Each person we interviewed pointed us to furniture, lighting, and other objects for your home that represent what’s going on in design where they live.
Daniel Moreno Flores and Marie Combette
Outside of its UNESCO-listed historic center, the Ecuadorian capital has become a magnet for such international "starchitects" as Jean Nouvel, Bjarke Ingels, and Carlos Zapata. But for Quito architects Daniel Moreno Flores and Marie Combette, the projects that represent the city’s emerging design ethos come from a different cohort.
"Quito’s young designers are motivated to make significant changes for the city by emphasizing local resources, social concerns, tradition, and artisan capabilities," Flores says. "As global cities become more homogenized, it’s an act of cultural conservation to understand the place where we live and take advantage of regional resources."
Flores and Combette’s Quito-based firm, La Cabina de la Curiosidad, designs unconventional spaces in and around the city. Their projects prioritize reused materials, such as shipping containers, as well as locally sourced mediums.
"There is an ancestral intelligence in knowing how to occupy the materials from our territory, such as fibers, cottons, wood, or recyclables," Combette says. She cites eucalyptus wood—which grows abundantly in Ecuador—as one traditional resource embraced by younger designers.
The duo point to La Floresta, La Tola, and the historic center as "Quito neighborhoods with a lot of creative energy and strong Indigenous roots," calling out galleries such as +ARTE and No Lugar.
"There’s a healthy spirit of companionship between the local architects, designers, and other creatives," explains Flores, whose peers include Ecuadorian architects Aquiles Jarrin and Felipe Escudero, as well as firms like Diez+Muller.
"There’s a willingness to be part of a network that shares knowledge, generates debate, and sustains community based on cultural conservation," Combette says. "We can have our own contemporary design language that’s in dialogue with tradition."
"Quito is a city with a lot of constantly transforming energy, and many of the ideas that young design teams are generating are aimed toward seeking the common good."
—Marie Combette, La Cabina de la Curiosidad
Jarra by 162 | Atelier de Cerámica
Consola Maria by Lomé
Boa Duo by Mathieu de Genot
For Tosin Oshinowo, founder and director of Lagos-based architecture firm cmDesign Atelier, the common thread among the city’s most exciting designers is that their creations celebrate Nigerian heritage and maintain "a truth to materiality." While Nigeria’s economy is the largest in Africa—with an established film industry and fashion scene—the country’s manufacturing sector isn’t as robust, which presents a hurdle for many product designers.
"You have to create from the bottom up, because often what you’re looking for doesn’t exist in this environment," she says. "The irony is that it really pushes the opportunity to be creative." When it comes to using local resources, the Lagos-born, London-educated architect and designer leads by example. Oshinowo’s llé llà furniture line, which celebrates her Yoruba heritage through hand-loomed creations, uses Nigerian teak and traditional asò-oké textiles for the armchairs in the Adùnní collection.
"In this part of the world, we’ve been brought up thinking that things that were local were not terribly exciting," Oshinowo says. "But there’s a generation of Nigerians who are now growing up in a place where their own creativity is being appreciated."
Some of the individuals at the forefront of this renaissance include Nifemi Marcus-Bello, Obida Obioha, and Olubunmi Adeyemi, who, like Oshinowo, were born in Nigeria and studied abroad and have since set up shop in Lagos. "Because of his [well-connected professional] background, Nifemi probably has the opportunity to get things done internationally, but he’s made a very conscious effort to have his designs made in Nigeria," Oshinowo explains.
Oshinowo cites Rele Gallery and the Temple Muse concept shop as two spaces in Lagos that have been "very intentional" about showcasing young Nigerian artists’ and designers’ work. "The entrepreneurial creative spirit is alive and well in my city," she says.
"It’s exciting to be able to celebrate your culture and create pieces using local materials within that context. Hopefully it will help a generation of Nigerians to find their voice and be proud of where they’re from."
—Tosin Oshinowo, cmDesign Atelier
Yasmin Stools by Obida Obioha
Handle Bowl, Mortar + Pestle 2, and Masai Long Spoon by Dá Brand
Spice Bowl by Dá Brand
Àdùnní Collection by llé llá
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Built on centuries-old craft traditions such as lacquerware, silk weaving, and ceramics, with remnants of a colonial and war-ridden past, Ho Chi Minh City could easily be defined by its complicated history. But a community of young creatives is carving out a new identity for the city.
One is Tuan Le, founder of The Lab, a multidisciplinary design studio. Born in Vietnam and raised in Los Angeles, Le has lived everywhere from San Francisco to Dubai and Tokyo—but in 2013, he repatriated to set down some roots. "There are a lot of people in Saigon who, like me, came back from abroad," Le says. "Previously, Vietnamese culture had been put on the back burner because the country was trying to globalize. Now, everybody wants to rediscover their roots—I think that’s why the city has a great design scene right now."
