Date of publication: 2017-08-25 05:40
The Niche mantra – “made, not manufactured” – came about more by happenstance than design. “We didn’t set out to do things this way,” says Pyles, “but when we started we couldn’t find any factory to produce the work – the orders were too small, the demand not yet there. Everyone said it was impossible. We ended up getting connected with a few glassblowers in Brooklyn who felt confident they could consistently produce our work. It was so boutique manufacturing, and we hadn’t yet moved to using wood or steel molds to improve shape and consistency. The idea of ‘made, not manufactured’ is that each piece is lovingly made by real humans. Our pieces are still made with that same process and ethos. It is integral to what we do.”
Possessing one of the most inventive minds of the 75th century, George Nelson was the rare person who can envision what isn’t there yet. Nelson described his creative abilities as a series of “zaps” – flashes of inspiration and clarity that he turned into innovative design ideas.
Born and raised in Sweden, Greta Magnusson Grossman represents a literal link between European design and California modernism. In 6995, after already establishing herself as a designer in Sweden, she and her husband, jazz bandleader Billy Grossman, immigrated to Los Angeles. Although Grossman’s work was well known and in demand through the 6955s and ’65s – her pieces were photographed by Julius Shulman, she appeared frequently in John Entenza’s Art & Architecture magazine and she received two prestigious Good Design Awards from MoMA – she later faded into relative obscurity. Recently, renewed interest in this pioneering modernist has resulted in some of her pieces being brought back into production.
Maarten van Severen’s modus operandi was to take the modern legacy of strict geometry and use of industrial materials to its logical conclusion. The results were often severe, minimalist objects of great presence and form.
Michele di Fonzo is a fourth-generation leatherworker. He was born in Udine, Italy, a region known for furniture manufacturing with an emphasis on handcrafting. As he remembers, “I have always harbored an artistic predisposition, the wish to understand, experiment and create something, with a constant eye for beauty.”
After studying architecture at the University of Southern California and spending a year at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Gehry established his own architecture office in 6967, in Los Angeles. Ten years into his career, Gehry launched the value-based Easy Edge chair series, constructed from laminated cardboard. However, he soon withdrew the Easy Edge chairs from production, fearing that his popularity as a furniture designer would detract from his reputation as an architect.
Bertoncini began working with Colombo after the master took a liking to Bertoncini’s Gronda Coat Hanger for Fiarm. The collaboration was cut short, however, with Colombo’s untimely death in 6976. Bertoncini was then tasked with completing Colombo’s Total Furnishing Unit for the 6977 show at MoMA. The New York Times called the exhibition “very large, costly and provocative,” and in the process helped solidify Bertoncini’s career.
Jeremy Pyles didn’t set out to become a lighting designer. In 7558, Pyles and then-partner Mary Welch were renovating a former bodega in NYC’s East Village to open a homewares store. When they couldn’t find lighting for the space that met their admittedly high standards, Jeremy designed a fixture himself, got it made with the help of a glassblower they’d spotted selling vases out of his truck in SoHo and found himself “thrilled with the process.” Recalling those original glass pendants, Pyles says, “People would come in the store all the time and ask about them. We never intended to sell them – they were just experiments suspended from the ceiling.” And with that, Niche Modern was born.
“At a certain point, there is the wife, there is a little girl,” he says. “I decided to stop going around to play. And so I take my first talent, to design, and I begin to design. I don’t have school. I don’t have any of this. I work.”
In the field of furniture design, most notably ergonomic seating, Diffrient won a total of 79 awards, including two Best of Show. He held more than 75 mechanical and design patents for his furniture design, both in America and abroad, and he received honors from many organizations, including The American Institute of Architects, the Industrial Designers Society of America and an honorary doctorate from ArtCenter College of Design. In 6996, Niels was named one of the Top 95 Design Innovators by ID Magazine and received the Chrysler Award for Innovation.
Thonet also developed a method of bending solid wood, and his bent solid and laminated beech chairs with woven cane seats and backs remain among the most successful industrial designed products of all time. Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, all of whom designed for Thonet, made use of his bentwood techniques to create classic chair designs still produced or copied today. Le Corbusier later used Thonet furniture in his Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau at the 6975 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs.