Dempsey & Carroll’s Benjamin Manno sat down with the team from Form to talk about design and what inspires them.
BM: FORM taking function. How important is this concept to you when you begin working with a client? Have you ever had requests so “out of left field” that you had to sacrifice one for the other?
FL: The dance between form and function is never-ending. Frequently, at the outset of a project, one will take the dominant role according to the client, the scope of the project, or the voice of the space, itself. We believe that if you really listen, the “best” balance for a project can be achieved. We once had a client who had spent a lot of time dreaming of the ultimate shower for personal grooming—one that included a sink and full-length mirror. After communicating that a shower is essentially a temperature regulated water source with a drain, and that a sink would be redundant, he acquiesced. In terms of the mirror we were able to talk him down from full-length to something more modest that played well with the large format tile. Mirror is always tricky in a shower, as it will degrade over time due, to the moisture. We also had a client who had her heart set on the largest possible opening between her first floor and her back yard so she could maximize the family’s indoor / outdoor living experience. In the end, the door solution she could afford—while maintain the largest possible opening—was going to take up so much depth that the living room fireplace would be displaced from center. We made our case and lost. Somehow this didn’t seem to bother her.
BM: Who do you admire? What is it about them that inspires you?
FL: In design and artistically we are often inspired by Tony Duquette. A true original, Tony Duquette designed boldly and fearlessly, creating iconic lighting, sculpture, textiles and spaces that live on today. Hutton Wilkinson, Tony’s business partner who now carries the Duquette design legacy says, “If it’s not fabulous, it’s meaningless” and we tend to agree.
It is people who have lived, and do live, with this kind of honest abandon whom we admire most.
We are also absurdly fond of Mexican architect Luis Barrágan’s; his maniacal use of restraint in color, scale and proportion, creates some of the loudest minimal environments and prove that, in fact, editing is everything.
BM: West Coast vs. East Coast? The ultimate throw down. Who has the most brilliantly challenging spaces to create?
FL: We are in no way looking to be the Switzerland of design, however, we approach each project—regardless of location—from a unique perspective, such that brilliant challenges are ever present. Having said that, most Manhattan projects do present a specific set of parameters from the get-go and make scale and installation critically important to the conceptualization process.
BM: Where does sustainability and environmental consciousness swirl in to your work? How do you go green?
FL: We recently shared a flight with an owner of some of the world’s most prestigious caviar farms. When I [Josh] asked about his “farming” practices, in terms of the holistic quality of his caviar, he answered with the following; “We value the life of our fish first, the environment second, and the quality of our product third. Ultimately, we believe that if we are abiding by the first and second values, the third takes care of itself.” Not that it is a direct correlation, but we practice design much in that same way.
BM: Dempsey & Carroll was honored to support your efforts for the 2015 Red and White Ball that raised relief funds for the Red Cross. What was the inspiration behind your stunning table design?
FL: Thank you so much. Dempsey & Carroll’s participation in our Red Cross 2015 Red and White Ball table design was truly the béarnaise on our filet. We were giddy when you said “yes” and the design process was absolute heaven (insert tongue-out wink emoji). The inspiration for our table design stemmed from this year’s gala theme of “hope.” As we pondered the Red Cross and the impact they make on our planet, we thought about how, at the simplest level, they represent people working together to create second chances. We translated this into our design with a centerpiece comprised of three wire frame red sculptures that we joined by a single headdress of monarch butterflies. The butterflies are the “hope” in our design and they played beautifully together throughout the various elements of the table design, including the stunning custom “Thank You” cards that Dempsey & Carroll created and so graciously donated.