Shops We Love: Propeller Modern

Shops We Love: Propeller Modern

By Patrick Sisson
This San Francisco storefront presents modern design from a roster of independent makers and locally-based talents.

Propeller Moder

Owner Lorn Dittfeld loves Eames as much as the next guy, but wanted to focus on challenging, contemporary designers. You can see the Rorschach Coffee Table, Canyon Sofa and figures by Niels Lofstrom.

Founder: Lorn Dittfield

Trapeze Table Lamp by Peter Stathis

“It’s an absolutely sculptural piece where the form and function are beautifully married. It’s a production piece by a company that Peter founded to produce this light. The joints are ball-and-socket, and theres a wire going between the different arms allowing for 360-degree movement. It’s so articulating and fluid, there’s an almost human-like feel to the way the limbs move on it. One of the few table lamps that can look good on the bedside table or as a desk lamp.”

Opening Date: October 2002

Flatiron Dining Table with Solid Brass Stretchers by Soren Rose for De La Espada

“The Flatiron was done for apartments in the building of the same name in New York. It’s a simple table. Brass happens to be a hot material right now, and it’s used in a necessary and a sparing way. It’s not just an adornment, it’s not spoiling the integrity of the table. Having that flourish underneath the table, it takes a moment to recognize it. I like that type of design, where what makes it special isn’t the first thing that you see.”

Address: 555 Hayes Street in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood

Form Brass Tea Set by Tom Dixon

“It has the feeling of a classic, streamlined Art deco tea set. I love that it’s being made now by craftsman in India. It looks beautiful on the table with the tray. I love the feeling, I think of it having 360-degree bleacher seating around it, the pieces just brings the eye in so well, like they’re in an arena or piazza. There’s a beautiful architectural sensibility to them. But you don’t have to overthink it, it just works.”

Phone: (415) 701-7767

Family Turned & Painted Wood Figures by Niels Lofstrom

“Niels is in the neighborhood of 70 years old. I found him at the Milan furniture fair surrounded by these young up-and-comers. He had a booth that was like five feet square in this funky little building amongst people a third his age, and it was exceptional. There’s such a humble nobility to this work, all hand-turned on a lathe, all hand painted. There’s a classic Swedish simplistic sense to the form. It’s a wonderful little family. It’s about the objects, but it’s also the expression of a guy who’s done this his entire life. And it’s a long life at this point.”

Canyon Sofa by Niels Bendtsen for Bensen

“In this case he used a simple, pared-down, rectilinear form, and you can see the dip where the bolster is, goes around the perimeter of the sofa. It’s such a simple gesture, and it rendered it absolutely and completely unique. That sofa came out the year we opened. We were one of the first stores that carried it 11 years ago. It still looks fresh and modern, and still has something interesting about it.”

What’s It All About: After a career in advertising, founder Lorn Dittfeld realized that "furniture and interior design were my preoccupation, and I wanted to make them my occupation." He opened Propeller to focus on emerging North American artists, designers and manufacturers, dedicated to the idea of moving design forward. The name is deeply symbolic as well. "As an object, a propellor is a perfect example of form following function, and yet they’re absolutely gorgeous examples of shape and form in design," says Dittfeld. "It’s incredibly timeless as well—propellers now look the same as they did a century ago."

Heracleum LED chandelier by Moooi

“One of the reasons I chose that was because it’s beautiful. The form itself conducts the electricity. The thing about that light at this moment is, everybody loves the hell out of it. I don’t even have to put any words to it really, everyone who walks in the door thinks it’s beautiful. Even though it’s nearly $4,000, I sell more of that than any single light in the store. I’m not choosing that piece, per se, but the people have spoken.”

Philosophy: "We focus on, first and foremost, smaller and more independent designers. I begun to use the phrase, ‘they’re local to somewhere,’ to describe the designers we carry. A company like IZM, based in Canada, it’s a small shop that has a personal signature. Furniture designed and built by someone with a stake in your happiness."

Bart Seating Collection by Moooi

"Virtually every sofa made is a rectangle in some way shape or form, so I appreciate this form. It has a femininity to it. It looks wonderful in the middle of the room. It’s incredibly comfortable, and very well done."

Best Question a Customer Has Asked in the Last Month: "There are a lot of questions, so I encourage people to speak their minds."

Agnes Chandelier Collection by Lindsey Adelman for Roll & Hill

“It was adapted from an hanging candelabra that actually held wax candles. Lindsey is a pretty hot designer now, and she did this two or three years ago. It’s a new way of looking at an old technology. It’s one of the piece’s strengths, and her strengths.”

View our slideshow to see some of the store’s favorite pieces.

Campaign Table by William Earle

“William’s piece has three legs, and there’s just a way the components interact with each other. It’s very unique. I like a piece that can do something a little bit differently, but maintain an integrity and accessibility.”

Katie Kranz Ceramics

“With Katie’s work, I see a lot of ceramics where the shape and form of the vessel is typical. She’s referencing a classic form, but I’ve never seen something like that, the organic sensibility, the way she’s painted it. The piece has a life and a body, and she’s just adorning it.”


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