The Eye

A Step-by-Step Guidebook for Re-Creating Top Designers’ Works at Low Costs

047 Branch Lamp NHM
“Branch Lamp” pendant light by German designer Nils Holger Moormann costs around $50 and takes about 150 minutes to make. It’s based on a pendant he made for his own conference room from a branch that blew into his yard after a storm.

Courtesy of Jäger & Jäger

Do It Yourself: 50 Projects by Designers and Artists by Thomas Bärnthaler is a new book published by Phaidon that offers DIY’ers blueprints for making lighting, furniture, and everyday objects dreamed up by leading international designers. The book is a smart take on the pervasive DIY trend in an increasingly design-conscious world that will give your self-made project a galvanizing back story.

063 Floating Forest MA
“Floating Forest” seed germinator by London-based Michael Anastassiades costs $7 and takes 20 minutes to make. Inspired by a vase by Swedish designer Estrid Ericson, it can be made in three variations that allow you to monitor an upright acorn or avocado pit as it grows and eventually blossoms.

Courtesy of Michael Anastassiades

027 Bike Bag WA
“Bike Bag” by Berlin-based designer Werner Aisslinger costs about $30 and takes about 45 minutes to make. It’s based on a bag he made for his own bike after deciding that saddle bags were “too bourgeois, and a rack or basket too impractical.” The bag sits over the crossbar as it does on Swiss Army bikes and is made with cheap, solid, and weatherproof plastic mesh bags.

Courtesy of Stefan Botev

059 Palette MG
“Palette” chair by London-based designer and artist Martino Gamper costs $7 and takes about two hours to make.

Courtesy of Attila Hartwig

“As a rule, designers work unseen and only make an appearance when the design is finished,” Bärnthaler, design editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, writes in the book’s introduction. “A designer who designs something that anyone can go on to make is rather like an artist who shows you how his paintings can be copied.”

035 Transit SH
“Transit” shelves from German product designer Sebastian Herkner cost about $120 and take an estimated 360 minutes to make. “My intention was to design a set of shelves using clamps so that they wouldn’t seem static and pre-programmed, but would suit the changing needs of the user,” Herkner says.

Photo by Sorin Morar

123 Flying Shelf KC lo res
“Flying Shelf” by Swiss design duo Kueng Caputo costs about $40 and takes about 90 minutes to make. It was created in 2011 as part of a challenge for designers to come up with chipboard furniture made from the ruins left by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  

Courtesy of Kueng Caputo

187 Swimmers YF JP
“Swimmers” hooks by designers Yvonne Fehling and Jennie Peiz are made from recycled children’s plastic toys.

Courtesy of Myrzik und Jarisch

But making things with your hands is “a magical moment of self-empowerment that everyone has experienced,” Bärnthaler writes, “both the designer who has a revolutionary chair in mind and the do-it-yourselfer starting to tackle his or her parquet floor.”

087 Fatto di Giorno RL
“Fatto di Giorno” floor lamp by Welsh designer Ross Lovegrove costs about $60 and takes about two hours to make. It’s an homage to the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass, co-founder of the Memphis movement, that consists of six plastic buckets connected via cable ties and a neon tube. “ ‘Fatto di Giorno’ means ‘made in a day,’ ” Lovegrove says.

Courtesy of Myrzik und Jarisch

He suggests that it is the spirit of that shared human experience that led the world-class designers in the book to answer the invitation to offer blueprints for “not too difficult” and “not too expensive” furniture and objects that he says “hark back to the origins of design, back to the workshop and the studio, where it’s all about hands-on activity and improvisation.”

Maybe you can’t afford to buy pieces by global heavyweights like Konstantin Grcic, Hella Jongerius, or Ai Weiwei, but you can create functional pieces of their own design thanks to this step-by-step guidebook. It’s something like the equivalent of a cookbook in which Michelin-starred chefs share their recipes for home-cooked meals.

Making a homespun version of a Team Ingo Maurer lamp, a Piet Hein Eek scrapwood chair, or a pendant light by Patricia Urquiola might not scratch the itch for one of their expertly rendered, often astronomically priced designer pieces, but it’s a start.