INTERVIEW: BRIAN FRANSON
PREFACE from Convivial
Our new Home, Table, Garden Interview Series was initiated to feature Convivial wares within a wide range of settings, styles and uses. Our hope is that these journal entries will inspire you towards curating spaces and implementing practices that push you towards living a life of conviviality. We create the wares, you set the scene. This post highlights Brian Franson's use of Convivial products from the Garden Category to create an indoor garden work/live space within his Kansas City apartment.
INTRODUCTION: Brian Franson
My name is Brian Franson. I grew up in a small town in rural Iowa, studied fine arts as an undergrad at Central College and eventually made my way to the East Coast where I began working as a glass and mixed media artist. During this time I was first introduced to industrial design by one of my mentors. Industrial design is a field I didn’t know existed but found to fit me perfectly. In many ways I had already been practicing without knowing. I followed this new interest, attended grad school at North Carolina State University and currently work as an industrial designer for KEM STUDIO in Kansas City, MO. KEM STUDIO is a design firm that fuses architecture and industrial design.
Your apartment is very unique, both in design and size. Can you describe your space and general aesthetic?
Yes, my apartment is quite small being all of 375 sq. feet. I’ve adopted and enjoy living in a small space. For one thing there is no room for excess. This forces you to choose the things that you really need and love. I’ve always believed in having only the things you really love in your home - a quality over quantity approach. Less is more. Why surround yourself with anything else if you have the choice? My space is made up of a curated collection of these ‘essentials’ and I think this is what gives it its charm. Even the common ordinary objects can be those you love. I see my space as a backdrop for those pieces- the things I’ve collected over time that have meaning, a kind of record of life in the form of objects. Things from traveling, from projects I’ve worked on, art that I made or that was given to me and of course…plants. Keeping the things I like around me inspires and influences how I think.
What main needs influenced how you've set up and prioritized the areas within your apartment. How is your apartment set up to function for you?
An important aspect of living in a small space is efficiency. My apartment is your basic studio loft and I like to think I use it as such. It is essentially one large room that needs to function like a whole house. I’m lucky that my space has tall ceilings and large south facing windows which make it feel much larger and fills the space with natural light. A loft space converted into the bedroom really opened up the options for the main living area. I use this large ‘studio’ for my kitchen, a work/studio space and a living area with couch and tv. In reality all the spaces become interchangeable and must be multi-functional. Open shelving creates a kind of open room divider between the living and studio area. With this I wanted to create an open wall/screen of plants that starts to extend upwards into the 18’ space. This separation helps each area feel distinct but still with an open feel and improved functionality.
You mentioned Industrial Design in your introduction. Can you expand a bit on what that means?
Industrial design is essentially product design. It includes the design of many mass produced products we have around us everyday, such as furniture, housewares, soft goods, electronics, consumer goods and even cars are designed by industrial designers. It involves many processes including conceptualization of a product, how it functions, what it looks like, how users interact with it, what material it is made of, how it is manufactured and many more.
How has your work as a designer impacted your personal space?
Design inspires everything I do, so my space is definitely influenced by my profession. The things I see, the things I work on, all of it inspires how I live. It may be cliche but it really is a lifestyle. This lifestyle influences my taste in the things I’ve chosen to keep in my space and is largely responsibly for my style. That’s the cool thing about curating your own space - you can take bits and pieces from all the different things you like and make it your own.
Home and work are interwoven throughout. I've always had a work/studio set up, as I like to make art or explore new ideas at home. A space free of judgement can be just the thing you need to do your best creative work. I’m always responding to my space; testing new ideas when I encounter a problem or discover something that could be better. These explorations help me learn as well as define what I need in a space and influence how I change over time. I think this is pretty natural for designers to do. A great example is the Eames’ case study house #8, home to Ray and Charles Eames, iconic designers of the mid 20th-century. You can clearly see that their work was a main fixture in their life and home and something to look up to.
There are so many different products in the world. Are you selective about what you allow into your home? If so, what criteria goes through your mind when selecting items?
I would say yes, I’m definitely selective. Design and quality are very important. I prefer things that are going to last. Today we are much more educated and aware of the environmental impact of products, from the materials and manufacturing used to the shipping and recyclability. While not all products are going to complete the cycle back to a useable material for another use, the great thing about well designed products is that they stay in use for a very long time.
You've been a Convivial customers for a while now. How did you find our company and what drew you to collect our products?
I was first attracted to the simple, clean designs and minimal color palette of Convivial’s planters. The basic geometries and refined look creates a timeless piece that will continue to look good for years. They pair perfectly with the all kinds of plants. I don’t remember exactly how I first found Convivial - it was either instagram or one of the many craft/design stores across KC. Either way I started following, visited the studio and soon had my first pieces. I go to buy gifts and have ended up with more for myself than I've given away. I found Convivial’s pieces to be exactly what I was looking for. I love them in my space and I think their versatility allows them to fit into any style of space. A great example of how the ordinary things (a planter) can become your favorite things.
A main theme throughout your space is P.L.A.N.T.S. Tell us why!
I really love plants. I think more now than ever but the love was definitely instilled at a young age. Growing up, my family always had a large garden and lots of outdoor plants during the summer. I remember helping all of the time and the effort it took. I also remember my work being rewarded with delicious food and beautiful flowers. Fast-forward to living in an urban setting with little to no personal outdoor space - I turned my attention to indoor plants to get some of these same experiences. The process is what I really love. Selecting new plants, repotting, watering, propagating, seeing them grow, giving them the things they need to flourish. It’s all a learning experience and very rewarding.
Plants also create a unique indoor environment. Growth is a main theme and I think it's key to a creative environment. Its like that coffee shop vibe but in your own home. House plants not only do so much for the aesthetics of a space but also give you actual health benefits. Biophilia is real…being around nature is something that is so inherent to being human. Bringing this nature indoors connects people and nature - providing many of the same benefits. Growth, happiness, a calming sense and a clean environment where it’s easy to be productive are just a few of the returns. My home is a place that I spend a significant amount of time in - it needs to be a place where I feel relaxed and creative.
Alain de Botton wrote in Architecture of Happiness, that "We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical...We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us. " Do you relate with this idea? Does your set up consciously / subconsciously reflect and remind you of your personal values + goals?
Absolutely! Having and creating your own space is special. You can do with it as you wish. Everything in my space is representative of who I am and who I want to be. It’s also ever changing just like all of us - adapting to new goals and ambitions. Its kind of like they say, the way you dress is representative of how you feel and vice versa. I think the same goes for your home. I know I feel more productive in everything I do when my space is clean and full of life. Having this sanctuary helps keep you balanced and provides a reprieve from life to get you back on track to living the life of your true intentions.
Stay tuned for our next post, featuring HOME inspiration with Katie Lentile, home owner + Airb&b host A Cozy Casa.