With skyrocketing costs of living pushing creatives out of major urban centers, smaller U.S. cities are offering affordable alternatives where designers can live and work more easily. Providence, Rhode Island, the home of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), among the nation’s foremost design schools, is rapidly emerging as one of these new hubs. Rather than getting out of Dodge after graduation, a growing number of the school’s alumni are sticking around and setting up shop in the postindustrial town. They have formed a tight-knit community that produces art, furniture, food, music, and more. Take a look at some of the most impressive practices in the area.
O&G Studio designs and manufactures furnishings in its Warren, Rhode Island, factory. The company—helmed by RISD graduate Jonathan Glatt—develops new furniture and lighting concepts every season. These series often return to the same sources for inspiration: For example, the practice has reinterpreted the Windsor chair, a classic piece of New England design, in multiple collections. While the studio’s pieces are based on a historical construction technique where all structural elements are anchored by a solid-wood core, O&G Studio offers its wares in contemporary finishes.
RISD graduates Ben and Aja Blanc established their namesake studio in 2014 and have since designed bespoke mirrors, lighting, furniture, and interiors. Combining their respective backgrounds in art history and design with a sense of functionality and focused experimentation, the Blancs have developed a geometric, color-focused, and tactile design vocabulary. The practice’s emphatically minimal yet richly textured aesthetic has taken the American design scene by storm.
RISD-trained glass master Tracy Glover has a vibrant glassworks in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where she makes luminaires and decorative objects with a materially informed aesthetic sensibility. Her whimsical yet refined designs come in a wide variety of colors and finishes, and are often accompanied by carefully selected textiles and metalwork.
Founded by New Delhi–born RISD graduates Urvi Sharma and Manan Narang, INDO- is an award-winning furniture and homeware design studio. Working in both their hometown and Providence, where they met, Sharma and Narang create a range of designs that experiment with and translate craft traditions as well as contextual references. While the dip-dyed and fluted Pilar Tables draw inspiration from the rich use of colored tiles found throughout Barcelona, the tambour Ikat Credenza (facing page, top) takes its cues from traditional ikat weaving techniques.
Helmed by Lindy McDonough, Lotuff is a fashion world–facing, Providence-based leatherworks. Since McDonough cofounded the company in 2013, its staff of 20—including a number of RISD graduates—ethically sources material from South America to serially produce meticulously crafted bags in a number of styles and formats. Lotuff manufactures all elements of its highly sought-after accessories in-house, using a rotating assembly-line model that ensures all employees learn and refine myriad time-tested artisanal techniques.
Header image: Bywater Resturant by O&G Studio (Courtesy O&G Studio)