Mary Ann Hesseldenz wasn’t going to let a sofa get in the way of her view. The fashion veteran had what she described as an ideal perch for viewing the Catalina Mountains from her Tucson vacation home and a perfect spot for a sofa for reading or a lounging in the window. But clearly, the one would block the other, so the idea of a lucite-backed piece of furniture to fit the space was conceived and the View Sofa was born.
But it was not a product—yet—not something you could buy anyway. No, it took until a chance meeting—and an eventual romance—with designer Scott Baker at a furniture expo in 2003 she helped organize for the ball to start rolling.
By now, it’s more than a sofa the two have delivered with their collaborative Baker + Hesseldenz Studio. It’s an impressive, avant-garde line of coffee tables, bureaus, lounge chairs, and other stunners along with an interior design practice that has seen them adding their sensibilities and 40 years of combined experience to the homes of some of the Southwest’s most notable, including celebrity doctor Dr. Andrew Weil.
Below the two discuss how they work together, their shared inspirations, their advice for emerging creatives, and, yes, the View Sofa. Read on.
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I’d love to hear about how you both got your start in the design industry.
Scott Baker:While working on a graduate degree in design at the University of Arizona in the early ’90s, I took a position doing design and drafting for a Tucson-based luxury furniture manufacturer.In 1994, upon realizing that I could actually make a living designing and manufacturing custom furniture, I quit grad school and my job and started my own company.
Mary Ann Hesseldenz: After attending FIT, I worked in the fashion industry in NYC for over 20 years.My experience in fashion created the foundation for how I have approached design throughout my career.In 2001, I moved to Tucson (the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks) with plans to take some time off and regroup.The events of that September changed my life in more ways than I can go into here, but the result was that I ended up staying in Tucson and shifted my design career to focus solely on furniture and interior design.
I’m wondering if either of your upbringings had a strong influence in the way you think about or experience design?
SB:Both of my parents worked in medical fields, so I really had almost no exposure to design when I was growing up.During my sophomore year in college I came across an issue of Interior Design magazine at my girlfriend’s home. I immediately bought subscriptions to most of the major design magazines and was from that point on obsessed with design.
MH: I was the daughter of a judge and a model who were both very fashionable—a very Mad Men couple.As long as I can remember, design was a part of my life even though neither of my parents worked as designers for a living.I spent countless hours backstage watching my mother at fashion shows, and my father designed most of his clothing and had it custom made.As a child, being sent to my room was never really punishment because I would just use the time to rearrange and redecorate the space.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
MH: We draw inspiration from such varied sources that it is really hard to put them all down on paper: travel, tribal furniture, construction equipment, the Art Nouveau masters, an owl’s wing, the patterns that the wet leaves make on the patio in our back yard, the minarets on a Turkish mosque, the music of The Clash, etc.
What advice do you have for young professionals in the field?
SB: The best advice we ever received was from a good friend and mentor who lives in Los Angeles.He told Mary Ann and I to “Just Show Up.”We pass this bit of advice on to others often.Great talent that exists in a vacuum will never get the exposure it needs to grow in today’s fast-paced design environment.We can’t stress how important it is to attend as many design events as you can. The connections you make will be very important as you progress through life.
Tell us about your best selling piece of furniture. What is it? Why did you make it? How has this piece’s success changed your perspective on design?
SB: Our best selling piece is the View Sofa.It is a beautiful combination of modern and classic elements that come together in a sofa that works perfectly in rooms with expansive views and lots of windows.Mary Ann designed the first prototype for it before the two of us had even met.The home we share now, which was originally her vacation home, has fantastic views of the Catalina Mountains. Since most sofas by other manufacturers blocked the great views, she decided to design a sofa with a lucite back that didn’t.We debuted this piece at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in NYC in 2018 and it has done very well since.
New collections we should know about?
MH: We are currently working on a number of new pieces.Some are additions to existing collections: a Rajah Bar Stool and a Dudley Chaise and Sofa. We are also working on a second, more contemporary, version of the the View Sofa, a new dining chair, and a series of occasional tables.