Providence-based furniture designer Debra Folz MFA 10 FD is reaching a wider and less rarified customer base via a new collaboration with West Elm. Her elegant, just-released bedroom collection—which includes dressers, nightstands, occasional tables and a mirror—combines classic contemporary style with warm brass accents and American manufacturing.
“This collection is inspired by simple and unexpected details,” says Folz. “The brushed bronze hardware describes the loop of a stitch and the tie of a thread. It’s a simple gesture [I’ve paired with] serene finishes—grayed wood and lux white marble tops—to provide a flexible palette.” Such sculptural accents, she maintains, give the collection a high-end feeling—almost as if each piece was custom-made for the space it inhabits.
Folz draws ideas from fashion, textiles, sculpture and nature and says that she’s “sometimes inspired by solving a problem or exploring a technique [she wants] to learn more about.” She moved her studio from Boston to Providence in 2015 and describes the smaller city as “a great place for small, creative businesses.”
Teaching has been another important part of Folz’s journey as a designer. “I began immediately after graduate school at RISD and developed as an instructor while developing my business,” she explains, “and I think the two things have really informed one another.” She pays attention, she says, to what’s important to the next generation of designers—how they work, what they share, what they value. “It keeps me current and it keeps me questioning everything,” she notes.
She’s also happy to share her approach with up-and-coming designers. Drawing and writing on a daily basis, for example, help Folz conceptualize new work and organize her ideas in a way that working digitally does not. “There’s something about mind to hand and hand to paper,” she explains. “I remember better, and I revise more often. The action of writing and drawing is therapeutic.”
Folz came to furniture design via commercial interior design, so she has experience in everything from boutique hospitality to retail environments. That experience continues to inform the choices she makes in terms of materials, proportions and geometry. “There is a softness to my work, which could be considered feminine,” she says, a softness that she combines with geometric structure to create a visual balance.
“I’ve always maintained a commitment to fully functional work,” Folz adds, “because ultimately the motivation to come up with a new design is the gratification I feel when someone else uses and enjoys it in their life and home.”