Alexander P. Lamis, FAIA
Daniel Lobitz, AIA
Lauren Kruegel Siroky
RAMSA Interiors shares a behind-the-scenes look into our most recent product design collaboration—a new furniture collection.
Many do not know the long history of our firm’s product design work, which goes back to the early 1980s when Nan Swid and Addie Powell commissioned Bob Stern to design tableware for their company. Following the success of the collaboration for Swid Powell, we produced linens for Martex, furniture for Hickory Business Furniture, flatware and glassware for Sasaki, and continue collaborating with manufacturers today to produce carpet, doors, hardware, lighting, tiles, and more.
Our most recent collaboration is a furniture collection with US-based manufacturer Ferrell Mittman. We have long been fans of their work, so we were very excited when they invited us to collaborate on a new project. In late 2018, Ferrell Mittman joined us at our office and we began sketching an initial matrix of chairs, sofas, dining tables, side tables, console tables, bookcases, and beds. It was a little ambitious—the full collection would include 30 pieces!
Like all our design projects, we started the furniture collection by undertaking research. We aimed to produce pieces that were historically based and sophisticated, but could still be adapted to a variety of interiors. We found Jože Plečnik’s architectural work to be an important precedent for the pieces, but we also looked at the work of Josef Hoffman, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and others. Our team created abstract drawings by studying architectural elements from their buildings, such as column articulations, which could be translated into furniture profiles and other interesting details. With architecture driving our concepts and a set of initial sketches complete, we began digital modeling and produced 3-D prints to better study the designs.
RAMSA is known for high-end interiors and we have access to some of the best resources in the world, so we spent a great deal of time selecting materials and finishes. This step was critical to the process—even with a great profile or form, materials and finishes can make or break a product. Our interiors department carefully studied what wood types they had specified over the years as well as examined current market needs.
After drawings, 3-D printed studies, and materials and finishes research, we moved to full-scale prototypes at the Ferrell Mittman factory in the historic center of the US furniture industry—High Point, North Carolina. Throughout 2019, we visited the factory floor to ensure that the pieces would function as well as they looked. During our trips we would mark-up and modify furniture frames, noting if a piece felt too high or too deep, or fine-tuning the fabrics used in the upholstery. It’s an interesting and fast-paced process and sometimes mock-ups were revised in a short span of time—Ferrell Mittman’s skilled team of artisans disassembled and rebuilt a sofa frame overnight. There was a lot of back and forth on site working with the finishers to make sure the upholstery worked for Ferrell Mittman, too. Upholstery is a lot like fashion in that you have an idea about something but you have to fit it. The process helped us to continue refining the pieces of the collection while still maintaining the aesthetics of our brand.
Eleven pieces are now available through Ferrell Mittman on their website and on display in their New York showroom on 3rd Avenue and 59th Street. We hope people enjoy the collection and agree that it reflects RAMSA’s design perspective, grounded in tradition yet simultaneously open to invention.
To see the full collection, visit Robert A.M. Stern Architects for Ferrell Mittman. Learn more about our product design work at www.ramsa.com/products.