My favourite pieces by 5 women designers

Following International Women’s Day I’ve felt the need to feature my favourite pieces of design by some of the leading women product designers. It’s not that I believe that women’s creativity should be put into a separate compartment or celebrated only once a year. In fact, it’s been challenging to narrow down my list to just a few designers. Their work invites you to enter a universe, built from unique references, that expands beyond the purely decorative aspect of design into deeper issues related to culture, society and technology. Scroll down if you’re curious about my picks.

Sabine Marcelis

Dreamy, ethereal, poetic and translucent are the words that first come to my mind whenever I see objects designed by Sabine Marcelis. The Rotterdam-based designer is particularly interested in advanced technologies and the experimental use of materials such as polyester resin. Her aesthetic is based on colour and minimal forms that enhance properties of the selected material.

Totem floor lamps by Sabine Marcelis
Art and design: Totem floor lamps by Sabine Marcelis Photo: Pim Top

The ‘Seeing Glass’ collection of mirrors that she created in collaboration with Brit van Nerven uses layers of multi-coloured glass and foil to produce magical ombré effects. Inspired by reflections of light inside a greenhouse, they remind me of artworks by Dan Flavin and Sara VanDerBeek that feel abstract, yet at the same time very personal. 

'Seeing Glass' round mirror by Sabine Marcelis and Brit van Nerven
‘Seeing Glass’ round mirror by Sabine Marcelis and Brit van Nerven
Photo: etageprojects.com

Patricia Urquiola

One of the iconic names of contemporary design, Patricia Urquiola is famous for creating outstanding products and sophisticated interior concepts for hotels and boutiques. Over the years she has collaborated with numerous brands such as Kartell, Foscarini, Louis Vuitton, Cassina and Moroso. If I had to pick a favourite from her portfolio, I’d choose the Shimmer table that she designed for Glas Italia, made of laminated glass with iridescent effect that changes according to the angle of light.

The Shimmer tables by Patricia Urquiola for Glas Italia
The Shimmer tables by Patricia Urquiola for Glas Italia Photo: dreamsanddesign

The second place goes to the Lilo collection that she created for Moroso in 2017 – a 1950s-inspired line of lounge furniture that captivates with sensual forms. The Spanish-born, Milan-based designer is not afraid to show her emotional side and embrace vivacious colour. 

The Lilo chaise longue by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso
The Lilo chaise longue by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso Photo: dreamsanddesign

Front

You might have seen it in a restaurant or a hotel lobby – the life-size Horse lamp is hard to ignore. One of the most iconic pieces of the 21st century lighting design kickstarted the international career of the Swedish studio Front, currently helmed by Anna Lindgren and Sofia Lagerkvist. The idea for the lamp came directly from nature and figurines that many people collect in their homes.

The Horse Lamp created by Front for Moooi
The Horse Lamp created by Front for Moooi Photo: dreamsanddesign

Following its unexpected success, Front went on to create products for brands ranging from Vitra to Ikea. Last year they came up with a special collection of lamps for the Nationalmuseum Library in Stockholm. As you can see, their original, often eccentric vision differs from the widespread Scandinavian modernism.

The Curve lamp by Front designed for the Nationalmuseum Library in Stockholm
The Curve lamp by Front designed for the Nationalmuseum Library in Stockholm
Photo: frontdesign.se

Nika Zupanc

Playful and provocative, the objects designed by Nika Zupanc re-examine feminine clichés and rebel against rationalism. The Slovenian designer argues that we choose products on the basis of our emotional response to their form. One of her signature creations, the Ribbon chair, takes the shape of a bow and elevates it into an element appropriate for a modern chair by displacing it from its original, gender-related context.

The Ribbon chair by Nika Zupanc for Queeboo
The Ribbon chair by Nika Zupanc for Queeboo Photo: dreamsanddesign

Seemingly frivolous and girly accents like pink are being reinterpreted in a very restrained, almost calculated way as in the Stay Daybed for Sé collections. In their new context these ‘feminine’ motifs never seem sugary when balanced out by elegant discipline. 

The Stay Daybed by Nika Zupanc for Sé Collections
The Stay Daybed by Nika Zupanc for Sé Collections Photo: dreamsanddesign

Elena Salmistraro

It’s enough to look at Elena Salmistraro’s whimsical designs to get the fantasy vibe behind her creations. The young Milanese designer takes advantage of every opportunity to showcase her unusual artistic sensibility. The Primates series of ceramic vases that she created for Bosa is a modern, playful take on the Roman pottery and the ancient belief that inanimate objects have their own soul.

The Primates collection of vases by Elena Salmistraro
The Primates collection of vases by Elena Salmistraro Photo: dreamsanddesign

Before becoming a product designer, she’s already been an artist and illustrator. All of her projects come to life from as drawings. The Flatlandia collection of rugs for CC-Tapis with its elaborate, geometric shapes and colour combinations proves that Elena Salmistraro has already translated her ideas into a strong visual language.

The Cartesio rug by Elena Salmistraro CC-tapis
The Cartesio rug by Elena Salmistraro Photo: cc-tapis.com

Hopefully my selection will inspire you to find out more about these designers. The list is by no means complete and I’m looking forward to feature more beautiful and interesting objects designed by women.

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