Thirteen independent designers standing out in New York City

Thirteen designers practising in New York City have been selected as part of our North American Design 2024 series, which highlights an array of independent design studios in cities across the continent.

From studios working in plastics and metals to handmade pieces informed by Congolese design, these design studios are representative of the boundless talent in furniture and object design that New York has to offer.

Long an industrial hub, the United States’ most populous city features some of the best design schools in the world, from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

“The thing about design in New York City is that everyone is here,” writer and curator Glenn Adamson told Dezeen.

“With so many strong schools in the area – not just the city itself, but along a corridor from Philadelphia up to RISD, in Providence – there is a constant arrival of new talent. Responding to that constant flow is the world’s most impressive gallery infrastructure for design.”

Adamson noted the profusion of design galleries and dealers in the city, and the truly international characteristic of the work on show.

Beyond the schools, he noted, the city also boasts two museums dedicated explicitly to design – the Cooper-Hewitt and the Museum of Arts and Design.

“It all adds up to a city with a global view of design,” said Adamson.

The below designers are united by their differences, working in a variety of materials and forms – at different stages in their careers.

While many of the designers working in the city do so because of the proximity to the global design market, others are drawn to New York for the overall legacy of art and creative industries, often supported by the industrial spaces that open as studios as industries move to other locales.

This was typified by the early 2000s “maker” culture, which saw designers struggling for work in the larger American and European firms start out on their own, creating small-batch works – a trend that continues, through the original studios and newcomers.

“Does the city have a design personality of its own, though?” asked Adamson.

“If there is a specific design aesthetic in New York City, it derives from the hustling, rapid-fire way of working that prevails. The defining qualities are speed and ingenuity, rather than patient resolution. You won’t find more sheer design excitement anywhere.”

“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a week passes, and it’s changed.”

Read on for thirteen independent furniture and object designers standing out in 2024.

New York furniture designer Nicholas Baker with his work

Nicholas Baker

Brooklyn-based designer Nicholas Baker has created a wide variety of industrial designs from chairs to lighting, often working in minimal, modern forms, exploring new technologies in the tradition of Charles and Ray Eames.

“My studio mission is to design objects that embrace a delightful future. Humans are innately afraid of the future, and as designers I think we have a special knack for making new innovations beautiful and thoughtful,” Baker told Dezeen.

“One of the greatest things we can do as designers is to embrace new innovations and turn them into beautiful products that improve our lives.”

Born in North Carolina, Baker was trained at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) before working designing products for pets in Texas. He moved to New York in 2017.

New York furniture designer Madeline Isakson

Madeline Isakson

Californian designer Madeline Isakson creates 3D printed and digitally milled objects from a variety of materials including wood and metal, usually based on found found objects with interesting forms, including aluminium made to look like sytrofoam.

“Casting and replicating objects as they are or distorting objects and then remaking them in a new material is a big aspect of my practice,” Isakson told Dezeen.

“The inspiration material is often things I find that have been discarded or donated that usually carry some sense of nostalgia or cultural memory.”

Trained at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, Isakson is based in Brooklyn.

New York furniture designer Kim Mupangilai

Kim Mupangilai

Interior architect and designer Kim Mupangilai works with a small team of craftspeople to bring to life works that blend aspects of her Congolese and Belgian heritage. The sculptural pieces feature materials such as teak wood, banana fibre paper, rattan, and volcanic rock.

Creating furniture since 2020, Mupangilai utilises a made-to-order, small-scale production system and aims to source ethical materials.

“My work addresses several important issues, including bridging the gap between cultural appropriation and appreciation,” the designer told Dezeen.

“By highlighting and celebrating cultural narratives that are often overlooked, I strive to create designs that respect and honor their origins. My work serves as a bridge between different cultural narratives, promoting ethical practices and sustainability in contemporary design.”

New York furniture designer Kouros Maghsoudi

Kouros Maghsoudi

Having moved to New York in 2021, Korous Maghsoudi’s designs are a direct result of the pressures of New York – as he began by designing furniture for his own “shoebox” apartment. He designs for what he calls “unapologetic human behaviors” such as sex and drug use.

“I’m bringing sex and fantasy back to design” Masghoudi told Dezeen. “The design world used to push the cultural envelope – unapologetic, fun, risky, and forward-thinking”

“Now, it feels like the design world has flipped and has become a mirror of culture rather than a driving force,” he continued. “Whether it’s a party tray, a bed perfect for an orgy, a giant penis mirror, or a coffee table with a built-in ice bucket, my work aims to revive the bold, provocative spirit in design we saw in the 20th century. I strive to be the antithesis of the stale ethos we see in furniture today and to drive the cultural zeitgeist forward.”

Self-taught in furniture design, Maghsoudi has held an “eclectic” array of jobs from working at Bjarke Ingels Group and urban design nonprofits.

New York furniture studio Wentrcek Zebulon

Wentrcek Zebulon

Founded by Kristen Wentrcek and Andrew Zebulon in 2013, Wentrcek Zebulon’s practice is driven by material exploration and the pair’s tendency to get “easily bored”.

The studio has worked in a vast array of materials, from pine wood to rubber and vinyl-coated foam, with Wentrcek Zebulon producing much of the work by hand.

“Our design process often starts with a material as the jumping-off point: how could we use this or that material?” the studio told Dezeen.

“In that way, the materials are often the driver of the design, which molds to fit the restraints of the material,” it continued.

