It’s safe to say 2022 will be a year that Karim Rashid will never forget. The NY-based interior designer hit several major career milestones. He not only created a brand new design collection, the Kasual collection, in collaboration with the Portuguese design brands, DelightFULL and Essential Home but also received recognition by being featured in prestigious editorial pages. Inspirations Blog’s team had the chance to have a lovely conversation with Karim about his new design collection and the fact that he is becoming one of the most prolific designers of his generation, and you’ll have the chance to read all about it!
With the goal of bringing design to the entire world, Karim Rashid is based in one of the most cosmopolitan cities, New York. His portfolio is filled with incredible residential, hospitality and architectural design projects spread all over the world!
Inspirations Blog: Who is Karim Rashid as a designer?
Karim Rashid: It’s always hard to talk about yourself, don’t you think? (laughs) Anyway, so I’m Karim Rashid, and I’ve been designing for 35 years or something like that now. I think that the first thing that comes to mind is that when I was a child, I always thought that design was every aspect of everything we interface or touch or become involved in… My father was also a set designer for film and television, but also a painter, so my family grew up in a very creative environment, but I liked pluralism. I liked architects and designers who were broad, who would touch every aspect of living. So I loved Le Corbusier, for example, who painted design clothes, designed furniture, design architecture. I found these people who are a bit more, kind of renaissance like or more universal in the sense of their profession. But then I ended up studying industrial design, and it was very much like an engineering degree. Later, I did a master’s degree in design in Italy, and then I was more or less brought up in Canada. So, I think the influences of my education at that time were very much part of the kind of a utopian spirit of humanity. You know, one day we’ll be living on another planet or that everything would be so efficient, technological, seamless, soft, casual and comfortable… So all those premises, were what started to shape me. I guess you see my philosophy a little bit of what design is, so that’s who Karim Rashid is as a designer. Someone who (in a way) doesn’t see differences between any of the design professions. I think it’s all part of the same. I see design as something that evolves and pushes us forward, and at the same time addresses a lot of the needs and desires of human life.
Karim Rashid has an incomparable design signature, impossible to emulate. Although many designers take great pleasure in drawing on the past, it is the designers that reach into the future that is creating the next generation of style. Futuristic interior design relies heavily on home architecture. Rounded doorways, walls, asymmetric angles should be planned before the construction.
IB: In the beginning, was it a challenge to define your signature style as a designer, or was it a fairly natural process that came with every creation you had to make?
KR: Yeah, that’s an interesting question, because does anyone start out trying to find a signature style? I don’t think that’s what most designers do. I think what we do is to tackle one problem or one project after another, and with time and effort, something starts to shape your vision and your sensibility that’s different from everybody else’s, hopefully. That should be the case because we’re all individuals in a way, so our creative contribution should be very different than the next person or that other person.
IB: What was the biggest obstacle you had to face as young designers just entering this crazy, creative world?
KR: Oh, the biggest obstacle was not to be embarrassed about who I am or what I believe. That was always the biggest obstacle, and I think for the majority of us. I think we spend most of our lives worrying about conforming or fitting in, and afraid to be an individual. It’s scary to know that you’re alone in a way, so you gravitate towards tribe or religion or something to hang on to.
IB: You have been recognized with several awards over the years, but what was the award that marked your career?
KR: I’m going to be very honest with you, I have a very bad memory. (laughs) I got a lot of awards, those that come to my mind very quickly are the ones where I was honored with the American prize, which was I think three years ago. I think it was called the American Prize for design, it’s a national prize, and I was very honored to get it because here they’ve only been giving it for four years. Imagine that in the entire country, there are only 40 people who have already received this award, and that made me very proud because of two reasons: one is that when I moved to the United States, I was hoping to make design a more public subject. In other words, have people down walk on the street know what the design is, like design and care about it. And we are behind in comparison with most of the countries in Europe, especially Nordic countries, like Portugal, Spain, Italy, France… The design has been part of the culture for centuries, and they appreciate design much more and are more knowledgeable. So I thought “I wanted to do this with the United States”, and it’s difficult because this country is like, cowboys and Indians still. (laughs). You still got this survival of the fittest sensibility where it’s more about other things (money, politics, rain)but not creativity. Now things are changing, because we live in a global (what I would call) creative epoch of the world, so everybody is now interested in creativity, entrepreneurs, and doing new things.
We’ve been very creative as Americans, as a sense of the digital age. I mean, we practically owned the digital age, whether it be Google, Facebook, Instagram, it’s all American, all of it… But I find it interesting, when I worked in Milan, that all these designers had their names on the products. I came back to Canada (and Canada was similar to the states), and nobody cared about any of that, there were no names. If you were hired as a designer, they didn’t want to put your name on a product, just 20 years ago, it was unheard of in a way. So, now every other building in New York has, like a famous architect attached to the building… 50 years ago nobody knew who were all the famous architects that did all the city’s buildings in the 1930s, 40s, 50s.
I was kind of determined to sort of help that change somehow, and so winning the American prize was an honor for me because most of my work is not in the United States. I actually always felt very underappreciated here, and thought:” why don’t I get projects here? Why aren’t American companies interested in me?”. Then I realized there were two problems: one is I was too two forward in a way, my work was too contemporary, so in turn, I was always hired by Europeans or Asian countries; number two is the publicity about my work was always in the rest of the world and not here. So I was flying literally almost weekly, for years, across the ocean, for projects, lectures, events, prizes, and it was never here. A good example is New York. This is my city and I’ve done hardly any projects here, so that’s why it was an honor to be appreciated by the country.
