Designer Spotlight: Matthew Plumstead

Designer Spotlight: Matthew Plumstead

By Diana Budds
Minnesota-based designer Matthew Plumstead has had quite the year. His Integrated Workstation project for Herman Miller won a Red Dot award for best design concept and his Kickstarter campaign recently raised enough funds to put Clip Tree, his valet launched at ICFF, into production.

One of Plumstead's paintings.

Plumstead designed Integrated Workspace to accommodate all of the postures one might have throughout the workday—a traditional desk, standing station, and daybed.

Plumstead describes the Clip Tree valet as sheet music where the bars are posts and the notes are the adjustable clips."I became focused on entry hall," he says of the concept. "I was trying to come up with a system with fairly simple parts for shipping and manufacturing, and for it to be configurable so people would have authorship over the object."

Before graduating from Cranbrook with a degree in 3-D Design, Plumstead was painter. An architect frequently visited his gallery shows, noted that he had an architectural logic in his works, and suggested he change fields. That idea piqued Plumstead's interest. Since he had no background in building, he decided "it was probably good to try and learn how to put things together" and enrolled at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. "At that point, I was hooked and scrapped architecture and stuck with furniture." He then went on to earn a BFA in furniture design from MCAD.

"My focus is on looking at human behavior in a home or office and finding ways to make those areas more harmonious and activities more mindful," says Plumstead about his creative process. "I start by looking at an underutilized space and finding out how can I make it better for a person."

With Integrated Workstation, Plumstead took another look at office furniture. "It's an interesting time for the typology since politics have changed," he says noting that in the past, the main objective of offices was to fit as many people in as possible. Now, offices are trying to show that they value the well-being and comfort of their employees, especially since the traditional 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. workday isn't the norm for a growing number of people. "What's the strongest political statement that you can make?" he posits. "Introducing a place where you can put your feet up."

Though Plumstead is hard at work getting his studio up and running and Clip Tree into production, he found the time to answer our questionnaire:

Ideal working environment: A rehabilitated warehouse space within an easy bike ride of my house. Lots of desk space, books, prototypes, and natural light.

Lucky break: Being selected for the ICFF Studio Award this year really helped to put the career wheels in motion for me right out of graduate school.

Dream commission: Being asked to design an office system or maybe a limited-edition object with no budget constraints.

Hero: Achille Castiglioni, Dieter Rams

Annoying buzzword: Honest (as in "made of honest materials")

Best compliment: Nice Shoes

Currently reading: The Hobbit—I first read it when I was ten and decided now would be the time to re-read it before the movies have their way with it.

Last film watched: I have to sheepishly admit it was The Avengers... It's not my fault; I collected comic books when I was a kid! That's how they get you!

Most recent playlist: I am hooked on Coexist by The xx, Beams by Matthew Dear, and The Haunted Man by Bat for Lashes.

The house is on fire, the first thing you grab is: An original Eames leg splint

Your eureka moment: For my first furniture design class, I made a contact lens case out of steel, cork, and beeswax (it was functional, really!). I knew then that this was the path to artistic and intellectual fulfillment.

Best advice: Not sure if it is the best but it is the most recent: "Jump off of the cliff and build the plane on the way down."

Worst-ever idea: Too hard to crown just one as the winner

When not designing: I'm explaining how and why everything works the way it does to my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Clara.

The best seat in the house: I have a pair of vintage Scandia chairs by Hans Brattrud that are awesome. They are so elegant and smart.

Wish you had: My own 3-D printer

Looking forward to: Going for a run with my daughter


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