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Apparatus Studio and Zak + Fox

Tree ring-patterned wall fabric and neuron-inspired lighting from two NYC-based design teams

by Maggie Roush Mead in Design on 20 May 2013

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This weekend at ICFF the creative pair behind the lighting design studio Apparatus, Gabriel Hendifar and partner Jeremy Anderson, showed off the 15 pieces in their second collection of modern lighting fixtures made from artfully aged materials. They are also introducing a line of patterned natural linen, called Strata Study, a collaboration with Zak Profera from the design brand Zak + Fox.

Though the linen is a new product, its mesmerizing pattern—which resembles irregular rings in a tree trunk—has actually existed for about two years. It came from a mural that Hendifar hand-painted on the couple’s dining room wall in their old apartment in Los Angeles. They didn’t plan to use the pattern for a product until they launched their first website in 2011. A photo they had used on the site—of a chandelier hanging in front of the unusually patterned wall—went viral on Pinterest, and people began asking where the "wallpaper" in the photo was from. "We would always tell people, 'It’s in development, it’s in development,'" Hendifar said, "because we didn’t want to look like we weren’t going to develop it, but at that time we really had no idea where to start."

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After consulting with Profera (a friend of the couple), Hendifar and Anderson decided to make the pattern into fabric instead of wallpaper so that it could be used for wall coverings, upholstery, and curtains. Apparatus and Zak + Fox currently offer the linen in two color schemes, one in a light putty color and the other an off-black. 

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Hendifar, a fashion designer who has worked with designers JMary and Raquel Allegra, and Anderson, who previously worked in public relations, began making lights after moving in together in 2010, because they couldn’t find the sort of utilitarian yet elegant lighting they had in mind. The pieces in their first collection display their affinity for mixing modern, geometric shapes with aged materials—like the frosted glass orbs used in the chandelier Cloud or the reclaimed wood in Column Lamp. "It’s about trying to find the perfect imperfect," Anderson said. "We like the fact that it looks like it went through somebody’s hands. Because you don’t see that in lighting—everything kind of has a product-y feel."

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Many of Apparatus’ fixtures make use of leather, including Highwire, whose shape was inspired by the French aerialist Phillipe Petite, and Arrow, a new angular piece with three arms wrapped black python-patterned leather. "Because of Gabe’s background in fashion, we’re not using upholstery leather," Anderson pointed out. Rather, Hendifar said, "We’re using calfskin that you might want to wear. Our chandeliers wear the leather."

Hendifar says his favorite piece in the new collection is Synapse, a light with a shape resembling the joining of two supersize neurons. Viewed from different angles, the piece also channels other organic shapes, like bell peppers and jellyfish. "It’s a little bit weird science-lab experiment looking," Hendifar said. "But it’s also very chic, like a woman’s pendant earring." To Hendifar, Synapse represents a new refined formal language for Apparatus, one that does not rely on recognizable components or references.

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The designers, who relocated to New York in the fall of 2011, plan to expand the line beyond lighting and fabric. "We have been designing these lights for our apartment," which has a specific context and contains specific things, Hendifar said. "I think the next step for us is to make some of those things."

Images courtesy of Apparatus Studio

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