Welcome to The Great Ones, a collaboration with Great Jones that takes us inside the spaces of designers and creatives with great taste—both in and out of the kitchen. First up, Dusen Dusen founder Ellen Van Dusen talks about how an obsession with computer coding inspired her cabinet design and the stuffed shell recipe she’s making on repeat.
My design process is always a little bit different. It’s a fun way for me to channel my interest in something new. I get into something specific and then make it into a pattern. Right now, I’m in a furniture phase. I’m really into learning about furniture—those kinds of shapes. I don’t necessarily look at stuff and say, “This is my inspiration” for whatever I’m doing. It just jells in my brain and then comes out however it comes out.
Both of my parents are architects, so, obviously, they helped me a lot with the layout of my apartment. I knew I wanted to do something fun for the cabinets, but I didn’t want to go overboard, because the rest of my apartment already looks insane. I wanted to do something subtle-ish. I was tossing around ideas of every cabinet in a different color or maybe all the cabinets in bright yellow, which also would have been cool. My parents have plywood cabinetry, and I love it. I was like: How do I make the plywood just a little special? So I got them to CNC route this pattern—which is one of my patterns—onto the wood. But it’s cool because they had to get these big pieces of wood and cut it, and then cut it into cabinets, so there was no margin for error at all, because figuring out how to get all of the pattern pieces to connect is very complicated.
This pattern is from a phase I went through where I was into coding. I can’t actually build anything on the Internet, but I just liked the idea of coming up with a rule and then following it in order to make something. So this is a pattern with one rule, which is that it’s a quarter circle rotated and connected at either end, and it never crosses itself or connects. It’s a super-simple pattern. It’s just an arc, and you connect another arc, then you connect another arc, and it goes on infinitely.
This spring is my 10th Dusen Dusen anniversary, which is really crazy. I launched my first collection in spring of 2010. I was a young 23-year-old. And so for my 10th anniversary, I made a collection of prints from the archives all in black and white. No color. Very graphic. It looks really crazy, I think, because it’s all of these intense patterns in black and white, just on top of each other. It’s fun.
I feel like I really started cooking five years ago. It was out of necessity and because it’s a fun creative process. And it’s relaxing to come home and have a task you need to complete with this incredible reward at the end. Well, sometimes incredible, sometimes not. There’s very little in my job that I get immediate gratification from, that I can just have a product all of a sudden. The process of making clothes or textiles takes a long time, and often I’m not completing the process all by myself. Cooking scratches a different itch.
My recipe for stuffed shells comes from a vegetarian cooking class on Groupon when Groupon was huge. This woman came to my very old, shitty apartment, with my old pots and pans, when I was 24. She taught me all kinds of cooking hacks, including this recipe, which is her recipe, and I still make it all the time.
It has quinoa, three kinds of cheese, spinach, and an egg in the filling. You sauté the spinach first, while also cooking the quinoa and boiling the pasta. Then you basically just mix the rest of the filling together in the quinoa pot. You pour a can of tomato sauce into a baking dish, and then you fill all of the little shells with the quinoa mixture. Then you bake it with a lot of cheese. There’s mozzarella and ricotta and Parmesan. If I have some other fancy cheeses in the fridge, sometimes I’ll throw those in, too. I make it a lot when I’m having friends over because it feeds a large group of people and is pretty easy. And people love cheese.