A Conversation With Apartment1007

The budding designer talks craft, simplicity, the Renaissance, and more


Apartment1007 is a relatively new artist on the design scene, known for an “incomplete” aesthetic that melds DIY with an adept understanding and technical knowledge of age-old building methods.

In the past year, his practice has gained ground in the social media universe and found square footage in some notable living rooms. At the start of September, Brittany Byrd, owner of Byrd Museum, purchased one of his tables, calling it her “dream coffee table.” Other patrons include Justin Reed, owner and curator of consignment shop, Justinreed.com, whose coffee table is pictured below, and Terminal 27, a new high-end concept store that has two pieces in their personal collection and others to sell in their show space.

Justin Reed's coffee table.

One might be surprised to learn the designer grew up wanting to be a writer. He even studied literature. But perhaps this background makes perfect sense. Prevailing in Apartment1007's work is a narrative guiding of viewers through the creative process and an imparting knowledge through the story.

Chair with serial number 00000096.

It was only after he one-eighty’d into architecture and graduated with a master’s in the field that his practice began to take the shape of the fascinating works we see today.  If you are interested in a visual walkthrough of his products and practice I strongly recommend his Instagram, @apartment1007. You know what they say about pictures and words. You can reach out to purchase pieces through his Instagram as well. It’s a good time to be starting your collection, as you're likely to see his pieces in the homes of more notable names in the coming year.

The clear top exposes the joining hardware beneath.

I was lucky enough to get to talk with the budding designer and craftsmen in August. Our conversation ranged from insights into his thought process and inspirations, to how he constructs his pieces and inserts knowledge into design.

I saw that you were recently in Paris showing some of your pieces, what was that experience like?

I’ve loved Paris since I first went there in college. It's funny, when I was in Paris, selling my work in a dingy storefront I rented out in the Marais, all the Parisians were asking “why Paris?” Honestly, I don’t have a great answer. I think that there are just those sort of bucket list things. One of them was Paris. To sell in Paris. And I did it. (continued)

One of the foam and ratchet strap chair configurations.

I will say that what I learned in Paris is that Parisians really want to understand the work. Most people had never seen my work, yet were willing and interested to validate it simply because they determined the work as beautiful or interesting or rich. In LA people think about the look, is it beautiful? Is it different? Are there things I like about it.? And it doesn’t really have to go beyond the sense of feeling. In Paris, the why and the how we’re much more important.

Materials being prepared for assembly.

Paris and Europe as a whole obviously have a massively influential history and lineage in the fine arts. Your practice seems to be derived from multiple mediums, something you share with famous Renaissance artists. Are they much of an inspiration to you?

I mean when I was studying architecture I was always drawn to two characters. The first was Bernini, who was a sculptor and an architect, and the second (not an architect actually) was Caravaggio. Yeah their work is really interesting but what I found most interesting about them, and this goes for many Renaissance artists, is that they produced a lot of “religious work” even though they themselves weren’t religious. Caravaggio was actually a pretty notorious criminal who ended up killing a pimp (death by castration) supposedly after a bad tennis match. (cont.)

A look into putting a piece together.

The reason these artists worked for the church is really because the church was the best client. They were loaded. So if you got commissioned by the Pope, you had a nice career as an artist. But, because of this, these artists spent a great deal of attention on the details of the pieces, embedding these kinds of subversive and playful antithetics within the pieces. Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is actually pretty explicit. So I always like to seek out the game in these pieces. (cont.)

Egg crate chair with serial number 00000032.

I try to do this same thing in my own work. When I am making my pieces there are a lot of games happening with details, whether that be screw sizing, washer diameters, etc. I make these things so that if people want to look closer they can play the game, or understand that there are patterns and logics I am fleshing out in that specific piece. If someone wants to enjoy it as a chair they can do that, but the joy for me is in the layers of details. If you want to seek it out, the pieces can reveal more to you.

Reconstructing pieces in Paris to sell.

As someone who reimagines the design process in your practice, would you say that great designers can convey knowledge without actually teaching you anything?

I would say that anyone or anything that can make someone lean in and pay closer attention to detail involves a sense of mastery or skill. I think the answer is yes, in some ways, but it requires a deep understanding of the current culture and maybe some immediate histories. With my work, I try to dig into that DIY, suburban culture a little bit; dad in the garage working on his hot-rod kind of vibe. My grandpa worked for Shell, and he could fix anything. He built his house, garden, his greenhouse and fixed his car. That generation knew about things like bolt sizing, lumber sizing, I mean they pretty much knew how to build a house, and we have in some ways lost that.

In Japan, there is a shrine called Jingū. Every 20 years this shrine is taken apart and rebuilt. This has been happening for over 1000 years. The reason is to preserve the building techniques that have been passed down through history and generations. The point of this is to say that my work tries, in its own way, to act as a shrine to some sort of build it, pull yourself up by your bootstraps culture. Many of my pieces are built exactly like floors, walls and ceilings are. So in a way I am preserving and sharing this knowledge. My pieces are almost this archive of historical types of construction, that's why you can see the frame. I don’t cover up the frame, it’s about displaying the things that we are losing, and preserving something too, but of course, we are gaining things too.

