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Stories for being at home.
A secret garden in the heart of a Los Angeles Highland Park neighborhood.

Two Nina's, One Urban Farm.

05 16 21
Julia Sherman

In the heart of Los Angeles Highland Park neighborhood, there’s a secret garden, masked by the facade of an unassuming one story house with a big green Toyota pickup truck parked in front. Make your way through the side gate, and therein you’ll find fruit trees pregnant with clusters of swollen papayas and blue ice cream bananas, bees gorging themselves on a healthy mix of native flowering plants and edible annuals like chickpeas, fava beans, dinosaur kale and tomatoes. There’s a lime green cottage for the world's happiest chickens, and baskets filled with orange calendula blossoms drying in the sun. While this might appear to be a wild enclave of nature in the midst of the concrete city, this is the no doubt the product of the tireless, passionate work of two women named Nina. These two are on a mission to change the way we understand our food system, on the most intimate, local scale.  

This place is called Ziza Urban Farm, and it’s one half of Ziza Foods, a collaboration between Nina Weithorn, an urban farmer, and Nina Anakar, the cook who turns these homegrown produce, hand-dried spices and medicinal herbs into Morrocan comfort food that you too can enjoy at their weekly Echo Park pop-ups (check their Instagram for ordering info, @zizafoods, and for a constant feed of useful garden tips). A visit with these two ambitious, mindful young women is an education in anything from how to feed a living vat of indigo dye, to the traditions of culinary apprenticeship in Morocco. I kept them company as they prepped for their next pop up, shelling furry fava beans (saving the pods for nitrogen rich mulch), pulling green garlic from the ground (planted as a crop, but also as a pest repellent), and dividing cardamom plants, used not only for their pods, but for their fresh, warm, aromatic leaves.


Nina Anakar – how did you get into food? What was your path to building your own catering company?

I work as a private chef and caterer in Los Angeles, cooking with flavors inspired by my Moroccan heritage and local California produce. I started my career working front of house in restaurants and was a part of Sweetgreen’s original brand marketing and customer experience team for four years as the on the ground lead for the company’s NYC and CA launches.

After that, I spent a few years learning to become a professional cook. I wanted to connect with my heritage, so I went to Morocco and learned to cook from local women. Then, I moved to California for cooking school, but decided instead to continue learning through apprenticeships and by working in restaurants that served the kind of food I wanted to be making.

Now I cook full time for private clients, brands, and cater events in Los Angeles.

 

Wow! Tell me more about learning to cook in Morocco. That must have been fascinating.

Much of my family lives there and my dad still works in the hotel industry and visits often. I spent time cooking with my grandmother in Tangier in addition to taking classes and apprenticing in Marrakech at an institution called Maison Arabe, among others.

Apprenticeships are the “formal” culinary training in Morocco, at least for people who want to learn Moroccan cuisine. “Dadas” are women who teach cooking classes throughout the country in various forms; they are considered the highest experts in the field, and people can learn under them. Many of them own restaurants, hotels, and schools where they also teach young cooks.

 

Nina W, tell me a little bit about how you came to be my garden guru, the person I turn to when I have questions about composting, natural dye, what to do with calendula, and how to fix a bust in my irrigation system?

I have been doing urban agricultural work for about seven years now. I grew up in Los Angeles going to farmer’s markets and cooking with my mother, so I’ve always had an appreciation for fresh, local produce. Then I went to college at New York University and during that time I worked at a couple different urban farms and organizations, and by the time I graduated, I knew that growing food was something that I wanted to pursue.

I have done so many different things under the urban agriculture umbrella! I worked as a garden teacher in Hawai'i, and for Fruitstitute here in Los Angeles, doing holistic fruit tree care. During that same time I also completed an Herbalism Apprenticeship through Green Wisdom Herbal Studies in Long Beach, CA, learning about medicinal herbs, how they grow, and how they benefit the human body. For the past two years I’ve been working part-time for Urban Farms LA, installing and maintaining residential edible gardens around the city.

