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Look Book 2021 Offers a Survey of North American Design

Look Book 2021 Offers a Survey of North American Design

For the WantedDesign Manhattan 2021 edition of Look Book, we present a dynamic group of 28 studios, based across North America, with very diverse approaches and design languages. Common threads include high creativity, beautiful production skills, attention to detail and the natural beauty of materials, and the embracing of responsible and sustainable approaches.

The selection of studios for Look Book 2021 form a North American Design Map, with design practices from Canada, the United States and Mexico, representing design hubs and regions from coast to coast. We spoke to a handful of our Look Book studios to offer a sneak peek of the talent you’ll see at WantedDesign Manhattan November 14-15, 2021, at the Javits Center.

Nina Cho, Detroit

What defines your work?

I aspire to a sense of balance and elegance in my work. Without being flashy or overly decorative, one can still make something impressive. In order to exemplify this concept, I am detailed and meticulous. A geometric form can be transformed into one that is unexpected and unique with just a simple touch. That touch must be executed with purpose and precision, and the form, material and color must cohesively connect in union.

Nina Cho
Recess Table in maple by Nina Cho

Share a recent collection.

My latest collection is called Recess Tables, which includes a coffee table and side tables. In designing these tables, my aim was to create a sense of unity between the table’s elements, with the form of table top relating to its legs. This aspect distinguishes my design from a conventional table, which visually separates these elements.

Especially for the Recess coffee table, the circular recess within the table top and the hollow of the tubular leg are gestured from receiving other smaller objects. These negative spaces within the table gives users the freedom to personalize the table. They may be filled creatively, as storage, or left empty.

To assemble, one simply places the tabletop upon the cylindrical legs, joining their complimenting geometries. With no further implementation, the table’s structure is secured.

Tell us about the Detroit design scene.

Detroit, also known as a Motor City, has many great fabrication facilities. It’s been a great advantage in realizing my idea, especially for my folded/bent metal work series. I work with a lot of local creatives and fabricators in creating my work. I work with various materials and I always find someone locally to collaborate with and get help on making it happen. I’ve been feeling fortunate to be surrounded by such a great community. Also, I think Detroit is still affordable for artists and designers compared to other big cities. I’ve had the chance to exhibit and sell my work nationally and internationally while creating my work here.


Recess Table in walnut by Nina Cho
Recess Table in walnut by Nina Cho

Mary Ratcliffe Studio – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What defines your work?

Our work is rooted in contemporary design and longevity minded fabrication.  We want our pieces to stand the test of time from an aesthetic point of view and a quality/functionality stand point.  We work to create pieces that quietly push boundaries, are acquired mindfully and ultimately are built to be passed through history.

What are your goals for being part of Look Book?

WantedDesign Manhattan is our first international show and we’re so excited to be here!  Our goals are to make new relationships with local designers, find some NYC representation for our collection, and hopefully leave with a nice piece of press or two.

Mary Ratcliffe
Barrow Table by Mary Ratcliffe Studio
Barrow Table by Mary Ratcliffe Studio

What will you be showing?

We’re introducing two new pieces at the show, our Barrow table in an oxidized finish and our never seen before Rowley cabinet.  The Barrow table has been very popular and we love the nuance and natural feel of its rich oxidized finish.  Our Rowley cabinet is exciting because it is totally brand new, made entirely from solid wood and includes sculptural, integrated door pulls that we loved developing. 

Figuring out the complex geometry of our Barrow table has been a challenge.  We really pushed the limits of what is possible with solid wood on this one – especially in the section of the leg that has its vertical angled cut.  All the material in this section has three different angled cuts that need to come together perfectly to make this sculptural base. It’s taken several prototypes and tests to arrive at this end result!

Tell us about the Toronto design scene.

The Toronto design community is a tight knit group that is just starting to come into its own.  It feels like almost every day that there is new work bubbling up here as well as lots of young designers creating work from unique perspectives.  It’s an exciting time to be working in Toronto.


Lyndoe Bench by Mary Ratcliffe Studio, Highwire lighting by Anony, both based in Toronto
Lyndoe Bench by Mary Ratcliffe Studio, Highwire lighting by Anony, both based in Toronto

Brent Warr – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

What defines your work?

Process is something that continues to define my work. Using a material like plaster, which is quite fragile, to create furniture took many late nights, countless trial and error, and prototyping to produce something unique. My work also has a touch of whimsy and fun allowing my audience to see joy in the pieces I create.

What are your goals for being part of Look Book?

Getting to meet other like-minded creators and artists from all over North America and craft lasting relationships that can lead to partnerships and collaborations in the future. Also, this is a chance for me to showcase my first solo body of work and meet industry experts and collect feedback from them.

Brent Warr
White plaster console by Brent Warr
Wendon Console by Brent Warr

What will you be showing at WantedDesign Manhattan?

Woodfin is my first ever collection of design and this will be the first time ever publicly debuting my work. I also will be showing a new art piece and totem sculpture that is a part of an upcoming series, so I guess you’ll have to come to my booth and check it out!

The Woodfin collection is all made of hand-painted plaster, something which typically is used for walls or casting. Unlike metal or wood, plaster is quite fragile. Learning how to turn this process into something stable and rigid yet beautiful was challenging but rewarding.

Tell us about the Atlanta design scene.

Atlanta, and the greater Southeast, is a very interesting design hub. We have amazing woodworkers, metalworkers and ceramicists, that tend to lean a bit traditional and transitional in their designs.

However, there is an exciting wave of younger more experiential makers and artists in the Southeast working in unusual materials to craft striking furniture, lighting, sculpture, and art.


