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Bright lights, big city: The up-and-coming designers of NYC

1 March 2019By Harriet Mays Powell

A new generation of interior designers are making waves in the Big Apple, says Harriet Mays Powell...

Surface charm: Callidus Guild

Led by Yolande Milan Batteau, Brooklyn design studio Callidus Guild specialises in hand-painted wallpaper and bespoke wall coverings. Raised in Los Angeles, Batteau pursued painting while studying at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she developed her own pigments and textures. She and her team fabricate large-scale installations, panels and wall treatments with surfaces that use plaster, precious metals and handmade paints. It all started with a fortuitous introduction to architect Peter Marino, which led to her working on Chanel and Louis Vuitton stores.

A 2016 Callidus Guild collaboration with Dimore Studio for The Future Perfect gallery in New York.

Today, she specialises in residential projects. Having an affinity with a wide range of cultures, Batteau takes artisanal techniques and combines them with contemporary design. “My best work comes out of happy accidents,” she says. “Sometimes you learn more by working with materials in unlikely ways. Free experimenting can deliver wondrous results.” Batteau calls her work “art for architecture”, explaining that “art is usually put in a space, but art for architecture is integral to a structure and physically attached to the building in some way.”

The lighting prodigy: Bec Brittain

Born into a family of architects, painters and furniture makers, Bec Brittain was always destined for a career in design – but it was a spell with lighting designer Lindsey Adelman that “truly crystallised what had previously been a wandering path”, she says. Brittain founded her studio in Brooklyn in 2011, designing the SHY light, the product that launched her business. The studio moved to Manhattan in 2016. Everything is designed and engineered by Brittain and hand-assembled by her team before she personally inspects it. Having a small team enables the studio to execute projects both small and large, says Brittain.

Her latest concept, Aries, features slender brass frames and refracting glass prisms. As with the SHY light, it is made from a kit of components that allow it to be configured in forms that are as compact or expansive as desired. “I really enjoy the fact that I can make intimate pieces and large site-specific installations from exactly the same set of parts,” she says.

Bec Brittain's Aries light

Plaster master: Stephen Antonson

Stephen Antonson reworks plaster to create furnishings and accessories for the home. Working out of his atelier in Brooklyn, he makes every piece by hand, and his designs are worked out on paper. Each item is created with a steel or wood base, which is layered with plaster over many weeks. Antonson sculpts and sands it repeatedly to achieve the desired effect, then seals it with shellac.

Zeus Mirror in bronze, a new work by Stephen Antonson.

“People don’t think of plaster as a functional material, but we make tables in all sorts of finishes that can be used as dining surfaces, or for work purposes,” says Antonson. “There is this misconception that plaster is fragile, but it can withstand weight, as well as spills, and can be extremely elegant. It may be a humble material, but it’s one that really lets you see the hand of an artisan.” He prefers white: “It shows form and texture the best. And white goes with everything.”

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