So, how did all of this knowledge lead you to the making of Ziza Urban Farm in your backyard in Highland Park?

When I started growing in the space that is now Ziza Urban Farm, it felt like a culmination of all of the knowledge I had gained from my past experiences. I use layouts of raised beds that I learned at rooftop farms in New York, methods of growing tropical plants from my time in Hawai’i, and fruit tree pruning techniques from Fruitsitute.

Since Nina A. and I partnered over a year ago, I’ve been cultivating Ziza Urban Farm and growing produce for Ziza Foods and our local community.

 

What was the space like before you started to transform it? How did you tackle it?

When I first got here, there was essentially nothing but one very sad looking succulent and a whole lot of depleted, compacted soil. Restoring the soil was clearly the first step. We sheet-mulched the entire backyard by layering cardboard, compost, and wood chips. This method of sheet mulching is one of my favorite ways to quickly build soil. The cardboard smothers weeds, the compost adds beneficial soil organisms and nitrogen, and the wood chips hold in moisture and support the growth of fungi, which are vital to soil health.

The fruit trees came next. At that time I was still working for Fruitstitute, so we had a big volunteer day with the entire team where we planted fruit trees. Now there are around 30 in the space! We filled in the area around the fruit trees with edible and medicinal perennial plants, planted passion fruit and grapes on all the fences, built two different systems for composting, a chicken coop, a shed, and a couple of raised beds dedicated to annual veggies, herbs, and flowers. I am really lucky that my boyfriend and two of my best friends all happen to be really talented woodworkers, so most of these larger construction projects were completed by them.

How did you two meet, and ultimately decide to start working together?

[Nina A] We met in 2019 when I was cooking for the Fruitstitute fundraiser (Nina W’s employer at that time). We instantly connected. I started hiring Nina W to help with cooking and sourcing local produce for catering gigs, and we worked really well together. Given the fact that both of us were open to experimentation, and how well our skills complement each other (me the cook, she the grower of all things), I invited Nina W to join Ziza as a co-founder and partner.

 

Where does the name Ziza come from?

[Nina A] Ziza is my Morrocan grandmother’s family nickname (her full name is Khadijah). “Ziza,” or “Aziza,” is often used as a term of endearment for respected matriarchs in Morrocan culture. It also happens to be the name “Nina” with the “N’s” flipped sideways.

A lot of our work in both the garden and kitchen is inspired by what has been passed down from generations before us. The reference to the Morrocan matriarchs is really central to the concept. In Morocco, matriarchs and home cooks are more revered than chefs, which is a sentiment that we hold at the core of our project. They also almost never write or publish recipes. Instead, they’re passed down through family lore, apprenticeship, and through hands-on learning.

What is the mission of Ziza?

On the urban farming and sourcing side, we do our best to set an example for how one can incorporate restorative methods of home gardening and urban farming into one’s everyday life. Underutilized land with depleted soil can be transformed into an urban ecosystem capable of supporting wildlife and producing food and medicine. There are so many vacant lots in LA and there’s so much opportunity to grow food hyper-locally in ways that are community-based and restorative to the planet, so this is something we advocate for.

This is also a moment, post pandemic, to really rethink how the food service industry can be re-built and reimagined in ways that aren’t as environmentally harmful and extractive as the current systems that are in place. We try to keep that front of mind with everything we do.

What do you see missing from the Los Angeles food and urban farming landscape?

It’s great to see environmental awareness and acknowledgement of the climate crisis becoming more mainstream over the last year. Food and urban farming are a really important part of this movement. However, we see that many of the individuals and organizations that have the largest platforms to speak out about these issues are doing so from positions of great privilege and continuously fail to give credit to historically marginalized people working within extractive food and agricultural systems.

