Let’s take a walk through some of the iconic masterpieces of UMÉ Studio. Interdisciplinary practices are the future of design, melting boundaries and encouraging a cross-pollination of ideas. Founded in 2016 by architects-turned-designers Mei-Lan Tan and Victor Lefebvre, It is a California-based design collective that spans cities across the globe in efforts to unite local traditions and modern design.
Listed are ten products by UMÉ Studio, each crafted with a distinct technique and delivering an experience to the user that exceeds its physical form.
1. Zabuton | UMÉ Studio
A zabuton in Japanese culture is a cushion for seating on traditional tatami floors and chairs, or even housing statutes like the Maneki Neko. The sofa is designed with a touch of modularity through components that fulfill multiple roles.
Composed of maple wood, the frame, plinth and partitions are carved to bear the cushions and bolster. This meticulous assembly of pliable upholstery over simple carpentry makes for a comfortable piece of furniture with customizability at its core.
2. Paper Table
The resurgence of the industrial heritage of Oakland inspires the Paper Table. Sleek steel elements are welded to articulate the strength of the material, minimizing dimensions to achieve dynamic visual equilibrium.
The ‘V’ legs lend sturdiness, while their tapering form supporting the thin table top describes the likeness of a levitating leaflet of paper.
Available in stained black and polished steel finishes, the products come in three sizes: small, square and large.
3. Concrete (Bowls)
In yet another attempt to juxtapose toughness with fragility, the chosen material, concrete, is hand-poured into 104 singular bowls. The base signifies the rigidity while the edges, in their irregularities and diminishing dimensions, are inherently delicate.
These explorations yield tactile bowls that add a splash of ingenuity to the ordinary.
4. Henge (Bookends)
A homage to the mysterious Neolithic earthworks, Henge bookends are reminiscent of the primitive stones carved with intention and faculty. It may also be perceived as an evolution from ancient skills grounded in necessity, to leisurely reading driven by indulgence.
Cast in concrete, the bookends behave as playful silhouettes, embracing the spines of the publications on display.
The form lends stability to this graceful frame, with the diligently articulated edges.
5. Bouton (Tray) | UMÉ Studio
Taking cues from a button’s shape, each tray is cast from gypsum cement as a display base. The aesthetics of ceramics meet the whimsical scale of an otherwise prosaic object.
The trays are available in three sizes, with black, white, grey and marble finishes.
6. Tenon (Mirror)
Derived from the simple yet sturdy woodworking joinery is a mirror with a sophisticated mechanism. The handmade wooden support pierces the precisely carved Mirropane surface, terminating in a ledge that may be used for displaying items.
The opacity of the mirror is dependent on the incident light and the viewing angle, adding depth and dimension to the piece.
7. Salle De Bain (Tray)
The bathroom tile serves as an inspiration for this statement display tray. Emerging from the background to claim the centre-stage, the trite-seeming tile is at the core of a unique assembly of geometric components.
Cement is hand-poured to take the form of square tiles with some modified for additional storage- ranging from concave divots to tapering projections. These make the trays highly customisable, housing diverse items.
8. Candle Pit (Candle)
Taking inspiration from Icelandic landforms, the Candle Pit is a rendition that transforms from a familiar likeness of a tower candle. The slow burn of the wax settles like lava, forming a singular, undulating landscape – encapsulating the passage of time.
Nine wicks encircle the hollow candle, crafted using Japanese and French waxworks techniques. The white oak base serves as a stage for the unfolding metamorphosis of the candle in a unique display of fluidity.
9. Erode (Soap)
Few things make routinely bathing feel like ablution, the way a sculptural, aromatic soap can. This series is created for just that, the ephemeral slopes and ridges of which wear with each indulgent use.
Hand-made and cleverly crafted, the organic blends for these tactile and aromatic soaps are rich in nourishment for the skin and senses alike.
10. Draped Flowers (Curtain) | UMÉ Studio
The last of this list is a truly sensorial treat, transforming any room into a dreamscape. A flexible curtain woven from paper, with pockets for holding fresh flowers; this limited production item is a living tapestry of nature in all its blooming glory.
Manila Jute is processed into washi threads. Hand-sewn into it are pockets that house the glass vessels for placing individual stems of flowers.
Akane Moriyama’s creation brings the seasonality without the space within. The user is invited to explore and individualize it, filling the still with vivacity.
The studio makes items that echo attention to detail and experience, making the products more than just pieces for interior décor. Each of these products highlights the relevance of collaboration and the overarching dedication to craftsmanship.