Designer Eric Trine’s colorful chairs, geometric tables, and assorted household accessories are playful and sleek, at home in a Laguna Beach cottage devoted to casual comfort or at a Manhattan penthouse under the sway of a Mondrian vibe. Even the smallest of pieces—a wall hook or a toilet paper holder—conveys a sense of whimsy. The designer sums up his style in one sentence: “What if Charles Eames, Buckminster Fuller, and David Hockney were surfing buddies?” His pieces, crafted from copper, brass, steel, and leather, are priced from $16 to $1,950 and are available at small boutiques, retail outlets such as West Elm, and on his website, erictrine.com.
When did you know you wanted to design?
My parents gave the garage over to me when I was 15—when I wanted to start making stuff. Even when I was at Orange County School of the Arts, I called the garage my studio. At art school, I did set design. I joined that program because I saw those guys building, and I thought, “I just want to start building and using power tools.”
Your production is done locally in Southern California. Why is that important to you?
Everything we produce started in-house at one point. I was making it all. Then I met some manufacturers, and it was like, “I don’t need to do this anymore.” All our metal products are produced by a family-run metal manufacturer that employs more than 100 people. They can do it, and it’s affordable. The challenge today is to manufacture domestically and compete with global sourcing. That’s hard, and it gives me major inspiration to do that. The retailers I partner with have a stake in their community beyond selling product.
Who are your clients?
I have this span of mid-20s design- and tech-savvy consumers with cool jobs, people who work at Facebook and Instagram and are getting their first place. I also have folks like me, who are in their 30s and are first-time home buyers and in some sort of nesting mode. They are absorbing a furniture budget and redoing their homes and saying, “Now we can finally afford these chairs.” It really feels a lot like my peers. It’s why I have a big following on Instagram. Everyone my age is on Instagram.
Your pieces look as though they can work in rooms for people of all ages, but what about a line just for kids?
We designed a collection for the brand Land of Nod—play tables, stools, a mirror, and a library cart. And we’re going to start producing some of our own kids’ stuff because I have this test subject living with me (his 3-year-old daughter). We’re researching all these really cool materials that are indestructible.
Can you talk about your design process?
I never ask, “What does the market say?” I start with, “What am I getting excited about?” And if (the initial idea) evolves into something that could become a product and I’m still excited, then we’ll decide how to make it. I have this product called the Wall Willy. We were trying to design a coat hook, but we were over-thinking it. Then we couldn’t stop laughing for a week—and after a week, we had it in production. It’s a funny little $20 coat hook that makes people laugh.
Do you have other expansion plans?
I definitely envision employing a larger team at some point and fluttering around as a creative director. But there’s also this trajectory of keeping it very small, keeping the overhead small, and just being a designer for hire and carving out my aesthetic for my brand.