DANNY GIANNELLA & TAMMER HIJAZI
Combining fine woodworking with playful experimentation, BOWER creates pieces that look to the future with a nod to the past. They aim to bring new life and character to objects people interact with everyday.
To know the philosophy behind Brooklyn-based design studio Bower is to understand the origin of its name. Drawing inspiration from a species of Oceanic bird best known for constructing intricate (and strikingly beautiful) twig structures called bowers, co-founders Danny Giannella and Tammer Hijazi borrowed more than just a moniker — they also chanced on a fitting metaphor for the team dynamic they’d developed over years of working side-by-side.
“The bowerbird creates elaborate displays and architectural structures using found objects,” says Giannella. “They use twigs, leaves, different things from the forest. When Tammer and I work together, we draw inspiration from many sources, and we each bring something different to the table: I have a background in industrial design and I think more about function and structure; Tammer is self-taught and is really heavy on art and color and aesthetic. I think that’s why we make a good pair. We complement each other.”
Having first crossed paths in the wood shop at New York City design firm Uhuru, Giannella and Hijazi connected over similar sensibilities and a mutual admiration for one another’s work. Several shared side projects later, the duo was primed for their most significant undertaking to date: building out the bar (a process which included the construction of a 23-foot black walnut counter) at Kinfolk Studios, a workspace and nightlife staple in Williamsburg. “Kinfolk was our biggest side project,” Giannella says. “We were still full-time at Uhuru, and it took a month and a half of working on nights and weekends to finish.”
In 2013, shortly after the opening of Kinfolk, Giannella and Hijazi left Uhuru to work full-time on Bower. (The studio, initially located in a corner of a Williamsburg workshop, has recently relocated to a larger space in Greenpoint.) “It was a huge decision, starting our own business,” says Giannella. “You realize it’s a lifelong commitment. But it was more exciting than it was challenging.”
Though the pair’s long term vision for the company was initially unclear, the bigger picture has become sharper with time. “We went about it backwards. We were really trying to clarify our mission statement when we began because it wasn’t clear right away. So we kept making things anyway and figured we’d revisit the question another time. After about a year, we looked back on the body of work that was coming together and realized it was defining itself — what we want to do is recreate things that people interact with daily. We want to take a mundane product or activity — like hanging your keys up on the wall — and brighten that experience a little bit.”
“We only work on projects that excite us,” he adds. “I think people are drawn to the things we make because they feel that energy in using them. We’re like sponges: things catch our eye and we’ll get an idea and run with it. And one thing tends to lead to another. Our cutting boards, for example, are functional on one side, while the other side is meant to be displayed when you hang the board on the wall. Next, we were thinking of different scales and that’s how the idea for the coasters came about. We also have a collection of mirrors based on similar shapes. Ideas evolve — that’s the basis of our process.”
Bower’s line of products includes the adjustable, walnut-and-steel Polaris Desk Lamp; decorative geometric Shape Boards; and multi-colored, magnetized Key Targets. Everything is meant to be workable — but with a wink, with many items available in an array of shapes and colors. “We like to be playful with design,” they say. “We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously.”
“So far our products have been for the home, but I think in the future we’ll go beyond that,” says Giannella. “Overall, our vision for Bower is pretty grand. We don’t want to feel constrained. As long as the ideas come together in the same spirit, we’re open to anything.”