Exclusive Interview: Edgar Blazona of TrueModern

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Edgar Blazona’s no stranger to the design world; starting right out of high school and continuing through to today, Edgar’s got an impressive resume and an even more impressive design philosophy. We dig his style and appreciate his attempts to create modern furniture at reasonable prices, ensuring that those who seek modern design will be able to find it through the fabulous company TrueModern

We speak with Edgar about how long he’s been in the design business, how he’s able to offer modern designs at affordable prices and what other awesome modern company he’s behind:

Our podcast music is “Dropping out of School” by Brad Sucks, licensed for use under
Creative Commons license Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Great news if you are looking to purchase some TrueModern furniture pieces right this second! We’ve got them at 2Modern.

Rather read Edgar’s interview? We’ve got your words right here:
We’ve got Edgar Blazona with us. He’s the owner, founder and designer of a modern furniture company called TrueModern. Thank you for sitting down with us.
EB: Thanks for having me.

2M: So I’m describing your business as an affordable and modern furniture company, but how do you describe it?
EB: We describe ourselves as a modernist brand for the home. We try to be as affordable as possible. I’ve strived for affordability within the modern community for a long time. Modernism, for a long time, was really kind of out of reach. So it’s always been my kind of baby to create this modern brand that is still affordable but that is still offering quality and also some cool products.

2M: How and when did the company TrueModern start? What is your background in design?
EB: My background in design is I started designing right out of high school. I started doing a lot of custom furniture and I realized it could be a business. So I started a company; I had a small line of products I sold through a variety of little stores and galleries and that sort of thing. Then I shut that business down and went to work for Pottery Barn to learn about mass manufacturing so one day I could leave and start what has become TrueModern. I started that in about 2004, I think.

2M: Wow, so you’ve been in the design world for a very long time it sounds like.
EB: Yeah I think this is my seventeenth year, something like that.

2M: So what is your creative process like? How does a design start in your head and then become a product at TrueModern?
EB: I look at the marketplace. On a day-to-day basis, it’s really hard being a designer because we tend to look at everything and analyze everything. You know I’ll be sitting at a restaurant table and I can’t even concentrate on the food because I’m too busy concentrating on the decor or I’m flipping chairs upside down to see how they’re manufactured. I’m out here as a designer looking for things that catch my eye, things that I haven’t seen before, and I tend to bring those back to my studio and sketch them. You know I have these magic moments sometimes where I see this collection in my eyes and in my head and I come back and work it out. I might not have the capability of bringing that to market or providing it to my customers at the time, but it’s still filed away as a magic moment that one day that collection will become a reality.

2M: And I noticed a lot of your pieces have similar themes or details that sort of connect to each other. Do you do that intentionally?
EB: Well a lot of it has to do with materials. You can only do so much with different materials. You know I’m not a designer who likes to reinvent the wheel every time, every season. I like to keep some consistency going throughout the pieces. So that from year to year, those pieces can sit with each other and so that the customer can keep updating their collection. You know and I find that I have a lot of repeat customers who are excited to see these small details running through from year to year.

2M: So if someone asks you to describe your style, what words do you use? And how has your style evolved since you started?
EB: Well of course I went through my late ’80s early ’90s, what was it called, High-Tech, at the time, and everything was diamond-plated steel and black and it was really this kind of funny era in modernist American design. But my style is very influenced by Mid-Century Modernism and American Modernism. These days I’m very much about this very American Modernist look. People ask me—in fact I had a meeting yesterday—and someone asked ‘what is the definition of modernism? I can’t figure it out.” There’s contemporary and there’s American Modernism and what I call European Modernism and Italian Modernism and that sort of thing. And as Americans we very much have a specific style of what that kind of modernist look is and I would say that’s pretty much American Modernism. By the way we use our materials, by the way we use our colors, that sort of thing.

2M: So TrueModern produces baby furniture, kid furniture now some adult furniture, you mentioned some bedding. What’s the funnest thing to work on? Or is it all fun?
EB: It is all fun. You know we’re right in the middle of adding a bunch more sofas to our line. I don’t know if one’s more fun than the other, but some things are more challenging than the others. And I’m finding that exploration into the sofa world is very challenging. It seems like there’s not a lot that can be done with the sofa; the sofa has to do very specific things and there are very standard shapes and sizes, so I’m really trying to push the envelope a little bit with my sofas. Yet still keeping them affordable, which is a real challenge.

