Materia Designs blending the lines between life and art - BlueStone Press
June 16, 2019
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Materia Designs blending the lines between life and art

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Megan Sommerville and Matt Ensner are the owners and operators of Materia Designs, a modern collection of furniture, lighting and accessories. In December of last year they quietly opened a studio on Route 209 in Accord. It “brings together all aspects of our business under one roof -- our wood shop, offices, design studio and showroom,” said Sommerville. The showroom displays the majority of their current collections, as well as the work of two visual artists, Joe Owczarek and Halsey Chait. Being geared predominantly toward interior designers and architects, the showroom is open by appointment only.

Sommerville and Ensner are originally from Asheville, North Carolina. “We met in a technical drafting class, which seems to have been a predictor of our future together designing,” said Sommerville. The couple lived in Brooklyn before moving to Ulster County, where they painstakingly renovated a Cape Cod-style bungalow from the studs up, doing all the work themselves, including plumbing, windows and electrical. The home essentially became their first interior design project. Ensner is a self-taught woodworker with a background in landscape architecture, while Sommerville comes from a background in choreography and fashion.

“Both of us are very multi-disciplinary and approach our work from many angles,” said Sommerville. “Our work is constantly evolving, and I think the definition of our career changes along with our work.” Throughout their home they mix their own designs and prototypes with antiques and accessories they have collected over the years, but they’re not above using an occasional lamp from Ikea.

They have been creating their work in the Hudson Valley since 2009. The name Materia, which means matter in Latin, was inspired by a trip to the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. “We came across an inspired painting by Umberto Boccioni titled ‘Materia.’ We decided the word fit for our company,” said Sommerville.

Their work is represented in New York City by the showroom FAIR, which is owned by another Accord local, Brad Ford, the interior designer who created Field + Supply, an enormously popular curated craft fair that has taken place in High Falls the past two years. Ford took the idea of the high-end bazaar a step further and created a showroom of modern, meticulously crafted furniture showcasing designers from the Hudson Valley, most of whom are drawn to a more modern form but use traditional crafting techniques.

The work of Materia Designs is informed by the materials the couple choose. “Using wood, calfskin, stone and metals that have an organic, slightly raw quality is very important to us,” Sommerville said. “And these materials imbue what we hope is a very soulful quality in the final objects.” Added to that is a shared passion for design. “Creating work collaboratively with another person is an enlivening experience and allows us to develop ideas, concepts and forms far beyond what either of us could do alone,” she said. That includes collaborating with other artists as well. A number of their new lighting fixture designs were inspired by the couple’s collaboration with ceramicist Andrew Molleur.

Their partnership seems to be rooted in an intrinsic obligation to challenge the concept of career, relationship and art as separate entities. They are both driven by an innate desire to create, approaching work and company from a holistic perspective in an attempt to make work and life the same thing in some way.

“It is a wonderful but complicated thing to wake up everyday knowing that you’re guiding your own ship, so to speak,” Sommerville said. Their creative process, collections and ultimately their entire business and lives are “dependent on Matt and I being able to continually move forward,” she said. “In order to do that, we have to stay perpetually open to change, be willing and able to shift direction at any given moment, and constantly compromise. The longer and longer we collaborate, the better and better we get at these things, but it’s ultimately an evolution.”

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