LOCATION: New York / BEST-KNOWN PROJECT: Excel: Floor Lamp / BIGGEST CREATIVE INSPIRATION: Each other / TITLE OF IMAGINARY MONOGRAPH: In Good Company / WOULD RATHER DIE THAN DESIGN: “Corporate workplace signage” (Richardson); “I’d design anything, even a toaster.” (Brill); “An SUV” (Williams) / GOAL FOR THE YEAR 2020: “Doing the mandatory hotel projects, directing a charity project with a Fortune 500 company, opening a London office, and considering our investors’ offer to vertically integrate our design, manufacturing, and distribution.”
Rich, Brilliant, Willing’s Theo Richardson, 25, Charles Brill, 25, and Alex Williams, 26, work out of a basement in New York’s East Village, where sketches and notes in three different handwritings flutter along one wall. Clearly, good ideas come easily to the friends, who lived and studied together at RISD before moving to New York two years ago. But when they began their newest project—a collection of three tables similar in form that use different materials—they reached for the trashcan. Not to toss the idea out, mind you, but to build it: Using duct tape and some wooden slats, they whipped up a prototype table around the empty cylinder. The final product (with can removed) is a circle of uneven shards supporting a glass top, like a shredded barrel.
Their off-the-cuff process yields furniture that doesn’t take itself too seriously, like the Excel: Floor Lamp and Perch, introduced earlier this year. Inspired by the abstraction of Excel graphs, the seat and light feature industrial materials, neon colors, and awkward, splayed legs—the furniture equivalent of a nu-rave indie kid.
But RBW’s partners have more on their minds than hipster arts-and-crafts: “‘Craft’ is a fad word right now in the U.S. It’s overly arty, esoteric design,” says Williams. Richardson adds, “Design doesn’t need to be attached to the hand that makes it. If that’s presented as the integral element, we’re missing the forest for the trees.”
“While we’re futzing around in the studio, we’re really trying to understand what the guy in the production shop will think,” Williams goes on. That means researching manufacturers and fine-tuning plans and mock-ups. Yet ask RBW about the third and final table in the series (the wooden and metal versions are done), and it’s clear that playtime isn’t quite over. “We’re hell bent on using concrete,” Brill says. “We’re still experimenting with it.”