At AHA, we believe in surrounding yourself with beautiful objects that carry meaning and purpose. It’s time to sharpen up your home, and make it the kind of space you want to spend all your time in. No need for a complete revamp—simply add in impactful design that smacks with energy. And that’s where these two incredible designers come in.
Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Felicia Ferrone and Christopher Gentner’s respective lines are re-imagining the way we consider our decor. With function at the helm, both designers support independent makers, choosing master craftsmen and women from all over the world to bring their ideas to life. (Oh, and in a beautiful twist, they also happen to be real-life partners.)
We caught up with both of them to talk about their inspirations, processes, the power of great design, and how they’re ultimately bringing joy back into your home.
Born in Chicago, Felicia Ferrone graduated with a degree in architecture from Miami University, Ohio. Her expansive reach is informed by early experience as an architect in Milan, where she was first taught to "blur boundaries." (More on that later.) Minimalist and modern, Ferrone’s award-winning work is handcrafted by master artisans from the finest Borosilicate glass. We adore her playful take on proportion and scale—it has the power to transform even the blankest-looking room into a wonderland of shape and texture.
Christopher Gentner, with a BFA in metalsmithing from the Cleveland Institute of Art, quickly developed his reputation as a national authority in metal fabrication and furniture. (Our curator Max is a huge fan of his clean-lined, functional pieces.) Primarily crafted in precious metals, Gentner’s work is rooted in a language of sculpture and world-renowned craftsmanship—uniquely incorporating natural materials like leather, wood and glass. We placed a single flower in his Bud Vase, and have been marveling at the whimsy of Gentner's handiwork ever since.
What inspires you?
FF: Inspiration is all around us from the banal to the temples of culture. I can just as easily be inspired by a manhole cover as I can be from an artwork at a museum. Delivering the unexpected through a seemingly simple gesture is at the core of my designs. My modernist roots result in minimal designs which are sophisticated with a touch of whimsy and exclusively handmade by master craftsmen.
CG: When I design, I work as if I am creating a one of a kind piece of art. I start with what I find exciting, whether it is an idea of how an object can work on multiple levels at the same time or an unlikely combination of volumes and surfaces. I love when there is an ambiguity to a piece, when you first look at it and you are not sure of its function. Ambiguity allows you to take in the piece as an aesthetic object, then work back to the function.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
FF: I usually start with a rough sketch and once I feel confident in the overall design, I usually do a 1-to-1 scale prototype. Then I often try to put into the context. It is about constant refinement to ensure it is exactly as I had envisioned, is the most functional it can be, and it the most suited for the context as possible. Then, together the materiality and concept merge, creating the soul of the piece, and ultimately bringing joy to the home.
CG: My work often starts with pen and ink on white paper. These sketches help me sort through hundreds of ideas. When I want to move forward, I set about mocking the pieces up in metal, wood or glass, but always in the actual material. As soon as I have something that works both mechanically and visually, I take it home and let it live. My ideas often come quickly and with volume, but the development of the idea can be slow, with starts and stops.
What kind of person do you have in mind when creating your pieces?
FF: People who love design and seek out elements for their home that bring them continual joy. I believe in creating designs that are unique, highly functional and above all, timeless, driven by the belief we should have fewer but better things that enrich our everyday lives.
CG: My designs are for anyone—for people who enjoy ideas, for those that see art and creativity in the everyday. My work is enjoyed by the people who appreciate the well-made, those who are drawn to quality. My work is for people that appreciate that a common object, well designed, can bring pleasure to their life.
What has been the most pivotal moment in your career so far?
FF: My many years living in Milan working as an architect had the single greatest impact on my life as a designer. It has shaped every aspect of my life from friendships, to food, to how I think about design. It was there that I was first taught that designing anything—from glassware to a residence to a catalog—were all based around the same principles.
CG: When I began to understand how my personal creativity functioned. As I grew to understand how I take in inspirations and turn this inspiration into my pieces. This understanding allowed me to accept the designer that I am and focus on the ideas that are ever present all around us.FF: My many years living in Milan working as an architect had the single greatest impact on my life as a designer. It has shaped every aspect of my life from friendships, to food, to how I think about design. It was there that I was first taught that designing anything—from glassware to a residence to a catalog—were all based around the same principles.