Jeremy Anderson and Gabriel Hendifar love to take on a challenge. Or perhaps more correctly, they love to crush a challenge. Not always in that order, but you’d be hard-pressed to know that from the duo’s affable, cool-pressed exteriors.
Formed in 2012, the celebrated lighting studio was born out of Anderson and Hendifar’s quest for attractive lighting to adorn their Manhattan apartment. The couple rigged up a solution at their dining table, and while not necessarily aware of it then, essentially produced the first APPARATUS lighting prototype right then and there.
Since then, the studio has conquered a landslide of other challenges, including how to fashion a sconce out of horsehair (now one of APPARATUS’s most iconic products), and how to furnish the new APPARATUS studio digs (they launched a furniture line). Time and time again, Anderson and Hendifar have taken life’s mundane riddles and transformed them into beaming results.
APPARATUS’s lemons-into-lemonade mentality is something that permeates every aspect of the business, down to the materials the studio chooses to work with. Though materials like brass, hide, and that aforementioned horsehair, are notoriously temperamental, they’ve all formed the basis of the studio’s lighting collections. Now that the studio is delving into furniture, it could seem enticing to resort to tried and true materials (think wood and iron), but APPARATUS—not surprisingly—wouldn’t dream of it.
“As a studio, we’re interested in what happens when you try to express perfect ideas in materials that fight that perfection,” says Hendifar. “That space between the pure idea and its imperfect manifestation is what I think lends our work a certain sense of humanness and accessibility.” Hence why APPARATUS’s take on modernism is anything but sterile, instead radiating an all-encompassing warmth that legions of fans (who include none other than Nate Berkus and Alexander Wang) can’t get enough of.
Now newly-minted DECASO dealers and on the cusp of debuting a new collection, we sat down with Hendifar, who serves as APPARATUS’s creative director, to learn more about the studio’s design process, foray into furniture, and just what perfectly-imperfect material they’ll be delving into next.
When you were looking for your current Manhattan studio, which functions as both your showroom, offices and workshop (as well as the occasional shut-it-down-style party space), what traits were you looking for?
To be honest, this space appeared right as we knew we had to make a move, and taught us things that we didn’t know we wanted. Foremost, there is a sense of mystery and displacement that feels transportive. You walk into this crumbling building, up an aging elevator, and you’re not exactly sure what you’re going to get. Then our front door opens and a maze of massive volumes unfold in front of you. The street disappears and all of a sudden you feel like you’re in on a secret. We couldn’t have described that impact when we began looking, but it has become a critical part of the experience
When it comes to your studio, what have been the benefits of having all parts of the operation in the same space?
Combining our showroom, design and production spaces felt like a critical move for us as a young company trying to create a strong identity and studio culture. Having a space that allows for the sales team, the design team, and all of the artisans who finish and assemble our pieces to work side by side really helps the team to understand the holistic message of our brand, which is foremost about creating objects of quality that leave some sort of emotional impact. It’s particularly gratifying to see a client walk through all of our formal showroom spaces, and then watch their wonder as they see that everything is also made here, and that we treat both of those experiences with equal weight and importance.
So far you’ve broken down your career into Acts. While ACT III will debut this coming April, tell us more behind the inspiration behind the most recent, ACT II.
As we began thinking about new pieces I found myself being drawn to the first thirty years of the twentieth century, a period with a striking progression of ideas about modernity. Vienna at the turn of the century, Weimar Germany, Art Deco, Bauhaus, all proposed ideas that feel enduringly relevant. We looked to the work of Josef Hoffmann and the Weiner Werkstätte Adolf Loos, Jean Dunand, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Pierre Chareau, and Eileen Grey. The aesthetic references are varied, but the connecting principles are a superior level of craftsmanship, an eager exploration of new ideas, and a strong faith in social and technological progress. Almost a century later, this idea about the inevitable momentum of progress feels particularly timely.
What styles (or ideas) form the stylistic basis for Apparatus?
As a studio, we’re interested in what happens when you try to express perfect ideas in materials that fight that perfection. That space between the pure idea and its imperfect manifestation is what I think lends our work a certain sense of humanness and accessibility.
Walk us through the evolution of a piece. From the germination of an idea onward.
It’s playful. There is a lot of exploration and a good amount of walking away and waiting to see if an idea sticks. Sometimes I sketch, sometimes I take things apart and put them back together again. Once I have a solid idea for the mood and shape of a new product, I hand sketch and review those sketches with our design team. Then we explore proportion using digital modeling, and generally make a 3D print or full-scale model to experience a piece in real space.
Given that you began with lighting, was décor and furniture a natural progression, or was there a definitive catalyst that sparked the transition?
A bit of both really. Our first tables were made out of necessity as we moved into our new showroom and found we needed surfaces. You could describe that as the catalyst, but the progression has definitely felt natural. Creatively, I imagine design as a symbiosis – what’s the mood of the room, what does it smell like, who lives there, what are the mix of things that tell their story – it feels natural that as the studio evolves, we make more and more of the things that color the story.
What most excites you about your foray into furniture?
The most exciting and, quite honestly, terrifying thing about furniture is that it has to be held to a much different standard of function. A light fixture can be poetic and enchanting just by turning on. But our interaction with furniture is much more intimate. If a table doesn’t feel good to the touch, or if a chair sits uncomfortably, you immediately sense that and the seduction vanishes.
You’re known for working with brass. What is it that particularly appeals to you about brass?
Brass is a standby for us, and I’m always surprised at how it elevates every context or material we mix it with. I love its warmth and I think that’s much of the reason it is being used so widely again. When we oxidize our components, it is fascinating to see the range of patinas that results from the differences in alloys. It’s endlessly fascinating.
Are there any materials that you’re particularly eager to use in a piece, but haven’t yet?
I’m really eager to explore natural materials that interact with and diffuse light. Alabaster does this exceedingly beautifully and we’re experimenting with new shapes that I’m very excited about.
Tell us more about how the horsehair sconce came to be. Was the horsehair the chicken or the egg in this case?
The horsehair was definitely the chicken. Much of the reason it took so long to develop this sconce is because the material is just so beautiful on its own that the challenge becomes making something that doesn’t diminish its beauty.
In terms of what’s next, is there anything new in the immediate future?
Yes, we will be debuting a new collection during Salone del Mobile in April that is inspired by my personal cultural heritage. Trying to reconnect with that history and culture through design has been an inspiring and challenging process.
All photos courtesy of Apparatus