Architect and collector Lisa S. Roberts new book DesignPOP (Rizzoli 2014) surveys the best furniture and accessories (so far) of the 21st century. In between the bold photographs of these iconic contemporary pieces, Roberts discusses new materials and processes, as well as how sustainability and social responsibility, influence designers’ paths. She points out that even the definition of designer is changing as disciplines merge. For example, products from companies like Apple and Dyson often exemplify considered cutting edge design.
As I flipped through the colorful pages of DesignPOP, I was struck by how many of the items I’ve come across in my life, and even own. While I covet high end design, I don’t have the funds for splurging on it. However, Roberts mixes the practically unattainable with practical everyday products
For example, she puts forth the Soft Urn designed by Hella Jongerius, which appears to be a traditional pottery vase, but is instead made of silicone. I discovered silicone urns a number of years ago (I think mine are by Menu though), and love them because if the kids knock them over, they won’t break.
I’ve bet you seen the Bobble, even if you don’t realize it. Bobble is an ergonomically-shaped, thin plastic water bottle with built in filter, designed by Karim Rashid. I have one for each of my kids to keep by their bedsides; I purchased them at Target. I’ve never changed the filters… should probably get on that.
Other designers highlighted include Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson, Marcel Wanders, Yves Behar, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Philippe Starck, Ross Lovegrove, and Jasper Morrison.
I sent Roberts a few questions to answer about her findings and favorites from DesignPop, answered below, complete with products featured in the book.
Were most of these products familiar to you before starting the research? Any new finds?
I knew many since I follow the industry very closely. But during my research I discovered the Flip Flop Vase by Diederick Schneemann, the Chubby Chair by Dirk Vander Kooij, the Lytro Light Field Camera by New Deal Design, and the Nest Thermostat by Tony Fadell.
Flip Flop Vase by Diederick Schneemann
Made from recycled flip flops washed up on Kenyan beaches .
Chubby Chair by Dirk Vander Kooij
Made from 3D printed recycled refrigerator plastic, with their waste made into clothes hangers.
Nest Thermostat by Tony Fadell
$249 at Amazon
We purchased one of these, drawn in by both the design and “smart” functionality. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it to work with our HVAC system, but not for lack of trying. This 2.0 version may be easier to implement. They have a great help line.
Your picks all come out of the 21st century. What are some products designed before 2000 that may have been included if you expanded the time frame?
There were a lot of game-changing designs before 2000. There’s the Vermelha Chair by Humberto and Fernando Campana, the Wiggle Chair by Frank Gehry, and the Bookworm by Ron Arad.
Vermelha Chair by Humberto and Fernando Campana
$12,821 at Switch Modern
The upholstery is completely made of intertwined cotton ropes.
Wiggle Chair by Frank Gehry
$1,140 at AllModern
Designed back in 1972 and made from cardboard.
Bookworm by Ron Arad
$408 at Lumens
I’ve always been intrigued this piece in the MoMA catalog. It’s flexible and can be made into any shape.
Which brand new products would make the list if you did a follow up?
The Carbon Balloon Chair by Marcel Wanders. It’s made of carbon fiber and resin, weighs about one and a half pounds, and can hold up to 198 pounds. Also the Polygon Chair by Joris Laarman, which combines advanced technology with hand assembly. It’s comprised of mathematically designed CNC milled pieces that are assembled like a puzzle, by hand.
Carbon Balloon Chair by Marcel Wanders
An ultra light carbon fiber chair inspired by balloons.
Do you own any of the products featured in the book?
I own many of the products in the book. Some are on display in my personal gallery and some I live with. I love the Collapsible Strainer by Boje Estermann because it takes up so little space in my drawer. The Peacock Chair by Dror Benshetrit sits in my foyer and is as attractive as it is comfortable. The Fred Humidifier by Matti Walker comes out whenever someone in the family has a cold. I also have two Midsummer Lights by Tord Boontje that hang over the conference table in my home office.
Collapsible Strainer by Boje Estermann
$60 at Lumens
Last year I bought a collapsible silicone salad spinner at T.J.Maxx for our little condo in Florida. It is one of the best gadgets you can buy, because really, who has room for a salad spinner. Ditto for a full-size colander.
Peacock Chair by Dror Benshetrit
Two-and-a-half years ago I interviewed Dror Benshetrit at his studio in NYC for Design Milk. He had one of these chairs there and I was instantly smitten. It’s felt and very visually satisfying. The full interview is here, and you can see some extra tidbits and photographs here.
Midsummer Light by Tord Boontje
$98 at A+R
I bought two Midsummer Light shades, one in citron and one in violet, many years ago, thinking I might use them in the guest rooms on the Cape. I didn’t, but I still have them. I know one day I’ll find the right spot. They’re magical.
Which are your favorites?
The iPhone because I can’t live without it and the Bank in the Form of A Pig by Harry Allen because it always makes me smile. I love my Rainbow Chair by Patrick Norguet because it captures light in the most amazing way, casting a rainbow shadow on the floor. Also, of all the designs I own, it has increased the most in value since I purchased it!
Bank in the Form of A Pig by Harry Allen
$200 at Nordstrom
This design, which is now done in shiny turquoise, pink, gold and other colors, was modeled on an actual suckling pig that had died of natural causes, cast it in resin. $10 of every pig bank sale goes to the Humane Society.
Rainbow Chair by Patrick Norguet
$8,500 on eBay
Which design do you most covet?
Tide Chandelier by Stuart Haygarth, but it’s so big, I would have no place to put it.
Tide Chandelier by Stuart Haygarth
£20,000 – 30,000 at Phillips
A valuable example of trash to treasure.
Design Pop by Lisa S. Roberts (Rizzoli, 2014)
$26.27 at Amazon
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