2M: As we’ve mentioned, affordability is very important to your designs and your company, and keeping things affordable can’t be easy. What are the ways in which you’re able to run a successful business but still keep furniture accessible to more people?
EB: I mean that is a very, very complicated question, and we struggle with that a lot. You know I import furniture from overseas. That helps keep the costs down. You know one of the comments we’ve had in the past is well you’re importing, and you need to have those products done and made here in the U.S. Well, here in the U.S. it’s very, very expensive. You know we agree with that as well, so one of the things we did was offer sofas made here in the U.S. We’ve got another collection coming out from here in the U.S. These pieces might be a little bit more expensive than you can get from overseas. So you know we try to put money back into the piece, we try to have as small of margins as possible, we just constantly try to renegotiate; it’s a never ending process.

2M: You mentioned earlier that as a designer you go in everywhere and are always kind of looking at how things are designed, do you do that with other designers work in the design world? Do you have current obsessions with any architects or designers out there right now?
EB: Yeah I do. As far as architects go [Richard] Neutra, his clean and simple lines are wonderful to me. Donald Judd, was a minimalist furniture maker as well as sculptor and painter—I guess he did some writings, too—I’m very influenced by him. There’s another group, I think they’re called Max Studios, they’re doing some interesting stuff. I don’t know if I’m obsessed with anybody at the moment, but I definitely keep my eye on things, and I watch to see what others are doing. It’s fun; it’s a really interesting time in Modernism. Modernism has been my passion for the last 20 years. I have watched Modernism kind of grow and grow and grow. When I first started in Modernism there was a market share of three percent. What a horrible business model, to get into a market share of three percent. And these days it’s grown quite a bit. It’s still not this huge, huge business but it’s certainly grown. And you’re starting to see Modernism everywhere. Ikea, and Apple and Blu Dot and Target—those are all companies that have helped grow this Modernist look. And it’s great to see; it’s finally here. You’re seeing it in TV, in commercials, in movies—Modernism is everywhere.

2M: Well as if TrueModern didn’t take up enough of your time, you’re also behind the company which makes pre-fabricated homes, correct?
EB: Yeah, Modular Dwellings was a company I started while I was designing at Pottery Barn. You know I just had to have Modernism in my life. I created the company to explore the architectural side of Modernism. And while living in San Francisco I had all these cool modern pieces of furniture in this Victorian and I didn’t have the opportunity to have a Modernist house through and through; couldn’t afford to build a giant house, imagine that. I didn’t want to see my pieces of furniture up against this beautiful Victorian crown molding. So I started building these backyard structures so that I had a place for my entire life to be modern. And I realized that there were other people out there that kind of had the same ideals. And that was kind of at the time of the prefab boom, you know. And as everyone was striving to create these homes at these affordable prices, I didn’t have the means to put into developing a home. So I started developing and putting these structures out there. And we had a lot of fun with it. I wasn’t able to hit the price points that I had hoped and that I had hoped we could establish in the per square foot range market place, but in the end I ended up designing a plan set for ReadyMade Magazine. So we put these plans out and sold them for $35 dollars, and I think I make like a dollar on each plan set, but it was really my way of giving back to the community and say okay, I couldn’t hit your per square footage on a full building, but here’s a set of plans so you, too, can have a Modernist structure in your backyard. And to date, we’ve sold almost 3000, and we’re trying to track them throughout the country as they’re being built, and we’re starting to showcase them on the Modular Dwelling blog site. So we’re having a lot of fun with it.

2M: You mentioned you guys are getting into doing more sofas at TrueModern, but what else is on the horizon for you guys? Any cool projects coming up?
EB: Yeah absolutely. We’re designing some more adult products as well as a new kids collection, then these sofas. We’re really trying to maybe have eight total sofa collections. So we’re striving to get these products out there as quickly as possible, but we’re excited to launch these new products and hopefully people will be, too.

2M: Well thank you so much very much for speaking with us, it was very, very interesting and informative.
EB: You’re welcome. For sure.

2M: Be sure to visit truemodern.com for more information about Edgar Blazona and his awesomely designed kid and adult modern furniture. You’ve been listening to a 2Modern designer interview. For more fun podcasts, inspiring design posts and design advice, check out the blog at 2modern.com

You can download Edgar’s interview to listen on your iPod or other high-tech, fancy listening device:
Edgar Blazona 2Modern Interview

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