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The Fair
Caroline Chao Photo: Alberto Bernasconi
June 26, 2024

Caroline Chao’s work is driven by an intense interest in embodied perception, often centered around natural phenomena and the cultural effects of the digital age. Through her work, the spatial designer and licensed interior architect seeks to mediate between the inherently personal nature of perception and a collective, universal understanding of our physical environment.

Based in New York, she earned her Master of Architecture degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and her undergraduate degrees in Architecture and Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving the Michael Yaron Prize in design. She has trained at numerous award-winning design firms.

As a kid, what did you answer when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 
I never really had a great answer for this growing up and typically answered in negatives: ‘not this, not that.’ Looking back on it now, I realize what I wanted to be didn’t fit into neat categories and wasn’t even a path I knew existed at the time.

Who are three designers you follow on Instagram?
Sabine Marcelis, Nendo, Olafur Eliasson.

What is your design philosophy?
I believe in the ability of objects to transform our perception of ourselves within space. I draw inspiration from cultural and natural phenomena, such as how our perception of space has shifted due to the attention economy or digital consumerism, or how we can draw from the natural environment to feel more connected to our senses and bodies.

I am passionate about creating objects and spaces that produce empathy through curiosity. Objects that may be seen in different ways, that may change as you spend more time with them. My ultimate goal is to shift (consciously or subconsciously) the perspective of others toward a more self-reflective world.

Was there a moment when you realized you wanted to be a designer? If so, what was it?
I think the signs were always there, so to some degree I always knew I wanted to be a designer. But it took several years of releasing personal or societal fears for following a different path than what perhaps was expected of me. Eventually, as a young adult, I realized that I had to try the design path or I would always regret it – and I’ve never looked back.

Which of your pieces, products, and/or projects are you most proud? Why?
I’m most proud of the View Collection. I felt the pieces were really a culmination of years of thinking about ideas in architectural perception. I like to think of each piece as a singular idea or spatial effect if you were to extract a discrete moment within a building or architecture

What’s now?
I’m showing with Archiproducts during their Aqua exhibition, curated by Studiopepe during Milan Design Week. And the month following I’ll be showing with Wanted Design in May.

What’s next?
After these upcoming shows in Milan and New York Design Week, I’ll be starting work on a new collection to launch in 2025, which will use similar concepts present in the View Collection of light perception, views, and optics and seek to push the ideas further.