Article, Dwell November 2014

L.A. Story
Armen Sevada Gharabegian head of Los Angeles-based Lounge22 and Ethos Design, shares his philosophies on the importance of working locally.

American manufacturing is at the heart of Armen Sevada Gharabegian furniture and design studios. Armen Sevada Gharabegian has recently produced the Nara chair–whose back slides into place–and stacking tables, which are crafted from bent japanese bamboo.

Tell us about your process, from design through construction.
I believe it is integral for all industrial designers to understand the materials and processes pertaining to what they create. From concept to execution, my ethic is to be involved, hands-on, until the prototype is completed. The fact that we fabricate our products in Los Angeles makes it easier for us to be engaged.

Can you elaborate on your material selection process?
Sometimes the material selection is a natural transition from the object that is being designed, and other times it is more of a random exploration. When designing a particular object that needs to support the body, such as a chair, the attributes of specific materials are very important–strength, flexibility, malleability. It’s crucial for all industrial designers and architects to have a physical experience with materials. Specific forms command their own types of materials. I don’t believe in forcing materials to do unusual things.

Why is it integral for you to be involved in the entire design, from concept to finished product?
Design is a process; I see it as a never-ending series of explorations with “pauses” in between. These pauses are where objects and ideas are materialized. If a designer creates an idea and does not immerse him or herself in the fabrication process, he or she cannot understand the possibilities or impossibilities of his or her work. Processes themselves are a great inspiration.

What inspired the Nara chair?
The Nara chair was inspired primarily by bamboo. It was one of my first explorations of creating an object by bending bamboo. Like many other objects, the Nara chair had its challenges. Due to the flexibility of the bamboo, the chair went through many revisions among proportion, strength, and connections. I wanted to design a chair that was simple to assemble and had a minimal, clean aesthetic. The chair comes in a small box, slightly higher than the seat; the back stores diagonally in the chair, and is pulled out and slipped into a specific slot to create the chair. I wanted the assemblage to be hidden and seamless.

Most of your materials are sourced in the USA, and your furniture is designed and made in Los Angeles. Why is this important?
Being a Los Angeles resident and an Art Center College of Design graduate, I’ve had the privilege of working with many incredible artisans and vendors in the L.A area. It has baffled me for years why, with the great resources and talent we have in Southern California, we don’t produce more here. Sometimes designing and manufacturing products locally feels like we are swimming upstream. Little by little, vendors close their facilities in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States and succumb to exported products. It is important for me to rekindle a faith in American products. It is my dream to see U.S products, especially high-end furniture, sold around the world carrying the tag “Made in the USA”. We have a quality manufacturing tradition that we should continue.