Inside a wood beam warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Jamie Wolfond wants to alter the U.S home goods market with something affordable, well-designed, and American. The Canadian-born industrial designer is showing off the latest colorful updates to Good Thing, the home goods company he founded in 2014, including vinyl hand mirrors and a series of crisp, colorful candleholders. In a city (and country) awash with similar options from around the globe, including Japan (Muji) and Denmark (Flying Tiger and Hay), it may seem like Wolfond's upstart brand is attempting to enter a market that's already flooded. But he believes that with the right philosophy, an American-curated company and its products, priced to be universally available, can bring a new spin to home design.
"People's collective understanding of the importance of objects in their lives is growing," he say, "but nobody is coming out of North America and presenting a strong collection with a well-executed voice. All the companies that I admire aren't here."
Wolfond, who started the company after graduating from RISD in 2014, initially explored the idea of licensing his work when he began breaking into the design world, but determined that working for another firm wasn't as rewarding, and didn't offer the kind of transparency he desired. Having spent time interning in Europe for designers such as Bertjan Pot, he admired the focus and curation of those firms, and set out to create a similar brand based in the United States, one with its own voice.
Wolfond believes in a minimalist philosophy and backwards design: instead of starting with a problem and finding the materials and processes to solve it, he starts with a curiosity about the material and process, and then figures out how it can be applied to solve other problems. The end result, hopefully, is a simple, easily made solution that's true to the material at hand. Complexity is the enemy, and the ethos, as he sees it, is simplicity and compatibility. Affordability also plays a key role, and Good Thing products, such as the Field Candleholder ($14.50), Paper Display ($19) and Gather Vases ($19.50), are priced to reflect that goal.
"Curated sucks," he says. "I want the relationships between different objects to be more thoughtful."
After a successful year that saw Good Thing get off the ground, exhibit at events such as Wanted Design, and establish a retail network that includes Urban Outfitters and the Whitney museum, the company begins 2016 with a revamped product line, a handful of new offerings, and a new overseas production process in China, which will help ramp up production while maintaining more affordable prices (the text on the back of iPhones, "Designed by Apple in California" comes to mind). Two new offerings, Gather Vases by Sam Anderson and Slim Bookshelves by Kenyon Yeh, join a line of home goods that have been expanded with new colors and options. The vases, a series of different shaped vessels that, when arrayed on a table, look like a deconstructed bouquet, speak to Wolfond's belief in simple, marketable ideas. Whether that belief can propel Good Thing to a bigger market share in the coming year remains to be seen.
"We're designing around marketability, and I want our customers to know that," he says. "It's not a bad word."
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