Last October we fell in love with a pair of chairs that incorporated neon lights into the backrest and from there we had to find out more. The person behind the Helio Chairs is New York-based artist and furniture designer Christina Z Antonio. Born and raised in London to a family of Greek leather craftsmen, Antonio is a master craftsman trained in a range of mediums creating innovative furniture, lighting and objects from materials such as leather, parchment, stones. precious, wood, metal and blown glass. In this month’s Where I Work, we travel to Chelsea to see from the inside where she imagined her coveted works.
What is your studio / work environment?
I keep most of the areas tidy at the museum level and very organized so that I can think clearly. Nico, my dog, is a constant companion!
How is your space organized / laid out?
I have an office and in addition we have workbenches. The workshop area can certainly get messy, especially when the deadlines are looming. However, I always try to instill a sense of discipline in my team.
How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?
I’ve been in my Chelsea studio since 2015. Before that, I was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I wanted more space and to be in a neighborhood more accessible to my clients. It’s very central to be in the Flatiron District! There are quite a few creative design and tech companies in my building, and even a chocolate factory! It’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere overall which I appreciate.
If you could change something in your workspace, what would it be?
My dream situation is to have my studio on the ground floor with a separate living room to display the collections and art – and to live on the 2nd floor!
Have you had to make any adjustments in the way you work because of the pandemic?
I’m lucky because my studio is within walking distance of my house. During the height of the pandemic, some of my employees were working from home on small items, such as hardware.
Is there an office animal?
Yes! Nico. He’s a Miniature Pinscher. He loves to lounge on the curly sofa and greet customers. He is very majesticâ¦ and often seems to be listening to our conversations.
Do you need music in the background? If so, what are the favorites?
Yes, music can set the tone for the day and help me focus. Right now I’m listening to Brandi Carlile and The Secret Sisters. I always come back to vintage pieces. I love the element of nostalgia.
How do you record ideas?
Sketchbooks, random paper and my new iPad – which I love. I am using an app called Procreate. The possibilities are endless as you can customize your tools, pens and brush strokes. There is also a texture library, so illustrating your designs digitally is a great time-saver.
Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?
I have inspiration trays where I place pieces of leather, shagreen, crystals, geodes and other beautiful materials to create mood boards for my projects. These mood platters also serve as the backdrop for the space.
What is your typical working style?
My day is quite regulated. I focus on email and communication in the morning to resolve this, then on meetings, and finally join my team around lunchtime to work on our projects.
What does your creative process and / or your creative workflow look like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?
This often changes depending on the processes I use. If I’m blowing glass, it’s off-site with a completely different team. My projects are often one-off orders, so my process is constantly evolving. The order of my process is 1. Design Sketches, 2. Find Materials, 3. Select, and 4. Create.
What kind of art / design / objects were you able to scatter in the space?
My own design objects, in their many stages of creation, can usually be found in my studio. I find my materials look a bit like designer objects – I love the look of my rolled leather stacked high and the mood trays on the surfaces. I also have stones, gems, books, flea market containers and old tools, which also serve as decor and inspiration.
Are there any tools and / or machines in your space?
We have machines, but nothing very industrial. We have a few light carpentry tools and a lot of hand tools for retail crafts.
What tool (s) do you like most to use in the design process?
One of my favorite tool sets includes my bone files carved out of agate, as well as a mesh wheel that I bought in Paris. It is used in saddlery to space the seam holes. A few years ago I met a saddler who worked for HermÃ¨s who introduced me to this tool. It is a must for leather craftsmen.
Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your arsenal / technological devices.
MacBook, iPad Pro, and iPhone Pro – I need to sync everything to make these devices work well for me. I updated them all recently so I feel on top of my tech!
What design software do you use, if any, and for what?
Adobe Suite, Rhino and AutoCad for furniture design renderings and visual communication with my suppliers.
What’s on your desktop right now?
Some finishes that I work onâ¦ I make them as 5 “x 8” tiles and then present them as concepts.
Is there a project / piece you have worked on?
I just finished a new collection of lights called Helios. I learned a lot about glass and neon, and engineered furniture with those components. It was a very satisfying challenge.
Tell us about an ongoing project you are working on. What was the inspiration behind this?
Currently, I am working on a parental suite. The customer had seen my Saber cabinet and loved the concept. I use recycled jewelry and chains to create designs, then mold the leather so that detail is on the bedside tables. The room has 180 Manhattan views, it seems to be hovering over Central Park, so they wanted amazing views from all over the room. Everything is very discreet and discreet, which I really like. I also make a bed and headboard to create a division in the middle room from textured silk satin fabric and a sculptural silk velvet ottoman at the foot of the bed. It is a collection of very luxurious pieces, but very clean and modern at the same time.
Do you have something in your house that you have designed / created?
As my work is made to order, I don’t have as many of my own rooms in my apartment as I would like, but I hope to change that soon. For now, I have my own gear and my own lights on my bedside tables.
Photos by Andrew Frasz.