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New American Modern

June 2011

By Dina Pugh, New York

Coinciding with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), the NoHo Design District event highlighted the best emerging talents in the design industry. My first, and most enjoyable, stop on the event route was at Partners & Spade’s gallery that serves as a storefront for their design agency. Within, I found the ingenious work of furniture design collective Rich Brilliant Willing (RBW) on display alongside a curated selection of vintage photography and ephemera including encased NASA trading cards and souvenirs from the 60s.

RBW references American mid-century and industrial design, a popular trend in product and interior design that can be found in mainstream retail concept stores such as the J. Crew Men's Shop, Levi’s Meatpacking and Cool Hunting for Gap. As opposed to Danish mid-century style furniture that Design Within Reach made (somewhat) affordable to the masses, this Americana twist that RBW employs looks to hard-edged, utilitarian objects like rockets, rooftop vents and shipping containers for inspiration. Then these cold industrial forms are completely reimagined as luxurious objects through use of sumptuous materials like hardwood, leather and brass.

I inquired about the Delta II lamp that lured me in because of its sophistication and craftsmanship, but found it to be out of my price range. However, it inspired me to later peruse some Ikea and CB2 catalogs in hopes of finding something similar—no luck. Rich Brilliant Willing has a fresh point of view that might take mass design at least a couple of years to catch up to.

RBW also maintains high standards of “green” design, creating handmade products in the tri-state area out of locally sourced materials. Adding additional value, most lamps and objects can also be fully recycled--or “upcycled” to use the correct design lingo. But ecological considerations are mere footnotes that underscore the overall thoughtfulness and strategy to RBW’s pieces.

Today, great American design in all fields - from automotive to apparel - incorporates “green” values into the process but allows elegant, modern design to take front stage.

Design & Luxury
New York

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