Josh Urso Design

Josh Urso Design

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Puff Light

Josh Urso's furniture and lighting designs are moments frozen in time that invite us to stop, observe and wonder.

"Confuse, amaze and entertain your guests" is the pitch on Urso's website for his aptly named Specter chairs. To make them he takes fabric, infuses it with resin, then hand-molds it into the form of a seat casually draped with a sheet or blanket. Frameless, hollow, lightweight, the result is indeed ghostly (especially when done in see-through, openwork mesh) and deceptive in more ways than one. At once soft and solid, animated and inert, ethereal and sturdy, it's a trompe-l'oeil sculpture you can sit on. Each Specter is oddly anthropomorphic, with a distinct personality depending on fabric and color: there's the pristine white modern one, the earthy-brown embroidered one, the retro hipster with the Eames pattern.

Urso's glass-topped Knoop tables (the word is Dutch for "knot," a nod to that country's avant-garde designers) are also inspiringly unlikely. For their bases, he permeates hundreds of feet of rope with resin (a medium he's mastered through experimentation), and in the 45 minutes before it all hardens, quickly fashions the lengths into a dense, wild tangle-like a high-style rat's nest or root system-in a precise cube or other shape. Once again, conflicting ideas-gravity defied, frenetic motion stilled, organic material in geometric form-blend to make an innovative, wholly functional piece of furniture.

"What we do is kind of a combination of design, furniture and art," says Urso, 30. He launched Josh Urso Design in New Jersey in 2002 and was joined in the business three years later by Kim Bricker, his girlfriend and collaborator. They've steadily built a clientele of interior designers and architects, doing both product lines and custom projects for homes and commercial spaces.

Their bestsellers include their Puff lights, again, of resin-soaked, hand-sculpted fabrics that vary to create dramatically different mood lighting: serene white for a "cloud" to float above a dining table; dark mesh for a brooding vibe, "kind of the antithesis of light"; dazzling orange for Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

"I like the handmade aspect of our stuff, though it would be nice to do some mass production and deal with that design challenge," says Urso, who dreams of designing an entire environment-like a restaurant, from furniture to lights to silverware. For now, he and Bricker are busy launching their newest line, see-through mesh room dividers enticingly dubbed Peep.