”We have never disagreed on what we believe things should be.”
Eleni Petaloti & Leonidas Trampoukis × Objects of Common Interest × Brooklyn, U.S.A. & Athens, Greece
Objects of Common Interest is a research and design studio based in New York and Athens led by Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis. OoCI is frequently commissioned to develop objects, installations and spaces expressing the studio’s signature focus on simplicity, illusion and momentary beauty. Clients include other design brands such as Matter Made and Kvadrat.
RE: HIVE MIND
L: We complement each other in an interesting way. We think alike — that’s the number one priority, we think the same. We’ve never had any disagreement regarding design direction or strategy direction. We think alike so we know what the other likes. We can solve a lot of projects through discussion because we don’t even need to sketch — we can discuss and figure it out.
Work-wise, we separate work. We have a team here and in Greece so we handle different things from architecture to objects — we blend them. I work in objects and architecture, and Eleni does the same thing. But we never work on the same project. We have our own projects and that’s how we avoid conflict. The most important thing is that we agree on the initial direction. There are no disagreements in substance — that’s a stupid thing. We have only process disagreements, which are superficial.
E: We have never disagreed on what we believe things should be. We have disagreed, let’s say, on whether something makes sense to do in a project. Sometimes I get carried away, sometimes he gets carried away, and sometimes we just say: “Do whatever you want.”
RE: OBJECTS VS. BUILDINGS
L: Initially, the way we thought about architecture and objects was very different. But it’s been three or four years now where we’ve embraced more of a blend. Now, it’s inevitable that we will blend the two. Many times, it’s a common ground of inspiration, for example, we often look at art for inspiration or for personal interest, and it’s often a starting point for both scales. We don’t go that thoroughly into digital forms as a formal exploration — that comes at a later stage, after things have been made more clear in our mind.
Often in the object world, we go directly into fabrication from sketches or from 3D molds. We don’t do that many mockups. We work a lot with intuition. At least we know what we like and what we want. We don’t work with too many complex shapes, anyways. So it’s easy for us to understand the proportions and dimensions without making a mockup. It’s not that we don’t do it for a reason, but we like going directly to the material.
Parallel Bench (2016)
Doric Columns, Kvadrat Exhibition (2020)
Standing Stones, Brussels Design Museum (2020)
“We don’t have time to get bored, because we can change our environment.”
RE: LIVING IN PARALLEL
L: If you see us when we’re in New York and when we’re in Greece, we’re different people. Over there, it’s a very different environment. People walk slower, people are not multi-tasking. We have to slowly get into the stream of being there. And then we come back here again, and there’s a transition period before it’s back to the New York standard. Sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s refreshing. But no matter what, it is motivating in a very nice way. We don’t have time to get bored, because we can change our environment. Inspiration comes necessarily from these parallel lives. That’s why lately we try to live this way even more consciously.
E: The plan is to always have a base in New York. But we consider both places home. We have a three-year old, so things get more complicated because he’s already in school. Usually, when people come to New York, especially from Greece, they get really enthusiastic and then they only want to be here. We are always trying to keep a connection with Greece, which is very hard because Greeks, if you’re not there, it doesn’t make sense for them. They are used to the old-school physical presence, and you have to be there. So it was a big struggle, but an intentional one because we wanted to keep ties to where we’re from. We feel now that we’re from New York, too. We are tied to these two places.
RE: PLAYFUL DESIGN
L: We have done a couple of installations in the past that involved simple shapes, like the Design Talks Theater for Design Miami (2017). Some of the pieces for the Shapely collection first appeared there, not exactly as they are, but the idea then was a theater where people gather for discussions and lectures, but it’s not an architectural theater. It’s part of many objects floating in space. There was this playful environment of people being able to grab one piece and move it around, sit in clusters, or next to someone. There was this idea of flexibility.
And then another project in Greece for Art Athina Fair called Formations. There were these blue-colored, heavy, tubular-metal pieces. It was an art installation but then children came in at the opening of the fair, and there was some jumping. Nobody had touched them until some children came up and started playing around. This idea of play and intuitively using objects is an interest of ours.
“The simpler it is, the harder it is to make.”
RE: THE HARD WORK OF SIMPLICITY
L: Dims. gave us a lot of freedom. They trust in the designer. Actually, I’ve never had such a smooth start.
We got the brief, we literally sketched five things. We worked a lot, but we gave them five sketches. They said, ”Great. This is amazing, let’s go for it.” The sketches were simple so they easily became a set of drawings for the prototype. Since then, it was just minor corrections with a fabricator — super, super smooth.
It’s not that it’s just a simple object, nothing is simple.
E: The simpler it is, the harder it is to make.
Shapely Suite by Objects of Common Interest (2021)
L: The Shapely pieces all share this idea of curving but changing where the curve is. The bench has a curved top. It’s not the kind of bench that you lounge comfortably on, it’s a bench that makes you want to be active — same with all of the pieces. You can sit on the bench from any side. And because you’re sitting at the tip of a curve, you can move easily. The ottoman is the opposite, the curve is on the bottom so it’s actually like a rocking ottoman — the whole piece is moving, not just you, that’s the difference. One object, it’s the person that’s moving, and the other one it’s the object that’s moving. And the third one, a stool, is a combination of curves using the idea of stacking. The curve comes in the both the upper and lower parts of the stool, which gives you the option to stack.
The movement and the way you sit is not always the same. That’s also true of the softness. They look all the same, but they’re not the same in softness. The ottoman has a thicker padding at the top and the other pieces are firm, so there is this surprising contrast of firmness and softness.
”Design objects, they have soul. They hold meaning for us.”
RE: MEANINGFUL OBJECTS
E: I never met my grandfather, but he was a collector of Italian design in the ’60s and the ’70s. He was flying from Greece to Milan just to acquire objects. All over the house, we had all of these objects and I developed a connection to them because for me, objects represented people that my parents adored but I never met. My favorite is a lamp by Carlo Nason, a Venetian glass blower. I developed this thing about design objects — it could be my grandmother’s handbag or it could be a lamp — for me, these objects became people. Design objects, they have soul. They hold meaning for us.
RE: THE FAMILY BUSINESS
E: We keep collector’s items by galleries and collectors on display, which we feel are so precious and then our son comes in and treats them with no respect! [laughs] He puts his Mickey figurines inside, and makes them into his ‘houses.’ So the whole room has been filled with with toys, and he says, “I‘m an architect, mom. I‘m building houses. What are you building?”