Rather than working to strict briefs, New York–based designers Danny Giannella and Tammer Hijazi of Bower prefer to let objects emerge from an intuitive mixing of colors, materials, shapes and concepts. It’s not the most efficient method, they admit, but it’s the reason Bower's output is invariably surprising, visually arresting and unique.
You’re busy preparing for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. What will you be showing there?
Danny: It’s our first time at ICFF, so we’re treating it as an introduction to Bower. We’re showing some past works and some new mirrors and lighting. The lighting was designed with our language of bold curves and nesting shapes, but with an emphasis on line, not solid form. The lines and curves are created with fat metal tubes: some weaving around each other, some seemingly slumped around their fixtures. The mirrors are a continuation of our trompe l’oeil explorations: Tammer and I think in three dimensions, so when designing flat mirrors, we love bringing added depth, even if it’s just for visual effect. This creates a tension between what the pieces are, and what they’re perceived to be.
Your name refers to the bowerbird. Why?
Danny: Bowerbirds collect objects from their surroundings and arrange them in ways that enhance their textures and colors. Their way of mixing materials is fascinating and really speaks to our interests. Not to mention, the function of these arrangements is to attract a mate. We see our work as a way to connect with our audience.
Is that why you recently worked with the retailer West Elm—to speak to a mainstream audience beyond just design aficionados?
Tammer: Yes, that was a big part of the attraction. In some ways, the more people we connect with, the more it feeds energy into our work. We don’t want to just be a “designer’s designer.”
Tell me about your thought process.
Danny: We find our strongest ideas are formed when we have no preconceived notions of an end result. This requires us to keep our creative pores fully dilated at all times, because any unexpected thing can be the spark of that next concept. We don’t shut it off when we leave the studio—we might pass by a piece of scrap metal or a box of squiggly pasta that can inspire a texture, form or mechanism that we explore with our Bower lenses on.
Tammer: It’s not the most efficient process, as many of the ideas aren’t realistic, but often some parts can survive and carry through to the end product. If we started with restraints in mind, the results wouldn’t end up being as creative.
You find inspiration in plants, animals, toys from your childhood. How do you then translate these into tangible and functional objects?
Danny: We like to take specific characteristics from all kinds of objects and apply them in fresh ways. For example, our Key Target is a mash-up of the feeling you get when a cooking knife snaps onto a magnetic holder, combined with a game of darts and the need to have a memorable place for your keys. Many people say the experiential quality of this product ensures they never forget where they threw their keys.
We’re most satisfied when designs are stripped to their essential forms: Most conventional products require a cultural, historical context to understand them, which may limit the audience that can appreciate it.