Innovative Design that Addresses BIG Issues

Innovative Design that Addresses BIG Issues

Sarah Coffey
Jul 15, 2010

This week we stopped by the Cooper Hewitt to check out "Why Design Now?" — the National Design Triennial that explores the work of current designers tackling BIG issues: sustainability, fair trade, affordability...all the social and environmental challenges that design has the potential to address.

Among the products on display were many that Apartment Therapy readers will recognize: Trove wallpaper, Heath ceramics, MUJI furnishings. Here are a few notable brands we saw at the show; for a deeper overview, visit the Cooper Hewitt online.

  1. Trove Wallpaper: Made from nontoxic and archival inks with a washable wax-based coating, NY-based Trove's wallpaper line is durable and recyclable. Available online through Trove.
  2. Isabella Stools by Ryan Frank: Created by South African designer Ryan Frank, these stools are made of strawboard, a formaldehyde-free alternative to pressboard or particleboard. Available through MatteriaShop for €275.
  3. Alabama Chanin: Located in Florence, Alabama, this company works with local artisans to create limited-edition, hand sewn textiles and clothing. Available online (various prices) through Alabama Chanin.
  4. Multiple Family: Dutch designer Jetske de Groot disassembles old chairs, then uses fiberglass-reinforced epoxy bonds to fuse their parts together into new hybrid seating. These are one-of-a-kind pieces; check her site for more info.
  5. MUJI: This Japanese retailer (whose name means "no brand") creates high-quality furniture that's accessible and inexpensive, like the $425 twin Ash Wood Bed by Naoto Fukasawa. Available in-store at MUJI.
  6. Jar Tops by Jorre van Ast: Manufactured by Dutch company Royal VKB, these lids are designed to screw onto standard glass jars. Available through the MOMA Store for $25 a set.
  7. Steelcase: The Cobi Chair — designed by a team including Tom Lloyd, Bruce Smith, and Luke Pearson — can be easily disassembled for recycling or reupholstery, earning it Cradle to Cradle certification from MBDC. Available through the Steelcase Store, starting at $440.
  8. Heath Ceramics: Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic produce their tableware in California using local manufacturing and handcrafted techniques, carrying on founder Edith Heath's commitment to handmade pottery. Available online through Heath Ceramics.
  9. Odegard: Stephanie Odegard's company produces rugs with GoodWeave certification, a form of fair trade that seeks to end illegal child labor practices in the rug industry. A portion of rug sales goes to support educational programs for children in Southeast Asia. Available through Odegard showrooms.
  10. Maharam: Their "Gather" textiles are made in the US from 92 percent wool (plus 8 percent nylon) sourced from free-range sheep. Available to the trade through Maharam.

MORE INFORMATION: Why Design Now? at the Cooper Hewitt

Photos: Trove, Ryan Frank, Alabama Chanin, Jetske de Groot, MUJI, Royal VKB, Steelcase, Plaza Line from Heath Ceramics, Odegard, Cooper Hewitt

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