M+D+F in San Francisco.

I sell modern design. It is a career that brings me pleasure every time I walk in the door of my Studio and see the brilliant and beautiful designs that I am surrounded by all day long. Some look at a cubicle wall eight hours a day, or a half-dug ditch, or a stack of paperwork – I stare at Bertjan Pot, Poul Kjaerholm and Nani Marquina. Much like when I drool over clothes by Thom Browne or Raf Simons, I am in awe that there lives a flesh and blood human able to create something so stunning, so refined, so intelligent. There is a reason that artists should be exalted: They are genuinely rare. Very few people can do what they do, creating something out of nothing, bringing life to pedestrian materials. To most of us a chunk of wood becomes firewood. To a designer it becomes something the world has literally never seen before. To a brilliant designer it becomes something breathtaking and, yes, life-changing. This is why I feel it is truly an honor to work with the designs and designers that I work with every day.

All that lofty introduction is to say that hosting an event such as M+D+F at Design Within Reach was two tons of fun.

It was an honor hosting over a dozen very talented up-and-coming designers last week in the Potrero Studio in San Francisco. From the 80 entries we received down to the final 15 pieces we exhibited, the spirit of design discovery was on full display. Over 300 people crowded into our space to see an elegantly simple bent plywood cradle by Ken So and Angela Wu, a gorgeous solid walnut expandable table by Uli Kutschka, and one of the judges favorites, Jarrod Beglinger’s 45˚ Chair. Twelve other pieces – including a modular column lamp by Barbara Holmes, a concrete public bench by Christine Lee and a sideways rocking chair by Megan White – were also on display. The work was from students, professionals with years of experience and even one whose work is already in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
We had an all-star cast of judges that provided insight, thoughtfulness and decades of design experience to the process. As the one who was moderating the judging process (and throwing in my own three cents, as I am fond of doing), I can attest that the judges were both serious and passionate about every single design (definitely not always passionately in favor of the designs, mind you). They critically examined every joint used on a chair, discussed the sustainability of the materials used on a table and argued over whether certain designs were poor imitations of previously executed ideas or genuinely new ideas. These tough judges were Derek Chen of Council Design; Peter Stathis, designer of the Tube Top and Link Lamp collections; Sarah Rich, editor at Dwell magazine; and Joseph Becker, assistant curator of furniture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Despite the long judging process and the large number of entrants, the winners easily rose to the top of the pile. The winner in the furniture category was the Lightweight, an ash chair designed by Sasha Rich. Photos do not do justice to the impeccable craftsmanship and lovely details that this chair shows off. This could easily and proudly live in your dining room tonight. A special sustainability award was given to the Hang Chair by Anna-Pia Slothower. Her stainless steel and recycled ABS chair was conceived with one eye on the sustainable materials used to create this chair and one on the solid construction and timeless design that will make this an heirloom-quality piece. Finally, Best in Show went to Dylan Gold (the only contestant with three pieces accepted) with his Cornered table. This table, as with his other designs, was a fun concept that had perfectly realized details and finishing. The concept of the fourth leg being replaced by a book or magazine display nook is so obvious, we were a bit surprised it had never been done so well before. Design fans keep a look-out for these names: You will definitely be seeing more of their work in the future.
This posting is already a bit long, so I will fail to mention the drunk elderly woman who I successfully thwarted from shoplifting our Clam Shell Alarm Clock. (Sheesh. I could’ve given her a wake-up call in the morning for free. She didn’t have to resort to the five-finger discount.) I will also fail to mention the Book of Mormon that was placed ever so perfectly on the Little Friend Adjustable Height Table in an odd and passive-aggressive attempt at witnessing to me. I have no problem with Mormons, but kindly keep the proselytizing to yourself – my religion is design and the M+D+F event at the Potrero Studio is my idea of one helluva good day at church.
Here’s some pics:

Best in Show award went to Cornered, a recycled MDF and FSC-certified walnut veneer table by up-and-coming design star Dylan Gold.


Uli Kutschka explains LXL, her solid walnut expandable table, a crowd favorite.


The Fisshu Cradle by Ken So and Angela Wu and the winner of the furniture category, The Lightweight chair by Sasha Rich.


Can I get a witness?

Posted by Eric Hildebrandt, Proprietor, Potrero Studio