7 Whimsical Sights at Sight Unseen’s OFFSITE Design Fair

These objects made us rethink the beauty of functionality—and vice versa.

by Marina Garcia-Vasquez
May 17 2016, 5:35pm

Germans Ermics (left) and Merve Kahraman (right).Photo by Pippa Drummond for Sight Unseen OFFSITE

Over the weekend, thousands of visitors found their way to Sight Unseen’s yearly OFFSITE design fair. The fair spotlights emerging product designers and attracts art world aficionados, fashion brand titans, and interior design connoisseurs, alike.

From throw pillows to lighting sculptures, OFFSITE displays a wide variety of talents and their latest wares. It feels more like an art walk than an industry fair, and that’s the point: founders Monica Khemsurovare and Jill Singer are invested in curating the overall design experience, providing a number of entry points and a range of participation—pop-up shops, interactive installations, a cafés, and more. Khemsurov, co-founder of Sight Unseen and OFFSITE, tells The Creators Project, “We don’t have curatorial themes. We have an innate aesthetic that appeals to us—which is hard to describe but which often involves clean lines, the right visual balance of colors and geometries, quality in construction, and the absence of anything superfluous or jokey/kitschy.”

Uprise Art. Photo by Pippa Drummond for Sight Unseen OFFSITE

That OFFSITE aesthetic can be found in every inch of the fair. It comes as a sudden serious attraction to a ceramic piece or a printed towel, basic items you’d never think to obsess over until you begin to. The items become elevated, objects of art, though Khemsurov says, “It really doesn’t matter to either us or the designers how the end user employs the objects—as art or functional pieces—but in our show, I’d say the vast majority of the works are theoretically functional.”

Many of the objects that caught our attention were playful renditions of seemingly mundane things masterfully made colorful and intelligent. The experience felt like a personal reawakening of aesthetic practices and new design techniques. Each of the pieces below uplifted our notions of functionality:


Image courtesy Sight Unseen OFFSITE

Founded by Monica Khemsurov, Su Wu, and Eviana Hartman, Tetra specializes on elevating the aesthetics of smoking with objects like pipes, ashtrays, and lighters. This vibrant blue glass pipe designed by Jamie Wolfond of Good Thing makes getting high ever more elegant.

Concrete Cat

Image courtesy Sight Unseen OFFSITE

Established by Matt and Shawna Heide in 2007, these design cats explore concrete as a material to be patterned and colored, taking emphasis away from concrete as a merely structural element, and making it into a unique sculptural material. Their marbleized cinder blocks pose a great opportunity for exposed architectural foundations. 

Chiozza and Studio Proba

Photo by Pippa Drummond for Sight Unseen OFFSITE

Suspended Confetti, by Chiozza and Studio Proba, is a hanging sculpture made of iridescent shapes that hang from a mirrored disc. The result is a reflecting pool made up of sparkling illusions. It’s a playful and charming reminder that adults and serious designers can be childlike, and successful, too.

Thing Industries

Image courtesy Sight Unseen OFFSITE

Established in 2013 by Bridie Picot, Thing industries is a studio that designs what they call “adventurous things” for the home. We were smitten by the fun she brings to the Breakfast in Bed duvet set and the Stick Shelves. Thing emphasizes producing objects in the best location for their choice of material, like wool from Scotland and steel from LA.

Dusen Dusen Home

Image courtesy Site Unseen OFFSITE

Designed by Ellen Van Dusen as a home goods line anchored by printed textiles like bedding and blankets, Dusen Dusen Home makes bold patterns with bright colors. Van Dusen has expanded the brand to include a clothing line that utilizes the same patterns into blouses, shirts, and dresses, spinning a new yarn on the patterns-on-patterns aesthetic.

Bianco Light Space

Image courtesy Sight Unseen OFFSITE

Bianco Light Space is a sculpture and design studio based in Brooklyn, New York. Their blue glass sculptures are reminiscent of architectural landmarks through time.

Liz Collins Studio

Photo by Pippa Drummond for Sight Unseen OFFSITE

Liz Collins Studio reimagines traditional textile techniques and makes large-scale rugs in extreme textures. Here we see a series of massive rugs inspired by those hand­-loomed potholders you used to make as a kid. Their sheer size makes them art installations in and of themselves. 

To learn more about Sight Unseen, click here


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