Communicating Thoughts Through Design with PELLE
PELLE, based in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, is an independent design studio that couples the practices of engineering and art to create expressive design objects. Co-founded by Jean and Oliver Pelle in 2011, PELLE offers an original collection of hand produced, professional refined pieces, integrating artistic exploration with architectural integrity. With collections ranging from lighting and furniture to art objects, PELLE is continually expanding into new areas of design and materials.
Here, PELLE shares their creative & production process, their trade show strategy, and their inspiration behind the Beam & Glow collection which debuted at ICFF.
Jean and Oliver – your small studio team handcrafts each of Pelle’s products to order. What’s the production process like, from inspiration to finished product?
It is important to us to give ideas their own space to grow. We do not try to fit the development into current methods of production, but rather see where the idea ends up. Every idea takes a different path. Sometimes it is spontaneous and evolves quickly, sometimes it simmers over years before all pieces fit together. The open ended-ness is the exciting part to us. We have noticed over the years that a collection is not necessarily complete once we release it. There is inevitably more refinement over time on how we make it. The Bubble Chandelier Series was released by Jean in 2008 and evolves to this date. We still make little tweaks here and there.
How does designing make you feel?
We feel that we are in a fortunate position to really work for ourselves. We are not designing for others like we used to when we were architects. We create and ‘solve’ our own problems which is very exciting and challenging at the same time. Our work is very personal to us so designing creates equal feelings of exhilaration and anxiety. We hope that the new ideas resonate with people. In the end, successful design is also about communicating your thoughts to others in a way that creates a response. When the work gets a good reception, it is very gratifying.
What do you enjoy most about collaborating with interior designers?
Good interior designers have a unique ability to create intricate ensembles of objects, colors, and texture in space. We really like it when different styles and vocabularies are composed towards a larger whole. It can be really energizing. It is a pleasure for us to see how an interior designer can envision our work in new contexts.
“Successful design is also about communicating your thoughts to others in a way that creates a response.”
How do you typically work with interior designers?
We use our showroom to show the full range of our work from mostly lighting but also including some furniture pieces. It helps to show interior designers and architects our ability to work closely within their needs through our ability to customize much of our lighting collections.
Which trade shows and markets does PELLE prioritize and why?
We like being very deliberate in how our work is shown and experienced. That is why we spent considerable efforts into creating the right setting in our showroom as well as trade shows. Since much of our clientele is in the design trade, we like to debut new work for industry trade shows like Architectural Digest Home Design Show and ICFF.
Your Beam & Glow collection was introduced at ICFF in NYC. What was the inspiration behind the collection and how was the collection received at ICFF?
A lot of our work looks inward where we respond to our existing work in some way. We don’t like to repeat ourselves, so we are looking for a new point of departure. When we began thinking of a new collection, we had many different starting points ranging from working with new materials and techniques – precision bent aluminum – to exploring colored light sources. The design process between the two of us is quite fluid where we work by overlapping our ideas rather than excluding one over the other. Our work is always the result of both of us.
For the Beam & Glow, we became really interested in not only coloring the aluminum – hand-stained or anodized – but also the light source or LED lens. We wanted the Beam & Glow pieces to have a strong visual character that translates through the color of the metal as well as the color of the light. The simple geometry of the pieces hides the intricacies of its inside and showcase the chromatic colored lens that emits hues of rose and amber light. We wanted to create an immersive sort of lighting collection that can go beyond being simply a functioning light source. We were also very excited to receive the ICFF Editor’s Award for Lighting.
Based on your knowledge, at what point should a designer start to spec lighting for a space?
Generally, we like the idea that the interior is build around some core pieces. Lighting has a lot of impact on the space and can be very powerful if done right. The right light fixture can pull the ‘whole ensemble’ together, so to speak.
Since we build all lights to order, it helps if the designer understands the lead time as well as the opportunities to customize the lights to their needs. That all takes time, so it can never be too early in a project to pay attention to it. Our lead times are typically anywhere between 8-16 weeks depending on the size of the light. But for obvious reasons, it is not a good idea to wait until the last minute to order the light assuming that writing the spec document happened some time earlier. Carrying the right budget for lighting is probably one of the most important parts of the whole equation. That way, the designer and client can get the light they actually want, rather than what the leftover budget affords.
If you were to give a PSA to all interior designers, what tips would you share with designers to work effectively with their vendors?
It really helps if designers understand our product lines as well as our capabilities. We located our studio and showroom in the New York Flatiron District so that designers and clients can come to see our work in person in a central location. That little bit of time makes all the difference and gives the foundation for long term relationships. As designers get more familiar with our work, the more likely they can visualize it for upcoming projects.
“It is a pleasure for us to see how an interior designer can envision our work in new contexts.”
In your opinion, how has technology impacted the design industry?
Technology allows us to work more effectively as well as more deliberately. We have more tools to explore our ideas, more vendors we can approach to do custom parts we might need, and there are advances in LED technology that allows for more and more formal flexibility. Technology in general has a lot of positives with some drawbacks. It seems to make everything more immediate and digestible where images replace too easily the physical work. We still need to sort good ideas from not so good ones which in the end remains just as challenging as it always has been.
As a business, how have you shifted your focus and strategy to thrive in today’s market?
We feel we have a unique point of view when it comes to design manufacturing and where we can make a difference is by proposing new ideas, providing superior product quality and service.
What’s next for PELLE?
We just made it through exhibiting at ICFF during New York design week and now we’re focusing more internally at the studio. On the top of our list is acquiring a screen projector for watching films during our lunch breaks!
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