Derek Chen is a furniture designer, with experience as an engineer and management consultant, who founded Council as a way to add an American spin on contemporary design. Working with a host of international designers, Council manufactures a massive collection of American design while making sustainable choices whenever possible during the manufacturing process. San Francisco-based Chen continues to design for and head the company, always using his keen engineer’s eye to put out a blend of designs with a handcrafted feel and a modern aesthetic. Let’s see what keeps this multifaceted designer inspired in this week’s Friday Five.


1. Lie Nielsen No. 4 Bench Plane
Design for me is really about making and functioning. For many designers their tool is a pen, or a mouse, but I prefer a more literal tool. I don’t work with many things that can be injection molded – I tend to find myself working with things that are in tune with the logic of making them. Hewing them, carving them, cutting them, gluing them. A good hand plane is a beautiful object and I’m still amazed every time I use one.

2. Raleigh Sports Three Speed Bicycle (60s vintage)
Not the fastest, not the lightest, not the shiniest. But elegant, balanced, and not self-conscious.

3. Small town on the Marin coast, California
Every weekend in the summer I try to get away to this tiny town in Marin County for a day. It’s an hour drive, and the drive itself is part of the inspiration. Once there, I spend some time in the gentle surf break, have a nice lunch, and stop at the honor-system farmstand on the way back out of town again. It has nothing to do about work, but somehow it feels like the most productive day of my week.

4. 70s and 80s Porsche 911
These cars were actually quite affordable in their day. They’re built for function, not luxury or status. And almost by accident they happen to be beautiful.


5. Periodic Table by One & Co.
I like how this piece is both old and new, perfect and imperfect. It reminds me that we’re not really creating, but adapting; changing matter that already exists. It helps me remember that sometimes it’s not necessarily what you do to a piece, but what you don’t do, and sometimes it’s both.