Studio Seitz brings Swiss craftsmanship to its new Williamsburg location
Studio Seitz’s Kevin Seitz and Rob van Wyen are preparing to open their first showroom – in a former babka factory in Williamsburg, which doubles as their home
Kevin Seitz and Rob van Wyen launched Studio Seitz in 2019 with the mission to regenerate declining specialist artisanal businesses, in particular those they had first-hand knowledge of. ‘We had this desire to keep alive these very niche yet dying crafts, working with individual tradespeople,’ says Seitz, who is descended from generations of Swiss makers in Berneck, known for its ceramics.
Designed from necessity, built to last
‘Creating things out of necessity,’ they say, is the lynchpin to their line of furniture and lighting, which includes a wooden bench, a stool, a dresser, brass candle holders, a hand-blown frosted glass desk lamp and more. Their new ‘Wall Mirror’ references a traditional Alpine milking pail. The carving of the wooden frame is done by Reto Mösli — one of only around four experts in the world who still carve using this technique, according to Seitz.
Unfussy and pared back, Studio Seitz’s designs are shaped by purpose. ‘We find great value in cultural objects that may be ubiquitous or often overlooked,’ says Seitz. ‘The biggest reward for us is to find a way to redefine how we may look at a seemingly mundane and sometimes dying tradition – reinvigorating its purpose and appreciation.’
Nevertheless, the minimal aesthetic belies deep consideration. The pair’s teapot, for example, was an evolution of Seitz’s college thesis, which he wrote on third-culture kids: children who grow up outside of their parents’ culture. Seitz, who has a Swiss father and a Malaysian mother, was born in Spain and lived in Manchester before moving to the US when he was ten. ‘For me, being Swiss-German and Malaysian Chinese is like a very large part of my identity. I wanted to create a physical object that represented the conceptual space of the in-between, of dual cultures that are usually on opposite ends. So it was about marrying Chinese tea customs and my grandfather’s ceramics together.’
Central to Studio Seitz’s work is collaborating with the community of Swiss makers. ‘A lot of the people that we work with are actually family, friends, or people that have worked with our family before,’ says Seitz, whose great-grandfather was an established ceramist. Those who are not blood relations have become a family through the collaboration of their work, sharing their particular techniques honed over years, even generations.
Sixth-generation metalworker Adalbert Fässler hand-stamps the ornamented brass pulls on the drawers of the dresser and bedside table; fourth-generation master joiner Urs Mätzler (‘his craftsmanship is the benchmark by which all other artisans are judged – honesty instilled from the passion and care that can never be replicated in mass manufacturing’, say Seitz and van Wyen) creates much of the woodwork; fifth-generation craftsman Thomas Seitz’s family-run workshop produces the candleholder, pendant light, desk and table light and hardware for the dresser and bedside table.
Reflecting the simple mountain life led by original Swiss makers, Seitz and van Wyen use only natural, locally available materials, often doing away with nails and screws (their popular ‘Stabellenbank’ stable bench is engineered to be held only by the position of its legs and its own weight). They favour solid European ash, grown nearby in Eastern Switzerland. ‘They’re very strict in Switzerland on regulation, especially with laws around chopping down trees and things like that. For us to be certified “Swiss Made”, it was a six-month process,’ says van Wyen. ‘They interview everyone that we work with, they track down every material that you use.’
Seitz concurs: ‘We only use solid wood. We want to make heirlooms. The idea is that something lasts forever and you hand it down.’
A new Williamsburg location for Studio Seitz
This summer, the pair will open their first showroom: a 1,300 sq ft former babka factory, built in 1912, which they have ambitiously and painstakingly renovated themselves over the past five years. The space, which is also their home, will provide an environment to showcase how their designs fit into everyday life. Every detail is considered, such as the stainless-steel banister that echoes the kitchen cabinets.
The space will also house a curation of design elements from Swiss and Danish brands with which they have an affinity, including Finn Juhl ceramics, Reform kitchen and closets, pieces from Vipp, Ferm Living, Sonnhild Kestler textiles, and Appenzeller handicrafts.
Made to order
While some of the popular pieces, such as the bench, are in regular production, every piece is made to order. This allows the pair to administer design tweaks, such as creating a different size or finish. Advocates of slow living, they operate in the same manner they wish their furniture to be enjoyed.
‘We like to take our time. Like if something’s not quite working out in that moment, then we’ll just wait until we find the right person, the right thing, the right vibe,’ they say. ‘We don’t want to make stuff for the sake of making stuff. Each piece has to be special, and we want to make each person happy.’