Born and raised in Chicago, Mark Kinsley brings a childhood filled with manufacturing and engineering to life with innovative designs for everyone. Working as a designer at Holly Hunt by day, and bootstrapping Lake & Wells, his own design manufacturing company, by night, he never fails to deliver on his goal of delivering approachable designs that solve a problem. From receiving the IDEA Silver Award to winning a coveted spot in the ICFF Studio, Mark has begun a journey that has been many years in the making.

Raised as the son of an engineer and tool and die maker, he grew up in America’s industrial roots, the mid-west. Using that base, along with a healthy dose of creativity, Mark achieves a congruity of art and science in each project. Working on the premise of needing shelving in his downtown Chicago studio, but not wanting to give up valuable floor space or wall space for art, he sat up one night and designed what is now known as Riveli Shelving. Riveli is the art of shelving, bringing this unique balance to fruition. Mark has taken Riveli as the inaugural product for Lake & Wells, envisioning the company will become the birthplace of many great designs from young designers who want their products to be manufactured in America.

Five things that inspire me:

1. Reading
I absolutely love to read…especially non-fiction and history books, such as The War of Art and Waking the Dead. While designing can consume so much of me, making it easy for me to get lost in my own problems and passions, reading helps me pause and recalibrate my perspective. I find myself grounded with continual reminders that I’m only one of many playing a small part in a much bigger story.

Photo by Sammy Warren

2. Industrial Machine Oil
I love the smell of it. I grew up visiting the industrial tool & die shop, where my father worked. Fascinated by the dirty, noisy, oily, solid steel machinery grinding away, I would marvel at the giant slabs of steel sliding effortlessly against each other while being held together by rusting bolts and pins. Even now, when I walk through furniture showrooms, I am reminded of that scent of machine oil and the humble gritty roots of each pristine finished product.

3. LEGOs
As a child, my Christmas wish list never included toy guns or G.I. Joes or even many video games. I always wanted something I could build with, like LEGOs. While most of my days were spent outside with a hammer building tree houses and forts, rainy days would be spent indoors creating castles and trucks and space-stations. And I’m glad I can bring some of that childhood with me into my adult years with Lego Architecture. I especially appreciate the “Sears Tower” and “Hancock Center” which combine two of my passions into one: Chicago and LEGOs.

4. Chicago
I live right in the heart of downtown Chicago… five blocks from the iconic Sears Tower. One of my favorite things to do is to walk through the city early in the morning or late at night when the streets are empty. Streets that are normally filled with a noisy mass of people in suits and skirts, are instead quiet and sullen with empty skyscrapers. It’s so much easier to slowly stroll and admire the incredible man-made structures, noticing details that normally get lost amongst the hustle. I use this time to think, pray and reflect. Walking through the city clears my head, allowing me to go back and attack whatever design-related challenge I’m working on.

5. Smoked Glass
Hand-blown glass with a touch of bronze or grey, combined with a classic Edison lamp and wood detailing, while horribly inefficient, makes for beautiful mood lighting fixtures. Companies like Niche Modern do a great job with this. Overall, the entire glass-blowing process is fascinating to me. Pictured here is a 3rd generation Master Glass Blower I had the privilege to watch during a recent trip to the Venetian island of Murano.