Engaged in the timeless debate of form over function, Brooklyn-based furniture designer Paul Loebach seamlessly reconciles the two pillars of design through his distinct approach to craftsmanship. "The forms of our material environment carry a collective meaning, just like a spoken language," explains Loebach, continuing that his goal is to "communicate through my designs with as much impact as possible. Form and function are inseparable, so functionality is an imperative element of any good design." With a hand in the past and a nod to the future, Loebach's designs call upon the ingenuity of Americana and the curvy couture of neoclassicism, backed by progressive manufacturing tools and techniques.
Loebach's historical homage shows in the simplicity of his American Shaker-inspired nesting tables, a trio of interlocking wooden step-stools painted in varying pop colors of green, blue and charcoal (available through Areaware). Loebach's Great Camp Collection (available exclusively through Matter) is a throwback to the handcrafted, country chic of Adirondack furniture popularized in the mid-to-late 1800s. Using a four-axis CNC router, Loebach creates an organic-looking furniture set comprised of a dresser, credenza, chair and coat rack, engraved with the hand-hewn appearance of cross-hatching reminiscent of forest branches. CMYK color accents make the collection's rustic re-interpretation contemporary.
Loebach also explores historical motifs with his foray into textiles, introducing a wool quilt (in collaboration with Jessie Henson) stitched together from laser cut felt and bearing the proverb, "Gather up the fragments, let nothing be lost"—an adage adopted by American quilters from the Civil War era and a philosophy that permeates many of Loebach's own creations. Frequenting museums and flea markets, Loebach draws much of his inspiration from "the notion of 'the unknown craftsman' and the evolution of objects over time." He further pays tribute to the pioneering spirit of Americana with his rococo wallpaper print, playfully dubbed "Yee-Ha!" (available through Studio Printworks) for its Texan imagery of gun-touting cowboys and industrial oil rigs set in a damask interlace.
With designs bridging themes of the past with current innovation, it's no surprise that Loebach grew up "with a 'hyper-awareness' of manufactured objects," descending from a family lineage of German woodworkers and industrial designers. Loebach's grandfather built airplanes for the U.S. military and his father is a manufacturing engineer. Born against the industrial backdrop of Cincinnati, OH, Loebach studied Industrial Design at RISD before moving to NYC, where he apprenticed under fellow RISD alum and furniture designer John Davies. Loebach's talent quickly earned him a roster of private clients as well as the attention of Williams Sonoma and Martha Stewart, leading him to set up his own "design laboratory" in a converted knitting factory in Brooklyn—an area that Loebach describes as the "hotbed of artistic and cultural creativity in the U.S."
Loebach's authentic approach to design continues to evolve, blending artistry with technology. Armed with a toolkit that is equal parts power tools and digital software, Loebach begins the process of design through a series of "impromptu investigations." Loebach's latest design, The Watson Table (which premiered at Milan Design Week 2011, pictured above) is an examination of how design and function inform each other. Referencing DNA scientist James Watson, the tables showcases his twin skills of deft tool mastery and artistic intuition with its helical shaped legs made from wood and carbon fiber, laminated over a 6-part plywood mold. Loebach's says, "The most important skill I posses as a designer is my capacity to shift seamlessly between multiple, seemingly disparate modes of operation and thought."
Paul Loebach's new collection called "Glacier" will premiere at Matter Gallery during NYC's upcoming design week, 14-17 May 2011, when he will also debut "Halo," an LED chandelier designed for Roll and Hill at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.
Inspired by the all-new Audi A7, Cool Hunting is highlighting a group of notable individuals that share a similar spirit of creativity in their approach to their craft. From architecture to paper art, the people we've chosen to profile all bring something unique to their work that positions them as future leaders in their respective fields and beyond.
Over the course of the next two months we'll debut profiles of 16 leading figures, united by their dedication to innovation and design. Each week, we'll profile two Icons, their work, and explore what drives them to create.