The Dwell 24: Grain

The Dwell 24: Grain

By Dwell
Designer-couple James and Chelsea Minola match age-old furniture techniques with modern design ambitions and eco-friendly materials.

Since they founded Grain, husband-and-wife team James and Chelsea Minola have racked up an impressive list of achievements and accolades. The immediate appeal of the pair’s accessible, small-batch creations, which range from tabletop objects to rugs to lighting, has made them a design world darling (Grain’s work has made numerous cameos in this magazine, though this is their first time on this list) and has led to collaborations with industry giants such as Design Within Reach and Anthropologie.

James and Chelsea Minola

But while their products are visually striking, the couple’s mission goes deeper, based on their firm commitment to environmental and social responsibility. 

"What is important is not just the materials we are using in our products," Chelsea says, "but the ways we are showing up in our local community."

Currently, Grain is working with more eco-friendly materials like cork (expect a new furniture collection soon), looking to bring more of its manufacturing in-house, and seeking more diverse vendors and partnerships.

Below, learn how James thinks design could be more inclusive and read more of his responses to our Q&A.

Hometown: Bainbridge Island, WA

Describe what you make in 140 characters. Grain is a design practice dedicated to social and environmental responsibility that unites manufacturing technologies and craft techniques.

What's the last thing you designed? A robotic mill that we’re building for the studio.

The Saddle Stool by Grain

Do you have a daily creative ritual? It is not always daily, but trail running.

How do you procrastinate? Following manufacturing equipment auction sites.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? An espresso machine, kitchen faucet, and electric van because they are all things that I have been researching but haven't been able to find to my specs yet.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? My kids!

What skill would you most like to learn? Sailing.

The Dish Side Table by Grain 

The Dish Desk by Grain

What is your most treasured possession? We have some very nice Lie-Nielsen hand planes in the studio that I would be sad to lose.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? My dad has always been into cars. He constantly pointed out makes and models and various design details when I was growing up. He still does.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? I don't really despise anything, but I try to be aware so that I don't repeat.

Finish this statement: All design should...have a purpose, add value, and reduce impact.

The Drift Side Table, Saddle Stool, Snake Screen, and other products by Grain

What’s in your dream house? A shower with a skylight.

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? Stress eating.

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I don't know if it will as people seem desperate to "get back to normal."

How can the design world be more inclusive? By getting kids interested young and by letting them see design as a possible career path. I didn't find out about industrial design until I was about to drop out of college. It just wasn't something that was part of my vocabulary, let along a skill that I though about as a profession.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? That caring about design and how something is made is not just about style, but a way for you to invest in things that support your values. 

You can learn more about Grain by visiting their website or on Instagram

The Dwell 24 2020

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