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Designers

Rich, Brilliant & Willing

February 27, 2016
BY Saundra Marcel

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Rich Brilliant & Willing by Noah Kalina
Rich Brilliant & Willing by Noah Kalina

This furniture-designing trio is making waves with its modern wares

Rich Brilliant & Willing by Noah Kalina

The partnership of Rich Brilliant Willing is a dichotomy of ambition and modesty. Even while the designers’ pristine Bias Clock sits on a shelf at the MoMA Design Store, they still manage to keep their sneakered feet grounded.

Rich Brilliant Willing is composed of partners Theo Richardson, Charles Brill, and Alexander Williams. Collaboration is nothing new for them; the men have been working together professionally since 2007. Before that, they were members of the same graduating class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Now, their studio is located on the fifth floor of an industrial building in New York’s eclectic East Village neighborhood. The tight quarters have enough room for just two windows, four computers, and a small circular table with mismatched chairs, but they aren’t bothered by the snug space: they move deftly among wood scraps, foam models, and material samples. Their office is modest, but their goals, it appears, are quite lofty. On one wall of the studio is a whiteboard, and written on it in large, black letters is this statement: “Make $100 Grand in the next six weeks.” It is underlined.

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It is not this space, however, but rather their very first one that they found most inspiring. “It was like a laboratory,” Brill says. It was a dark basement, which they shared with contractors and an array of construction tools. The Internet connection was touch-and-go, with a distinct lack of “go” that they recall with fondness. Since then, the trio has moved three times in the last four years before settling here.

With humble beginnings, it appears RBW has come quite far. But the whiteboard message, as it turns out, is not entirely serious. Although they have had some enviably successful designs, it may take the trio more than its allotted six-week timeline to live up to the first part of its company name. But in the meantime, they are certainly willing.

Rich
Blue-eyed Theo Richardson is a Canadian import but shows no sound of a home-country accent. He recalls an idyllic childhood of building toy boats out of wood and looking up to his big sister, Sarah, who is a decorator and well-known television personality. “Don’t do it for the money,” he cautions aspiring young designers.

Strangest thing in his home: Six-foot-tall inflatable zebra
Interviews make him: Die
He wishes he could: Fly

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Brilliant
“I don’t know why people sometimes assume that we’re Brooklyn-based,” says Charles Brill, who also answers to Chuck. The unshaven Minnesota native favors flannel shirts and distressed jeans, and his very red beard is also very shaggy.

Strangest thing saved: Retainer from high school
Table or chair: Bench
His mom says that he needs: Needs more sleep

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Willing
According to Alexander Williams, he grew up in “the most beautiful place in the world,” a remote resort town in Maine. If he hadn’t gone down this career path, he would have become an interior designer, an architect, or a fine artist. Possibly a filmmaker. But most definitely a chef.

Strangest thing in his refrigerator:  Stale loaf of bread from a long-ago trip to Sweden
All designers want to be: Famous
He’s in the mood for: A beer

by Saundra Marcel
photos by Noah Kalina

(via Design Bureau, 2011)

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