Looking for a conversation piece? Have we got one for you: This custom-made chair (pictured above), a collaboration between Calgary-based design firm Palette Industries, and Gilt Home, boldly bears the slogan “There’s no place like home.” (It's currently being offered in our "Modern Outlook" sale.)
“It’s a way to bring art into your space,” Samuel Ho, one of the company’s founders, says of the chair. “It’s functional art, and usable sculpture.”
The designers at Palette Industries have worked with type before. They’re the ones behind the witty Dharma Lounge—made up of the Buddhist-inspired words: “Stand, forget, breathe, acknowledge & observe.” Another version of that chair was made for the 25th anniversary of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, and read “Minds for a cancer-free future.” Their Camus Lamp quoted the philosopher: “You cannot create experience/You must undergo it.”
The innovative company specializes in turning standard design on its head. Their clever Nuance/Nuisance project aimed to “reinterpret and reclaim public irritants” (according to the firm’s website) such as traffic cones and transmission towers. The former turned into the charming stoneware Rudebaker Vase, and the latter morphed from landscape eyesore into the industrial-looking Nanton Coat Rack.
Ho and his partners, Nathan Tremblay and Ian Campana, met as industrial design students at university in their native Canada. “We’d done projects together and found that dynamic worked really well,” Ho says. “Once we graduated, we went our own separate ways for a couple of years. They moved to Calgary and I went to New York to work for product designer.” After a few years, they all ended up back in Calgary, and reunited to form Palette.
The trio has worked on design ideas for everyone from Coors Light to Kranked to Felissimo to Pure Design. “When you look at the projects we do, there’s a deeper idea behind them,” Ho says. “It’s not purely form. If it’s not trying to solve a problem, it’s trying to tell a story about something else.” A popular sub-set of their work riffs on their Canadian heritage—such as the Castor Vase, that looks like a beaver-chewed tree, and the Ornately Canadian Buoy Bench, decorated with silkscreened North Country iconography like beaver tails, maple leaves, and moose antlers.
Ho says his dream project would be to work with architects on large-scale projects: “Anything that involves designing the most minute things from placards to menus, pulling back to designing the furniture, pulling back to designing a commercial space, pulling back to being actually involved in designing a whole building.” The firm’s future focus is also on sustainable and environmentally friendly design.
But whatever they do, it will no doubt have a signature surprising twist. “Most of our projects tend to involve a narrative, something beyond form and function,” he says. “There has to be something that breathes some life into it.”