Embodying Youth Within a Chair

A new piece by up-and-coming designer Winston Cuevas suspends a single-stem rose within a slab of lucite, encapsulating our fixation on youth.

All photography by Blaine Davis

“A red rose is such a loaded, cliche, and taxed symbol,” says Winston Cuevas. “That also makes it a powerful springboard to a new interpretation when you change its context.” Roses, a time-honored symbol of romance and passion, have been on Cuevas’s mind lately. A single-stem flower forms the delicate centerpiece of Mono Rose, a radical chair that teases the RISD graduate’s inaugural collection. Called the Fountain of Youth, it includes objects and lighting in addition to furnishings, each with a highly individual character. 

To be fair, the Mono Rose Chair is no bed of roses. Its blend of such discordant materials as stainless steel and lacquered wood may at first seem jarring and perhaps evocative of ‘70s-era Italian Radical Design, but Cuevas opts for an alchemy that’s distinctly his own. Proof positive: Floating within an elliptical slab of frosted lucite is one pristine single-stem rose, seemingly immune to the forces of gravity and time. The sight is Edenic, almost heavenly—a memento of humanity’s preoccupation with youth. “It’s about a period of encapsulated time in youth spent free from the constraints of the world,” he says. “The rose is also free from gravity, suspended in time like a memory in the mind.”

Achieving such a painterly appearance was not without setbacks. “A real rose would fade over time if embodied, so we worked with custom silk roses typically used for couture,” says Cuevas. Bleeding and unforeseen chemical reactions with lucite almost rendered this option unusable, but Cuevas and Ovidiu, his octogenarian craftsman, soldiered on for a month until they got it right. Resin temperatures, which tend to fluctuate in the kiln, also cause each rose to drift slightly out of place in random directions. “It means that each chair will be unique, and there’s a beauty in that,” says Cuevas. “In the end, I’m always at the mercy of material physics.”

While he finesses Fountain of Youth, the fresh-faced Cuevas is building his home base. He’s currently seeking a suitable space in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to officially launch his eponymous studio next year. Meanwhile, he has his sights set on the global stage. Aside from presenting new work at the third edition of Fernando Mastrangelo’s annual “In Good Company,” Cuevas will bring the Mono Rose Chair to Ermenegildo Zegna’s flagship in Brussels during the city’s Uptown Design tour in September. It’ll also star in a group exhibition of up-and-coming design talents at Art Élysées in Paris the following month. Most importantly, he notes, “expect to see Fountain of Youth presented in its entirety.” 

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