Block Desk and Quartet Chair by Shawn Sowers

Design Showcase 2011

Design: Block Desk and Quartet Chair
Materials: Solid Walnut, Painted Maple, Clear Finish
Designer: Shawn R. Sowers

"The word common, as used by my grandmother, has an entirely different meaning from what is found in the dictionary. She uses the word to describe a person whose character is the perfect balance of simplicity, familiarity, and goodness. I set out to translate the idea of “common” into modern furniture. What I arrived at is an elegant collection of pieces that represent those three ideals through form, construction, and material. Simple is purposeful forms that let the materials, structure, and joinery serve as the decorative elements. Familiar is utilizing the materials and construction methods of traditional furniture in an updated aesthetic. Good is never having to buy the same thing twice."

Designer: Shawn Sowers
Link: www.commonhousefurniture.com
Location: Perrysburg, OH

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"This is the philosophy behind Commonhouse. It began on the side in 2005 while I was a product designer in the consumer electronics industry. I grew up in an Amish and Mennonite community and I realized I had all the resources back where I grew up in Indiana to launch a solid wood modern furniture brand of my own. I got into design to design furniture, but it was such a small and difficult industry to break into. But I had a break through moment and realized I had all the resources I needed to launch my own brand of solid wood modern furniture. I grew up in an Amish and Mennonite community and I began contacting Amish and Mennonite furniture makers from where I grew up, hoping to make a connection with someone that would join me in the venture. I started with a dining chair that took the next few years to develop and refine both the product and the process. Working with Amish in Indiana while I was in North Carolina was difficult but we were able to get our first piece completed, but we had a hard time keeping the momentum going as we both had our own full time jobs. I was laid off in 2009 and I decided that being laid off was going to be my opportunity in disguise, and I focused my efforts during that time to get Commonhouse off the ground. Fourteen months later I landed a full time position designing RTA furniture full time, but I've been able to maintain my momentum on the side with Commonhouse. My plan has always been to go to ICFF, and finally I am going to launch at ICFF in 2012."

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About Design Showcase 2011: This September we're celebrating the best in undiscovered, new design for the home. We're taking submissions from independent and student designers from around the world and letting our readers vote on who they think has the best design. There's also a panel of august judges. Two winners will win $20,000 in targeted advertising placements on our sites to help launch their careers ($10k apiece).

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.