The Thin Line




While industrial designer Nolen Niu finds inspiration in the European form, his pieces emphasize comfort, a decidedly American aspiration. He finds the intersection of cultural cues in his line of furniture.

“In America there’s a huge focus on comfort on large pieces. In Europe you get compact furniture that’s not exactly comfortable,” he says. “There are two distinct directions. My collection is the blend of the two of them. For a lot of people who never sat on my pieces they realize there’s a lot of comfort even though they look super rigid.”

To achieve his goals, Niu investigates materials and draws from his study of graphic design. “Since I have a background in graphics, a lot of my furniture tends to be graphic oriented. It’s definitely a break from the norm. It’s very angular. It’s inspired by a minimalist approach, fitting the loft lifestyle.”

Niu grew up in Washington, D.C, and moved to Los Angeles to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1996, where he later set up shop.

In past collections, Niu used bold colors on his sofas, but he is gradually shifting into more neutral tones and experimenting with textures in his sofas and chairs. He sees this as a trend taking hold in Europe in showrooms and on the runways. ”Furniture is very relatable to fashion,” he says. (Nolen Niu)

Nolen Niu’s latest collection debuts May 14.