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The Fair
June 28, 2021

Designer Picks: Michael Chen

Michael Chen, Principal, MKCA, founded his design practice in 2011 with experience in architecture and design offices in New York and San Francisco. He leads a team that is dedicated to producing exceptionally refined and conceptually rich design at a broad range of scales. Chen also serves as President of Design Advocates, a non-profit organization based in New York City comprised of a network of firms and individuals who volunteer their time and expertise to serve the public good.

June 28, 2021

Michael Chen, Principal, MKCA, founded his design practice in 2011 with experience in architecture and design offices in New York and San Francisco. He leads a team that is dedicated to producing exceptionally refined and conceptually rich design at a broad range of scales. Chen also serves as President of Design Advocates, a non-profit organization based in New York City comprised of a network of firms and individuals who volunteer their time and expertise to serve the public good.

Places where Chen shops for his home

Designer commissions and direct sales.

“There is nothing better than being able to source work from friends in the design community,” says Chen. “That’s probably how most of the things in our home have come to be in our home—through relationships. That said, for those who are not in the design industry, do as we do. Designers and creators frequently make work available through events, direct sales, and Instagram. Recent acquisitions for home and our studio include a console from Christopher Kurtz, a side table from Vonnegut/Kraft, Excavated glass vessels from Jeff Martin, a sand and resin table lamp from Steven Haulenbeek, and planters from Farrah Sit.”

Nalata Nalata.

“An exquisite shop in New York’s East Village and a terrific online presence for Japanese homewares and works of design that are full of humility, subtlety, and integrity,” says Chen. “I’m an Asian American child of immigrants. Nalata Nalata feels like home.”

Photo courtesy of Nalata Nalata.

"As someone who is regularly looking for compelling works of design for others, I oscillate between longing to live in an empty corian room and being ridden with fascination and desire for objects of meaning. Occupational hazard, I guess."

Curation.

“Aside from my own hunting efforts, I rely on the good taste and exceptional resources and relationships built over years by friends whose eye, sensibilities, and values I align with,” says Chen. “Chief among them are Jean Lin of Colony, a dear friend who has cultivated, enabled, and championed some of the most exciting figures in the American independent design community; and Nicholas Kilner whose gallery in Williamsburg [Brooklyn] is my go-to source for Italian modernism, easily my favorite period and place. Nicholas’ installations at events like the Salon are a revelation.”

Mast Books.

“The most wonderful bookstore,” says Chen. “Focused, exceptionally well curated, and a wonderful source for books on art and design. I’m always surprised and delighted when I have the opportunity to browse the shelves there.”

Photo courtesy of SAVVY, who completed the interiors for Mast Books.

TRNK.

“We happen to be developing a line of upholstered furniture for TRNK, but were admirers of [founder] Tariq Dixon’s design work and his curatorial eye,” says Chen. “Mixing contemporary manufactured pieces, artworks, and singular sculptural works, all within a price range from accessible to aspirational. TRNK has also started to develop curatorial projects that explore design territories that are explicitly and somewhat defiantly non-European in their origins in a way that is current rather than exotifying. It’s so inspiring to be able to work with and support other BIPOC voices in the design world.”

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