Monday, January 18, 2010

Mod Minn(ies): S M L Design by Silvercocoon

Sometimes the most intriguing work comes from designers tackling issues of varying scale within one office. One great example was America’s modern design studio led by Ray and Charles Eames, which produced some of our most beloved chairs, films, graphic design and architectural masterworks within a thirty year period. Charles Eames felt strongly that all issues of design were equally intriguing and relevant because “eventually everything connects.” In the same vein, husband and wife team Tia Salmela Keobounpheng and Souliyahn Keobounpheng run an eclectic design company together. In the mid-century modern spirit, they operate out of a 50’s rambler (featured in the May/June 2007 issue of Architecture Minnesota), and also work in a vintage 1966 Airstreamer--the Silvercocoon--creating a wide array of art, architecture, jewelry and products.

Before founding their own firm in 2001, Souliyahn worked for Ellerbe Beckett and Salmela Architect (David Salmela is Tia’s father), and now leads Silvercocoon’s larger architectural projects. Tia’s resume is more varied; she studied architecture at the UMN, worked as an interior designer for Ikea and Redlurered, and did PR for local design firms. Her experiences in retail lend an understanding of color, material and product design which translates into Silvercocoon products like the Modern Tannenbaum trees, ornaments and jewelry.
In a recent interview with Threshold, Tia explains their practice, saying “[w]e take a lifestyle approach to design” seeking to make the everyday a special occasion through design. Whether they are designing homes or attempting to create the perfect a pair of earrings, Silvercocoon celebrates that their work affects people on a daily basis.

Some of Silvercocoon’s most innovative work results from collaboration with others. Silvercocoon conspired with Coen + Partners on this carriage house in Saint Paul (Shown Above). While many of Tia’s ornaments and jewelry creations come from working with Feyereisen Studios and their laser cutting facilities. These collaborative endeavors are important to the Silvercocoon’s work because they sometimes reveal better ways of working. Tia explains about the evolution of her jewelry design, “I have discovered that I think best through a computer – I can solve the problems that are floating around in my head fastest this way and in many ways the laser cutting process still keeps my mind engaged and occupied with possibilities for new work.”

Silvercocoon is a great example of architects applying their design skills to diverse ideas and their approach brings bursts of creativity which have potential to generate the kind of innovation that – like the Eames chair - will be remembered in the design world for generations.

Tia's jewelry design will be featured in the VOLTAGE Fashion Show on April 16th at First Avenue, a great show pairing local live music and fashion.


John said...

With today's economy it interests me to see how others are making it in design. Unless you're a 100 year old firm, it feels like it takes really original ways to keep busy... Silvercocoon is one of those interesting, atypical firms. Keep making it happen... it inspires those of us just starting out on their own.

Colin said...

It does seem like inventiveness is what will carry small firms through these time. Thanks for the comments.