Designers showcase work "meant to be lived with" at Colony in New York

Cabinets of curiosity and miniature tools based on Shaker furniture were among the works on view at New York design gallery Colony for its second Designer’s Residency, showcasing four up-and-coming talents.

According to the gallery, the residency was first launched in 2022 to provide up-and-coming talents with a more accessible way to enter the industry. For the second cycle, emerging designers Alara Alkan, Maggie Pei, Steph Betesh, and Thomas Yang were selected from the pool of applicants.

Over the course of an eight-month cycle that began in September 2023, the designers were given subsidized studio space and followed a curriculum closely led by Colony founder Jean Lin and art director Madeleine Parsons.

New York gallery Colony exhibited work by four designers in its residency program. The above work is by Thomas Yang. The work at top of article is by Alara Alkan

“We began with visual and written exercises created to help the designers tap into both their own voices as well as those of their budding studios,” said Parsons.

In October, the designers moved into the product development phase which included frequent studio visits with Lin and Parsons.

Wooden furniture
The designers in the program were Alara Alkan, Maggie Pei, Steph Betesh and Thomas Yang

“Market knowledge provided footing for the residency, allowing us to offer not only aesthetic criticism but also feedback regarding a piece’s viability in the luxury furniture industry,” said Parsons.

“It was imperative that the residents made work they believed in but they also needed to consider ‘where it was going to live? Who was going to use it?'”

The Designer’s Residency culminated with each designer debuting a capsule furniture collection at the gallery.

For the Wonder Chamber Collection, Maggie Pei looked to the German tradition of assembling Wunderkammers, cabinets of curiosity that contain different collected items. She also created a plush couch with the remains of a wrought-iron public bench affixed to each end.

Furniture in gallery
The eight-month program culminated in a capsule collection by each designer. Work by Alara Alkan (left) and Steph Betesh (right)

The wall cabinet series was produced using painted ceramic tiles, upholstery, and inlaid wood.

Pei also introduced the Apothecary Floor Lamp, with a form based on detailing of ancient Chinese medicine cabinets.

White bench
Maggie Pei’s collection is informed by German Wunderkammers

For the Cabinet of Memories, Ama Chair, and Tian Den lighting designs, Thomas Yang combined techniques and references from his Taiwanese and Northern Italian heritages.

“Every object in this collection elevates the reality of daily use to ritual, honoring the phenomenon of an object becoming beautifully ordinary,” said Colony.

White bench
Maggie Pei used a variety of materials to craft the cabinets and create a couch with

For the The Wall Hooks design that incorporates miniaturized versions of everyday tools, Yang was inspired by the American Shaker movement.

With lamps, a cabinet, and a shelf, Alara Alkan’s Temporal Tides Collection wanted to showcase the rawness of wood in different ways.

Lighting and wall hangings
Thomas Yang pulled from his Taiwanese and Northern Italian heritage for his lighting designs

The Maelen Cabinet incorporates white oak surfaces in which the soft wood was chiselled away to reveal an almost through-material texture.

“The four pieces in the collection explore the boundary between fragility and strength reflected in the lightness of tapered proportions and delicate details that contrast with sculptural monoliths and carved forms,” said Colony.

Betesh’s Entwine Series includes armchairs, side tables, and sconce lights in which the designer mixed different materials, proportions, and scales.

While the lacquered Duo Side Table incorporates legs that layer over an arch-formed table top, the Remnant Side Table includes a calacatta viola marble table tops that extend over a white oak base frame.

According to the designer, the collection is meant to inspire people to create lasting and livable environments composed of objects collected from various sources.

“Pei and Yang recently came out of design programs deeply resonating with their individual philosophies, whereas Betesh and Alkan had both been working in the industry for years gaining their own kind of experience,” said Parsons.

Window with curtain
Betesh’s Entwine Series included armchairs, side tables, and sconce lights

“These are both valuable points of perspective, and Jean and I hoped that they would be able to learn from each other in addition to the programme’s curriculum.”

“Each of the four collections is made up of work that is meant to be lived with.”

The photography is by Thomas Bjorn Yang. 

The Designer’s Residency exhibition was on view at Colony from 13 June to 12 July. For more exhibitions, talks and gatherings in architecture and design visit Dezeen Events Guide.

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