About five years ago Christopher and I renovated our home on Noble Street. Actually, at the time it was his home, not yet mine. We had decided we wanted to live together, and since Christopher owned his place, that’s where we would do it. And we would do it full-on, transform the place. With our bare hands we pulled down sheetrock, revealing layers of vintage wallpapers. We smashed solid plaster walls, and peeled up old linoleum floors. We added new electrical circuits and rewired the entire first floor. We did almost all of it ourselves, and in the end we had a home we could call our own.
For a little while, we rested. We nested. And we spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky we were. A brownstone duplex in Brooklyn, with a basement studio and a back yard flowering with roses, peonies and a dogwood tree. It was a whole lot of luck for just us. We wanted to find a way to share our good fortune, and got the idea to volunteer with Habitat to Humanity. We thought: We’re good at this home-making thing. This is something we can share. Among other works, Habitat for Humanity builds houses for people in need, relying on a corps of volunteers, in underdeveloped communities around the world. We were nearly settled on a trip to rural Tajikistan, when I discovered I was pregnant.
We did not go. Instead, we went headlong into another adventure: our son Arlo. Then, about a year into that, we started Noble Goods. The impetus was essentially to create the perfect jobs for ourselves, so we could spend our days doing what we love. And the urge to give back was powerful as ever. From the beginning, we knew that supporting charities that address the problems of basic shelter for people in need would be built in to our financial plan.
This year Noble Goods wrote a check to Habitat for Humanity that we’re proud of. It’s not huge, but it’s a very promising beginning… Here’s to another great year to come!
E. Saarinen was the son of a Finnish architect. He moved to the United States as a child, and eventually became a revolutionary architect and designer. This pioneer of modern furniture shapes was the man who swore to fix the great “slum of legs” that was afflicting American tables and chairs in the mid century. With his “pedestal-style” base, he did it. His table, chair and stool bases are smooth, wavelike, and often white.
(original Saarenins above.)
I wonder if a lot of his casual admirers think about the base material at all. The finished form seems of greater importance. Saarinen generally created his table bases in cast aluminum: a rigid, versatile material that easily formed that gentle shape we are so familiar with today. And yes, you see a lot of Saainen copies. I think Room&Board offers one. There are so many, and for some designers, it is like purchasing a necessary compromise- the original being too extravagant, and not essential enough to justify the delicacy and subtlety of the original Saarenin shape.
Well I am no certified design critic, and my job is certainly not the endorsement, or disapproval, of a Saarinen-style shape. I am making a study of these shapes, in order to create my own bases. I can’t deny the genius and downright physical presence of his original sculpted forms. It’s like he took a snapshot of a sound… or drew, in space, the molecular profile of the support concept.
This is a re-claimed mahogany top with a modeled base of white concrete:
So what am I trying to do? I am trying to create a base with the strength of, and with respect to Saarinen’s work, but I want it to be my own. Will it be cast aluminum? I don’t know. If it is, it will refer to the casting process in a way that Saarenin’s work does not. If it is cast aluminum, you will know it. And If it is cast stone (ie concrete), you will see that. In truth, I am having a wonderful time with this process- clay, wax, turnings, molds… After enough exploration I will step on the brakes. I will reel in the magical fish that I have hooked. Then I will set it free, and it will become a part of Noble Goods offerings.
This is close-up of the surface. This piece is one-of-a-kind, made in a fit of creativity. I had great time with it, and as with any rapid, explorative design, I now spend a lot of time examining it. The legs are half inch steel, which was a bit much. That’s what prototypes are all about: the learning.