Morphing and Blooming: Our Fleur de Lys Pattern

Our  Morphing Fleur de Lys pattern made several appearances in different scales and materials throughout 2012.  We share its exuberance and fun with you once again in the spirit of the season, and take this opportunity to think back on where you might have seen it before, and at the roots of our obsession de fleur!

The pattern was originally developed for a special accent drawer on our Fleur de Noyer chest of drawers, and first appeared as a multi-color screen print on bamboo plywood. The chest has a simple exterior of walnut, and is a foil for playful yet practical arrangements of drawers. A corner of it was shown with the Fleur de Tech, a stylized charging station, also detailed with a coordinating fleur de lys, in the June 2012 New York Times article, Furniture for the Digital Age.

Here’s how the pattern evolved. Simply put, our design director, Jason Gorsline, is enamored of the fleur de lys.  Here it is on his tie, which he wore for our Interior Design Market Tabloid photo, published  in November, 2012.

And here it is again at the opening of The Pastry Lab, the new restaurant of the Monroe College School of Culinary Arts which we designed!

He set the course for exploring diagonal patterns incorporating the fleur de lys. Then I got a bad cold. TV didn’t interest me. But permutations of patterns did. As I languished and recovered, I explored different versions of “the fleur,” a couple of which ended up in the final pattern. Jason had talked about introducing color, scale and texture…but then, it seemed that the form of a bird could easily evolve from one of the fleurs…I put aside the box of tissues and went for the scissors and started shaping the fleur and sketching over it…then I called in Dailey Crafton, a graphic designer who designed our logo, for the finishing touches.

But the collaboration de fleur continued to blossom. In March, the pattern enlivened the walls of our Think Fabricate Lounge at the Architectural Digest Home Show.

We found out later in the year, though, that the need for a pattern based on the fleur de lys would be more than appropriate in our design for an art walk in New Rochelle.  It just seemed like fate! Was Jason’s interest in the fleur de lys rooted in his family’s long-ago Huguenot past, or was it destined that we develop this pattern in anticipation of the City of New Rochelle’s upcoming anniversary—given its symbol is the fleur de lys! Whatever the forces at play, a design concept developed for a screen wall, perforated in the pattern, to house a sculpture by Olafur Eliasson. We look forward in the coming year to how that project will develop, and in the meantime enjoy the pairing of the Morphing pattern with the kaleidoscope inside, a salute to New Rochelle and its symbol.


When design evolves through collaboration, is it destiny? As we look toward 2013, we wonder where the fleur de lys will take us next.

Pastry Lab


We are interested in the confluence of the human element and technological devices in our daily lives, be it at the dinner table or the seminar table. In speaking about our institutional projects, we came up with the term “sensitutional,” meaning the combination of materials and scale which appeals to the senses and creates a positive environment within the durable, practical, tech-focused setting that many institutional products require. But we also feel that the word applies to many aspects of our approach to residential projects and furnishings. We feel the need in our own lives, and in our work, to focus on the impact of technology in the home and to balance it with the human element. You will see this blend of personal, even historical reference, and new technology in one of our newer furniture lines, the Fleur de Noyer!

We created the Fleur de Tech, a stylized charging station, a convenient, yet beautiful place to charge and organize your personal devices, integrate within furniture in natural materials of enduring quality. It incorporates the universal symbol of the fleur de lys, which was also the inspiration for the silk screened pattern on our drawer front.

The Academic Centre at Monroe College brings the warmth of wood, the playfulness of careful composition, into an academic setting. The space is organized to foster active learning, and the materials selected and composed in a way that we think is purely sensitutional!


To Market, To Market, To Buy a …Credenza?!

A few people have asked me how we come up with ideas for the products we bring to market. Often they evolve as part of an architectural or interiors project. Sometimes they emerge in response to a need we have identified in our own lives, or in the lives of family or friends, or a combination of those, in which case the user is something of a hypothetical person with whom we empathize. Although we have a formal prototyping procedure in place which involves creating a design brief with clearly stated design-team goals, sometimes a product idea is simply driven by the spirit of the moment or even a miscommunication. Sometimes an entire line can result from the confluence of planned and spontaneous infuences.

The Stepping Stones line, which now includes a credenza, a bench, several different chairs and two ottoman styles, is the result of various productive meanders, and says something about design transformation and translation. The first chair in the series, called simply Stepping Wood, was derived from an unbuilt seating design for a college cafeteria project. When the recession hit, and the cafeteria project was put on indefinite hold, we were left with our enthusiasm for key design elements in the space, which couldn’t help but manifest itself in other aspects of our work.

