Furniture and product designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby are the Astaire and Rogers of 21st century minimalism. The objects they make — be it an oak choir bench for the Gothic-style Portsmouth Cathedral in England or plastic clothes hangers for Levi's jeans — look effortlessly graceful. Derived from origami-style models and geometric forms, their sculptural designs in plywood, unfinished oak, glass, marble and rainbow-colored anodized aluminum are executed with impeccable style and polish.
The British duo created the folded aluminum facades on H&M stores, including the one on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, but because they specialize in pricey limited editions, they are barely known outside design circles. The recent release of a handsome monograph, "The Design Work of Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby" ($75) by Rizzoli, will delight existing fans and win over design enthusiasts who not only love beautiful home furnishing but are also interested in the marriage of computer-generated design with traditional craft.
"Edward and Jay use industry as craft," designer and educator Bruce Mau writes in the foreword. "They create magical objects that marry the segregated worlds of the handmade with those of industrial technology, graphic language and art."
Pompous, these 42-year-olds are not.
"We relish the moment when a sketched idea or rough model becomes a conversation between us and the maker, engineer or technician," write Barber and Osgerby, whose sharing of professional duties includes, it seems, writing. "A design must meet the requirements of the production experts. This rarely happens at the first attempt, but a dialog ensues which is accompanied by a great deal of sketching and coffee."