Hot off the heels of a most-successful run as a competitor on HGTV Star, the multi-talented, charismatic, and most definitely unforgettable designer, Brooks Atwood normally spends his days either in a classroom at the New Jersey Institute of Technology sparking explosions in young minds or he’s at his Brooklyn-based studio creating wicked designs across many mediums. From architecture, interior design, and product design (remember the Tetra Light and Sylki Chair?), rock star designer Atwood, has his genius hands in many creative pots and there’s no telling what his bright future will bring. For this super special edition of Where I Work, we pop into the offices of POD Design.
What is your typical work style?
I love to work all over the place and anywhere. I have super dreams where I come up with great ideas or solutions to design problems or even things that don’t exist yet. I would say I’m very organized, which frees up my mind and body to design like a method actor. Being organized allows me to be experimental and gives me the ability to take risks. You cannot stop design! Design doesn’t have a clock or an on or off button! I design all the time!
What’s your studio environment like?
We are messy & clean at the same time! We are chaotic and organized. We are a paradox. We smell different, we eat different and we see different. We listen to music constantly. Turning on music is the first thing we do every day (before turning on the lights). We listen to all kinds of music, but right now, we have The Beach Boys theme blasting! Sissy, our studio dog, is always around and she lays under our desk on our feet. Her black fur is slightly porn star – a little wavy via Farrah Fawcett sexy. We are totally open to ideas and creativity is the key factor in everything we do. We do pizza Tuesdays, and I’ll bring in croissants and bagels for breakfast for my crew. We love to have fun and we love Proseco. We like to have GSD days (getting shit done) and we celebrate at the end of each day how much we kicked ass. Hence the GSD day with Proseco.
How is your office organized/arranged?
We have a totally open studio. No doors. We all work at long desks all over the office. We have areas designated as tools, photobooth, prototyping, and kitchen, but really we totally change around the office depending on what we are working on. We like to be “in-the-moment” with each project so we will reconfigure our space to match the project. Sort of like a method actor but for design.
How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?
We’ve been here about three years and it’s great! We love the raw concrete space and that there are tons of other artists, musicians, designers and craftsman in the building. It’s the typical artist loft space. Before that, we worked in Manhattan on the Upper West Side in a tiny space. Totally ridiculous but we made it work until we blew all the power of the building with our laser cutter and had to make a quick exit!
If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?
The view. I’d kill for a view of something, anything! We are on the top floor (7 floors) and we get a lot of great light but we face another building. I want to see life and clouds and people and boats and the water!
So Sissy is the office pet?
Yes, most certainly! Sissy is the brains (and brawn) of the office and she makes a great fur scarf. Sissy keeps us away from her food and sits on our laps when we cry. She’s the best.
How do you record ideas?
I use whatever I can grab first and whatever hands are free. I usually use my trusty Moleskine (the 5×8 plain) and my space pen, but I’ll draw on anything, even my body to write down an idea. I started trying to use Siri but she doesn’t understand design thinking and translates everything into “normal words” so I gave up using her and just use the Voice Memo app.
Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?
Each project has its own inspiration board so we have a ton of stuff all over the walls. We pin up everything on our walls so they’re all covered. That’s how we work. We pin up ideas, sketches, inspiration, and we write and draw all over them. It’s like an insane asylum, but for design.
What kind of design objects might you have scattered about the space?
We have a Folle 26 stapler, a repouse sample, Higo knife, First Aid Kit by Best Made, space pens, Tetra & Sylki’s all over the place, our McQueen stool, and a bunch of eclectic objects that make us happy.
Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?
We like to make things so we have all kinds of strange and odd tools. It ranges from laser cutters to 3D printers to clay sculpting tools and blowtorches. We have this amazing German wire cutter, a hot plate for melting wax, and pipe wrenches for bashing stuff up.
What tool do you most enjoy using in the design process?
I love working with my hands so anything that allows me to touch and feel what I’m doing is great. I love sketching as well so that’s how I always start off any project.
Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.
Some said that I “vibrate on a different frequency” and I would agree. The whole office vibrates. It’s a humming sound of MacBooks, iPhones, Sonos speakers, A/Cs and fans, laser cutters, 3D printers, wire cutters (yes, they do hum), camera snaps, printers printing, neon, and a lot of laughter!
What design software do you use, and for what?
We use about every software that exists. We like to use software in new and accidental ways so we’ll try one software and then a different one to see what results we can get. We try to f$&ck up the 3D printer by making it do things it’s not supposed to do and that’s what we do with software as well. We’re always looking for unexpected happenings.
Do you have a favorite piece or collection that you’ve designed?
The Sylki chair and the Tetra neon light are two of my favorite pieces. They are just so pure and minimal while also being extremely cutting edge. They are boiled down to pure energy. Oh and are extremely lightweight as well!
When did you feel like you “made it”? With what piece or design? At what moment/circumstances?
I knew when we were working on the Sylki chair and Tetra light that this was a turning point and then we did the Caivano Residence in LA and things really started to explode. A “made it” moment was being selected as one of six emerging US designers and giving an epic six-minute lecture (Pecha Kucha style) at the Museum of Arts & Design in NYC. People went nuts and that was the perfect segue into WantedDesign where we blew up and had a killer show.
Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?
We’re currently working on a product family of high-end design and affordable pieces! It will be a bunch of different pieces and some tabletop accessories as well. We’re also doing a baby prefab house in upstate NY and one in NJ, as well as the interiors for the new offices of Paper Denim & Cloth.
Our inspiration changes for each project but will always remain research oriented, highly textured, and cutting-edge. Right now we’re into geometric shapes (i.e. tetrahedrons).
What’s on your desk right now?
A “famous” mug by Best Made, a poisonous cone shell, French press, cracked iPhone, space pens, terrarium, repouse sample, Tetra, a couple of MacBook Pros, croissants, some black dice, black roll of tape, keys, a gold phone headset, and some dead wireless mouse batteries.
Do you use any of your pieces in your own home/life?
I have a Cor’cay stool at home. I’m using it more as a side table and it has a stack of books pilled up high on its top. My home is more heritage and eclectic with a lot of brass.
Photos by Brooks Atwood, Marguerite Lefevre & Aaron Ekroth.