A burnt foam and ratchet strap egg crate chair. Serial number 00000075.

I would imagine if your grandpa building his house had the 3D modelling tools we have today it would have made his job much easier. Are you using any modelling with your pieces?

I think modelling is valuable for complex geometries. Modelling makes things more repeatable and more consistent and more scalable. I’ve spent a lot of time on the computer, and right now I am finding that there is discovery in the act of labor or the act of thinking with my hands and my body. It’s important to me that I build everything in the studio - I touch every piece I build. My goal is not to try to make pieces faster, but to make pieces better. This allows me to wander through a piece. It’s hard to wander and have a pleasant accident through 3d modeling. I like to find out details as I am making it. All of my pieces are essentially half complete in my studio. I like to stew in them, and that process has produced some of the work that gets me most excited.

The Studio chair. Serial number 00000084.

If you're in a time crunch with a client, is there a balance of designing for yourself versus designing for the needs of a client?

I think when I started I had this vision of this god artist builder where it’s my way or the highway. But now I really appreciate the relationships with the client. My work has created a space where  I am free to imagine and I’ve recognized that when someone sees my work, that they too are invited into this sort of “imagination” space. I definitely let people propose ideas, sometimes say no, but sometimes I say yes.

Always burnt, never painted. A Japanese technique known as Shou Sugi Ban.

Before you started your furniture practice were there any other hobbies or passions that transformed or carried over into your current one?

When I was younger, I would build (or try to build) RC cars with my friend and his dad. I always had eyes bigger than my stomach and would buy the hardest builds, try to build them, then give up. Then my friend’s dad, Joe Plocharczyk, would sit in his little garage shop and put together hundreds of these tiny gears and pieces together at night so that John and I could race in the cul-de-sac. (cont.)

A rare sighting of the team at work.

Also, when I was younger, my dad bought an old house and decided to remodel it. He was in construction so he got all his buddies together, stripped the building down to its studs, and built it back up while we lived in a trailer out front. I was really young at the time and I was bored because it was summer and I had nothing to do in the trailer. So my dad gave me the biggest sledgehammer he had and told me to swing as hard as I could at the brick facade that lined the front of the house. That was my job, to tear out the brick. So I’m there, maybe 6 or 7, sledgehammer in hand and safety goggles strapped to my head, swinging with my whole body at this brick. All-day. I was one of the homies here, working on my house, sweating, getting in my eyes and everything. This really was the first memory I have of having a purpose, this probably was my first job. Every night we would lay out a piece of drywall over sawhorses and sit on egg crates to have Chen’s 101, the only Chinese food in the neighborhood. Both these are really beautiful and strong memories that I have of being a kid connected to people who were really making things at really different scales. I guess my work kind of balances these.

"unnumbered" chair.

The sense of familiarity your work evokes in people is very interesting. Someone can instantly relate to one of your pieces and know nothing about the design choices you made. Do you sense people look and go “I can do that?”

There was a time I can remember not being able to build anything. I couldn’t design anything or draw anything, and I remember that being not very long ago. I definitely believe in labour, and believe in hard work, and of course, there are certain people that can dedicate more time to things than others, but I think I’ve always kind of understood the notion of the Jackson Pollock, I mean maybe he’s not the best example, but that idea of like, oh my kid can do that. I guess my follow-up would be “then do it”, because I think you would actually be a better person if you tried to create that piece. That’s not an insult, and technique is not what is difficult about art, it’s going in every day and doing that thing, making time for it. Even in spite of people disagreeing with you, in spite of not making money, in spite of being behind on your bills. (cont.)

The hardware is seen here attaching the leg to the body.

It’s funny, sometimes I’ll build a piece and post it, and, man, I love the troll universe, like sometimes people will be like “I can’t believe she spent money on this, I could build this.” A lot of what makes the pieces difficult is the size of them, fitting pieces through doorways, finding ways to transport them. You have to get clever. As you said, my goal is to create an entry point, whether that be a conversational one, or an imaginative one, a way of seeing familiar things differently. I always want people to interact and have a fuller experience with my work, maybe that means the texture, or the smell or sound. Those things are really important. At the end of the day it’s not just an object it’s a performance. It’s like a glass bridge, you’re not walking on it to get somewhere, it’s the experience, and that brings a sense of an immediate awareness to the activity your doing, every step is important. My sense of the chair isn’t for traditional use. (cont.)

Details of the "Grancini Torched" coffee table.

I want it to be important for sitting to be important for that moment. Appreciating the simple things. I want the chairs to be a bit dangerous, there are some bolts sticking out, if you aren’t careful you might hurt your leg. I want you to see exactly what you’re doing so that when you sit, you’re actually present. Ideally, you are thinking about how you’re sitting, you are aware, maybe self-conscious, and I like how at that point the people sitting are actors, possibly feeling weird while using the pieces. I really hope it engages people to talk more about very simple things.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and concision