Derek Chen: Designer

It's interesting how many designers had previous lives. Derek Chen's degree in engineering led to a career as a management consultant and a brief spell as a executive. He then turned to design, founding SF design studio Urbana Design in 2001.

Chen and Urbana Design make modern products by hand. The pieces combine simple, bright shapes with warm, natural woods and colorful resins. They're organic -- yet slick. The Bent Plywood Tray and Resin-Filled Teardrop Vase, especially, add a burst of color to whatever setting they're in.

The Bent Plywood Tray is, in fact, available in nine colors, while the Teardrop Vase is available in four resin colors and six wood veneers. That's a lot of choices.

The molded poplar tray has a high-gloss clear resin over graphic print or woven fabric. A cork version is sold exclusively at Branch.

The fully waterproof Teardrop Vase is made of veneered plywood, bent in the shape of a teardrop. It's sealed and weighted with opaque colored resin, and has a satin laquer finish. The vase is available in three sizes.

The milk-white Acrylic Tealight has a diffuser that comes in four translucent colors. (Add it to our Top 10: Tealight Holders.)

The dense Finn birch plywood Bedside Table has one shelf -- as well as a hidden drawer. There are four possible veneer finishes.

The core of the Ultralite Table is polypropylene foam, and the surface is wood veneer or high-gloss clear resin over woven fabric or graphic print. The table's available in (at least) 10 colors, and as either a coffee or end table.

Chen also created the gorgeous counter/desk at Propeller -- if you didn't notice it at the launch party, check it out next time you're in the store.

Available directly and at SF's Design Public and Propeller. Also at these other retailers.