What is the relationship between our physical environments and ourselves? We live with the everyday objects that inhabit our homes and offices. A chair supports: it holds our bodies. It may also hold our attention, capture our imagination or speak our minds. A table convenes: it hosts our conversations, our work, our meals, our meetings. It may be mute, but it remains present and, in that presence, it serves as a constant, quiet reminder of the times we gather and why. We learn to live together. At best, these object lessons are easy, intuitive: the perfect synthesis of our needs and desires. Our environments are essential to what we do and who we are, the practice of doing and being. Finding the perfect marriage — of form and function, of sense and sensibility, of utility and expression — is the work we do at Arper.
I Essential is Balance
Forces in nature — light and darkness, contraction and release, heat and cold — are interconnected. The sun sets, the moon rises; it’s a sensible yet sublime equilibrium that becomes familiar even to the youngest child. Our contemporary environments — offices and homes—are similarly full of contrasting but interdependent elements: form and function, technology and craft, work and play, expression and restraint. When these elements find the proper harmony, we too feel sublime equilibrium. Essential is balance: the perfect integration of seemingly disparate qualities to produce an effect greater than the sum of the parts. Consider the night sky: vast, abstract and nebulous. A map of the constellations translates that abstraction into names and places, and memories even. And so it is in our everyday spaces: the constellation of objects that surrounds us, shapes our experience, expresses our aspirations and sublime ideals.
II Color is Essential
Some things are easily explained by physics: a musical note is a sound wave traveling through space at a particular frequency. Color is a measure of the frequency of a light wave. The band of colors that human eyes can perceive is called the visible spectrum. What, then, lifts a color beyond the plane of physics to the realm of experience? Is it the careful creation of harmonies: setting one hue against another, in vibrant or subtle ways? Is it the interplay of the color and material? Grey metal can sing. The same grey tone in a textile may whisper. Is it connotation? A rich, red berry is appetizing. A vibrant, red velvet curtain invokes anticipation and drama. Color stimulates beyond sensory perception. It evokes emotion. Color is everywhere — in nature, in the material world. Exquisite attention to color shapes how we feel at a given moment, in a given space, which is why it is so central to our design thinking. Tranquil or exhilarated, serious or playful, bold or gentle. You might think of it as physics with feeling.
III Essential is Intuitive
Perhaps there are no real surprises in life. Perhaps, if we are paying full attention, not only to reason but also to our emotions and body, everything is known. Intuitive logic is a silent, alchemic response to a question that might not even be fully articulated. We all possess the capacity to synthesize thought, feeling, imagination and sensation into a single insight, free of distraction. And when we find ourselves in this space between feeling and knowing, we glimpse a deeply satisfying kind of intelligence. It is something that was there all along, unseen, unheard. Shapes that hover between real and abstract: familiar but not quite identifiable. Silhouettes that imply personality. Materials that conjure a physical feeling without even touching the surface. We fill in the gaps. If we are open and receptive, we might see and hear: what is true, what is right and necessary, how we want to live.
IV Play is Essential
In response to the question “Is design able to cooperate in the creation of works reserved solely for pleasure?” the preeminent father of design, Charles Eames, recognized the role of play: “Who would say that pleasure is not useful?” Play is a most ordinary of pleasures, but it is hardly expendable. An unexpected combination of colors. A rhythm of shape and pattern that changes the way we see for an instant. A gesture that captures an idea we cannot capture in words. The freedom of thought and movement to think and move through the world openly. Our world is complex: its questions and challenges are unwieldy, sometimes seemingly insurmountable. If good design merges problem solving, creativity and innovation, a playful mind is arguably the most important tool in the work we do. Perhaps, a sense of play is almost a moral obligation in life. Isn’t it for that reason, the places we spend our time should inspire us to think and feel and play?
V Essential is Light
Luminous. Clean. Elegant.
More air. Less noise.
Light is a quiet force in our lives, the most subtle of actors and an example to us all. Light is a quality and a value. To be light — to have humor, levity and perspective. To be nimble, fluid, dexterous and strong. A soft glow that serves as a spacious, expansive background to highlight foreground: a dialogue, a gesture, a fresh idea. A bright spot that helps us isolate and focus what is important. Light, and its correlative, lightness, inspire us to look, to feel, to see and to live only with the essential.
VI Family is Essential
There is something magical about a family. What is it about the similar-but-not-the-same quality that intrigues us? A handful of shells collected on a beach arranged together, a series of investigative sketches on a single subject rendered in slightly different angles. Consider siblings, alike in obvious ways, but uncannily different all the same. Their skills and interests grow in tandem to compliment and coordinate. A family grows over time into a dynamic, pluralistic whole, organically optimized. The connections among members are often visible and immediate — a profile, a mannerism — but there is usually something more. Any strong identity is defined by deeply held and shared values that undergird any surface expression. Some say that belonging to something larger than ourselves, to something where there is a respect for difference and unity, is transcendence. Perhaps this is the essence of family; find your seat at the table.
VII Arper is Essential
Brief N°5 Vol. I — Exercises in the Essential
Concept, Editorial & Design Direction: Wax Studios
Consultation: Lievore Altherr Molina, 2x4
Copy: Carmen Winant, Susan Sellers
Model Photography: Adam Kremer
Product Photography: Scheltens & Abbenes, Marco Covi, Varianti
Styling: Alpha Vomero