Hardware Shop Project: DIY with Mario Tsai

Mario Tsai presents the Hardware Shop, an independent research project inviting the public to create objects and furniture using standard, easy to source materials

A woman sitting on a metal pipe
(Image credit: press)

In early December 2021, Mario Tsai announced the Hardware Shop Project, based on a series of explorations on the theme of open source design, inspired by the potential of standard, easy to source hardware store materials. A pop-up in Shanghai unveiled the beginning of Tsai’s thinking, with more designs (as well as instructions) planned for the coming months by the designer and his team. 

Hardware shop-inspired design

Hardware shop with silver tubes out front

(Image credit: press)

‘Huida Hardware Shop is located in a village not far from the studio, at the foot of the mountain,’ explains Hangzhou-based Tsai. ‘It mainly sells the hardware and materials needed in the life of the villagers.’ Tsai’s design team started experimenting with some basic materials from the shop, focusing on smoke hoses and foam. 

The design team then created the Hose Collection, which includes furniture, lighting and accessories, with the idea that the production details and materials for each of the works will be shared on the project’s website. 

Foam and silver tubes transformed into lighting by designer Mario Tsai

(Image credit: press)

The objects include a bench made by simply bending the thick silver tubes into an archetypal seat, and two lighting designs made of hoses in different thicknesses, one concealing the light source within, and the other featuring a knotted design and a lightbulb peeking out from one end. Using smaller black tubes, the team also created a series of knotted vases and wrapped the material around a piece of clear glass to make a small table. Foam, another readily available material, was used to fill the ends of the tubes for stability or to hold cables in place. 

Each design can be traced back to Tsai’s intuitive aesthetic language, with an approach somewhere between minimalism and functionality. Tsai calls this project ‘an exploration of public creation’. The simple principle of the initiative, he notes, consists in finding basic construction materials, creating everyday objects in different ways, and hoping to make their production open to the public. 

Foam and black ribbed tubes, transformed into design objects by designer Mario Tsai

(Image credit: press)

Silver tube turned into lighting by Mario Tsai

(Image credit: press)

metal pipe decorations with ropes

(Image credit: press)



Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.