Get to Know the Designers Behind the Latest West Elm Collaboration That Has Us Swooning
This month, West Elm launches its debut collection with Roar and Rabbit, a Philadelphia-based design firm helmed by Wendy Wurtzburger (right) and Mitzie Wong (left), the former co-president and design director for Anthropologie, respectively—and our verdict is that it is stunning. Filled with curvy silhouettes, wooden surfaces with brass inlay details, pleated upholstery, and a pastel-forward palette, the series skews more feminine than the neutral, mid-century look that West Elm is typically known for, yet it feels more refreshing than out of place.
“We wanted to combine modern strength with soft lines and colors,” says Wurtzburger. “It is new territory for the West Elm customer, but still complementary to the brand’s clean lines and urban living solutions.” And if glamour isn’t your thing—though you may change your mind after checking out some of these pieces—there are plenty of man-cave friendly options, including graphic art prints, faceted wooden side tables, and angular terrariums.
Curious to know more about the creative thinking behind the colorful collection? Check out our Q&A with Wurtzburger and Wong below.
What does Roar + Rabbit mean, and how did you choose the name?
Wurtzburger: Our individual stories and experiences are the basis for Roar + Rabbit. It’s about juxtaposing, contrasting and complementing ideas and materials to create a harmonious voice.
Wong: We worked together for many years at Anthropologie and quickly found ourselves to be kindred spirits, both curious with a love of travel, whimsy, art, food, and people, and always sharing our findings. The idea of launching Roar + Rabbit was brewing for some time. It was on a walk in the Wissahickon Valley Park [in Philadelphia] that we talked about what we wanted to do next. We wanted to collaborate with friends we admire, and approach our work with creative freedom. When we told Jim Brett, president at West Elm, about Roar + Rabbit, he was enthusiastic and became our first client.
What are your favorite products from this debut collection?
Wong: The Brass Geo Inlay Bedroom Collection (below, starting at $399; westelm.com). This furniture collection is comprised of wonderful statement pieces. It is a good foundation for a room but not overpowering. We use mango wood and antique brass details to lend it an elegant mix of nature with a touch of glamor.
Also, the Angled Wood Terrarium (below, starting at $79; westelm.com). We see ourselves gifting these as personalized housewarming gifts. Because nature plays such a big part of our design concept and inspiration, we love finding ways to bring it indoors. The glass insert can be removed and flipped to create a cloche—so it’s almost like a two-for-one piece.
Wurtzburger: The Swivel Chair ($799; westelm.com). This chair has a neutral femininity and it’s fun. It's matte velvet with a hit of brass—plus everyone likes to swivel—so what’s not to love? We like to find the unexpected, and approach our work with a sense of humor. If you pair it with our terrarium and layered drum table, you get that perfect blend of nature, feminine glamor, and geometric modernism.
Ah, the swivel chair—that is my personal fave. Can you talk about the design process?
Wurtzburger: This is a great example of how we combined our two visions into a singular voice. I was excited about plush and curved silhouettes for spring. Mitzie wanted to make a piece that was versatile. The design challenge was how to make a modern and fun design. We started playing with shapes, added the swivel (which helped to lighten the footprint) and engineered structured pleats to make this beautiful product that hits all the right notes.
Are there any daily rituals that are crucial to your creative process?
Wong: It’s become such a pleasure (and our working habit) to have our work meetings in new places so we’ll often pick a location we want to share with each other. Individually, music is a must for me, and being in the garden or going for a run is a must for Wendy. Together, we love to wander locally in the woods, in Philadelphia's Italian market, or go further afield to other cities to visit museums and art shows. This past fall we tacked on the Venice Biennale to our design trip to London and Paris.
What can we expect for their next collection and how it will differ from what we are seeing now?
Wong: We’re taking a freer approach to the summer collection and designing with a looser hand in pattern making. We’re continuing to draw a lot of influence from nature, but we’ll feature a full-on burst of color for summer. The pieces will layer nicely with this first collection, and will add a little vibrancy to the home for the season when we crave it most. We’ll also add tabletop pieces which we’re really excited about.