The design energy that could not be contained resulted first in the Stepping Wood chair. During the process of developing the chair, I happened to share a sketch I drew of a wall-mounted shelf that I thought would be nice for me to put in the front hall over the radiator, a place to store menus, keys, to rest my purse when looking for my keys. I showed the sketch to Jason and he saw it in a new light, as the form of a bench…the same image, but at an entirely different scale. (A year later I said, “Oh, by the way, about that shelf I thought I was drawing….and the result is the Wall*nut Catch-all…but that’s another story.) This resulted in the bench and ultimately the credenza that completed the trio of the original pieces in the Stepping Stone line. And we thought we were just designing a chair!


The line got its name, Stepping Stones, from the unique cutouts and shapes that recall the forms of stepping stones on a garden path and are common to the pieces in the series. Apart from the appealing softness of the round-edged forms, the shapes are also an acknowledgement of the multiple paths taken to get to the line, and the importance of the line to us as a step on our own path in creating a new venture, something positive in a world filled with obstacles and limitations—like the chair that started the line!

At ICFF 2011, which begins this coming weekend, one of the several new versions of the chair will seem to take flight with a refined profile and the addition of an engraved pattern of ducks, taken from an historical calendar, imprinted in a modern day material, Richlite. This pattern has previously appeared in silk screen form in our wall*nuts collection, and is transformed here in three dimensions! Once again, the design energy within the collection leads us through a combination of purposefulness and serendipity to new forms, interesting surface treatments, and more products for this storied line!

The Thinking…and the Game…Behind Fabricating Our Name!

I have been asked several times in recent weeks to tell “the story” behind the name, Think Fabricate. It all started with a design process! As with every project that we embark on, we took this one quite seriously, but we also had fun with it, as one might with a favorite sport. We loosely followed the rules of play outlined in one of our favorite books, Zag by Marty Neumeier.

It was important to us to create an environment for exploration where no suggestion was considered too silly, although some name options were definitely suggested or met with a smile. There was a week when I found it way too easy, with the help of online translation services, to translate every name suggestion I had into Dutch, which I thought might reflect our Breukelyn roots! Then there  were some names we were so excited about, although not quite right for our business name, that we decided to hold onto  them for possible product line inspiration. Throughout the process, I found myself taking great pains to force certain combinations of words  to create interesting acronyms, but they just sounded like silly words. We must have considered at least a hundred names!

As we neared the name game’s end, it became apparent that it was important to convey the collaborative nature of our approach, the duality of designing and making products, of thought as well as action, and one informing the other.  We also wanted the name to convey that we are process oriented, not simply focused on production or fabrication alone, but on constructive thought and research as well.

The game was so much fun it could have gone on forever, but we also needed a winner that would crystalize all we were doing, and enable us to start designing a logo, business cards, a web site. Tnhe Jason came up with the following list of names that all began with the word “we” , to convey our commitment to collaboration, including:










We both liked the word THINK in many of these options, but decided to drop the WE, and go with the stronger combination of the two action words, and to avoid being misread as WET HINK!

This was the final volley in the name game, and it ended up with a score:




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Architectural Digest Home Show Postcard


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Happy Holidays from Think Fabricate

Given all the talk on the street and in our office about vintage clothing these days, it seems only fitting to take a moment at the end of the year to look at some selections from our archive of in-house vintage holiday card designs! This walk down memory lane reminds us not only of the venerable structures often represented in the graphics for the cards, but of the collective pride and optimism that went into the design of the fonts and images throughout the years!

CREATE. This is pure vintage 2002! The tell-tale sign is the unique letter “R” crafted from the finest thread of roofing flashing from a school renovation project! All of our fonts at the time came exclusively from construction details for our own projects, many of which were restorations of unique, classic buildings.

PEACE. The hope for peace is timeless, but was particularly profound in 2001 following the attack on lower Manhattan. Despite the heartfelt nature of the message, optimism and a bit of humor prevailed as we fabricated the letter “A” from an air chamber roof detail and the “E” from a steel fence design! Talk about beating your swords into ploughshares!

BIRD. A classic for all time, Kelli Miller devised this statuesque bird and accompanying snowflakes in 2008 from a series of window fragments and façade details for projects in New Rochelle and Brooklyn, two of our favorite places!

Our new ventures over the past year, embodied by the opening of our fabrication shop in East Williamsburg and by the start of Think Fabricate–our multidisciplinary studio, evolved from the collective spirit and optimism evident in these cards, and in our new logo, which figures prominently in this year’s card. In our work, as well as in our holiday cards, we love to take imagery, ideas, buildings, and spaces and create design solutions for better living, learning, and community!


