Peter Dunham and Linnea Gits, at a dining table designed and built by Dunham,
with Uusi’s Moderne City and (in foreground) Moderne Home block sets
If it has anything to do with design, Peter Dunham and Linnea Gits have probably done it. They’re best known for their work as Binth, a successful paper goods and screen-printing company (which they recently sold to their partner). But now, under a new name, Uusi (“new” in Finnish), this husband-and-wife operation is moving its three-dimensional work front and center, while still producing some limited-edition prints.
A quick glance through the Uusi shop (at uusi.us) shows everything from a reclaimed-cypress-wood dining table to a colorful set of architectural building blocks and a screen-printed deck of Mexican playing cards. But to call Uusi an online shop would be to sell it short. Working out of a 7,500-square-foot industrial space in West Town—which includes a wood shop on the ground floor and a studio on the second—Dunham and Gits have also built custom kitchens for private clients and taken on corporate projects big (Herman Miller’s interior architecture schemes) and small (tables and stools for the pizzeria Great Lake, in Andersonville).
Friends introduced the two shortly after they’d finished college (he earned a BFA at Northern Illinois University; she studied journalism at Drake while pining to do fine art). At the time, Dunham was running an atelier in Chicago with a couple of other artists, producing paintings, sculpture, lamps, and tables, among other things. “It was a professional working studio,” says Gits, who, until meeting Dunham, “hadn’t realized that art could be anything but a hobby.” She offered to apprentice there, and thus began what she calls a “20-year dialogue about design.”
Photograph: Bob Coscarelli
Prototypes on Dunham’s desk echo movements in design history, such as
Arts and Crafts and modernism, that have informed his work.
With Uusi, which Dunham describes as “a design studio for anybody searching for something singular and creative for their home,” the two continue to bring their own talents to the table—a table that, most likely, Dunham has designed and built. For her part, Gits draws meticulous pictures in her own dark-humored, Edward Gorey–esque style (a baby book she illustrated in 2005 spawned Binth) and designs objects that seem at once nostalgic and edgy.
Some of those objects, a group of wooden animals called Moderne Farm, were inspired by ones Danish designer Kay Bojesen made in the 1950s, which Gits’s mother gave to her when Gits was a little girl. “Beautiful forms have a way of seeping into your subconscious,” she says. You might say that’s a significant part of Uusi’s business plan.
Photograph: Bob Coscarelli
Dunham’s dining table and stools, like many of his pieces, have Shaker undertones.
A wooden screen, built by Dunham, separates his office from the hallway leading to the studio’s kitchen.
Gits’s Moderne Wood figures will soon be carried at Design Within Reach.
Objects on display in the Uusi offices reflect the artists’ passions for graphic design and history.
Photograph (top): Bob Coscarelli