I’ve dedicated part of this blog to studying The Trophy Series from some different angles, and that’s been for my benefit as much as it’s come from a desire to draw attention to it. My focus has probably never been as tight as it was while I was building that furniture. My days ebbed and flowed almost entirely with the dining table, that vanity, the cabinet, and the sideboard. To the extent that when I returned to my workshop after the show, I moved around for a while in a bit of a daze. Physically, I was exhausted. Mentally, I’d lost my impetus. The last year had become a blur.
What rushes to the surface now when I think back on that period is, foremost, an overwhelming pride in what I accomplished. I’ve said before that The Trophy Series won’t be my legacy as a modern furniture designer. There’s too much that I want to do. And while I’d have a hard time describing what kind of designer I am today, I know that I’ve evolved from the guy who stood among his first major collection at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Still, I’d never done anything of that magnitude before, and I definitely didn’t make it easy on myself.
When I let myself think beyond the fair, back to the long days in my workshop, when completing the series was far from a given, there are a slew of more complicated emotions that resonate with me, too. If I’m being honest with myself, they’re the moments that changed me, not the accomplishment.
Reimagining the vanity
Just before I bore down in the workshop, I flew to Miami for a few days. The change of scenery, I knew, would do me good, but I was also there to hunt for inspiration. Mentally, I was working through all of the pieces, but the vanity was weighing on me the heaviest because its design was the most unresolved.
I had in mind a conventional set-up, but in progressive, art-deco style. The outline was there, but I was having a hard time envisioning the details. I walked Ocean Drive and I dipped into RALPH PUCCI, the Miami showroom for the wildly talented modern furniture designer, which sparked some ideas, but nothing that moved the design forward.
For the flight home, I picked up a high-end interior design magazine, thick as a biology textbook and printed on quality stock. Before we even took off, I was sketching in the wide margins. The more I drew, the more I realized I was fixated on the chair. I was so consumed with getting the chair to work that I was dragging the whole vanity down with it.
No. This is a wall piece, I thought. Almost immediately, the design came into focus. As soon as I drew the arch of the mirror, I knew I was onto something. Within a couple more sketches, I separated the drawer and dropped the chair altogether. Turned out to be the most productive flight I’ve ever taken.
When craigslist intervenes
If you forced me to name my single-favorite component from The Trophy Series, I’d think long and hard about it, probably make a little display of indecision, but I’d ultimately go with the first thing that came to mind: the drawer pulls on the sideboard.
Initially, I went to a foundry to have them cast in bronze, but they said it’d be several hundred dollars for each one. The collection’s meant to exude modern decadence, and at almost every turn, I tended to approach each cost with a pay-it-now-figure-out-how-to-cover-it-later attitude. But, I couldn’t swallow that kind of price for pulls. So I went back to my workshop and figured out how to forge them myself—for a fraction of the cost.
The savings were great, no doubt, (and desperately needed), but it means more to me that the pulls ended up exactly as I envisioned them. If they hadn’t, I’m not sure I’d ever notice anything else about that sideboard.
The pulls, however, were easy compared to what I put myself through with the drawer faces. Unlike the vanity, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Trouble was, I had no idea how to do it. I spent months trying out different techniques and getting nowhere.
At the same time, I was redoing my bedroom—nothing nearly as extensive as what I was doing in the workshop. Kind of like the Miami trip, I just needed to hit refresh on my life. A sideboard was the last missing piece. I picked up my phone one night and hopped on craigslist, looking for something midcentury-modern and, ideally, free. There it was, posted less than five minutes earlier.
I picked it up the next morning and, right away, noticed something I glossed over the night before: The drawer faces were beveled and sunken, exactly like I wanted for my sideboard. Just like that, the answer was right in front of me.
The modern furniture designer who believes he’s too good for craigslist is a designer who sees only what he wants to, which can be very limited in the most trying moments. If the Trophy series taught me nothing else, it reinforced my commitment to an open mind.
Sure as I am of my designs, there are, inevitably, moments of uncertainty during the creative process. But if you can manage not to be consumed with the outcome, the guidance you need is almost always reverberating somewhere in the universe.