“I’m very project-oriented,” says designer Arielle Assouline-Litchen at her redbrick studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which is dotted with recycled rubber, marble remnants, and molds that are ready to be cast in concrete. “I like the idea of starting something and seeing it through, but sometimes it doesn’t always work out the way you initially intend.”
Four years ago, Assouline-Litchen, a graduate of Harvard’s GSD, was forced to halt her architectural design consultation on a high-end residential development in Soho when the construction for the project stalled. The lapse left her feeling creatively stifled, but with rubber samples for the building’s gym floor covering her workspace alongside marble and brass fragments, her imagination wandered. “The terrazzo rubber looked really beautiful next to these luxe materials,” says Assouline-Litchen. “I saw a lot of potential and I was itching to complete something, as the current project was really dragging on.”
Within a few months, the young designer created a collection of prototypes for Sight Unseen Offsite in 2016. “I made everything from tassels to a table in rubber,” explains Assouline-Litchen, who imports the unassuming material from Pennsylvania and has a die-cutter in Williamsburg manufacture her small batch of products. “I didn’t expect for it to be such a hit.” That same year, the alum of ace architecture firms, such as Kengo Kuma and BIG, secured herself a spot on the American Design Hot List, and soon after, she added a product extension, called Slash Objects, to her multidisciplinary firm Slash Projects.
Now, with a collection of tactile furnishings and decor that elevate rubber’s simplicity with sumptuous material pairings — including speckled coasters with brass details and a sculptural standing mirror that erects from a marble base — Assouline-Litchen’s studio is buzzing with artistic energy. “It was really about stripping the rubber of its context and re-situating it among these high-end materials. The combination gives a traditional product new life,” she says, pointing to a sea of rubber CYL stools with brass inlays.
Asssouline-Litchen’s unorthodox material combinations are modeled into various shapes (hexagons, cylinders), with her dedication to primitive geometry stemming from her design education. “As a starting point for new designs, I try to respect these pure forms, but I eventually break free with an angle here or a cut there,” says Assouline-Litchen. And while her material of choice isn’t necessarily associated with luxury, Assouline-Litchen believes the thoughtfulness of her creations advances them to the next level. “Luxury is rooted in consideration,” she says. “Whether it’s the silky finish of a surface or the way joints are treated, mastercraftsmanship can only enhance a piece.”