Thinking Stool by Brent Warr, in progress
Thinking Stool by Brent Warr, in progress

Artish Studio – Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

What defines your work?

The red thread throughout all of our work at Artish Studio is that our furniture and objects have some level of interactivity and play that allows the user to bring their own creativity to the pieces. So whether it’s modular shelving or magnetic trays that attach to furniture or kits to create your own wall art, we incorporate space for personal expression into the design and function of each object.

What are your goals for being part of Look Book?

WantedDesign Manhattan’s Look Book this year presents an opportunity for us to reconnect with the design, interiors and architecture community after the hiatus of last year. As an independent studio, we need all of the exposure and support we can get and shows like ICFF and Look Book are so valuable in doing that. WantedDesign is relentless in their support of emerging designers and they’ve helped us to make so many connections.

Abby and Courtney of Artish
Tombstone table by Artish

What are some recent projects?

During the COVID shutdown, we partnered with Raleigh stone designer Matt Byrd to develop a collection of stone and steel pieces that were one of a kind, a mix of art and furniture – not fit for a trade show because they can’t be easily reproduced.

But that freedom to play with new materials in 2020, led us on the path to our latest collection that we’re showing at Look Book – a new seating series where we really push the limits of curves in metal plus we’re introducing a new seamless magnet-to-steel connection that will allow for even more play. 

Tell us about the North Carolina design scene?

Furniture and textiles have been stalwart industries in North Carolina for over 100 years and remains so today, even as the industries evolve. And there is a whole new generation of emerging furniture and textile designers here now who are ushering NC’s industry into the future and bringing a fresh contemporary perspective to the region’s legacy.

Just in Raleigh alone, our design community includes peers like Matt Byrd and Mike Newins (both showing work at this year’s Jonald Dudd); and Twofold Objects (Part of WantedDesign’s LaunchPad). We’re lucky to be in a city and state that has a supportive and non-competitive community, where people understand and appreciate the value of craft and good design.


High Rollers by Artish

Sten Studio – Mexico City, Mexico

What defines your work?

My work is a tribute to the geological field. My intention is to highlight materials that the nature offer us and a lot of people does not know. My work is define by bringing exotic jewels from the mineral world that become my pieces into one-of-a-kind items.

What are your goals for being part of Look Book?

The intention for participating in WantedDesign Manhattan is to open the studio’s scope to a wider market and to show my work abroad for the first time. New York made a lot of sense because you can find a huge appreciation for arts, design and even for semi-precious stones. I am sure that in this fair I will find a pretty specialized audience that will understand the one-of-kind pieces that I am bringing to the show.

José Schnaider of Sten Studio
José Schnaider of Sten Studio
Lamps by Sten Studio
Lamps by Sten Studio

What will you be showing at WantedDesign Manhattan?

In the new series of my lamp Hotai I am working with pretty rare minerals. I am bringing some one-of-a-kind versions made of Charoite, for example. There is just one mine in the world in Russia and finding big top quality pieces such as the one I am bringing is almost impossible. It is more of a lucky strike.

Same thing with Lapis Lazuli: A piece like the one I am bringing to the show cannot be better, with the intensity of the blue and the little pyrite dots.

Tell us about the design scene in Mexico?

Here in Mexico, there is a strong community with the mission of promoting local design. In Mexico City, there are many events happening all year long. Design Week Mexico and Zsona MACO Diseño, for instance, were the first organizations to promote work by many figures of the industry such as industrial designers and interior designers, making different activities for each one.

It is fantastic to see what the industrial designers show because it opens your mind for exploring new techniques and materials. Thanks to these kinds of activities in the city, I connected with new designers such as my friend Taina Campos who taught me about bio materials and the circular cycle of materials. Now I am happy to say that because of her, all the packaging in my products are made of recycle materials –– that would not have happened if there was not an influence in the community.


Table by Sten Studio
Table by Sten Studio
Table by Sten Studio
Detail of Table by Sten Studio

Bowen Liu Studio – Brooklyn, New York, USA

What defines your work?

My works come from my personal life experiences, such as cultural influences from traveling, activities, and interactions with people. Comfort is my priority when designing. Also, over time, I developed a keen eye for nuances, such as details, proportions and craftsmanship. This new collection was inspired by my many sailing trips to the Long Island Sound in the past few years.

What are your goals for being part of Look Book?

By showcasing designs in Look Book, I look forward to working with other established furniture brands and manufacturers around the world to license my thought out designs and continue creating new designs. The goal is to let people have easier access to my designs worldwide.

Bowen Liu
Feast Side Chair by Bowen Liu Studio. Photo by Kimisa H.

What will you be showing at WantedDesign Manhattan?

I have been interested in sustainable materials in high-end designs. I insist on spending a lot of time developing visually beautiful and properly built furniture because they can last a long time aesthetically and functionally.

I believe when people enjoy good designs for a long time, it reduces the frequency to buy new stuff. Therefore, it consumes less energy and materials. It is better for our planet in the long term. 

For Look Book, I reached out to Fruitleather, a Rotterdam company that creates leather-like material made from wasted mangos. The founders of Fruitleather and I met via Zoom. We have mutual respect after learning about each other’s work. They think my designs are good representations of their cutting-edge eco-friendly material so they generously sponsored the Fruitleather for my Feast chairs in the show.

What do you like about the design scene in NYC?

People who I interact with are knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. It is good energy to be around.


Wooden Helle Dining Table by Bowen Liu Studio
Helle Dining Table by Bowen Liu Studio

We invite you to meet all 28 Look Book studios and to see their collections at WantedDesign Manhattan 2021, Nov 14-15, at the Javits Center in New York City during NYCxDESIGN. Registration is open.
You can also download the 2021 Look Book catalog.