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The Office of TNT turns NYC’s discomforts into playfully irreverent homeware objects
The NYC Series 2023 by Tian Wang & Teague Miller (Office of TNT)
Image: Matthew Gordon

The Office of TNT turns NYC’s discomforts into playfully irreverent homeware objects

Founders Tian & Teague were inspired by NYC—a rug in the shape of a flattened rat, a lamp referencing grimy subway poles, and a shelf based on omnipresent scaffolding.

by Jincy Iype
Published on : Dec 01, 2023

Diverse. Madcap. Resilient. Perplexing. The city of New York seems like a simulation sometimes. It is amazing how unfazed subway commuters remain when a shoe-sized rat streaks past with a pilfered slice of pizza; by passed-out drunks on sidewalks with spilt garbage for company; or by people yelling and cursing at no one in particular—most hurry past it all, preoccupied, disassociated, and unaffected. For the rest, the concrete jungle is a bit strange, variedly dystopian, oddly charming, and downright worrisome. As Betsy Dickerson (a lifelong New Yorker) puts it, “To experience NYC is to get lured here by opportunity and sitcoms and matcha, and then slowly bleed out via a million paper cuts to the psyche.” What would it be like to translate these discomforts and absurdities into objects of everyday use?

Product designers Tian Wang & Teague Miller tap into these very lived spectacles for their latest NYC Series 2023, a furniture and homeware collection “inspired by the things we all dread in NYC; stepping on dead rats, train poles coated in unknown substances, and scaffolding that’s been up longer than you’ve been alive,” as the creators share.

Comprising a plastic yellow lamp design in powder-coated steel which references the vertical handrails of New York’s subway trains glazed with questionable unknowns, a rangy aluminium shelf that mirrors the city’s omnipresent scaffolding consigned to oblivion, and a cartoonish woollen rug design tufted by TNT that resembles a flattened rat, the collection turns into functional objects, the riling and unpleasant things that most New Yorkers learn to tune out (for their own sake).

On drawing from their own experiences of living in New York City, the pair conveys to STIR, “Everything is a little more difficult to do in NYC. We used to have a family of rats living inside our bedroom wall. Every night it would sound like they are doing construction. It drove us crazy. But we put up with it for so long because the apartment we lived in had an in-unit washer and dryer, which made living in New York a little easier. I guess the idea of turning these objects every New Yorker comes in contact with every day into something more useful is in the spirit of living in New York. We’ve seen people turn a fire hydrant into a chair, or people securing their traffic cones with a bike lock. New Yorkers make it work.”

The Office of TNT based in Brooklyn, NY, United States led by the multidisciplinary designer duo exhibits an oeuvre both playful and irreverent, and seldom veracious to any single form or material. “[TNT] creates problems first, then finds the solution; brings design where design has no business being; and [is] always guided by the notion that a bad idea is a good one if it’s executed perfectly,” reads their designer bio.

For the NYC Series fabricated by Co-op Concept, TNT wanted to take these aspects that most people tend to tune out on daily commutes, and simply, alter their context. Wang and Miller also attempted to stay close to the original shapes and colours of the objects in reference, so they remain easily recognisable. In contrast, they decided to be more intentional about the employed material palette as well as the finish of each product design in the collection.

“With the lamp, we stayed true to the shape of the subway poles and focused instead, on the quality of the construction, such as making sure the welding was perfectly seamless. Scaffolding is usually made from galvanised steel, which is incredibly heavy and has a very rough appearance. So, we opted to use polished lightweight aluminium which was more practical for use as a piece of furniture design. Lastly, the rug is a play on the Tibetan tiger rugs that were popular a couple of years ago. There were a lot of rats in the area we lived in Brooklyn, and one day, we saw one get symmetrically flattened by a car, which reminded us of the rugs,” the furniture designers tell STIR.

For all the morbid discomforts of NYC that most expertly ignore or get used to, we inquired the Office of TNT about the idea behind turning these elements into functional pieces of homeware and contemporary designs that one would interact with on a daily. “Our work tends to be playful and never too serious. We liked the idea of playing with these objects that we encountered but prefer to ignore. So, for this collection, we wanted to take these objects that we don’t even want to touch, let alone be in our homes, then turn them into furniture that you would want in your home,” they shared in response.

For young designers, the main objective remains to always try and make things which are easy to understand. “A lot of ideas come from just observing what’s around us and making some kind of unparalleled connection, especially when we travel and get fascinated by new things. We like to keep our designs simple and fun,” they elaborate. On being asked what’s NEXT, Miller and Wang convey to STIR, “There are a couple of ideas we want to make. We’re experimenting right now with making some tableware with our own twist on it.”

What do you think?

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