In Conversation with Steve Suchy

We sat down with Steve Suchy, our head of Product Development and the co-designer of both Total and Chord. Originally trained as an architect, Steve has spent the last two decades designing and developing products of all types and scales. While highly varied in typology, a common thread throughout all of Steve’s work is the presence of simple and elegant solutions to complex problems. From his home based office, we discuss his transition from architecture to furniture, his love of wooden birds, and the underlying philosophies behind his work.

You grew up on the east coast, but have been in Vancouver for most of your working life. What lead you to choosing Vancouver as your home base and what has kept you here?

The landscape, west coast modernism and a life/work balance that allows me to enjoy both.

Was the transition from architecture to a more multidisciplinary design practice a conscious decision or did it gradually happen over time?

To be honest it was a bit of both. Architecture school was a great place to experiment with designing at different scales and introduced the idea of designing a total living environment including the objects in the space. I’ve always been detail oriented and interested in the process of making so that led me to detailing buildings and cabinetry which then led to furniture and product design.

You’ve designed and developed so many products over the years. Are there any projects that stand out to you?

One project that took 8 years to design and another that took 1 week. Both are still in production and have done well, so I guess you just never know how long it will take to come up with a good solution.

Can you speak to the importance of physical model making and hand drawing in your process?

I use a variety of tools to develop an idea into a final design including physical model building and hand drawing. I use these techniques to quickly make decisions about scale, form, function and stability. Drawing at full scale quickly allows me to see how these designs will relate to the body. Scale models allow me to see the overall form as well as understand a design’s stability and start to get an understanding of the building process. Full scale models are great at seeing the design in the round and then making dimensional adjustments before investing in a prototype.

What does Steve Suchy’s ideal Saturday look like?

An ideal Saturday would be a combination of outdoor time and something cultural with friends and family. It would have tasty interludes every few hours and include a bit of design dreaming. By the end of the day I would like to be tired and inspired.

You work on projects of a wide ranges of scale. From consumer products, to architectural projects. How does scale influence you work? Is your approach to designing a sofa similar to your approach in designing a tiny home?

I think every good design considers how people will interact with it while also responding to the environment it is located in. A building responds to a site, a piece of furniture responds to a room and an object responds to a surface.

Do you have any favourite pieces of design? Anything you wished you had designed yourself?

I wish I would have designed any one of Kristian Vedel’s Birds, so much expression with so much simplicity. They are timeless, understood by all, and beautiful in every variety of shape, colour and form. Velcro, Skateboard trucks, anything by the Eames’s, and the waffle iron are quite great too :)

Outside of the worlds of design and architecture, where do you find yourself most inspired?

Outside of design I am inspired by anonymous people doing positive things without any expectation of recognition.

Can you speak on how your architectural education influences your furniture work?

A good building lasts for decades and adapts easily to changing needs. I like to think of furniture design in a similar way. Like buildings, furniture consumes considerable resources to create and will one day be discarded so I like to consider this cycle and try to design objects that are made from the most environmentally sensitive materials, have a very long life span (built to last and designed to last through design trends), can be maintained instead of thrown out and then break down into recyclable components at the end of their life.

Is there a guiding philosophy or set of principles that you try to adhere to with your work?

Solve design problems by reducing complexity. I love this quote from Buckminster Fuller — “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty...but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”