Native to Australia and Papua New Guinea, the bowerbird has a quality that makes it distinct among its avian peers. While other types of birds might find mates through ostentatious displays of plumage or ritual choreography, the male bowerbird attracts its partner by constructing a bower—a complex, sculpture-like structure ornamented with colorful found objects. This innate gravitation towards aesthetic harmony is what inspired two Brooklyn designers, Danny Giannella and Tammer Hijazi, to use the bowerbird as the moniker for their brand.
↑ The Bower + west elm collection. Shop it now on westelm.com
Bower was formed in 2013 after the designers, then working in the same woodshop in Redhook, became friends and discovered they had a natural way of working together. After taking on a few side projects, Danny and Tammer officially merged their talents and formed their studio. “We played a sort of creative ping pong, bouncing and building ideas off each other until a great concept or solution would surface,” Danny notes. “We founded Bower with the mission of creating a touch of magic and surprise in everyday objects.” This so-called “touch of magic” is something that has followed Bower from its humble beginnings (their first product was a charming magnetic key-holder in the shape of a target) to this day, with the company now producing furniture, home decor, and large installations for businesses and brands. Bower’s aesthetic, which melds elemental forms and elevated aesthetic sensibilities with a playful wit, is both refreshingly contemporary and absent of pretense or self-seriousness.
Today, Bower has expanded to include a third member, Jeffrey Renz, who leads business development and sales. The team has also moved into bigger digs—a sprawling studio space in Greenpoint that they share with designer Patrick Weder. Bower’s portion of the studio is in many ways its own sort of “bower,” a space that goes beyond pure function to reflect the personalities of its inhabitants. Mementos are dispersed throughout, oftentimes clustered to form makeshift vignettes. Humor is ever-present, too (a cabinet door weighted by two giant metal spheres opens to reveal a creepy mannequin’s head; a poster is pasted beneath a cabinet, only visible if one looks directly from under). “There are many artifacts from the past 4 years sprinkled around,” Danny says. “They’re a reminder of how we’ve been growing and evolving, as well as how some things never change.”
In 1 sentence, what would you say BOWER is “about?”
Creating something fresh, yet familiar.
When does a design excite you?
Design excites us when we can’t explain why it excites us. It’s an instantaneous gut feeling with no intellectual justification required. This is not only hard to find but challenging to create. It’s easy to pragmatically design something well, step by step, but to create something “exciting”, you have to quiet down your brain because it gets in the way of channeling your gut. This challenge is as fun as it is frustrating. It’s like trying to pitch a curve ball with your left hand.
Take us through your design and manufacturing process. How does a BOWER product go from idea to tangible object?
We don’t want manufacturing considerations to constrain our creativity or dictate what we design, so we give ourselves complete freedom when conceptualizing, and then start considering manufacturing, which leads to more commercially viable iterations. The challenge is to protect the spirit that excited us about the design in the first place. This isn’t the most practical way of designing. Allowing yourself to dream up ideas without constraint leads to many dead ends, so we end up having to go back to the drawing board and produce many more ideas than if we started off with limitations in mind. When we do persevere, it’s worth all the extra work.
↑ Sketches for the Bower + west elm light.
↑ Sketch for the Bower + west elm Lounge Chair.
Tell us a bit about your west elm collection. How is it similar or different from your other work?
Like most of our designs, we came up with minimal, geometric forms that nest, overlap, and intersect in elegant interesting ways. We mixed materials to highlight and enhance these connections as we’ve done with our previous work.
west elm has manufacturing capabilities that are years beyond our own, so that allowed us the opportunity to design pieces that we currently wouldn’t be able to produce. We were able to work through some technical hurdles with their engineering team, which was a great learning experience and luxury we don’t have in our own studio. The price point west elm is able to meet is also beyond our ability to match as a small studio, making our pieces more accessible to a wider audience across the country.
Collaborating with west elm has been a great opportunity to introduce a contemporary vibe into the homes of more traditional-leaning folks.
What (or who) do you think has influenced your work the most?
Nature is always an inspiration. It might be the closest thing to objective beauty. How?! What?! The natural world also proves the power of instinct. This gets back to our belief in following our gut and not overanalyzing ideas. If we don’t love it, we kill it.
We’re pushed and motivated by other creatives in all fields, from fashion to music to dance. Watching people expanding the experiences of other’s by pushing their own is contagious.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while building BOWER?
The power of synergy. Creating something yourself is amazing. Creating something together is alchemy.
Why do you love Brooklyn?
Culturally, it’s the closest thing to “everywhere.”
What’s next for you guys?
We’re working on more spacial designs… a few clothing stores in the works. We’re also working on a some unusual collaborations in the coming year.
↑ From left to right: Danny Giannella, Jeffrey Renz, Tammer Hijazi