck Show as an alternative to NEOCON for local designers. It has since grown to be a block party, attracting designers from all over the Midwest and visitors from NEOCON and throughout Chicago. The Guerrilla Truck Show now owns Tuesday night during NEOCON and draws more and more interest each year.

There are a few key differences, obviously. Wanted Design is a curated event and brings designers from all over the world. The Guerrilla Truck Show is a one-night event/party. Wanted Design is as much an educational event as a show, with contributors providing classes spanning a number of topics.

Ok, so they’re not the same. What they share though is that they’re incredible, must-see events that have sprouted out of the shadows of major shows in their respective cities. Each is gaining more and more steam with every year and becoming a more important part of the destination for visitors. So when you visit New York next year or Chicago in the coming weeks, make sure to visit these events. They may soon become your priority.

Unbranded Designs will be at the Guerrilla Truck Show on June, 11th. Make sure to stop by and say hello!

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NY Design Week in Review (Part 1): As awesome as advertised

Earlier this month New York City played host to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair as well as a number of other shows, including Wanted Design. In addition to the shows and displays are the parties that all together comprise NYC’s Design Week (though it can last up to 2 weeks depending on who you ask). Design Week attracts visitors from all over the world to revel in the great works produced by designers from Brooklyn, Chicago, Europe, Asia, and pretty much everywhere else. For those of you who haven’t been, it’s a must do.

A few members of our team made the trip from Chicago to take part in the festivities and see what’s happening in the NYC international design scene. We’d received a dozen recommendations to check it out over the last year since 1) the designs would be of great interest to us and 2) there is no larger gathering of talented independent designers. If you were one of the people that recommended ICFF to us, thank you. You were absolutely right. ICFF was incredible and so was the rest of Design Week. We met hundreds of incredible people and took in really cool and innovative designs from all over the world. We’ll definitely be making the trip back each year but from now we’ll be staying at least an entire week.

If you couldn’t make the trip this year, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check back for the remaining 3 parts from our first New York City Design Week.

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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

“Furniture is the Servant of Fantasy”

Nothing describes the aesthetic of Al-Hamad Designs quite like their own slogan:  “Furniture is the servant of fantasy.”

Based in Kuwait, Al-Hamad Designs mixes dreams with reality.  The pieces are fun and fanciful.  Take a look at the imaginative collection below!

Chandelier.  This piece provides light, allows you to discreetly spy on dinner guests, and is a functional way of living out that swinging chandelier fantasy.

Little Oyester.  Chair, table, storage, and lighting; all in one!

Discreet side tables.

Secret compartment!

Cradle.  A hammock for two.  But the best part…

Is that it glows in the dark!

Bulb Box.  An innovative take on the table lamp.

Parallel Angles.  Dare to sit!

Position them together or apart.

Embarakiya.  The base of the floor lamp is a human form dressed in traditional Kuwaiti apparel.  To turn the lamp on or off, simply shake the mannequin’s hand!

Gibbous.  Can you guess what this piece is?

It’s a chair and ottoman!  Of course, the fun doesn’t end there…

More glow in the dark!

Also, The Gibbous won the A’ Design Award this year.  Congrats!

A Cat’s Couch that’s the Cat’s Meow

Korean furniture designer Senugji Mun has designed a couch fit for a feline.

This Cat’s Tunnel Sofa was designed so that pet’s and their owners have a place in the home to share.  Ample seating for humans… and an amusing tunnel system for cats!

Would you like to see more furniture that accommodates your pets?

Enjoying the Whimsical with Hubert Le Gall

Today we are posting a delightful interview with french artist Hubert Le Gall.

Watch for yourself!

Le Gall elegantly describes his love of making furniture that is art.  Le Gall says art is often taken too seriously.  By making furniture, his creations becomes intimate and functional.

Browse through some of his playful designs below and check out his gallery here.  You can also read this piece on Le Gall from a 2005 feature in the New York Times.

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