“At the same time, sometimes a material is out of reach (it’s too expensive, or comes in too large a quantity, etc), and the search for a similar or replacement material will lead us to something entirely new and exciting.”

New York furniture design studio Chen & Kai

Chen & Kai

Both students at the Pratt Institute in the early 2000s, Chen Chen and Kai Williams began working together in 2011 in a time when there “were no jobs” joining a cadre of other studios that constituted the explosion of independent design in Brooklyn.

Working in both small-batch and manufactured items, the pair has consistently pushed against the boundaries of industrial design, inventing new processes using materials as far flung as concrete and spandex.

“If we invent the material and the process, then there’s no ‘wrong’ way to do it,” the duo told Dezeen.

“Our practice is a vehicle for our personal discovery of interesting things. If that research arrives at a new way to recycle plastic bags, then that’s great and we would love to show the world how to do that. However, if that research arrives at an incredibly labor-intensive way to make a beautiful luxury object, that’s ok too.”

New York cork furniture designer Daniel Michalik

Daniel Michalik

Daniel Michalik began his career by making studio furniture for legendary recording engineer Steve Albini, before “discovering cork” and pursuing his interest in the material at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in the early 2000s and currently teaches at Parsons.

He works with cork sourced from Portugal, most of which is leftover from the production of bottle stoppers.

“I am trying to replace and offset more common materials that are not regenerative,” Michalik told Dezeen.

“I hope I am demonstrating that we can create furniture, interiors and buildings that are comfortable, delightful and luxurious and still made from materials that are in line with the principles of regenerative design,” he continued.

“Cork is an example of a material that, when used in a design application, creates value from human, economic and ecological perspectives.”

New York furniture designer seeks to amplify a "black perspective" in design

Mark Grattan

Mark Grattan started in furniture design over a decade ago, mostly working in wood – however his practice has grown to include metals, glass and resin. His design practice goes beyond furniture design; he works as an interior designer and consultant.

“The material palette is diverse,” he told Dezeen. “As I have grown the work is a dialogue of material contradictions and color.”

“My work responds to a black perspective,” he continued. “That perspective advocates for more diversity and inclusivity in an industry accustomed to the opposite landscape of gatekeepers and professionals.”

Grattan works alone to design the furniture, creating some by hand, but says that he is currently working on the balance of bringing in more people to help in the process.

minjae tri

Minjae Kim

Trained as an architect, Korean designer Minjae Kim works in his New York studio to create “quirky” objects that often feature figurative forms made from wood. Some of his designs feature quilted-fiberglass blankets as upholstery.

“I’m very happy being scrappy with my sourcing,” Kim told Dezeen.

“I try to use materials that are affordable and easy to get. I see the value in my craft not in the material itself.”

He has worked in furniture design for the past 12 years.

New York designer Matt Pecina

Studio Guapo

Run by designer Matt Pecina, Studio Guapo puts out designs that affect Pecina’s “mixed-media” and “DIY” approach, featuring reclaimed materials and 3D printing. Many of the designs feature the studio’s signature G form, from large slats of wood to spray-painted insignias.

“I always say I am more concerned with design culture than design itself – often my designs are more about the project than the product,” Pecina told Dezeen.

I use design to tell stories and intersect ideas to rethink design culture by building a space that feels more like your local skate shop than a design studio.

Pecina got his start in window displays and set design and said that he relies on a “network of friends” when carrying out projects.

New York Furniture designer Bowen Liu

Bowen Liu Studio

Trained in the United States and China, Bowen Liu creates furniture designs with elegant, minimal forms, often created from solid wood or glass.

“My core objective has always been elevating and improving the living environment,” Liu told Dezeen. “My design tends to be tangible and thoughtful in any way possible.”

Liu founded her studio in 2017, and draws influence both from Beijing, where she grew up, to the furniture-making techniques of Denmark and the United States.

“Each piece is handmade mostly by me, but I also work with very high-quality manufactures in the East Coast and other extraordinary artisans and masters to produce my work to ensure the quality,” said Liu

kiki gotti tri

Kiki Goti Studio

Kiki Goti creates playful objects, utilising metal and glass, drawing influence from her architectural background and her studies in Greece and Germany.

“My work is very personal and conceptual,” Goti told Dezeen.

“I am working with materials that inspire me and through the process of making and experimenting with them, I develop stories and narratives. These stories are transformed intuitively and organically into collections of furniture.”

Goti has taught in multiple institutions in the United States and began her furniture practice in earnest during the Covid-19 pandemic, launching the studio in 2021.

arcana tri

Arcana Metals

Arcana Metals is a studio based around designers Jack Erikkson and Dustin John, who work to create “bespoke” furniture and lighting pieces.

“As fabricators, we see the world as an assemblage of materials and parts,” Arcana told Dezeen. “Navigating the world with this understanding creates opportunities for recontextualizing the often unseen potential in all materials.”

“Material sourcing lies at the heart of our practice,” the studio continued. “As fabricators, we draw inspiration from the limitations and potentials of the materials that we work with every day.”

The studio began handcrafting its furniture in Brooklyn in 2017.

North America Design illustration
Illustration by Alex Mellon

North American Design 2024

This article is part of Dezeen’s North American Design 2024 series selecting independent furniture and product design studios from cities across Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The first edition of this series is created in partnership with Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office, award-winning design studios based in London and now in New York. Their expansion into the US is part of The New Standard, a collective formed with Made Thought.

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