graypants lighting shows inventive imaginative

Graypants lighting shows inventive imaginative

Homegirl London pays homage to Graypants.  This isn’t a men’s underwear company but the name does refer to grey trousers (pants).  They are, in fact, a conceptual design studio which covers custom installations, architecture and consumer products.  You’ll probably be familiar with their now famous Scraplights which are responsibly designed lighting made from repurposed cardboard boxes.  These have been so popular that they now come in a wide range of styles and shapes – pendant lights, drum shades, table lamps and more.  The business was founded by two imaginative and inventive college roommates who have a unique outlook on design where anything and everything is possible.  I caught up with the duo to find out more about Graypants (the company not their actual gray pants!).

graypants scraplights

Scraplights Collection

Meet the People Behind Graypants

Seth Grizzle and Jonathan Junker met during their first year of architecture school at Kent State University (Ohio, USA).  They were both studying architecture and environmental design and soon became roommates.  After university Seth worked for Reed Leskosky in Cleveland and then went to Washington DC to help open their office with a focus on performing arts, museums and cultural facilities.  After several years in DC, he followed Jonathan’s footsteps to Seattle to practice residential architecture.  Jonathan worked for Stephen Sullivan designs for several years before landing at Olson Kundig working on progressive, residential architectural designs.

graypants jonathan junker and seth grizzle

Seth Grizzle and Jonathan Junker

As college roommates, Seth and Jonathan both dreamed of one day owning their own business.  While they were finally practicing architecture again in the same city, they felt like they were not fully scratching their creative itch.  They tell me – “Being roommates once again, we began experimenting with ideas in our spare time.  We decided to enter competitions and gallery exhibitions to showcase our thoughts, ideas and creations … which eventually evolved into Graypants in January 2008.”

graypants scraplights moons

Scraplights Moons

As for that interesting company name, they reveal how this came about – “After several iterations and sleepless nights of brainstorming a close friend reminded us that we both coincidentally had the same pair of gray pants in college that we always wore … to everything!  The friend said, why don’t you call it graypants?!  It worked.  It ended up being the perfect blend from where our friendship and ideas started … it started with the same silly, gray pants.”

garypants kerflights selwyn

Kerflights Selwyn

Seth’s role is Creative Director while Jonathan has taken more of an executive position so oversee the functional and financial aspects of the business.  However, they wear many hats and dabble where needed.  Today, they are still based in Seattle and also Amsterdam – a chance meeting with two Dutch guys led to European office location.  They now have ten people based in Seattle and five people in Amsterdam.

View the Graypants Collection

Seth and Jonathan describe the business as a conceptual design studio that has a focus on products, custom installations and architecture.  They are not afraid to experiment and don’t believe in barriers – “Our medium and canvas varies and we are always looking for new opportunities to explore.”  Their design process is approached with a ‘Why Not’ attitude which frees them from conventions and gives them the opportunity to explore techniques, textures, materials and beyond.  Their wonderful Willy Wonka imagination is explained somewhat when they tell me – “We are both big fans of Ray and Charles Eames.  We admire their sense of wonder and playfulness in design that lead to some of the most amazing creations.  We like to think of our design in the same way … we two parts Eames and one part Dr Seuss … dreaming up our own world of possibilities filled with whimsical beauty.”  Nature is also a great source of inspiration for them as is their quest for responsible design, hence the Scraplights idea.  Let’s take a look at their lighting range which showcases their inventive, no barriers approach.

graypants scraplights work

Scraplights Work

Scraplights: The idea comes from repurposing old cardboard boxes in a lighting series.  These are now handmade in Holland from recycled cardboard sourced from post-consumer waste so have a rich, natural earth tone colour.  Seth and Jonathan talk me through their design process – “We wanted to find a way to use cardboard in an interesting but responsible way.  We began exposing the hidden structural part … the corrugations.  We then started thinking about the corrugations in the three dimensions and began playing with the rich textures that we could create with this.  The Scraplights series is the sum of this, showcasing all of this original thought into a collection of unique patterns, textures and shapes that are responsibly designed and give light a new medium to shine through.”

graypants scraplights drum

Scraplights Drum

Kerflights: These started out from a competition, Seth and Jonathan explain – “We collaboratively put on a competition with our partners in Denmark.  Afterwards we were inspired to create another lighting series using an old wood working technique, a kerf.  The idea of using a single sheet of material and cutting it with an intricate pattern served as catalyst to create an object that was from a rigid source but now had movement and the ability to wrap itself around a frame.  Taking this idea forward we were able to create several interesting shapes around this that were also reversible allowing for the flexibility to change colour.  The vertical slices allow for light to breathe through, creating a truly unique pattern of light and shadow against a wall.”

graypants kerflights selwyn and ripley

Kerflights Selwyn and Ripley

Steplights: The duo tell me – “These are carefully machined from a single sheet of solid aluminium.  They can be assembled without the aid of tools or adhesives thanks to the high precision interlocking of the piece.”

graypants steplights echo

Steplights Echo

To see more products from the lighting ranges visit the website.  If you’re interested in these designs you might enjoy viewing the ‘Work’ section which showcases some very interesting projects.  Check out the Mobus installation which comprised of 250 glowing cubes – it’s particularly beautiful.

Buy the Graypants Products

If you just have to purchase one of their lights, you can buy from their website Graypants.  Prices start off at 179 euros for the small Moon Scraplights.  They can also make the Scraplights in custom shapes and sizes.  Just contact the Seattle studio for more information.

Author: Homegirl London.  Photographs: Graypants.  Thanks: Seth Grizzle, Jonathan Junker and Bieke Groenink.