6 Talented Makers Who Are Having Fun With Furniture


Meet the fresh wave of furniture makers who are pushing the boundaries of form, function, and materiality.

Furniture maker Luam Melake sitting on blue and brown chair

Photo: Lesley Unruh.

Conversation Starter


Soft to the touch, Luam Melake’s saturated urethane and polyurethane foam furniture is inspired by positions that encourage social engagement. Perched here on the Listening Chair, Melake, who studied architecture at UC Berkeley and is represented by R&R Company, views a piece’s functionality as a way of expressing wishes for the future, namely one where digital distractions are few and personal interactions are cherished. Based in Harlem, New York, the senior materials researcher at Parsons came upon her unique material through trial and error. “I set out to create a sort of permanent upholstery for soft sculpture that could last for decades, while also being non-toxic nor requiring restoration.”

Furniture maker Hannah Bigeleisen leaning against blue chair with brick backdrop

Photo: Nico Schinco.

Looking Ahead To The Future


Plaster is Hannah Bigeleisen’s medium of choice. “I think about it as an alternative to ceramics—it’s additive and subtractive, endlessly modifiable and virtually indestructible,” says Bigeleisen, who was introduced to the material as an undergraduate at the Cleveland Institute of Art (she later earned an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design). Outdoor-friendly pieces like the vibrant Bluetta Chair and Lily, Clover and Margueritte Tables—the latter of which are inspired by petal and leaf formations found in nature—come to life in her Brooklyn studio. Bigeleisen adds cotton pulp to her plaster mixture for added texture and reinforcement, while artist-made paint colors are mixed and applied to thoughtfully complement each design. Playful and fresh, she credits fellow designers’ break from tradition as a boost of confidence in pushing her practice forward.

Furniture maker Matt Byrd in a wooden-paneled room sitting in a stone chair

Photo: Alex Boerner.

Chiseled Freehand Craft


“It’s an adventure and always an experiment,” says Raleigh native Matt Byrd of the challenges and joys of working with stone. The self-described stone carver, who has a background in stonemasonry, recently moved from smaller sculpture to furniture, and is in the midst of an artist residency in Switzerland focusing on large-scale marble sculpture. The CIA Table and Peter Chair, pictured in his workshop, are carved from a solid chunk of granite and exemplify his largely freehand approach. “I don’t have a detailed sketch before I start,” Byrd admits. “I have a rough outline of what I want it to look like, and then I go for it. Sometimes it’s not perfect, but that’s what I love about the process.”

Furniture maker Emmett Moore standing in white gallery room with paintings

Photo: Kris Tamburello.

Experimenting In An Artful Manner


Whether Emmett Moore is experimenting with materials or exploring the dialogue between art and design (of which he believes objects exist on a spectra, and the most interesting things are difficult to label), curiosity, resourcefulness and fluidity are central themes at play in his Miami studio. Case in point: the Bay Rag chair made from layers of secondhand t-shirts, epoxy and automotive paint—inspiration for the process was culled from the maritime industry—utilizes readily available, unexpected materials thanks to the port city’s apparel import industry. “The t-shirt became the perfect standard unit of measurement, like a two-by-four or a sheet of plywood, and a nice anthropometric unit to base the work,” Moore says. “The sizes of t-shirts relates directly to the human body as do dimensions in furniture.”

Furniture maker Sam Clemick sitting on white chair

Photo: Christina Gandolfo.

Regally Repurposed In Woodworking


After years working in fashion, Sam Klemick turned to woodworking as a creative outlet. The hobby ultimately transformed into a full-fledged business in response to fashion’s wasteful overproduction. Today, Klemick strives to source discarded materials, which, in turn, influences the direction of her work. But in the end, the Los Angeles designer wants people to respond to what resonates with them. “I hope furniture design continues to diversify and show individual points of view,” Klemick says. “It doesn’t have to be quirky and colorful or muted and round to be relevant.” Klemick, pictured at LA Woodshop where she handcrafts wooden components, is seated on the Ebony Cutie Stool made of salvaged Douglas fir. She is flanked by a soap and lye version and the Pinwheel Nap Chair—all of which are topped with deadstock canvas.

Furniture maker Norman Teague in room with various colorful furnishings

Photo: Sandy Noto.

Immersive Storied Approach


Chicagoan Norman Teague believes that furniture contributes to a narrative of who we are, and the makers behind such pieces play a crucial part in our shared story. Citing recent events like the pandemic, the creative regards comfort as a driving force behind his designs. “We are asking more from our homes,” Teague says. “The answer lies in the things we live with—the multifunctionality and beauty of objects.” Photographed in his studio, the Art Institute of Chicago alum stands beside his blue Sinmi Stool and red Africana Chair. Made of basswood, the stool is inspired by the bentwood tradition of 1930s furniture maker Isokon, while the chair represents the resilience of the African American experience. For Teague, making furniture isn’t just a creative process, but a way to communicate a Black presence and provide a platform for local talent.