Photos by Asia Morris.
There’s a Long Beach designer whose laid back style, delightfully attractive products and outspoken, often bitingly hilarious, social media presence has garnered his studio a national reach and robust Southern California following.
Described as a “design disruptor” by Lonny Magazine, Eric Trine’s playful approach to creating modern furniture and accessories—from his classic $1,350 Rod + Weave chair to the witty $20 “Wall Willy” hook—have landed him collaborations with West Elm and design projects as far as New York and Florida. His growing fan base (of both his personality and products) happily purchase the clean-lined, geometric furnishings for their homes—and it’s all designed in his studio on the border of Long Beach and Signal Hill, and produced by local manufacturers.
Eric Trine in his natural studio habitat.
Now, after four years of developing Eric Trine Studio, the work of which has been featured in the New York Times, The Hundreds, Elle Decor, Sunset and more, the local creative has branched out to start a new brand called Amigo Modern, which he says will include opening up his underutilized showroom to not only sell his own products, but the work of other local makers, including those from greater Los Angeles and even worldwide.
Trine also plans to use Amigo Modern as a launch pad for the development of a more rooted design scene in Long Beach through events and activations for the community.
“I think because there isn’t an anchor design conversation in Long Beach, we want to be the flagship for that,” said Trine. “We want to be the facilitators. In many ways we are the facilitators of that because I don’t know anybody else who’s doing it.”
With his right-hand man, Miles Thompson, an alumnus of Cal State Long Beach’s industrial design program, Trine has produced work for Rose Park Roasters and Prism Boutique, and is currently designing Commodity Coffee’s new space with fabrication from neighboring contractor Builder Boy. The studio is also in talks with Trademark Brewing, the massive new brewery in the process of setting up its 20,000-square-foot space at 233 Anaheim Street.
“We’re focused on how we can increase the design footprint in our own city,” said Trine. “One of the ways we’re doing that is through this space, but another way is collaborating with other businesses.”
With his suburban upbringing in nearby Los Alamitos, Trine’s parents are still very confused as to how he became a designer. The most design contact he had growing up “was what you could find at Costco, with the Kirkland Signature stamp on it. My aunt used to take me to IKEA growing up, but we would just go get meatballs,” Trine laughed.
Eric Trine Studio employee Miles Thompson at work on a Rod + Weave chair.
But building ramps for skateboarding, tinkering with his father’s power tools and as a very DIY kid who eventually studied set design in high school, Trine had already begun to develop an interest in art, and a pragmatic approach to it.
After studying art and sculpture as an undergrad at Biola University, Trine left that academic bubble to pursue a broader discussion through design at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland where he earned his MFA. Trine was more interested in practical objects versus the conversation surrounding art objects typically found inside a museum or gallery space.
“Outside of the academic environment or the fine art gallery world[…]this is a very small conversation about objects that are made or a conversation that only the privileged can be a part of,” Trine said. “Because we live in a world where we’re using objects and furniture all day long and they shape the way we are, it’s not about going and talking about a thing in a gallery.”
A Long Beach resident since 2008 with his wife Heather, he returned to launch his eponymous design studio in 2014.
“When I make a plant stand I don’t have to explain what it means,” said Trine. “It’s a plant stand, it’s a chair, in the realm of furniture, you don’t have to explain a table to someone—you’re just like, ‘Do you like it, do you want to buy it, does it work with your house, no? Cool, no biggie. Let’s get a beer.’ Not having to have a further conversation is really peaceful to me.”
For Trine to create his products he needs a purpose. That’s how the popular Octahedron Stool came into existence—it was designed for a specific bar—and with enough inquiries, he put it into production.
And you’d be hard pressed to find him with a sketch pad and pencil, and more likely to find him at work welding a few seemingly random pieces of metal together in the studio. He describes his aesthetic through the question: What if Charles Eames, Buckminster Fuller, and David Hockney were surfing buddies?
“It’s taking raw material, combining it and creating a new thing to react to, to explore,” Trine said. “But the thing’s gotta be humming, it’s gotta have its own energy.”
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