Design enthusiasts descended on Paris from Sept. 6–10 for Maison & Objet, one of the world’s premier destinations for discovering what’s next in the realm of home furnishings and accessories. The biannual showcase attracts more than 3,000 international brands presenting their latest and greatest offerings. across eight expansive halls. One of the show’s most notable programs, the Rising Talents Awards, spotlights promising young designers from one particular country—Italy, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, and China all got their dues in years past.
This year, Maison & Objet looked to the United States, a country with no singular design character—rather, its diverse cultural strands signify objects that tell a variety of stories. That said, some trends are indeed discernible: “The younger generation of American designers are interested in the handmade,” says Odile Hainaut, who founded annual design fair WantedDesign with Claire Pijoulat. “They are entrepreneurs, turning out their own small series rather than working behind computers. Their work is tactile; it’s about material.” Hainaut and Pijoulat, along with architect Rafael de Cárdenas, Bernhardt Design president Jerry Helling, Luminaire founder Nasir Kassamli, designer David Rockwell, and RISD president Rosanne Somerson, applied their far-reaching perspectives in choosing this year’s Rising Talents. Meet them below.
“I think there’s a blue-collar aesthetic to my design,” says Alex Brokamp, who draws inspiration from his grandfather’s career as a pipefitter. Many of the Los Angeles industrial designer’s creations nod to workday functional objects that would otherwise fade into the background, such as his Handle With Care table, which arranges glass boxes like parcels on a mirror-finish aluminum palette base.
“I highly recommend the cousin relationship as business partners,” says Kira de Paola, who founded design studio Kin & Company with first cousin Joseph Vidich. After the duo opened a metalwork shop and began creating tectonic pieces, they experimented with patina to produce shades of rust and verdigris on their metallic furnishings, such as their Crescent Table, where steel and stone interlock. They also branched into curation by organizing a group exhibition of outdoor furniture, called “Inside/Out,” for NYCxDesign 2019.
Reed Hansuld and Joel Seigle were roommates when they founded Harold, a design studio named after their grandfathers’ shared name. The Brooklyn duo crafts shelving, planters, and other low-tech wooden objects using traditional methods. “We’re part of that generation that knew life before computers, which is weird to think about,” says Seigle. The partners also started Liberty Labs Foundation, a nonprofit that gives young designers, artists, and artisans affordable studio space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with access to such era-spanning tools as an old-fashioned woodshop and 3D printer.
Formerly an ad hoc art gallery upstate, Green River Project now showcases four annual material-driven collections from a laid-back showroom in Manhattan’s East Village. They frequently enlist their friends to collaborate, as seen in their latest collection: a line of coffee-stained Douglas fir stools upholstered in a patterned corduroy by Emily Bode. “We try our best to treat each material as democratically as possible and see it not for its value or rarity, but more for its visual quality,” says Ben Bloomstein, who founded the enterprise with Aaron Aujla.
Lindsey Adelman was so impressed with Rosie Li’s RISD thesis presentation that she sent a picture to Jason Miller, founder of Roll & Hill, who immediately started producing her Stella Hexagon sconce. “That launched my career,” says Li, who now works independently in Brooklyn designing and producing decorative lighting fixtures with botanical themes such as palm fronds, gingko blossoms, and laurel leaves. Her latest, called Bubbly, consists of giddy clusters of solid and illuminated glass spheres. “I find the role of the designer is to distill an idea into its purest form.”
Drawing inspiration from Manhattan’s rigorous geometries and the natural formations of rural Connecticut, Bailey Fontaine’s process is simply to expect the unexpected. “I’m interested in this heavy, Brutalist design language, but also accentuating it with circular cutouts you might not expect to see,” says Fontaine, who specializes in sculptural furniture and works for Fernando Mastrangelo as chief caster. His work explores the materiality of concrete, rusted steel, and paper clay through such standout pieces as a floor lamp with the gnawed, attenuated appearance of a Giacometti sculpture.