The Dwell 24: Casey Lurie

The Dwell 24: Casey Lurie

Once a designer-in-residence for Japanese furniture manufacturer Idée, the Chicago-based designer now uses craft and industrial techniques to produce thoughtfully proportioned furniture and objects.
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Casey Lurie started out studying art but turned to furniture making as an escape. "I was doing conceptual art, sculpture, and video," he says of his student days at CalArts. "Furniture was a way for me to make something that didn’t require a super conceptual framework." Following an apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker in Los Angeles, Lurie introduced his own line of plywood furniture.

Designer Casey Lurie sits beside a piece from his Everyday Shelving project.

The owner of the Japanese manufacturer Idée saw Lurie's work and invited him to work in Tokyo as the brand’s designer-in-residence for three years. "I wasn’t coming from a design background, so it was a big learning curve," says Lurie, "but it was an amazing education."

Lurie's Lap Table is named for the lap joints that make up its structure. The piece serves the basic function of a side table with a place for reading materials.

Now based in Chicago, Lurie dives deeply into various furniture typologies, in quests to uncover new ideas. A recent passion was shelving—he sketched a new design every day for a year, ruminating on how stronger structural connections could generate new forms, including units with conical and zigzagging elements. 

"I’m really careful about putting things out into the world," he says. "I make prototypes and live with them for a year or two before I decide."

Lurie's studio in Chicago, Illinois. 

A look inside the studio.

Learn why Charles and Ray Eames inspired Lurie to go into design, and read his other responses to our Q&A below.

Hometown: Santa Barbara, California 

Current Location: Chicago, Illinois

Describe what you make in 140 characters. I make straightforward, elegantly designed furniture with attention to detail, scale, and proportion. 

What's the last thing you designed? A sofa. 

Do you have a daily creative ritual? Yes, drawing with pencils and watercolor. 

How do you procrastinate? Hunting for vintage touring bikes and parts. 

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? A car. I think it would be an immensely interesting challenge, and I like the idea of a long-term project which has so many features, details, and contexts to consider. Plus I don't see any interesting car designs coming out these days. As far as I am concerned the whole enterprise is on the wrong track and needs to be seriously reconsidered.

Lurie's reimagined step stool features space between the alternatively shaped risers to fit a hand, with a well-balanced weight to make it easier to carry around.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? My partner Julia and my daughter Rei. 

What skill would you most like to learn? So many but right now I wish I was a better bike mechanic. 

What is your most treasured possession? My collection of books, records, notebooks, and ephemera related to my grandfather, the poet Toby Lurie.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? My 7th grade science teacher showed us Eames films. It's the first time I remember thinking about furniture design as a possible career.What contemporary design trend do you despise?I don't follow design trends. 

Finish this statement: All design should...question its reason for being. If it can't come up with a clear, concise, and compelling answer, we don't need it. 

What’s in your dream house? My loved ones and my stuff. 

Lurie's Folio lamp is constructed from two pieces of laser cut spring steel, with distinctive folds and pop rivets creating its structure and form.

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? I have become completely reliant on bikes for transportation.

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I am hopeful that more outdoor and open air space will be incorporated into residential, workplace, and commercial design. 

How can the design world be more inclusive? By being less exclusive. It sounds like a joke but it's not. Design has become a service industry for corporations and the rich. We need to shift back to earlier and more elementary concerns of making useful, durable things and solving actual problems. 

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? It's not glamorous. A large part of my job consists of moving heavy things around.

You can learn more about Lurie by visiting his website or on Instagram.

The Dwell 24 2020

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