Thing Industries is Architizer's brand of the week. CHECK OUT MARKETPLACE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR BRANDS AND TO GET YOUR PRODUCTS SEEN AND SPECIFIED BY ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS.
Bridie Picot fell in love with a chair. Really, it was more of an anti-chair—a minimalist furniture piece designed by Matt Smith for the Milan Furniture Fair. But sadly for Bridie, it was just a prototype he would never put into production. At least, not until six years later, when Bridie re-approached Matt about a slightly bigger idea.
That's how Thing Industries, Bridie and Matt's line of furniture and home décor, was born. Thing Industries debuted its first collection at ICFF earlier this year, delighting critics with its six charming, affordable, loft-friendly pieces that are both clever and unpretentious.
Bridie Picot and Matt Smith of Thing Industries. Photo by Russell Kleyn
Bridie and Matt are both New Zealanders, but with Bridie based in New York, they’ve had to the most of a long-distance creative relationship. “It’s a lot of rough sketches going back and forth, prototypes and samples being posted to both of us. A lot of Dropbox,” Bridie described. “We both work on the design, but Matt has a background in industrial design so he’s very technical. I’m concerned, I think, more with function. And, I've lived in New York and London, so I’m very aware of the need to make things work small spaces.”
Long-distance hasn’t been Thing’s only obstacle. Both Bridie and Matt have full-time jobs. Bridie has spent 13 years working in advertising with clients like Microsoft and Tanqueray. While Matt's New Zealand-based company, Common Goods, has him dealing with a wide range of projects: from furniture, product, graphic, and packaging design; to residential and commercial interior work; to a publication, COMMON magazine. That said, this isn’t just a “thing” each does on the side—it’s growing ever more real, with three forthcoming collections in the works and Matt considering a move to America in the coming year.
The Sacrificial Chair is the chair that started it all when it caught Bridie’s eye at the Milan Furniture fair, and it’s still her favorite. Made of powder-coated metal tubes in graphite or off-white, it has no back and no seat cushion, an honest homage to the bedroom chair’s alternative purpose: A hanging rack for the clothes with which one would normally just bury a chair. Manufactured in India, it comes flat-packed and requires some assembly but zero tools. “At the ICFF, people were suggesting we should put a seat and a back on it,” said Bridie, “I mean, that ruins the whole thing. Then it would just be a chair… I think a lot of people didn’t get it.”
Then there’s the Rorchact-esque, beasty bear rug, and two variations on a modular set of tables — the 50% and the 100%, in white or sunny yellow. And last but not least, The Hairy Thing. “It’s the most polarizing product; people either love it or absolutely hate it,” said Bridie. “I wanted to do something organic and fun — a talking point,” and along it came: an ottoman/pillow/faux-taxidermy sculpture (depending on how you stuff it), inspired by a long-haired guinea pig. “I like it because, in the corner of the room, it looks like a crouching, sleeping animal.”
Bridie lucked out when she located a Chinese faux fur company that could manufacture sufficiently long strands of acrylic fiber “hair” and accurately custom color it to match a photo of a ginger guinea pig she had found online. “Kids and dogs especially love it… luckily it's really durable.”
At first, Bridie was apprehensive that Collection 01 would be too much “quirky” for one room. But there’s no question, these pieces look great together. And more are on the way. “We have a second collection figured out. We’re sampling it now and then we need to get it into production. And we have some designs for the third and fourth,” said Bridie. “There are ten ideas on the table for the next collection. We’ll narrow that down based on what we've already made, and then work on colors together.”
Matt helps moderate any inclination toward too-bright colors. Bridie reminds Matt of the spatial challenges of urban apartment living. “Like the 100% table—that was originally eight pieces. No one I know has an apartment big enough to fit an eight-piece table that size.”
When asked to give a bit of wisdom to other makers carrying out their design dreams “on the side,” Bridie said, “I found it really helpful having a partner. If it were just me on my own, I would've given up a hundred times already. Like, when you get a sample and you just want to throw it away — having someone else there to share that frustration really helps. And, it takes a lot of money. Having two people invested makes it more possible.”
Together, Matt and Bridie are learning as they go. “With all that press we got after ICFF, we hadn’t put anything into production yet. We didn’t have products in stock at that point.” Now, they’ve learned their lesson: People want Thing’s things. And when the next collection launches, you can bet they’ll be ready to share it with their admirers.
All photos courtesy Thing Industries and Bridie Picot, unless otherwise noted.