Building Brooklyn Awards 2010

It was so wonderful to see so many of our friends and colleagues at the tenth annual Building Brooklyn awards on July 15th, and we congratulate once again all the winners, as well as the honorees Joe Chan and David Kramer. Their long-standing commitment to the borough could be discerned in their remarks, and, along with Mayor Bloomberg’s surprise visit, gave the event a special meaning. The following article by Susan Doban, CEO of Think Fabricate and Doban Architecture, is taken from the BBA journal:

It’s hard to imagine, because after all it’s “only” been ten short years, but many places now considered “Brooklyn institutions” were brand new or didn’t even exist when the first Building Brooklyn Awards ceremony was held. The Brooklyn Marriott hotel was only two years old, and Fairway Market was only for those doing grocery shopping on Manhattan’s upper west side. Even Steiner Studios, where we gather tonight, did not exist, so we probably wouldn’t have envisioned having a celebration like this in the Navy Yard at the time. Back then, talking about what “might” some day be built “in Brooklyn, if you can believe it”, and who might design it, was starting to become a popular past time.

During the decade that followed the first awards ceremony, many of our cultural institutions were revitalized, including the Brooklyn Historical Society with its renovation and the Brooklyn Museum with its new entrance, both previously recognized with Building Brooklyn awards. We became accustomed to seeing new construction, seemingly “all over the place,” including high rise residential and many new educational projects, many of which have been recognized by the Chamber in these categories over the years. And we saw Joe Chan, a key player in the first BBA, now of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and David Kramer of the Hudson Companies, tonight’s honorees, reach the stature they enjoy today in Brooklyn’s real estate development community.

The discussions about what might be built broadened to include sometimes intense dialogue about how the built landscape has evolved and continues to do so, and its impact on the quality of life in the borough. Perhaps it was recognition of how far we have come, but also a yearning to strive and envision the best possible future, that this year a more finely-tuned set of criteria was adopted by the judging panel. Of course, overall design excellence was weighted most heavily, but specific criteria were established in other important areas as well. It is in many ways reflective of our time, that sustainability and economic impact were singled out as specific criteria. Another new criteria this year was “Brooklynness”, and defining this sparked some interesting discussion.

More than merely a location, but having a lot to do with place, it seems that Brooklynness is both constant and changing; that the Brooklyn we know today is different from the one of ten years ago, but retains certain key characteristics. What is the essence of Brooklyn and how does it manifest itself in BBA winners? Some have said that it’s a certain pluckiness, an attitude. Some have said it’s the elevation and even restoration of that which was formerly old or neglected, be it an object taken from a dumpster or a brownstone restored to life. It can even be the melding of diverse cultural and individual perspectives coming together in a unique place on earth.

This year’s award winners exhibit the full range of these definitions of Brooklynness. From the pluckiness of Congregation Beth Elohim, restoring one building and about to embark on an ambitious master plan for their entire facility, to the IAVI Design and Development Laboratory co-developed by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, to Brooklyn Bowl, the transformation of an iron works into a popular entertainment destination–these representative projects speak to that which makes this a place that respects its past and looks to envision a promising future on many levels.

Just as ten years ago it was difficult to envision the “today” which is familiar to us all, it is now impossible to imagine what the next ten years will bring. I would like to think, though, that that by building upon the foundation of our essential Brooklynness, the next ten years will be as exciting as the decade just passed, and will reflect the commitment to design excellence in all respects, to sustainability, positive economic impact, and all that makes Brooklyn special that we honor here tonight.

Susan G. Doban, AIA, is CEO of Doban Architecture and Think Fabricate, LLC. She is a vice chair of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of its Real Estate Development (RED) Committee.

If Furniture Could Talk…

We want to thank all those who visited us at BKLYN Designs earlier this month for their appreciation of not just our furniture, but of the environment and dialogue we created through our exhibit. Because we approach furniture design from our background and on-going work in the world of architecture, we can’t help but consider our creations in their context. This means careful consideration of each piece in conversation with the other and relative to its surroundings. It means a lot to us that so many visitors responded to our credenza and tv wall unit front and center, our other furnishings flanking those pieces, and our wall systems, but also expressed enthusiasm for the details and other elements that enlivened the holistic picture, such as the plates we designed for the show, our walnut veneer lampshades which tied the space and wood tones together visually, even our flooring and walls!

