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Publication Date: 2012-04-09

Behind the Design

Q&A with Richard Shemtov of Dune

New York City-based Richard Shemtov founded Dune, his highly successful contemporary design studio and manufacturer, in 1998.


His is an eye-catching mix of the quirky and the clean-lined, with looks ranging from pieces fit for the ultimate minimalist to those that seem suited for an animé and sci-fi aficionado. “I believe my collection introduces a new level of daring and innovative new products to contemporary furniture design,” Shemtov says. “It blends an emphasis on functionality with a keen perception of changes in technology and culture.” Shemtov’s furniture design and manufacturing company, Dune, has garnered the ICFF Editor’s Design Award for Best New Designer and Best Textile, as well as Interior Design magazine’s Best of the Year award for group seating. Clients opting for his creations include Microsoft, Google, Nike, and Disney, as well as Dolce & Gabbana, Madonna, and Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic?

A: A sensible approach to design derived through necessity.

Q: Your designs show an interesting use of really saturated colors, like your Turbo chair, Cocoon sofa, and Hi Rise rug. Do you have a favorite combination these days?

A: My color sense changes often. Right now I’m thinking in powdery shades of blues and pinks with dark cherry accents.

Q: When do you like to avoid using color?

A: Walls are best in white to establish a pure, clean backdrop for everything else. In addition, I find it calming, colorless therapy.

Q: Was Scandinavian Modern a big influence for you?

A: For me the past serves only as a reminder of what has been done before. It becomes just historical references. My work is constantly evolving with innovative new forms and fabrication techniques. I like to push the boundaries of conventionalism and try to make things interesting.

Q: What are the most important qualities in a chair?

B: Form, ergonomics, and comfort.

Q: Why should coffee tables be on wheels?

A: Coffee tables on wheels, like my Skee Coffee Table and Sway, make sense since they allow you to roll the table over to where you’re sitting. And you can bring it closer for eating or working. The Sway is a coffee table first—that’s what the primary function of its design is. It is a coffee table with storage that happens to provide extra seating as an ottoman.

Q: You design interesting modern beds, like the Hollywood, Skin Bed, and Silent Night. What are the hallmarks of a good bed?

A: Bed headboards and platform heights should be low. They will feel more Zen-like or peaceful and will make your bedroom seem taller.

Q: With your sectional pieces like the Climate, Turbo, and Tron, do you see them looking best when they’re the only seating in the room? If not, what other pieces of yours would mix well with them?

A: I think it is nice to anchor a sectional with a chair, specifically a swivel chair like my Media 360. The sectionals are mostly used in lounge or family room/media room situations, and a swivel chair allows you to engage with people seating on the sectional and to move your chair to focus on the TV.

Q: With the Pixel line, did you use actual photos or images blown-up? What gave you the idea to zoom in so close?

A: The upholstery grid pattern of Pixel was not initially part of the design. It is a detail that came after the form and shape were built, and we were trying to consider how to upholster it. The pattern was interpreting the perspective of a 3-D model.

Q: How are video games an influence for you? I’m thinking of your Tron chair, Invaders rug, and the Asteroid ottoman.

A: Growing up in the ’80s can do that to you. I feel the color choices used in fashion and music during that period had tremendous energy and are somewhat underrated.

Q: Some of the names for your pieces are so interesting, like the Stealth sofa or the Hippo armchair. How do you come up with them?

A: The names are derived from a characteristic or feature in the design, but then we just try to have fun with it.

Q: What are your favorite materials to use in furniture?

A: I love MDF and high-gloss paint. With those two materials there are endless possibilities and you can create seamless work.

Q: Any advice on mixing some of your more surprising furniture shapes with traditional or other contrasting décor styles?

A: My designs are often used on projects with different interior styles or periods. As long as consideration is given to material and finish selections, the pieces in my collection can work well with vintage modern or more classical antiques. The Stealth Sofa or the Turbo—even the Climate—can go with many different period of furniture, from Chinese antiques to more traditional periods to modern. It really comes down to the material and finishes.

Q: Are you inspired more by nature (your Snowflake shelf) or by pop culture (video games, movies)?

A: I’m inspired by fashion photography, music, and contemporary art.

Q: What are the keys to a well-designed room?

A: Scale, proportion, and light.

Q: What is the one piece of design advice that’s served you well?

A: Make sure to do your research and have a thoughtful approach prior to starting a project.

Q: Where should you never skimp in design?

A: The kitchen and bathrooms are the soul of the home. If you don’t spend time designing them properly or if you use cheap tiles, appliances, and cabinetry, it will bring down the quality level of the whole interior.

Q: If you were decorating a room, what are some items from your storefront would you use together?

A: I would pair the Rebel chair with the Climate Sofa. The soft tufted seat and back cushions create a nice juxtaposition against the sharp angularity of the Rebel.

Q: What are some of your favorite items in your DH storefront?

A: They’re all very special and have different applications. My current faves are, of course, the newer pieces: the Rebel, Jedi and Asteroid.


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