Riding out the Storm
The past year has been a rough one, by any measure. And while design can respond to crisis in numerous ways, one of the most important is to provide respite. This potential function of objects usually seems to hover beneath critical notice: maybe it seems too bound up with the problematic idea of luxury; maybe it’s just too obvious to mention. What’s to say about a comfortable sofa, besides “ahhh”? Yet relaxation can be a far more complicated phenomenon, occurring on registers beyond the physical, and into the visual and psychological. Thomas Barger’s sinuous Lounger is a perfect example: an object chilling out all on its own, restful just to look at, with the lines of a roller coaster ride drawing mercifully to a close. That sense of blissful ease is also palpable in Jonathan Trayte’s Grass Green Settee, with its integral awning, inbuilt planter, and upholstery like a lush lawn almost in need of a mow.
Wieki Somers Studio’s Bath Boat is more metaphorical, fusing together the images of an evening soak and an ocean voyage, thus thematizing the idea of design as a vessel of escape. It’s interesting to note that these works come from three of the younger designers included in DNA (Somers was born in 1975, Trayte in 1980, Barger in 1992). Given the undoubted challenges facing their respective generations, their collective embrace of repose may seem a little surprising. But it’s also a particular form of wisdom: if you want to achieve anything, much less fix the big problems of the world, first you need to find a little calm.