IB: What comes to mind when you think of Portugal?
KR: Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is that it’s one of the most underrated countries in Europe, and yet it’s one of the most beautiful. So from an artistic point of view, a creative point of view, from a craftsman, and artisanal point of view, from wine and port and all the things that go on in that country, the landscape, the architecture and the seaside, the fact that you’re bordering the entire sea, and yet Portugal is not necessarily always on people’s radar. So you hear about Italy every day, you know, but Portugal’s as beautiful as the country as it is Italy, right? So that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. Every time I worked in Portugal, I did some very nice projects… I worked with M-Glass, I worked with the Glass Association of Portugal and did really do nice projects with them… I did all kinds of things and I found every time I did some project in Portugal, it was a very nice process. The people were very embracing, warm, friendly, and the spirit was always very positive. The Portugueses have a really beautiful spirit, so that’s what comes to mind.
IB: Did you already know the brands before starting this collaboration?
KR: No, I didn’t know the brands, to be very honest. I did not know the brands and then when I looked at it, I was impressed with the breadth of it, the diversity of the projects, and the quality. I think those were nice. When I work on a new project with a new company, the best thing is to feel like the client wants to do something great, they’re determined. That’s very positive for me, that’s when I’m most inspired too because when you take on a project where you just don’t feel that comfortable with the client inevitably you don’t get good results.
IB: … If you have to describe them in 4 words would they be?
KR: That’s interesting, I would say esoteric pop, that’s how I would describe them. (laughs) I don’t use the word fun, something like animated (is a nice word, I think), and what I like is differentiation. They’re different because, you know, there’s a sort of an international style, especially in furniture. You can see the influences from around the world, but there’s this sort of blurring now where a lot of the furniture is very kind of serious, it’s called understated, but also banal. So you’re sort of the opposite of banal, you’re different and unique.
IB: This partnership was established during one of the most challenging times over the past two years. When Essential Home and DelightFULL contacted you to create this collection for the brand, did you consider it a good challenge?
KR: I think all the projects were a challenge because first of all, there were far fewer… I mean, in my office, we went from about 50 projects to about five at one point, so it was nerving to figure out how to deal with this, how do you juggle it, how do you juggle your staff, how do you work remotely? You know what thousands of companies have gone through, and so that made a challenge around the world. But the great thing is that you as a company, we’re plugging along with building prototypes… For me what keeps me alive is when all of a sudden I see a video of the prototype or a picture. I almost had forgotten about the project, but it’s like a couple of months elapsed right. During COVID, a lot of think projects just disappeared, because a lot of factories closed and everything, so for me, it was like exciting like “Wow, you are making something”. (laughs)
IB: Of all the amazing products in the collection, which is the piece that showcases Karim Rashid’s unique vision and why?
KR: I think for me the special one is the big, and large enormous couch, the Kay sofa. It’s like a question mark in a plan. I remember drawing this sketch of it, because I actually, by accident, drew a question mark on the drawing because I thought, “What do you do with furniture anymore? I mean, is there anything left, is there anything original to do?” (laughs). So it’s a little bit of a commentary that for like a personal commentary on why I drew it. I don’t like this tradition of the way the couch is set up in the chair and all this, I’ve tried in the past without success to break that. If I’m in my living room, why don’t I this time sit on that side of the couch and instead of this side? So it’s a little bit like taking something that would be typical in commercial contexts, like in an airport, but for the home.
I also like the Karlotta set because I still have this like obsession with the womb, and the idea of a blob, in a soft object in your living room. I love that. The thing about the softness is that your legs don’t hit anything, and you just like, fall into something, I’m a big advocate of that.
IB: What other projects are you working on right now?
KR: I’m working on a couple of hotels, in Dubai, Berlin, a bunch in Germany, Vienna… Well, there is one that it’s on hold, but I want to mention it because it’s I am very passionate about it. There’s a hospital in Israel, but it went a bit on hold because when their next wave of COVID hit, they needed to the hospital. We were about to get it all and start the reconstruction, but then they needed the beds, so I’m sure it’ll start up again. Then the 3D printed line of furniture, a collection from ocean plastic, carpets, some other things. Not that many projects, I mean, I didn’t answer the question about how COVID affected me personally, so I would say I’ve learned to be much more chill about everything. (laughs) So, before I had a desire to work, work, work, work and produce, now I’m cool with fewer projects because I feel just more spiritually relaxed about things. I don’t feel a part of that machine that I was in for many years… So that’s how it affected me personally. Then also just worry about my personal health, taking care of myself a lot. Then the downside, the hard part, was just that I realized that the only reason we’re on this planet is for each other. So loneliness or feeling removed or inactive in the world or not contributing, and all those things were the parts that affected me, like negatively. But with that said, I can’t complain because many, many people die, lost their jobs…It’s crazy what happened in the last two weeks. I don’t think any of us thought this is something like this could even happen, and it’s not over. Hopefully, it’s over soon.
DelightFULL and Essential Home decided to join forces in order to put together a timelessly modern house in Chicago, filled with the designer’s new pieces of the Kasual Collection.
Chicago is known for its bold architecture and incredible connection with art, and this amazing residential design isn’t an exception. A new concept of home design has emerged where casualism becomes the star. Six different rooms show six unique experiences and every luxurious room has its own purpose. Based on the thought that casualism is the future, every piece was achieved to bring people together in one space, creating that safe and welcoming feeling. Let yourself be inspired by an interior design project like never seen before!