Salon Series | Ini Archibong on Spirituality & Design

Design is intellectual, yes – but it’s also *instinctual.* We have an appreciation for instinct because it helps dictate the relationships to the works and objects around us. When working with clients to specify art and design for their projects, what piques our curiosity and guides our journey with them are questions beyond what’s “liked” – they’re questions about whether or not a work will allow us to see something new every time we share space with it, how it will continue to excite.

This drive comes from our side of the equation, and is matched by the makers and artists producing alongside us. In a recent conversation for Salon Series: Short and Sweet, Elena and multihyphenate designer Ini Archibong dig into the *spiritual* elements of space and the “energetic” exchange between us and our things.

“All the spaces that we inhabit have a spiritual layer to them,” Archibong says, “in the same way that they have a color palette.” This recognition is what infuses his unique body of work – which ranges from lighting to art installations and luxury goods – with such a moving and compelling quality.

This quality is also what drew Elena to his work in the first place. She discovered it at an art fair, and was entranced by one chandelier in particular, the Vernus. She began envisioning its stalactite-like glass components glowing in one particular room in the home of a client (the vision was manifest – the fixture is now installed in the project).

“I hope that when they see it, it gives them that feeling that you get when you wake up the first day that spring has hit,” Archibong shares of his Vernus chandelier. “When you look out the window and there’s a bunch of flowers after it’d just been a desolate winter. That feeling of not just hope, but hope fulfilled.” His expressions reflect the joy that’s present in much of Archibong’s work, which is all-around rooted in beauty but also in life’s most personal, most day-to-day experiences. He cites inspiration for Vernus in the childrens’ book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as well as in “finish fetish” car culture, skateboarding, and Pasadena’s Rose Parade.

Being a Pasadena native herself, perhaps it was these shared hyperlocal elements of their upbringings that compelled Elena to his work. But then again, there’s the universal in so much of the personal: “If I can really look at my experiences through the correct lens,” Archibong says, “I can get to a universal truth of the feeling that came out of it, then I can try to put that into the pieces that somebody puts into their home.“

The journey our design process takes with clients is guided, if sometimes unconsciously, by universal truths expressed by products, art works, and other tangible design choices. For Elena, it’s about mastering the balance between expressing her own inspirations and personal histories through the lens of the client’s experiences, interests, comforts and desires, and bringing the correct feeling into space in an entirely livable context.

“Once you set it down,” Archibong says of his design works, “it’s creating energy in a space.” Finding the energy that is right for each client, through bringing their spaces to life with art and design, is our expertise. That is the *journey*; that is the work of crafting one-of-a-kind senses of place.

Watch the latest episode of Salon Series: Short and Sweet for more insight into the designers’ shared Pasadena background (did we hear something about a high school party rivalry..?!), Elena’s own Bridgehampton home and how it inspires her, plus a peek into Archibong’s toy- and art-filled home in Switzerland.

portrait (c) Julian Anderson

"Shade" table

A beautiful, sculptural object designed for mindfulness. Archibong's "Ritual Calendar" invites the owner to remove a droplet shaped totem each morning, carrying the object and intention around with them for the day.

"Vernus" chandelier detail

"Vernus" chandelier

Archibong's "Stargazer" chair is designed with an angle that makes it difficult for the sitter to much but gaze up at the stars.

"One of the indicators of having done a good job is how magical an object feels," Archibong says of working in the luxury space.

Looking to nature for inspiration, Archibong's designs contain universal themes. Kadamba Gate was directly inspired by the hexagonal columns of basalt rock on Northern Ireland's coast.

"Vernus" installed at our Grammercy townhouse project

"Below the Heavens" light pendant for Sé

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