This week on Creatures Features, designers Sophie Borch-Jacobsen and Sarita Posada explain how they went from meeting on Craigslist to founding their contemporary furniture collective, Studio SAY/SO. Plus, we learn a little bit about the inspiration behind the duo's first collection. See it on display in our NYC store through May 23rd.
Creatures Features: Tell us a little bit about yourselves—where are you from and how did you end up in NYC?
Sophie Borch-Jacobsen: I grew up in Seattle, and when I was in high school my parents moved us back to France which is where they are from. I eventually moved to London to study product design at Central Saint Martins College of Art, where I lived for 8 years before moving here to New York. I started to get really excited by the burgeoning design scene that I was watching develop here from overseas, and it was something that I always wanted to do in the back of my mind.
Sarita Posada: I was born in Medellin, Colombia and lived briefly in Los Angeles & Miami before my family settled in Portland, Oregon. I love the West Coast, but I was always excited by the idea of moving to New York. I made the move shortly after graduating from architecture school and, aside from a short stint in London, have been here ever since.
CF: Both of you come from very different cultural backgrounds—Sarita being born in Colombia and raised in Portland and Sophie having split her time between Paris, London, and NYC. What elements of these cultures and backgrounds influence your pieces?
SBJ + SA: We both have had one foot in another country our entire lives and are being constantly stimulated by our surroundings, travel, people, and strong cultural heritages. In cities like London, Paris, and New York you are always surrounded by wonderful design, whether you know it or not, and we are both drawn to these facets of our environment. And because we are constantly immersed in our work and thinking about design, we keep an eye out for it everywhere we go. This is how Sarita became fascinated with the idea of translating classic Colombian archetypes into contemporary furniture, and how Sophie gets ideas for products by noticing interesting idiosyncrasies in the objects she encounters everyday.
CF: How did the two of you meet and what made you think you’d work well together?
SBJ: We met on Craisglist! The last project that I had worked on in London involved designing the interior of a concept shop, and I really enjoyed that process. So when I moved to New York I was thinking about trying to transition into doing more interiors work, and I actually responded to a job listing on Craigslist that Sarita had posted! We didn’t start working together at that point, but we did have a pretty instant design connection, became friends, and kept thinking of new ways to work together.
Our different professional backgrounds (interiors vs. products) give us very different design perspectives—Sarita’s work and focus is context driven, while [mine] is object driven—and the meeting of those two points has been really interesting in our collaboration.
CF: What originally interested you both in product and furniture design? How have your aesthetics changed since you started?
SBJ: I’ve always had an interest in objects and spaces and an awareness of how the shape and materiality of things affected me emotionally. I used to imagine I wanted to be an architect, but when I started design school I quickly realized that I preferred designing objects more than the spaces that they go in. It felt a lot more tangible to me, and I like working with my hands. Lately I’ve been re-expanding my interest to a broader scale, looking at environments and spaces, because ultimately they go hand in hand. Aesthetically, I’ve always been more affected by objects and spaces that appear cheerful and am more emotionally stimulated by color and humor.
SP: Working with furniture is a large part of my day-to-day as an interior designer. I make a lot of custom furniture for projects, but designing objects in isolation or without a specific context in mind is definitely new to me.
CF: Why do you think it’s important for companies to maintain a global or multicultural perspective?
SBJ + SP: Without getting overly political, we’re all products of multicultural perspectives in some way or another! It’s important for us to acknowledge our particular roots and share that point of view with peers through our work. Having the opportunity to do so is one of the things that makes participating in the American design landscape so exciting.
CF: What can you tell us about Collection 01?
SBJ + SP: The inspirations behind this collection come from a few different places, the first being a small town outside of Medellin called Jérico which Sarita’s grandfather was the mayor of in the 40s. All the houses in the town are painted a different combination of vibrant colors. The buildings are a reflection of the people—warm and colorful—and we wanted to translate the joy you feel walking through a town like this into this collection.
Comfort, usability, and approachability were other factors that played a roll in the form of the chair, especially the bolsters. Sarita spends a lot of time buying furniture for projects and, although sometimes it looks nice, it can be quite uncomfortable, heavy, or wear easily. The bolsters are designed to be comfortable for people of many different heights, the fabrics are extremely durable, and the chair is super lightweight—approximately 3lbs.
The collection’s framework is simple and versatile—a thin, black, bent tube. We have translated the basic form into chairs, tables, stools, benches and applied different materials and treatments to the frames. This makes production simple and adaptable—down the road we imagine updating the collection by experimenting with new material choices. Ideally these pieces can belong in the homes of design-focused consumers just as much as they would in public spaces like a museum cafe or even a school.
CF: Collection 01 has a very specific color palette. If you had to give it a name, what would you call it?
SBJ + SP: Jérico!
CF: What colors or materials are you particularly drawn to at the moment?
SBJ: Purples, yellows, and oranges. I’m always drawn to translucent materials, such as acrylic or textured glass.
SP: Saturated blues and greens. At the moment I’m pretty into experimenting with natural woven materials like rattan.
CF: Your collection feels both very timeless and of-the-moment—in the last 2 years or so we’ve seen more interest in niche, playful design with pops of color. Why do you think more people are looking for interesting shapes and bright colors versus muted minimalism?
SBJ + SP: This feels like a response to the general state of the world. As we know, the news has been pretty dismal the past few years. It seems like people are turning to design with more color and character as a positive form of stimulation. It could also be that there is a shift happening as a reaction to trends in design over the the past few years, a lot of which have been muted and tonal.
CF: Sophie, in past projects you’ve said it’s important to merge eco-friendly production with good design. For Studio SAY/SO, how do you incorporate sustainability?
SBJ: The production process for Collection 01 is more economically sustainable than environmentally sustainable. As soon as something gets on a plane, you cannot really say it is sustainable. However, with our process of working with local craftspeople in Colombia, creating real human interactions, and forging what is (hopefully) the start of long term relationships, our intention is to create an ecosystem that is sustainable for all people involved. The designs of the pieces are adaptable and transformable, which means that we can see this collection running for a long time, and all of the materials are durable and hard wearing. We made a conscious effort to avoid following simple trends when designing these pieces to create pieces that would not be disposable.
CF: Sarita, as an interior designer, did you have a particular space in mind when the two of you were designing this collection?
SP: Not specifically, which is what makes this project so liberating for me. The furniture I design for interior design projects usually has to solve a problem for a specific context. I tried to approach this collection with an open mind and allow the pieces to be versatile enough to live in a number of different spaces.
CF: What usually sparks the idea for a new product or piece?
SBJ: For this collection it was very much a domino affect. As we developed the first chair, we kept seeing new possibilities and applications for the framework. At the same time, we chose materials and techniques that are readily available in Colombia— such as metal working and rattan weaving.
CF: What’s the weirdest or most unrelated source of inspiration you’ve had for a product?
SP: The rods that hold traffic cones together. And my abuela’s cardigan collection.
SBJ: I once spent a summer designing Miami beach/art deco-inspired mansions for birds.
CF: Favorite design stores in NY?
SBJ: Bi Rite in Greenpoint
CF: New York or London?
SBJ: London with New York weather
SP: New York 100%
CF: Eames chair or Egg chair?
SBJ: Aalto Sanatorium Chair
SP: Anything Tobia Scarpa
CF: Serif or sans serif?
CF: Print or digital?
CF: Velvet or Leather?
SBJ: See gif
CF: Coffee or margaritas?
SP: ¿Espresso Martini?