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Designer Spotlight: Rick Lee

Posted on July 01, 2012

When you look back at the great modern furniture designers of the last century, many names come to mind. Charles Eames, Le Cobousier or Mies van der Rohe to name a few. But what about the great contemporary furniture designers of today? Dozens of beautiful, innovative new pieces of modern furniture arrive on the market every year. So who is behind all of this inspiring new contemporary design? If you do a little research, you’ll probably find that many of the best modern furniture designs come from the mind of brilliant modern furniture designer and industrial designer, Rick Lee. While Rick Lee may not yet be on the same level as Eames and Saarinen, his modern furniture designs are certainly catapulting him in that direction.


Rick Lee

Rick Lee was born in South Korea and came to the United States at the age of twelve. Upon completing his industrial design degree, he began doing work for notable modern furniture manufacturers and modern design studios in Chicago. He later took his talents abroad to Milan where he honed his skills as a contemporary furniture designer and later settled in San Francisco where he has established himself as a leading industrial designer and modern furniture designer. Over the years, Rick Lee’s modern furniture has been featured in countless magazines, movies, celebrity homes and a lot of his most recent work is currently being displayed at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art.

Rick Lee’s contemporary furniture design can certainly be described as just that: contemporary art. Rick Lee said of his own work that it “can be whimsical but sophisticated, poetic and inviting”. Take the Gemini Sectional for example. It is certainly whimsical with its meandering shape, and its floating back cushions beckon you to come take a load off and relax.


Gemini Sectional

Rick Lee derives inspiration for his contemporary furniture design from anything from everyday objects such as a gnarled oak tree or a sleek pocket knife to his fashion designer wife, Colleen Quen. The clean, tailored look of the upholstered headboard of the Lorin bed clearly draws inspiration from the fashion design world and show the close relationship between trends in fashion and trends in contemporary furniture design.


Lorin Bed

According Rick Lee’s official website, his “theoretical approach to design is not unlike an actor’s tactics. Working with a wide range of materials and resources, he prefers not to use any one particular material on a consistent basis. Lee considers ‘California Cuisine’ an apt metaphor for his art – a mix of seemingly incongruent ingredients carefully combined to create something inspiring and exceptional”. This incongruent yet harmonious mix of ingredients is certainly apparent in his modern furniture design. Have a look at his Lace Coffee Table. It has the clean lines of a typical, blocky, contemporary coffee table, but the laser-cut details are reminiscent of more organic inspiration like the veining of a leaf.


Lace Coffee Table

Keep an out for more of Rick Lee’s modern furniture design in the future. He’s sure to be a key player!

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