We hope to see more leadership granted to Black people, Indigenous people and people of color who have always had the answers for how we can use this work to heal both ourselves and the land we live on.

I was lucky enough to place a big order for your first pop-up. It was so refreshing to me because it felt like home cooked food rather than take-out. How would you describe your food?

That’s the idea! I cook with Moroccan flavors and seasonal California produce, and I try to make my food feel warm and nourishing in a way that I think you can only feel from a home cooked meal. There is lots of olive oil, spices, citrus, and herbs, with a focus on vegetables, fruits, and local meat (especially lamb).

I also cook a broad range of Moroccan food, which means you’ll sometimes catch the flavors of the people who have colonized or immigrated to Morocco over the years, like Spanish and Arab, to name a few.

Alright, I know this has nothing to do with Ziza per se, but I am so fascinated by your indigo dye vat. Nina W. -- Can you tell me a bit about it? How did you start the culture? What is required to keep it alive, and how is it different from other dyes?

Indigo is one of the most beautiful and satisfying natural dyes to work with! It has been used as a dye for thousands of years across Asia, Africa and Central America. The species that I grow is called Persicaria tinctoria or Japanese Indigo. It’s an annual plant (completes its entire life cycle in 1-2 growing seasons) that prefers warmer temperatures, so I grow it in the spring and summer.

You can make dye with the fresh leaves, which produces a really amazing aqua color, but to get the deeper blue that is usually associated with indigo, I make a concentrated form of the indigo pigment: indigo pigment, fructose, calcium hydroxide (pickling lime), and distilled water. In order to sustain the vat you have to “feed” it with fructose every couple of weeks or after extensive use.

 

What advice do you have for people looking to get their hands dirty and start gardening, but who feel overwhelmed and intimidated?

Gardening is an exercise in patience. A huge part of gardening is just waiting - waiting for the seeds to germinate, waiting for the flowers to bloom, waiting for the fruit to ripen. Of course, in the interim there are lots of things to be done like watering, weeding, fertilizing, or checking for pests. But, new gardeners get really frustrated with the amount of time it takes for some plants to grow, and there’s really nothing you can do about that timeline.

Another tip is to start small and easy. Start with herbs like thyme, rosemary, or sage. They are low maintenance and easy to use in the kitchen. Some other good beginner plants are radishes, beans, peas, green onions, and mustard greens. Slowly add more plants as you gauge how much time your garden requires and how much time you are willing and able to give to it.

So, how does one best experience Ziza at this moment in time?

For now you can experience what we do through our regular pop-ups, by ordering through our Instagram and picking up meals in Echo Park. We will also be offering more educational programming. We always are excited to inspire people to grow their own gardens.

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What's in a Sectional?
The Floyd Sectional in Off White with a chaise.

Notes from the Design Lab: The Sectional

What's in a Sectional?

04 12 21

The Sectional is here. You know and love the easy-to-move Floyd Sofa, but through conversations with our customers we realized that many of you need a piece for a larger space, something that can be rearranged into an infinite number of configurations to suit the way you live.

The concept of a sectional isn’t new. But what goes into a Floyd Sectional, one we’ve obsessively engineered for all of the lounging, sprawling, hosting, reading, jumping, and watching you do in your home? There’s more to this Sectional than meets the eye.


Inspiration

Inspiration can spring from surprising places. The product Design team at Floyd began with an interesting notion: if the Floyd Sofa used our metal hardware as a vehicle for holding cushions, what would it look like if the cushions became the sectional itself? The result would be a space designed for ultimate comfort & relaxation.

From that concept, the team created a mood board. Here’s what got their minds turning early on:


The conversation pit at the Miller House, designed by Alexander Girard.

The Alexander Girard conversation pit at the Miller house, and the way it promotes gathering with the people you care about.


A montana sky full of clouds that inspired the comfort of the Floyd Sectional.

A Montana sky of cumulus clouds that absorbs your entire existence into a weightless, deep-dream-relaxation-state.


