Newcity asked Chicago designers to choose one object they’d created and discuss it.
What does this object, the Jet Lounge Chair, say about your practice?
Our business is designing and producing furniture for the interior designer. Most of the furniture designs can be customized to designer specification, most often in size. Not so much chairs, but tables and sofas are frequently customized for the project. Chairs are more difficult.
Lead us through your process. Do you start with trying to answer a specific problem or simply work off of a creative impulse?
We begin in many ways from idea or inspiration. The Jet Chair began with the idea of wanting to produce an occasional swivel chair that was forward, modern, fresh in design and versatile in use or age neutral.
Is materiality a foremost concern or do you first conceive of the idea and then marry its form to material?
We always want to fit form to material as they become one. Furniture is sculpture and seldom can a well-resolved piece come from only drawing. There must be a 3D prototype form to work from to resolve, then remake until we get it right three-dimensionally.
How much iteration precedes the final result?
There are always many iterations to finally produce a chair! Tables as a rule are easier to get right and chairs are the most difficult because chairs must be comfortable for the human body use and feel, as well as be good visual design. The Jet Chair was difficult because the low profile did not originally support the human back well, although it was beautiful in line. The chair was too low for maximum comfort, so we reworked through many iterations, determined to keep most of the form and find the sweet spot for comfort.
Are you ever satisfied by the outcome?
Yes, generally I am satisfied with the outcome of a piece, otherwise we pull a piece back to rework. When a piece goes to the showroom floor at times it does not look or feel right. Seeing a piece in a manufacturing workshop is different than seeing a piece on a sales floor relative to other products. Does it hold up relatively? That is the final test; if it plays well with others.
How do you gauge the success of a project?
Sometimes we love a piece or are proud of a collection or project but the final judge is ultimately if the client loves it, or commercially, if it sells well. And expectations vary according to design and use and price at market. I can love some of the more expensive pieces but they may not sell as fast, but that is fine because clients today want special and we are here to make art through furnishing. Remember product comes first. Get the product right and money will come, never the money first. This is true of all business endeavors. And as we say at HH, “Never let best get in the way of better!” So we are always busy and moving forward.
Holly Hunt is the founder and CEO of HOLLY HUNT.
Ben Schulman is the editor of the design section of Newcity and co-host of “A Lot You Got to Holler,” the Newcity podcast on design, architecture and urbanism. His work with Newcity is one of many ventures he engages in to communicate the value of design and cities. Ben serves as the communications director for Small Change, a real estate crowdfunding platform that works to catalyze the development of transformative real estate projects. Previously, he was the communications director for the Chicago chapter of The American Institute of Architects, editor of Chicago Architect magazine and communications director for the urban think-tank, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). His writing has appeared and been noted in outlets such as ARCHITECT Magazine, Belt Magazine, ICON, New Geography, Streetsblog, The National Review, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pop City Media and as a contributor to The Urbanophile, among others. When not writing about cities, Ben serves as an editorial assistant for the journal New Media + Society, and helps head the Contraphonic Sound Series, an attempt to document cities through sound.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website: benschulman.com