10 Questions and Answers With… Rafael de Cárdenas
The designer-curated auction is starting to be a thing. Note the recent “style sale” by Adam Blackman and David Cruz of Blackman Cruz at Wright, unique in its thoughtful mix of design styles and materials and blatant disregard for any theme related to era or estate. Now, Rafael de Cárdenas, founder of design firm Rafael de Cárdenas / Architecture at Large, has launched “Rafael de Cárdenas: Through Thick and Thin,” a Paddle8 online sale of dozens of works from de Cárdenas’s own collection combined with items by the likes of Philippe Starck, Ettore Sottsass, Enzo Mari, Paul Rudolph, Hans Agne Jakobsson, Ico Parisi, and Shiro Kuramata—all of whom have been featured in de Cárdenas’s interiors. Punches of bold colors, geometric forms, and black-and-white contrasts stand out, while the title “Through Thick and Thin” references de Cárdenas’s juxtaposition of fragile and dense proportions and materials. Bidding will be run on Paddle8.com from May 12 to May 26.
Here, the New York-based designer tells us why he’s inspired by youth culture and why he’ll never forget the Philippe Starck juicer for Alessi.
Interior Design: How did the auction with Paddle8 come about?
Rafael de Cárdenas: Through a causal conversation with Alexander Gilkes, one of the founding partners of Paddle8. We share a unique view on collecting.
ID: What are you hoping that people will take away from viewing the auction?
RDC: Well, it’s a unique collection and a fingerprint of an exciting but beguiling moment in design history. I think it’s interesting to see the exuberance of postmodern form as compared to the clarity and skeletal nudity of the modern, and this collection very much highlights that compositional tension.
ID: What has been your intention as a designer from the outset of your career?
RDC: That’s an intense question, but the short answer is that I’ve always been interested in creating atmospheres, and raising or lowering the volume of mood in space.
ID: What are some of the projects currently on your plate that are challenging and/or inspiring?
RDC: It’s equally challenging and inspiring to do something new, and recently our studio has been taking on digital video and film projects. We just created a conceptual film based in part on our design for Delfina Delettrez’s London store, and at the moment are working on a music video.
In Europe we are working on two exciting, but very different residential projects. One is a ground-up pool house in the English countryside; the other is an extremely contemporary insertion to an otherwise Hausmannian hôtel particulier in Paris. Commercially, I am happy to be working on several projects here in New York. We’re doing the first US flagship for a very design aggressive Asian eyewear brand, as well as a private showroom and exclusive fitness studio for Nike, both in Soho.
ID: What are the shared traits of your staff members, and what do you consider indispensible when it comes to the people you collaborate with?
RDC: My team is the most exciting group of young people that have arrived to architecture and deign through circuitous paths like myself. They come from varied backgrounds and have very active interests in other creative endeavors, so each person really brings a unique point of view to the studio as whole. And of course they all have very good, but more importantly, very precise and exacting taste.
ID: What’s been the biggest surprise for you about “making it” as a designer? Words of wisdom for young designers?
RDC: Well, I haven’t “made it” and would be suspect of anyone who thinks they have. Insecurity and adversity breed innovation. Words of wisdom for young designers: question everything.
ID: What’s the last design item that you bought for yourself?
RDC: A pair of all black Nike Air Huaraches. A shaker box.
ID: What is your earliest memory of design?
RDC: It’s hard to say. Aside from my mother’s clothes and going with her to the furniture floor at Bloomingdale’s, I’d have to say the Philippe Starck juicer for Alessi. The juicer stands out in my memory because its design marked an acute turning point in how I thought about objects; that everyday things can also be unique and clever.
ID: What is your own living space like?
RDC: A testing ground of personal ideas, many of them failed.
ID: What—and where—excites you?
RDC: Youth culture. It’s a struggle and a joy to keep up with it. And I love L.A., as boring as that is to hear.