Sol Lewitt ways of drawing a cube,

The infinite number of ways Sol Lewitt can draw a cube, and how that could be applied to a modular set of pieces for your home.


Construction

When the design team turned to physical prototypes, they spent a lot of time thinking about the pet peeves that people have about their sectionals: squeaky frames, cushions that sag over time, that gap between seats, and set configurations that don’t allow for rearranging. As the Sectional took shape, it incorporated design elements to solve each of those pain points.


A cross section of the Floyd Sectional with alligator clips, flatsprings, wood frame, and high-performance fabric.

Any piece of furniture is only as good as its frame. For the Sectional, we landed on a framework of super-sturdy engineered wood, with thick joists that prevent squeaking and wiggling over time — something we tested extensively as we prepped our manufacturing team. Although you can’t see the wooden framework at all, it’s the basis for a durable seat that can hold up to a lifetime of lounging (even if your kids think lounging looks more like jumping).

The base of each seat is formed with metal flat springs. Similar to the way a hybrid mattress uses coils and foam to create a more comfortable sleeping surface, the metal springs support the seat, ensuring it bounces back after you get up. Over time, this keeps the cushion’s foam from sagging — and keeps your sectional looking good as new now & ten years from now.

But the springs are only the beginning of the seat. The design team wanted to create a comfortable “sinking-in” feeling, but not a seat so fluffy it was hard to get back out. So, they used three densities of foam in the seat and backrest for the sectional. A thick, denser layer lies below a softer layer in your seat, keeping the cushion’s form but creating a super-comfy feel. The backrest is a third density of foam, chosen for its comfort no matter your favorite lounging posture.

Heavy-duty alligator clips underneath each piece keep your seats together, but make it easy to rearrange when you need to. Each piece is upholstered in a textured, tightly-woven fabric that is treated to resist stains and let spills bead up for easy blotting. The final design, low-slung and sleek, allows you to create a custom Sectional that fits perfectly in your space.


The Floyd sectional is infinitely modular.

 The Sectional is obsessively engineered to stand up to whatever you throw at it.

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Two design professionals have created a low-key home with sculptural style. 
Modern brooklyn apartment.

Jill & Aaron's Minimal Brooklyn Brownstone

Two design professionals have created a low-key home with sculptural style.

03 29 21

Kate Connors

Sculptural coffee table with art books.

A marble fireplace.

A floyd bed in a modern brooklyn apartment.

Sunflowers

midcentury modern kitchen table.

A trestle desk.

Jill Schmidt Bengochea and Aaron Bengochea lucked out: they moved into a new (and larger!) apartment right before the beginning of the pandemic. In the year since, they’ve created a home that’s minimal and low-key, but displays their mutual affinity for thoughtful design. We spoke with Jill & Aaron about their space, how their work as an urban planner and photographer have influenced their interior style, and what it has been like to find themselves at home more than ever.


jill & aaron bengochea

Jill & Aaron at home.


Give us a bit of an intro!


Jill Schmidt Bengochea:
I’m an urban planner in Brooklyn. I recently completed the yearlong Forefront Fellowship with the Urban Design Forum focused on the risks of extreme heat for urban areas due to climate change.

Aaron Bengochea: I’m Aaron Bengochea, photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. This last year I finally released my first proper book, “Get Well Soon”. It was a pretty small release but a nice test to gauge interest in my work. I’m now back in a phase of shooting a few different series and we’ll see if any feel strong enough to try and design another book in 2021.

Can you tell us a little about your home?

JSB: We live in a brownstone in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. We have an entire floor of a multi-family brownstone and, like many apartments in these buildings, we have a half-room office of the living room that makes an ideal work space. We also get to enjoy a lot of natural light on both ends of the apartment.

AB: It’s a super cool setup; only two other families live in the building and we all know each other pretty well.  

