This summer we were featured in New York Magazine, in an article about Memphis design, as young designers influenced by the movement. It was pretty exciting for a couple of Maine kids to be mentioned alongside all New York City designers. This was the first time our work was put into this category by a critic and it got me thinking about what inspires Spadone Home. Art Deco, Bauhaus, and Memphis have definitely played a role in the designs of Spadone Home. It would be dishonest and short-sighted to say all of our work is original and new, because the influence of what has come before inevitably has a way of seeping into the bones of design. In our case it was our dad who first sparked our obsession with design.
Miles and I were exposed to design as kids growing up with a professional furniture maker in Maine. Our house was filled with objects from an array of movements. Without our knowledge, the chairs we sat on reflected important times in art history and would later have great influence on our experiences as makers.
Our dad (I will call him Pete here, because that’s what we call him) finished his BFA at Boston University a few years before Miles was born. It was 1982 when Pete started his studies in Furniture Design and Memphis was all the rage. Perhaps you thought the style in this decade was just the bad choices of the time, but no.... a lot of that was the Memphis Milano movement and it conflicted with Pete’s obsession: 1920s French Art Deco. Art Deco was everything he loved: think New York City, high craft, and delicate design. Memphis was not that. In fact, Memphis was a reaction to what some might consider a cold and antiquated period that relied heavily on precious materials like exotic woods, ivory, parchment, and stingray skins. Memphis designers were using plastics,primary colors, and clashing dizzying patterns.
I wanted to ask Pete about the Memphis-influenced pieces in his past portfolios versus the current Art Deco work he has spent a lifetime perfecting. So we snuck out from the shop we share to grab a coffee (like a true New Englander, he loves Dunkin Donuts). Over a small, cream-only coffee he said, “Memphis was fresh and so in-your-face. It was too much for me and I still played around the edges of it by accident. That is how insidious design is. It gets in you and you don’t even know it was in you.” It got in him all right, because there are a few pieces Miles and I grew up around that really are Memphis style: his Domino chair that Spadone home recently remade for our current line and an easel that had over 2,000 pieces of wood making up a checker-board pattern. Although Pete matured as an artist in the time of Memphis and a few bits and pieces made their way into his work, it was high craft, design, and materials of Art Deco that won his heart.
Perhaps the influence of Art Deco might be a bit more obvious in our work and in our story. With a title like Deco Vessel, this piece gives away our inherited love for the 1920s movement. However, this piece is made of plastic, a material the Memphis designers gave us permission to use three decades ago. Art Deco dovetails nicely with that way that architecture inspires us. The Deco Vessel was inspired by New York’s cityscape of buildings like the Chrysler Building. Other architecture styles like Bauhaus and mid-century concrete Brutalist buildings have also played a huge role in our designs like in the Rooftop Party Planter / Bookend.
Mikaela Burstow: Avraham Soskin House, 12 Lilienblum st by Zeev Rechter, 1933
Our Rooftop Party Planter / Bookend, inspired by Bauhaus Architecture like the building above.
I could talk for days about the moshpit of design movements that shape Spadone Home, and I’m sure you can see the influences of any number of other historic movements. We are certainly not purists and our use of materials is a direct reflection of our desire to break and bend the rules. So thanks, Dad, for letting us borrow from you and those you borrowed from!