When an individual thinks about architectural design, they tend to imagine grand, sweeping buildings and monuments. It’s only natural: Architecture is an art that occurs on the large scale.
One of the things that we believe at EYRC is that good design requires good details. We believe in excellent execution and often work closely with our trades partners and contractors to test mock-ups and fabrication options before construction. We take a focused approach to choosing materials and designing the ways they can come together, in reality.
As many noted architects like Rudolph Schindler, Mies Van Der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright designed architecture and objects, with the belief that architecture and the experience of a space extends to all scales including furniture or even lamps.
Our office also participates in this architectural tradition of object design, at times for our clients, but also as independent projects. These projects form a vital piece of our culture and philosophy.
Designing and fabricating these objects unleashes creativity, encourages that problems be approached from a new perspective, and reinforces the importance of quality and craft—all while serving aesthetic and utilitarian purposes. And because these items are often designed as a way for us to participate in charity events and auctions, they also serve as a means for us to give back to our community.
Below, we take a look at some of the small-scale items and objects that our firm has designed over the years, and explore how the process of bringing these objects from sketch to reality impacts our process.
The most rewarding of these projects are those that force us to approach everyday items from a new perspective. Questioning the status quo allows us to find unconventional solutions that improve upon the original.
This chess set is a great example of that. While traditional chess sets feature contrasting colors for both the pieces and squares, ours is monochromatic. This forced us to rely on the geometry to distinguish between squares and pieces. Instead of relying on color to distinguish between the elements, the conventionally black squares angled to one direction and the white squares angled to the opposite direction. Black and white chess pieces are replaced with rounded and rectilinear pieces that can be differentiated by touch.
The result is a chess set that on first glance may seem confusing. But once the eye acclimates to the piece, it very quickly becomes alive with texture and form and shape.
As architects, we work closely with contractors and craftspeople to execute our vision, but when we work on our product designs we are able to build the items ourselves. Fabricating these custom pieces is a way for our team to see something through from sketch to model to finished product—always refining our focus on the importance of craft and execution.
And because we will often use the same materials in creating these objects as we would in our residential design, we are reminded of the physical characteristics of the materials and how these features might impact construction. Returning again to the chess set: The case is made from white oak, a material that we leverage in much of our residential design.
Custom-designed furniture offers our team the opportunity to extend the architecture into the living space, better addressing the needs and desires of our clients. Creating custom pieces for our residential projects is a way to help establish the cohesive vision of a space, and see it come to reality.
Take the tables below as an example.
The Leonard residence dining table (top left) was custom designed from Cor-Ten steel and glass to fit the sculptural, angled space between the kitchen and a three-story staircase. The faceted language of the table creates a dynamic gesture towards a balcony over the Hollywood hillside view. Similarly, the Boxenbaum dining table (top right) and 700 Palms dining table were also designed and fabricated to specifically fit the aesthetic and space within which they live.
Though the items that result from these projects are much smaller than the homes which we are used to designing, the lessons and practice that we gain from pursuing them is invaluable to our process. By approaching common items or projects from a different light, we are able to unleash our creativity, refocus on the art of execution, and think holistically about the ways that architecture and interior design must coexist.
Natalie LaHaie is the Business Development and Marketing Director at Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC). She is a graphic designer by trade and a natural strategic thinker, employing design to express vision, direction, and values. With over a decade of experience in the field of architecture and design, she admires the role of architecture in bringing people together from all backgrounds and walks of life - specifically through community, education, and civic buildings.