Did moving around the time of the beginning of the pandemic change any of your priorities as you were looking for a home and as you decided how to utilize the space?

JSB: We moved into our apartment one month before New York City shut down due to COVID and we were extremely grateful for it. We had already unpacked and set up the space by mid-March, but the shutdown gave us more flexibility to try out different arrangements.

AB: It was more of a coincidence when it came to the timing of our move. Our last apartment was only a few blocks away and my sister was actually renting the place we live in now. She was looking to move to the city, we wanted a new apartment, and another close friend wanted our old place. It was as if the stars aligned and we all made moves at the same time. Then a month later, the whole world was turned on its head.

The apartment feels really natural and low-key. Did you have a cohesive ‘vision’ for the space before you moved in? Or did it arise organically?

JSB: Our home came together organically. There are plenty of arrangements someone could try out in the apartment, but this layout felt natural when we first brought in our furniture so we went with our intuition, knowing we can always experiment with other arrangements later.

AB: I wouldn’t say we had much of a vision but it did help that we already knew everything about the apartment we were moving into since my sister had been living there for awhile. We had zero surprises/issues when taking over this place which I’d say is pretty rare when renting in NYC.

How would you describe your interior style? Has it evolved over the years? Are there certain elements that you’re always drawn to?

JSB: My style is minimalist. We both collect various objects or artifacts that we pick up or inherit, often they’re sentimental for me, and they end up all over surfaces like bookshelves and desks. Aaron is drawn to Japanese styles and elements. He also likes concrete and stainless steel, hard lines in general. I try to soften the edges and make sure there’s enough textiles to be comfortable.

AB: It was almost like flipping a switch when it came to furnishing a home as “real” adults. Before our last few apartments, I couldn’t care less about the style of my home. Then I started shooting more interiors and I became obsessed and very opinionated about how our home should look. Our place is pretty minimal at this point in our lives but that could change with age and acquiring things over time. I’m really drawn to lower furniture because I feel like it visually takes up less space and we also like the warmth that natural materials like wood can add.

Do you find that this minimal design sensibility is married to your taste in other areas of life? How does that manifest in your home?

JSB: My style is also minimal and I prefer neutral and natural tones. I’m not this way about food and cooking though. Natural, yes, but I like a lot of colors and complexity when I’m cooking.

AB: Maybe?? I’m a bit neurotic and hyper specific with things and how I want them to be. I can’t stand clutter and not being able to find something when I need it. Having a minimal home is relatively streamlined and functions in a way that I want all aspects of my life to be.

You have a lot of very simple, sculptural pieces. What draws you to those super clean lines?

JSB: Aaron deserves credit for a lot of the sculptural elements in our home, but I think we both think a lot about form - lines, shadows, empty space. I thought about form a lot in design school and Aaron has such a good eye for it as a photographer.

AB: It’s probably a manifestation of that neurosis/obsessive behavior, haha! It’s extremely satisfying to me when everything is in its right place, lines up visually, and functions properly.

Do any of your pieces have an interesting story behind them?

JSB: We have a rug at the foot of our bed. Aaron’s grandmother has been raising and caring for alpacas in the Nevada desert for decades. Until recently, every year, she would have someone shear their fur. She’d let them keep the fur and they would make things from it, but in return, they would occasionally give her a rug. Aaron’s mother has two and I remember noticing it the first time I ever went to their family home. A couple of years ago, she gave one of hers to us. It’s one of the only things that I know I would grab in a fire.

AB: The alpaca rug in our bedroom is probably our most prized possession. My grandma is a magical lady who lives out in the desert with a bunch of animals on her property. Shoutout to my mom again(!), who let us take this little rug off of her hands. It’s a nice gentle reminder of my desert roots.

Do you tend to change and experiment, or do you stop once you consider your place “done”?

JSB: I think it’s too soon to tell how much we’ll experiment in this space. We’ve made small changes and I can imagine us trying out different arrangements at some point, but I expect that we’ll always come back to largely how we have it laid out now.