Le cites the Pham Viêt Chánh neighborhood in the Binh Thanh district as one of the city’s most dynamic areas. Neighboring Districts 2 and 3 are also quickly developing creative enclaves. "Tons of bars, cafes, and studios are opening up," Le says, "and young designers are organizing into little cliques, or ‘houses.’ There’s a crew called 42 the Hood with local fashion designers and models. They just opened their own concept store and cafe called OBJoff, where they brought in their ceramicist, sculptor, and painter friends."
On a typical night out (before the pandemic), you could find the city’s young designers and artists at Que by Kaarem, a pop-up hosted by its namesake New York– and Ho Chi Minh–based fashion designer in a small bar above his studio. "When he does a pop-up, everybody will come through," Le says. "It’s a very narrow building in an alley, and the upstairs area looks out over a bridge with highway traffic. While people hang out, you can see the trucks passing by. That whole scene is like a microcosm of Saigon."
"Everyone in Ho Chi Minh City’s design community helps each other. There isn’t a lot of money going around for the younger creatives, so they band together."
—Tuan Le, The Lab
Tay mó Amateurs
Rong Daybed by Tomas Tran
Since he moved from Selma, Alabama, to Atlanta more than two decades ago, Maurice Cherry, the founder of Lunch, a multidisciplinary creative studio, has watched the city’s design community navigate an evolving landscape. "Atlanta is a city that tries to reinvent itself every seven to ten years," says Cherry, whose award-winning podcast Revision Path features Black designers, developers, and other creatives from around the world.
That’s not to say Atlanta doesn’t have an established foundation. Young talent streams in through universities like the Georgia Institute of Technology and up from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and each year the city hosts the Atlanta Design Festival. It’s also home to the Museum of Design Atlanta, the Southeast’s only dedicated design museum.
"We also have a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, so you have this very strong Black culture," Cherry says. "But the city itself is extremely spread out, so a lot of the things that make Atlanta unique from a design perspective exist in little enclaves."
In areas like Peachtree Hills and Buckhead, you’ll primarily find high-end showrooms like the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. But in neighborhoods like Castleberry Hill and West Midtown, former warehouses are now art galleries and studios for the city’s up-and-coming furniture makers, ceramicists, and other designers. The Design Within Reach and Switch Modern showrooms—both in West Midtown—cater to consumers of contemporary European furniture, while at smaller galleries like Kai Lin Art, MINT, and The Gallery by Wish, installations by local sculptors rub elbows with works by self-taught street artists.
"Atlanta is a mix of high brow and low brow. It’s country. It’s rock. It’s hip hop," Cherry says."You could say the city is the pot, but there’s not a lot of melting. The mix of ingredients doesn’t necessarily make sense, but it tastes good."
"Atlanta’s metropolitan area is extremely spread out—the type of design you’ll see in the city is really going to depend on which neighborhood you visit."
—Maurice Cherry, Lunch
Athens is perhaps best known for its ruins—from the dilapidated remnants of ancient Greek civilizations to buildings left empty by the 2009 economic collapse. But new life is taking hold as the next generation of artists and designers transforms once derelict spaces into cafes, bars, art galleries, and, maybe most important, studios.
Stamos Michael—an interior architect, furniture designer, and cofounder of Athens’s artist-run Grace gallery—explains that the city’s low rents have attracted emerging creatives from within Greece and abroad.
"There are many empty spaces that can easily be transformed into studios," Michael says. "Students are coming from European universities to practice their craft. The ability to have an affordable studio is crucial for young artists and designers, and it’s very easy to do here."
The designer points to Rodeo Gallery and Carwan Gallery as two international exhibition spaces that have solidified the city’s growing design scene in recent years. Both galleries occupy formerly abandoned warehouses in the Port of Piraeus. Founded in Istanbul, Rodeo Gallery opened in 2018 in an old tobacco factory, while Carwan Gallery relocated from Beirut last September to a 19th-century factory.
Michael—who recently turned a wrecked 1930s residence in the Philopappou Hill area into the guesthouse–cum–exhibition space Esperinos—is one of many up-and-coming Athens designers focused on discarded and repurposed objects. "Kostas Lambridis’s work uses a mix of raw materials that relate to the Athenian industrialized landscape," says Michael, who also calls out Savvas Laz, a Greek designer creating nontraditional furnishings from everyday products and found items.
In October, the first-ever Athens Design Week will be held in the millennia-old capital. "It’ll be the first time the city’s design community will officially come together," Michael says. "It’s going to be spectacular."
"There’s a patchwork of architectural styles in Athens due to the high development years. It gives you a lot of freedom as a designer because you’re like, ‘Okay, I can do whatever I want.’"
—Stamos Michael, Grace
Holy Yogurt by Greece Is for Lovers
Credit: Photo captions written by Adrian Madlener
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