10/01/2011 01:45 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Finding the Universal in Design

What makes a design piece universally pleasing? Is it the shape? The material? The technique? How is it that an antique wooden bowl from Morocco can be completely at ease paired with a contemporary earthenware vase from our New Jersey studio and a simple woven alpaca blanket from the mountains of Peru?

We love exploring these ideas through my shop, Canvas™, where we pull inspiration from modern craft, as well as ancient arts, to give people everywhere the ability to create a thoroughly timeless home. Life is all about balance and the home is, as well.

Using elements from abroad and from here in the U.S., both new and old, finding the universal thread that ties them together, that is what inspires us. We like to think it is both the hand of the artisan or artist, as well as a piece's reference back to nature that creates the universal appeal.

Rather than trend spotting, I am more likely to be seen scouring the markets of India or pausing in the antiquities hall at the Met to revel in the surprise of contemporary shapes that have not changed for generations.

In fact, our entire recycled Syrian glass collection was inspired much, in part, by a chance encounter at the Victoria and Albert museum in London (one of my favorites) where I was irresistibly drawn to a series of long-necked ancient glass vessels, whose simple lines and handmade appearance were in perfect keeping with the Canvas aesthetic.

I went right to the source, Damascus, Syria, where little has changed in the glass blowing process, and introduced our line of recycled glasses, vases and carafes for Canvas™. Each piece, with its slight asymmetry and natural inclusions, is a true reference back to the hand that created them. This was incredibly satisfying, as I am partial to designing simple, functional pieces, made from recognizable materials, which connect us both to the natural world and our own human history.