Pull up your sofa cushions, look under your well-worn tabletop, and take a peek at what lies below your mattress. It’s in these blind spots of our furniture that we are likely to find metallic hardware – nuts, bolts, springs, screws, pins, brackets, nails – playing a supporting role to all the textures and materials that we have come to associate with furniture design and, by extension, with comfort more generally. A suite of new furniture pieces, called the “Thin Series,” attempts to change that. Designed by the Brooklyn-based studio Kin & Company, the “Thin Series” puts metal in a leading role, inviting us to rethink the materiality of our comfort zone.
Though Kin & Company was established in 2012, it had been many years in the making for its two founders, cousins Kira de Paola and Joe Vidich. From an early age, Kira and Joe bonded over a shared interest in the arts. Even though they grew up on different coasts (Kira hails from California, and Joe is a native New Yorker) their close-knit family ensured that the two had plenty of opportunities to compare notes on favorite artists (Donald Judd, Jean Prouvé, Sol LeWitt) and movements (Bauhaus, Futurism). Later, as the cousins enrolled in college as art majors, they supported each other’s individual creative pursuits. Kira went on to become an interior designer, and along the way helped shape the business strategy for a high end furniture company. Meanwhile, Joe completed graduate studies in architecture at Columbia, where he developed a fascination with and expertise in digital fabrication methods and technologies. Currently he teaches design and fabrication at his alma mater. As each cousin began to envision their own individual business venture, naturally they sought the other’s advice. And naturally, they both jumped at the chance to finally collaborate.
The “Thin Series” is the perfect illustration of the ongoing creative conversation that Kira and Joe have been having for years, which has cut across architecture, design, and art, with a particular emphasis on details and material experimentation. All three pieces in the series – a chair, side table, and coffee table – are crafted from a continuous plate of bent steel. Metal is not hidden away or used to prop up other textures and materials. It is fully exposed and celebrated in pure, sleek form. But it is also used to create thoughtful details that are surprising and playful. Circular discs of polished and oxidized steel intersect with monochromatic black or white planes, creating openings, textural shifts, and reflections, while each object has delicate little “feet” that touch the ground. From different viewpoints, the pieces appear as geometric compositions or as animated anthropomorphic forms. These are, indeed, a family of objects that echo the movements of users and encourage interaction.
Furniture names: Thin Chair, Thin Table 1, Thin Table 2
Kira and Joe spoke to The Know Culture about their working process and design goals.
In your practice, how do you collaborate and delegate tasks?
We collaborate on everything, and really love working together. Our family connection is a great asset because we have a deep-seated trust that allows us to be really honest and transparent with each other—and we think that translates into a better company and better products. Since we started Kin & Company five years ago, quite organically Joe has taken on the majority of the design work and Kira has mainly focused on developing the business. While we both certainly give each other plenty of input, we are also really happy to let the other take the lead in different domains of the company.
Why use metal as the primary material in your furniture designs?
Metal – and in particular steel, aluminum, and noble metals such as copper and bronze – is a truly remarkable material in that it is able to take on so many different shapes, lines, textures, and colors. It is everywhere around us, from the monumental scale of urban infrastructure to the minuscule scale of electrical wiring. Yet its significance and potential are often overlooked, or considered supportive. When we work with metal, we instead see a material that is plastic and poetic, and in our work we want to explore and reveal its infinite possibilities.
Something that is unique about your practice is that you control both the design and fabrication of your projects. Why is this important to you?
Controlling both allows us to approach the design in a much more informed way, because we’re intimately familiar with the strengths and the limitations of the materials and fabrication methods. There are always elements of a design that get refined during production, and we’re there making those decisions at each step along the way. We’re also able to have much more control over the quality of the finished product and can execute a much higher level of detailing—like insuring a seamless transition between two materials or finishes.
The “Thin Series” is so playful yet elegant. What was the inspiration for these pieces?
The material itself was really the inspiration for the “Thin Series.” We started with the idea of designing a piece made from a single, continuous sheet of thin metal. From there, we started experimenting with a variety of bent and rolled shapes, which eventually led us to these whimsical anthropomorphic elements. That was really our “eureka moment.”
The first thing on deck is doing a big push to get these pieces out there in the world! We really value connecting with people outside our circles, and seeing what resonates with others and where there’s room for improvement. We’re also constantly testing new ways to work with metal and new fabrication techniques. At the moment we are looking at working with increasingly thinner sheets to push the limits of this material’s strength and elasticity.
The “Thin Series” and other work can be seen at www.kinandcompany.com
Set Design Grace Hartnett
Art Direction Elysia Belilove
Photography Kelly Jeffrey & Grace Hartnett
Model Liz Olear
Text Irene Sunwoo