Eight years since their founding, District Eight continue to create furniture inspired by the industrial age. “Things were built to last and there was a well thought out element to even the most utilitarian objects or machinery,” co-founder Darren Chew told us last year. Today, games pieces by District Eight are helping local offices to integrate play into their workplace. And their furniture is a highlight of local rapidly expanding, design-conscious coffee chain Cheese Coffee.
Their marketing manager Linh Tran recently told us that “Without District Eight’s vision and furniture pieces, we wouldn’t have been able to build the high-impact brand that we have today.” Internationally, besides being the highlights of distributor collections in cities like Seoul, South Africa, and Singapore, District Eight pieces can also be found boosting a Swedish hospitality success story, the Steam Hotel in Vasteras.
And District Eight continue to evolve. The company used to source one-off industrial pieces from markets. Now, with one-hundred and fifty staff the company produces lines like their “steel town throwback” Akron collection and their artifact-inspired Cyrus collection. The design company present two more collections—called the Foundary Collection and the Exeter Collection. “The Foundary collection includes two styles of dinner tables, whereas the Exeter collection is a series of three tables,” District Eight’s design supervisor Vo Ngoc Nguyen begins.
True to District Eight’s signature look, the Foundary Collection is influenced by the industrial era. The name recalls smoking furnaces in sooty factories. “The collection uses wooden molds very much like the metal ones that would have been used in those factories—that’s how we arrived at the name,” Vo Ngoc Nguyen explains. Like District Eight’s other collections, the Foundary Collection takes its inspiration from the industrial era but gives it a modern look and feel. “It is a real contrast to today’s disposable, purely functional mindset,” Vo Ngoc Nguyen adds.
The collection consists of tables with A-shaped and T-shaped legs. “For me, the key piece is the table with T-shaped legs. It is the first style we designed in this collection, and also the best-seller recently…” Vo Ngoc Nguyen smiles. The table has a cerused base with each leg hollowed out to allow for it to be wired—helping to turn the “Foundary Table T” into a meeting or work desk. “And the table legs are made from newly finished wood—which is called cerused oak. Cerused is the wood color with deep natural grains, which we accentuate with our own technology.”
Compared to other District Eight furniture, the Foundary Collection has a sturdiness lent to it by the shape of the table legs. “The table legs are simple but they help give the pieces a great ratio—while also highlighting blank space,” the company’s design supervisor adds. But the cut out shapes help to lighten the pieces for portability. “The cut-out is the lightweight solution for both visual and real weight of the table legs, and also makes them look interesting,” Vo Ngoc Nguyen. “And which is my favorite part? I really love the filleted details of the edges of the table legs. They do not only show the imprint of the old mold, but they also provide the table’s rough, sturdy construction with a softer, more friendly look.”
The Exeter Collection consists of three side tables that adjust in height. They can sit alongside a lounge chair or a day-bed. And unlike the Akron collection, which takes its cue from America’s rust belt towns, or the Cyrus collection, which is inspired by a Babylonian clay cylinder, the Exeter collection contains Gothic elements—which take from the British cathedral city of Exeter.
“You can see the Exeter table’s legs are formed into a concrete pointed arch just like in the construction of Exeter Cathedral—a church in South West England,” Vo Ngoc Nguyen explains. “You can arrange Exeter table with other District Eight products like the Kink lounge, Cyrus lounge or Cyrus sofa, our Loop banquette, or our Cumulus daybed—as these side tables have a simple form,” Vo Ngoc Nguyen adds about the Exeter side tables that come in “low,” “high,” and “XL” styles.
The distinctive use of concrete isn’t a new feature. In fact, concrete was the main material used in District Eight’s Kahn and Salk collections. And like those collections, Exeter adds wood, and iron or brass into its designs. “But the use of cement is at a higher ratio in the Exeter collection than in any of our collections that use cement,” Vo Ngoc Nguyen reminds us.
And why Exeter, a city far from the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City? “Exeter is just a starting point…” Vo Ngoc Nguyen nods about a collection that goes beyond Gothic concrete to include chamfer lines on the tables’ edges and iron-flat table tops.
Together, the Exeter and Foundary collections are two more examples of the modern-industrial design and production company identifying influences from further afield, but assimilating them into their distinctive District Eight aesthetic.