We never stop adding books, which I consider a part of decorating. We have two column bookshelves, stacks of magazines in chronological order, a shelf of cookbooks near the kitchen and then stacks of whatever we’re reading or perusing laid across surfaces in every room, and we keep collecting more.

AB: Not really. I wouldn’t ever consider the space to be “done” done, but once an item lives in a specific place for long enough, we rarely ever move it around or try different layouts. The last pieces we added to our home were the two Matisse prints in our living room and bedroom. These were gifts from my mom and had been hanging in her home for a long time before she passed them onto us.  

Did you bring in pieces you loved from previous homes?

JSB: We both moved across the country with as little as possible, which meant not a single piece of furniture. Everything in our apartment we collected over the last few years, most of it within the first few months of moving into our first apartment in New York.

AB: Like Jill said, we moved to NYC with next to nothing. Jill moved east for grad school and I drove out separately with everything I owned fitting in a minivan. We had no furniture. This was both a good and a bad thing when it came to furnishing our home. The blank canvas was nice to work with but it takes a while to get to a point where your home actually feels homey. Our dining table and chairs were the first pieces we bought. Before that, we spent a lot of time chillin’ on an air mattress.

You both think a lot about design in your work, but in different ways. Does that affect how you each approach the space? Were there any compromises you made to accommodate each other?

JSB: As a planner with training in urban design, I think a lot about the program of a space - who is it for, how will they use it? I think about how I want a space to feel and be enjoyed, where I’m going to read or write. We talked a lot about where our friends would gather when we arranged the furniture, not knowing that we’d only have them over one time in our first year in the space.

AB: Since I shoot a lot of interiors for work, I get to see plenty of examples on how other people live (good and bad). I prefer to have a home feel as big as possible by not filling it up with pieces that are large and obtrusive. We definitely make compromises when it comes to picking stuff for our home. If it were up to me, we’d just have a bunch of uncomfortable chairs and industrial shelving from hardware stores. Jill carries the rational side and helps make our home cozier and livable.

You’ve both been working from home, as many of us have during the last year. Has that changed how you think about ‘home’ as a realm separate from ‘work’?

JSB: For me, yes, a bit. I worked in an office full-time before the pandemic and enjoyed a fairly short walking commute. Over the past year, I felt grateful that we had space to both work in our apartment comfortably. Since last March, I’ve also gone on walks at the beginning and/or end of the day as a sort of ritual to empty my mind and move.

AB: I’ve been working from home for a while now, but it wasn’t until we moved into this apartment that I even had an official workspace. Prior to that my idea of what was home vs work space was pretty murky. Cut to a few short months of living in our new place and we’re both working from home. Luckily we already had one dedicated workspace and a decent folding table that helps create an extra pop-up office when we need it.

What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration for your space?

JSB: I like browsing McNally Jackson’s design and architecture sections. I miss the inspiration from restaurants - they’re incredible for ideas for kitchens, dining areas, and spaces for gathering, indoors and outdoors.

AB: I’m an “Apartamento” fanboy, there’s no denying it. I also really love the work of François Halard, who shoots amazing interiors. Ricardo Bofill’s former cement factory turned home/office/compound is the ultimate goal (just a much smaller version).

Images by Aaron Bengochea. Thanks to Jill & Aaron for sharing their home with us!

How the Floyd typefaces tell a hidden story.

A Sign, a Leg, and Two Fonts

The Floyd typefaces tell a hidden story.

03 25 21

Anne Quito





 

1. The Youngstown Sheet & Tube factory signage was the basis for Floyd Gothic. / 2. Type designer Emily Klaebe was able to translate the lettering from the sign and extrapolate an entire font package. / 3. Floyd Gothic unifies the Floyd brand across website, packaging, and instruction manuals. / 4. The Inktrap font incorporates the Floyd Leg in its design. / 5. Floyd Gothic Inktrap is a natural extension of Floyd Gothic.

