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Trash Luxe

Take a lowly item. It could be cultural (hunting stuff) or just broken (old furniture). Add expensive materials—gold, leather—and a dash of irony. Presto! A high-design piece that subverts and satisfies consumer culture.

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Suburbia Redeemed
“Perfection is a silly goal,” says 34-year-old Jason Miller, who graduated from the New York Academy of Art, did time as a studio assistant for Jeff Koons, and moved to Williamsburg nine years ago. So Miller takes furniture from “hidden places” like the garage and the attic and makes them “special enough to put in the formal or entertainment spaces.” The result is a high-end take on a suburban teenage boy’s messy lifestyle, celebrating the broken, the cracked, and the dusty in leather and maple (all items available through the Future Perfect).


Jason Miller's Greatest Hits: From left: Duct-tape lounge chair (2006; from $5,000); Superordinate antler lamps (2003; $1,500); Beautifully Broken (2004; $920–$1,380); Little Gift #2 (2005; $280); Dusty table (2006; $2,900).


  

Hunting-Lodge Chic
Like Jason Miller’s ceramic antlers, Hivemindesign’s stainless-steel Stag Mirror (2005; $1,050 through Hivemindesign; 718-782-3539) played into a trend for ironic hunting imagery. “You know what it is when you see it,” says Hivemindesign’s Sather Duke, who sees the fad as part of a larger move toward decoration, “but it has nothing to do with our lives.”


Totally Skulled
Skulls are everywhere at the moment, from T-shirts to silk scarves. The Face Value mirror (2006; $45 at the Future Perfect), by Jeannie Choe and Steven Tomlinson of The Design Can, uses the skull as a commentary on negative self-image. Sarah Cihat, who added skulls to her Rehabilitated Dishware line (2003; $56 to $120 at the Future Perfect), just thought they “seemed timely. Who has skulls on dinner plates?”


Domestic Design
Like Miller’s Little Gift #2, Redstr Collective’s Alma Fortune Cups (2006; $65 at the Future Perfect), with pigment representing the coffee dregs used to tell fortunes in Turkish culture, transform humble items into design by freezing them in time.


You Are What You Own
Portia Wells’s Portraits: West Coast series (2005; $700 each in limited editions of ten through portiawells.com), which depicts silhouettes of iconic turn-of-the-century objects like sneakers and a Hummer, plays with the idea that our possessions create our identities.


Addicted to Shopping
The grungy tools of cocaine culture are also ripe for reappropriation. Tobias Wong’s solid-gold Coke Spoon 01 (2002; $265 at the Future Perfect) is intended as a commentary on luxury obsession. Heather Dunbar’s Nasty Little Habit (2005; $198 at the Future Perfect)—a gilt-edged mirror inside a secondhand hardcover—was created for a show called “I ♥ Snow.”


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