Furniture designer Gaurav Nanda has made a very successful business out of turning a classic on its ear.
Inspired by the mid-Century modern design aesthetic he saw on vacations with his family to Palm Springs, and Italian-born American artist, sound art sculptor, and modern furniture designer, Harry Bertoia (and the chair he made famous), Nanda took a leap of faith 7 years ago, quitting his well-paying job with General Motors and launching a furniture line called Bend Goods, based in Los Angeles.
Nanda, 45 (yes, he’s still single), works out of one of two houses he owns in West Hollywood. He initially launched his furniture collection with five pieces – two dining chairs, two lounge chairs and one drum table, but the collection has grown to dozens of offerings — from chairs to stools, to sofas and beds, to sculptures and plant stands.
“At the time nobody was doing what we were doing,” Nanda told the Los Angeles Blade.
Although originally inspired by the Bertoia Chair, Nanda’s chairs have more angles and less wire than the original. Sculptural, with elegant geometry, the new take on the old design has more approachable lines and a softer feel.
“I set out to find a way to reinvent the wire chair concept that was different and edgier, with a lot more intricate detailing that make our designs immensely more comfortable,” Nanda says.
He adds that he placed the wires of the seat closer together to build more comfort and beat out his competition. “The first thing we hear people say when they sit in our chairs is ‘It’s so comfy!’”
A talent for industrial design and entrepreneurship obviously runs in the family. Nanda’s sister, Gauri Nanda, is the creator of Clocky — the alarm clock that jumps and rolls until you get out of bed.
Nanda left his job at GM and moved to L.A. in 2008. In 2010, he poured his savings and investment money from family into Bend Goods.
The line started in retail brick and mortar stores such as A+R Store and Weego Home, but, since the retail market has changed and people are shopping online more and more, Nanda branched out to trade shows in Paris and NYC, and pushing product online via social media, with Instagram as the biggest effort.
“We’re constantly creating new products, and working on being creative and unique with our imagery and video content. We need to stay creative and offer intriguing content,” Nanda says.
He says his inspiration comes from everywhere and it continues to change.
“It might start with a shape of an interesting coffee cup or old Amish barn. I sketch out some rough concept drawings of what the furniture might look like. I play around with scale and shape, and once I have some solid ideas we build them in 3-D,” Nanda explains.
“Working at GM was an amazing learning experience, but I’m not really not a car guy, so it wasn’t the right environment,” Nanda adds. “It was very corporate. I’d always been interested in furniture,” he says.
He says he’s also been inspired by architect John Lauthner, Buckminster Fuller, who created the geodesic dome, filmmaker Wes Anderson, and his fairytale aesthetic, and even his mother’s handmade macramé plant-holders.
“In a way the patterns used in my work can be traced to my Indian heritage, as an homage of sorts to my thriving culture.”
Nanda’s parents were born in Bombay and New Delhi. He says being an Indian family, they were “confused” when he came out to them in his late 30s. They’ve given up on him marrying a nice girl, and even moved from Michigan to Los Angeles 2 years ago.
Despite his parent’s understanding, he says the furniture design world isn’t overflowing with gay people or people of color.
“I feel at times that I’m part of this community, and at times I feel like I’m not. Maybe that’s everyone. There’s a sense of community in the furniture world, and we meet at trade shows and we share stories, and sometimes I feel like I’m being excluded from some things, but maybe that’s just me,” Nanda says.
Nanda’s goals for Bend Goods are lofty. He says he’s hoping to design pieces that become classics rather than remain trends.
“Disposable furniture may have its place in some situations, but I am not a fan due to its negative impact on the environment and wasteful nature. We like to make products that you can pass on to your children – from generation to generation,” he says.
Bend is looking to build a showroom or studio space where the staff of eight can experiment with different materials and processes.
“We hope to offer one-of-a kind pieces but also increase our product line for the commercial market by creating pieces in various price levels so that more people can have access to Bend,” Nanda says.