Ask an Expert | Randall Kramer
Kramer Design Studio addresses Coronavirus
We spoke with Randall Kramer, designer and owner of Kramer Design Studio in Chicago, about the effects he’s seen from the Coronavirus pandemic. He fills us in on adjustments he’s had to make, jobs that have been rescheduled or postponed, and his thoughts on the future of the design industry as the economy begins to open up and the market rebounds.
Doug Mockett: How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected you and your business thus far? Are you able to remain open? If so, what adjustments have you made to your work routine?
Randall Kramer: At the beginning of every New Year the demand for high end custom furniture dries up. So in Jan-Feb, the New Year starts out like a sailboat with no wind. I always say I need to plan on going somewhere for that time - Panama, Colombia or Thailand- and just sip on a cozy "Liquado de Mamey" while waiting for new projects to surface. So add in the lockdown and what little work I did have has now been affected.
One client will not allow "outsiders" into her Chicago home, so the custom steel dining table base I created for her sits in my shop. At another client's fancy-schmancy-co-op building, they're not allowing visitors in so I am unable to retrieve an architectural artifact (metal grate) of theirs that I'm supposed to repurpose into a steel and glass coffee table that two ottomans fit underneath. As a result, that project is unable to proceed (meaning my getting paid the final balance) until I can complete and deliver it. Since I work mostly alone, unless it's a larger scale or higher production run project, the effect of the pandemic on my own personal work safety is negligible.
DM: Interesting, so people are handling their comfort levels differently which appears to affect your progress in some instances. What sort of impact have you seen across your industry as a whole? Do you expect to see any changes in the way we conduct business moving forward?
RK: Interior Designers who'd previously LOVED to visit my studio won't come. Equally, back in February I had scheduled an event for a large group of architects and designers from a very respectable World-Wide-ARCH/Design Firm. I was planning on hosting them this month for an Open Studio/Wine/Beer/Cheese/See-The-Work-Where-It's-Made type of thing but it’s now postponed “until further notice”.
I find one of the BEST ways to induce clients to work with me is a face-to-face meeting, be it residential or contract projects, a sit-down is how I like to connect both personally and professionally with prospective interior designers and architects. But now it doesn't look like that will occur anytime soon, until we can all be tested/traced and ultimately vaccinated.
DM: Do you see a newfound interest in sustainable building materials? Will that have any impact on the way you look at design in the future?
RK: I have always been as green and sustainable as possible. As an Artist/Designer/MAKER- I think repurposed materials present a special challenge, and even have an entire section devoted to that sort of furniture making on my website.
One reason I'm attracted to designing & making steel furniture is that steel is the most commonly recycled material on Earth. It takes a lot of heat/energy to melt it down and reform scrap steel, but the steel plants that operate in this fashion have a much lower impact on the environment than the ‘old fashioned’ steel making factories like you'll see belching out smoke in Gary, IN or Betheleham, PA.
DM: What’s next for Kramer Design Studio?
RK: In my humble opinion, design is about staying relevant. Meaning the Mediterranean furniture designs of the 60s aren't relevant today. Nor are the huge automobiles of the 70s that looked like boats (minus running lights and flags). Equally, my future contract design projects will most likely be reflective of our current pandemic-response way of looking to be safer, more isolated and more likely socially distanced.
We still don't know a lot about the transmission of COVID19 - especially in light of our recent shift to open-office plans and co-working/shared work spaces like WeWORK and CONVENE. So, being flexible and keeping an open mind will help. Look, there are plenty of SUPER SMART people already forecasting the future of return to work but, the truth is, we just don't know. But we do know, more likely than not, that Doug Mockett will find ways to help us design for "relevancy"!
Kramer Design Studio was founded in 1993 and focuses on designing and building Custom Furniture and Furnishings, mainly out of Steel. Their custom projects involve designing realistic, buildable solutions that show an attention to detail.
For more information on Kramer Design Studio and to view some of their recent projects, you can visit them online HERE. Or follow them on LinkedIn.
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