SF-based industrial designer Rick Lee was born in Korea, grew up in the US, has worked in Chicago and Italy, and now designs for restaurants, celebrities, the opera, television sets, and largescale furniture purveyors like American Leather. But with life experiences culled from far and wide, we're charmed and intrigued that Lee says that his primary design influence is his fashion-designer wife, Colleen Quen.
Lee's designs often feel liquid and Quen's dresses very sculptural, so you can surmise that the influence is mututal. But Lee has yet another source of inspiration to explain his design m.o.: California cuisine, famous for its "mix of seemingly incongruent ingredients carefully combined to create something new and unique."
This starts to make sense when you take in the breadth of Lee's work. He's extremely versatile, practicing in a wide variety of applications from theatrical (set design) to practical (furniture for EQ3). His work is also very wide-ranging in style; although everything is contemporary and most of his designs show signs of Lee's Italian days, there's no consistent line look.
Instead, Lee says that he enjoys each design challenge as a one-off, his ideas taking flight from its specific design requirements. You can see this range in the images pictured; on the one hand there are scene-stealers like the curved Menlo Park sofa system (second from top) and the Colleen flower chair (third from top), and on the other, more optimized, practical designs like the 45 Degree Seating System, pictured above, for American Leather.
One of Lee's best pieces is the Infinity Office office pictured at the head of this entry. Far from your typical boxy office-in-a-cupboard-affair, it has a sinuous and vaguely art deco look when closed, and opens up into a full-scale work station.
You can find Lee's work at EQ3 (for example the Bobo chair, above), American Leather, and Statements.