For design industry insiders, it doesn’t get much bigger than Dwell. Since launching in 2000, the magazine has become a sort of Holy Grail for architects, engineers, and gear nerds, offering exclusive looks at the hottest, weirdest, and most forward-thinking projects on the market. In 2010, the publication even sidewound its way into a brick-and-mortar showcase called Dwell on Design, which now boasts the title of “largest design event in the U.S.” Taking place over three days at the Los Angeles Convention Center, it’s the place where big ideas make even bigger premieres (in 2013 the buzz project was Google Glass) and promising concepts are thrust onto the world stage.
This year, one of those little-fish big-splash stories belonged to Sprouting Sprocket Studio. The fledgling two-fish endeavor of husband and wife Brian and Katrina Manzo sits in a “glorified garage” in Carpinteria, and last month it took home Dwell on Design’s Outdoor Award for a prototype camper the Manzos are calling the “Hütte Hut.”
“We were definitely the smallest [company] in the category and definitely at the lowest price point as far as space,” laughed Katrina when we met up at Municipal Winemakers earlier this month. “We literally couldn’t afford the square footage for our tow vehicle.”
While Brian and Katrina may be relatively green in the design convention world, their résumés speak for themselves. Katrina graduated from UCSB with a B.A. in art studio at the ripe age of 20. Both she and Brian are Art Center alums who specialize in industrial design. As post-grads, they spent years consulting, trend forecasting, and conceptualizing for plenty of big-name companies and corporations, including Volkswagen (him) and Deckers (her).
As for Hütte Hut, it’s a curious little prefab mash-up of Katrina and Brian’s sensibilities — made similar to a wooden boat but designed to be built with a computer-controlled wood-cutting machine. The idea, the couple says, was born of a 2010 trip to Amsterdam following a stay at the citizenM Centraal, a hotel made up of more than 200 shipping containers.
“The seed emerged at this intersection of a failing economy, luxury becoming about micro-luxury, and this whole idea of gypsy romanticism in the music scene,” said Katrina. “It’s kind of Gogol Bordello meets quarter-life crisis meets the locavore movement.”
Prior to the Dwell win, the pair intended to keep Hütte Hut and Sprouting Sprocket as a slow-growing labor of love. But now, Brian says, that may all be changing: “I think it’s just hitting us after years of consulting, the idea that this is what we do is feasible.”
Currently, Hütte Hut is being produced on a made-to-order basis, but with client demand growing by the day, Brian and Katrina are already making moves toward the next step. “We’re scouting locations. We want to keep it local,” said Katrina. “Ideally we would love to have a full-on production line by next summer. … But the vision is still incremental. It’s long haul.”
For more on Hütte Hut and Sprouting Sprocket Studio, visit sproutingsprocket.com.