“Sustainability” sounds like a friendly buzzword when you hear a friend of a friend explain why they’ve decided to give up meat or concoct their cleaning products from scratch. But when you (and your conscience) decide to give it a whirl, “sustainability” can feel like an impossible pursuit. As someone with an insatiable appetite for things, I’ve found it especially difficult to adhere to the rulebook of living simply. Then I met my saving grace: Studio Gorm.
John and Wonhee Arndt—the duo behind the Oregon-based design studio—are by no means rookies. Not long after meeting one another at the Design Academy Eindhoven, the pair, who are both now professors at the University of Oregon, founded Studio Gorm. Simple, practical, and thoughtful, their products meet the needs of modern life by skirting the line between form and function.
“Since we both have a sculptural, fine art background, form and aesthetics are in our DNA,” says Wonhee. “Compared to other products, furniture has a longer life span, so we think a lot about aesthetic durability: How can we design something that’s long-lasting? It’s not only about good materials, but we also believe beauty has durability.”
While design lovers will recognize their Peg furniture system—a set of modular tables and benches that can be disassembled and hung on the wall when not in use—the pair has dropped a slew of clever products and collaborations since they joined forces in 2007, including a sleek standing conference table designed for HBF and silicone coffee carafes for Brooklyn-based studio Good Thing, now sold through West Elm. Each piece is as much about longevity and flexibility as it is—dare I say—sparking joy.
“It’s one thing to have a beautiful object, but it’s another to have something that is really useful and has its own inherent beauty,” shares John. “Something might seem understated at first, but then you discover thoughtful considerations within the design.”
Although a number of Studio Gorm’s works are conceptual or custom made, we’ve learned a lot about streamlining our lives from the duo. Read on for four ideas for designing a home that lasts a lifetime.
Use Everyday Vessels for Every Occasion
Known for their pursuit of perfection and eye for functional furniture, the Shaker community, and the objects they created during the early 1900s, has served as a major influence for Studio Gorm. So much so that they teamed up with a number of other studios to create a 32-piece collection of Shaker-inspired objects called Furnishing Utopia/Shaker Reinterpreted. In addition to a rocking chair, barstool, trestle table, and kitchen utensils, the pair also created wooden baskets that can take you from a picnic in the park to the laundromat and the entryway. Their lack of embellishment and their use of timeless color choices open the pieces up to an endless world of possibilities.
“We try to keep our work really simple—they have a very clear logic to them,” suggests John. “We strip away anything that’s not necessary, but the [objects are] still friendly and inviting and comfortable. You want to be around them.”
Find Work/Life Balance Through Extra Storage
Studio Gorm’s modern take on the classic school desk makes a case for going back in time. Crafted from wood and thermoformed plastic, the piece—which can be assembled together with six Allen screws—is seemingly designed for keeping a tidy desk space, all thanks to its interior compartment. The clever addition of hidden storage space beneath allows users to focus on the task at hand and discretely stow away any distractions.
Invest in Furniture That Can Be Easily Moved
Don’t let its utilitarian design fool you: The Camp Bench isn’t just for family road trips. If you’ve made an expensive (and wasteful) habit of constantly redecorating, consider investing in pieces that let you refresh regularly—no last-minute trip to Target required. Something as mobile and versatile as a folding bench can be used as a makeshift coffee table in the living room, an extra seat at the dining room table, or a bonus landing pad at the foot of the bed. And, yes, it can even tag along when you go on vacation.
Create a Kitchen That Meets Your Needs
With room for prepping food, growing herbs, storing dishes, and composting leftovers, Studio Gorm’s all-in-one kitchen table (dubbed Flow 2) can teach us a thing or two about small-space living. The hack worth noting? Live vertically. A wall-mounted dish rack or hanging mesh net can take the place of bulky floating shelves and large storage bowls that soak up precious counter space.
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