A love for great letterforms has been part of Floyd’s story from the beginning.

When Floyd co-founders Kyle Hoff and Alex O’Dell were mulling names for the brand in 2014, they noticed that the shape of table leg they were developing oddly resembled a letter “F” when viewed from the side. This initial observation eventually led to “Floyd,” a name carried across three generations of steelworkers in Hoff’s family in Youngstown, Ohio. Both approachable and old-fashioned, “Floyd” rooted the project in the manufacturing legacy of the Great Lakes.

Fast-forward to 2017, Hoff and O’Dell thought it was time to re-examine their visual brand. On the precipice of opening Floyd’s first showroom and launching a side table, they thought they could improve on the logo they cobbled together using the commercial sans serif Aperçu, which was also being used by Burberry, MoMA, and Zeit Magazine, among many others.

It was a few years into building Floyd that we felt we were missing a true graphic design system,” O’Dell explains. “One of our product design principles is ‘design for longevity.’ We anticipate that the Floyd brand will evolve in many new ways over time, and we wanted a graphic design system that could be timeless and fixed.”

The ambition to build an enduring visual brand turned their attention to the work of graphic designers Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth, co-founders of the New York-based studio, Order. The duo’s side project called Standards Manual—a book publishing imprint devoted to preserving the brand guidelines of institutions like the New York City Transit Authority, NASA, the US Environmental Protection Agency—particularly resonated with Hoff and O’Dell. “We appreciated they had spent a lot of time thinking about what makes for a timeless graphic design system,” O’Dell recalls.

It also helped that Reed also grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and had a homegrown fondness for the industrial city’s legacy. Tasked with rethinking Floyd’s logo under a tight deadline, his mind immediately went to the ghost signs and faded marquees throughout the city. One particular photo depicting what’s left of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube factory’s black and yellow signage became the basis for Floyd’s logomark and a custom typeface called “Floyd Gothic.”

Reed says he was particularly drawn to the idiosyncratic letters in the hand painted sign like exaggerated slab stroke on the G or the quirky proportions of the ampersand. “The letters just had enough personality that they didn't look like Helvetica,” he explains. “It seemed perfect for what they were looking for: something utilitarian; not too over-designed or too slick-looking; modern without looking like it's trying too hard.”

An archivist at heart, Reed is thrilled for the opportunity to preserve a handmade artifact in a meaningful way. “The sign has a second life in Floyd Gothic,” he explains. Order developed a full alphabet by extrapolating missing letters based on clues in the sign. The custom font became the basis for a new striking branding system—with the modern sans serif and red-orange signature color featured in product boxes, assembly booklets, and advertising.

Going with a bold graphic approach made sense, explains O’Dell. “Despite our understated product design sensibility, there is a bold mission behind the company: we're working to shift furniture consumption to something better for customers and better for our planet,” he says. “When it all comes together—the typography, the warm imagery of real living spaces, and the product design—you really begin to see the story sing.”

“It's an interesting way of how graphic design itself can deepen a story,” he adds.

And for Floyd’s latest chapter, typography is again playing a crucial role. For a series of product launches this year, Order created a new variation on Floyd Gothic. Designed by Reed and type designer Emily Klaebe, Floyd Gothic Inktrap’s letterforms have deep notches that are meant to compensate for swells of ink in traditional offset printing. Without these strategic cuts, typefaces tend to become illegible when used in small sizes, especially when printed on uncoated paper stock. Famous examples of ink traps include Bell Centennial which was commissioned for AT&T’s phone books in the late 1970s, and Retina, designed to compensate for screens and newspaper applications.