I sometimes had the feeling that if furniture could talk, ours would…or should I say wood! Although we presented five different lines of furniture in the booth that became our living room for those three days, they seemed to interact like a group of friends. In our furniture designs, we like to encourage a dialogue between one material and another. We are continually exploring the contrast between the smooth painted surface and the natural grain of wood in an effort to encourage visual dialogue, be it a block of anjou pear green against the purpley browns of walnut, china white over ash to bring out the shadows of the grain pattern, or the natural tones of bamboo against an expanse of colored lacquer. We like to engage in contrast between the inherent grain of the material and decorative elements which we introduce, as in the waterjet patterns of our radiator cover and the historical silkscreened designs on wood veneer of our “wall-nuts” cabinet system.

We thank you for joining in the discussions–with us, our furnishings, the materials– during the show, and look forward to introducing you to our future projects and products as they evolve!

Collaboration en Route to Coffee and a Chair Design

I can’t help but notice that whenever I walk anywhere from the office with Jason Gorsline, design director of THINK FABRICATE, he is almost always inclined to embark on a different route than I would have taken if I had been walking on my own. It feels a little counterintuitive, even funny, to me at times, to walk on the unaccustomed side of Tillary or Flatbush, but, as a result, I end up looking at the environment around the building where we work in an ever-so-slightly new way. This new take on the rather routine makes me think about why it is that I usually walk the same way, why I avoid these other equally obvious and perfectly fine routes, and what makes one person favor one path over another!

It also makes me smile to think not just about the paths taken to get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, but about many of the products in our collection introduced last weekend at BKLYN Designs, and how they reflect the unique input and viewpoints of many members of our collaborative design team, each inviting the others to look at things in a new way, leading to a result that is better than it would have been with just one viewpoint!

Many visitors to our booth were quick to run their hands over the back of our Stepping Wood chair, part of our Stepping Stones collection; and many members of our team had input on its design! The initial idea for a chair of that type came from the design of cafeteria booth seating for a college. Jason then wanted to further explore the shape of that bench seating and different options for cladding. We explored numerous variations on the shape, including the angle of the chair back, in a series of prototypes. During their fabrication, Nicholas Oshlick at the shop suggested introducing colored strips of MDF as a counterpoint to the wood cladding. At one point I may even have pushed for bamboo plywood as the primary cladding material, and for using thin strips of the bamboo to create the curved edges that had such tactile appeal. Kelli Miller, Associate at Doban Architecture, suggested painting the edges of those bamboo strips to match the MDF, adding greater depth and interest. As we finalized colors, Jason pushed for a bright shade of pink to highlight the end caps of the chair. At the very last minute, we fine-tuned the shape of openings and worked together to create a rich pattern involving the deep purplish strips of bamboo, the MDF, and the plyboo planks. The result was captured on Interior Design’s blog yesterday!

Follow the Bee!

Starting almost anything, whether it’s a design project or a blog, is a lot like starting school in a new town! I laugh to myself as I think back, once again, to the story of the bee.

When I was seven years old, my mother dropped me off at the General John Glover Elementary School to take a math and reading placement test. We had just moved to the town at the end of summer, so I hadn’t had the chance to meet new friends yet. Despite the newness of my situation, it felt natural that she would expect me to walk home all by myself when I was done with the test. I had been walking home since kindergarten in our old town, which is what everyone did back then. She had even taken the time to familiarize me with the new neighborhood and the easy route home. But somehow, despite the build-up and the preparation, after I finished the test and headed down the big stone steps for home later that day, it just felt right to try a different route home, not the one we had driven along and rehearsed together.

I walked adventurously for a while, confident that these rows of houses were laid out in a way that made sense and that I would find my way easily. Then, suddenly, I saw what I will always remember as a giant bumblebee. I couldn’t out dance it, no matter how much I tried to hurry away from it, veering to the edge of the sidewalk or pretending to skip ahead so it wouldn’t notice that I was actually trying to get away. My innate reliance on the interconnectedness of streets, on instinct, on memory of a corner driven past once or twice, my overconfidence, all gave way to fear of being stung, to panic. Running, discombobulated, close to breathless, I braced myself for the stinger, surrounded by what now seemed suddenly so unfamiliar. As I ran, I got faster and faster. The bee followed, and I continued. But eventually, my running started to flow more easily somehow, my fear lessened as I moved. I remember this moment really clearly, that I suddenly felt magically propelled. For a brief second I lost track of the bee; I looked around and saw that the bee was actually in front of me. It had been showing me the way, and my home was right around the corner!