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The husband-and-wife design team of Commonwealth practices a very different kind of minimalism. One that’s not afraid of blurps and blobs.

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The Tribeca loft of Boira and Coombes.  

Cork, bamboo, and Corian are put to plenty of commonplace uses in today’s homes, but in the hands of—or rather, run through the CNC machine of—furniture designers Zoë Coombes and David Boira of Commonwealth, they become the stuff of far stranger household objects. At the back of an industrial building in Williamsburg, the couple has made anemone-like porcelain-vase models, translucent webbed Corian desktops, cork-and-plaster lamp prototypes, and a furniture series constructed of Richlite, a sustainably harvested paper countertop material. CNC machines allow for blobby, biomorphic digital designs to be translated directly into three dimensions. Coombes and Boira insert a block of material into the mill and send it a digital file detailing a form. The solid passes through the mill and is carved away; what remains is the object designed on the computer, to be refined by hand. The result: furniture like Commonwealth’s Lard series, a table, bureau, and stool that are minimalist in color and shape but that break out in cellulite-like blips and blurps. The black stools are made of Richlite, “which has this eco-angle but we made something from it that has this Star Wars look,” says Coombes. “It’s an eco-product without trying to look like patchouli,” adds Boira.

The couple’s studio is both workspace and sometime gallery, offering up its walls for installations like the 30-foot-long mural by Momo and Melissa Brown, painted collaboratively over 30 days. The furniture-to-white-surface ratio suggests minimalism, too, but of an entirely non-fussy kind. At home in their rented 1,200-square-foot Tribeca loft, the story is much the same: a sofa by the brothers Bouroullec, vintage plastic chairs by Vico Magistretti, an antique tabletop affixed to Blu Dot legs. The art changes with the seasons. “I grew up in an artist’s house,” says Boira (his father is Catalan painter Francisco Boira), “and I always liked the idea of having artwork you keep revolving.” At the back is a bassinet; Coombes is expecting Pau, a boy, in mid-May. “We are planning a home birth,” she says, “right there between the Lard bureau and the bed.”


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