Klaebe explains that the idea was inspired by Floyd’s marketing strategy. Like ink traps, which can often only be seen at close inspection, the launch strategy for new products hinged on zooming in on details and progressively revealing them over some time. “It felt like a natural tie-in with how Floyd was planning their product stories,” she explains. For diehard type nerds, Klaebe points to a detail that makes the font uniquely Floyd’s. The shape of the corner notches on Floyd Gothic Inktrap echoes the shape of the original Floyd table leg. “It's literally jammed into the ink trap.” she says.  

In designing enduring identity systems, Reed explains that using a custom typeface can be both an economical and democratic gesture. Not only can a company save on font licensing fees, it can give the entire organization a common language. “When you have something that is uniquely yours it becomes part of the fabric of the company,” explains Reed. “Any employee—even non-designers in any department—can use the font and participate in the visual expression of the brand.”

As a company matures, it makes sense to introduce complementary typefaces to expand their typographic tools—a strategy that could even quell the urge to redesign a brand from scratch for the sake of novelty. “I'm proud of Floyd for not introducing a totally new typeface,” Reed explains. “The key word in all this is keeping it in the family. Instead of deviating from the brand, they’re just extending it. It's like a new family member is born.”

“Talking about fonts can feel like a funny conversation,” says Reed. “But they really do play a big role.”

Anne Quito is a journalist and design critic based in New York. She covers design as a staff reporter at Quartz. In 2019, her book "Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines" was published, detailing the glory days of magazine design with Milton Glaser and Walter Bernard.

The Floyd Leg can adapt to your space. Here are the ways we use it again and again.
The Floyd leg as a small bench holding a record player.

Three Ways to Use the Floyd Leg

The Floyd Leg can adapt to your space. Here are the ways we use it again and again.

03 22 21
Blue Floyd Legs

Black Floyd Legs holding up an entryway bench.

Blue Floyd Legs holding up a wooden side table.

 

1. A salvaged marble slab makes for a durable coffee table surface. / 2. An entry bench is always useful as a drop zone. / 3. The Floyd Legs are perfect for constructing a side table that's exactly the right size.

The Floyd Leg was the first product we ever designed, but it remains one of the most versatile. All you need to create a functional piece for your home is something solid for a surface. And, if you get bored, you can always switch up your Legs to make something new. Over the years, we’ve seen the Leg serve many purposes, but we wanted to break down how to create a few of the most popular iterations.  

Coffee Table

The Floyd Leg is perfect for coffee tables, because its versatility means you can create a suitable new table for your living room every time you move. When constructing your coffee table, think about the scale of your space. If you have a lot of floor room, you can use a large square surface (we love recycling old marble slabs for this) to create a table that suits the scale of your large, airy room! For a narrow space, create a long and skinny table that draws the eye into the room and doesn’t block your traffic patterns. A round coffee table can contrast with boxier furniture, and if you want to get really creative you can cut a piece of plywood into a curvy shape that is one of a kind!

Low Shelf

The humble shelf is an evergreen item, and we think it’s an underrated piece of furniture. We love to use the Leg to construct a low-slung stand for plants, an eye catching bookshelf and ledge for art, or a spot for a record player and a record collection. It also works well in an entryway as a drop zone for shoes and keys. Be sure to choose a thick, rigid surface — the width means you’ll want to avoid a material that will bow in the center over time. For wider benches, try to place your Legs a bit in from the outer edge, which will help ensure a stable surface as well.

Side Table

A side table is a critical piece of furniture. Where else can you put your water glass, your reading material, and all the other ephemera that you need close at hand? Yes, there’s the coffee table, but sometimes you need a space even closer to your favorite sofa seat. To create a side table, we recommend choosing a durable surface that won’t stain from a glass left too long that’s large enough to hold a lamp with some space to spare. Square side tables are classic, of course, and a large square surface can create a mid-century vibe that’s fun with a couple of low-slung sofas. A rectangular shape can fill a smaller space, and a circular or oval surface creates some visual interest next to boxy seating. Try painting your surface a bright color for a low-commitment way to try out a bold shade.

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