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!

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