Next-Gen Design for the Ages

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Meet four rising design stars who find joyful inspiration in the Hostess City


“LIFE IS SHORT. You’ve got to invest in the things that make you smile,” says Natalie Schaake, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) graduate and creator of the Hug chair, a user-crafted chair designed to relieve stress. 

For Schaake and other emerging furniture designers, a surprising and delightful common thread has emerged: Each of these designers seeks to inspire joy. 

Whether through whimsical pattern play on an interior rug, a cushioned lounger with a crafty side, mix-and-match light fixtures, a customizable digital print chair or an orb lamp that invites interaction, these four SCAD grads are shaking things up and changing the way the world thinks about furniture design. 

Two arm chairs side by side
The Hug chair // Courtesy Natalie Schaake

Natalie Schaake 

Industrial Designer, Hug Chair

When it came time for Natalie Schaake to decide on her senior thesis at SCAD, she knew it had to be something in the furniture design space, preferably a chair. “Designing a chair is very difficult,” Schaake says. “It’s almost like a rite of passage.” But before she could think about design, she knew she had to find her why. “I decided I wanted to focus on anxiety,” Schaake explains. “It was something I was really dealing with at the time.” 

fuzzy arm chair
The Hug chair // Courtesy Natalie Schaake

Enter the Hug chair. Designed to reduce anxiety through the crafting of the chair, Hug is an uber-comfortable lounger that feels like, well, a hug — a warm and stylish hug, to be precise. The construction of Hug is just as important as the end design, prompting users to assemble the frame of the chair and then handcraft a variety of cushion and upholstery options. Whether crocheting, knitting, punch needling, or any combination of the three, Hug allows its users to tap into their crafty and creative side. This isn’t just for show, either. Schaake found that 45 minutes of crafting can reduce anxiety by 75 percent. “It’s an ongoing project, and it’s calming your anxiety along the way,” Schaake says.

Schaake has received numerous awards for Hug, including a Fast Company 2023 Innovation by Design Award, and is working toward making the chair commercially available.

Living room with bright colored and boldly patterned carpet
Courtesy Anna Albury
Rugs with bright colors and bold designs
Carpet with bright designs

Anna Albury

Textile and Rug Designer

Isle of Hope native Anna Albury discovered a fascination with patterns and their hands-on applications early on. With a fibers degree from SCAD behind her, Albury has channeled that fascination into her work as a textile and rug designer for Crosby Street Studios in New York City. Albury’s process is an ode to her first love of painting, and she begins each project with a colorful combination of watercolors, gouache, markers, crayons and collage techniques. “Finding a career that allows me to paint, collage, tear up paper and have fun at the beginning stages is what interested me in textile design and rugs,” Albury explains.

Her designs are imbued with color and personality and, to every designer’s delight, totally customizable. “It’s cool to see people’s interpretations of the same design,” Albury says. Her line for Crosby Street, entitled High Fives, was initially marketed toward children but, to this day, has yet to be used in that application. Instead, her whimsical designs can be found gracing the spaces of Sir David Adjaye, famed architect of Adjaye Associates. “Aamir [Khandwala] used it in this Chelsea loft,” Albury says. “We did a handful of different rugs that all went together that were all cobalt blue, lilac, and really pretty dusty blue and chunky shapes.”

The ultra-cool designer also freelances as an interior stylist and content creator, and just celebrated the 200th issue of her newsletter,, written in collaboration with her husband and fellow designer, Garrett Albury.

Small table lamp on an orange block in front of an orange wall
Nella Lighting table lamp // Courtesy Nella Lighting
White cat sitting on the arm of a green couch next to a small table lamp

Caitlyn Campanella 

Founder, Nella Lighting 

Founded on the simple goal of giving the world playful home decor, Caitlyn Campanella created Savannah-based Nella Lighting. The then-senior was pursuing a degree at SCAD in furniture design and wanted to produce something playful and practical. Lighting fit the bill, and inspiration was found in unlikely spaces. “I love children’s furniture, which is funny,” Campanella says with a laugh. “The really simple design of it and how approachable it is, how playful it is — I wanted to take that concept and that look and elevate it a little bit.”

What emerged is a cheerful collection of table lamps designed with interchangeable shades and bases made from compostable materials. Users can mix and match different shade silhouettes and base color options, including banana cream, nectar and dove white. “Nella is very motivated by a sense of cheer,” Campanella explains. The lamps are easy to assemble and bring a charming depth with their subtle textures and silhouettes. 

Up next for Campanella is a floor lamp with whimsical stackable shades, another nod to her signature customizable lighting line, which prompts users to determine the fixture’s height and overall appearance. 

Three bent plywood chairs
Lean-on chair // Courtesy Studio Waah
Hand reaching for the bulb of a floor lamp
The orb lamp // Courtesy Studio Waah

Shreya Somani + Shaunak Patel 

Co-Creators, Studio Waah

Setting out to create “waah” moments (“waah” is the Indian translation for “wow”), SCAD graduates Shreya Somani and Shaunak Patel established Studio Waah. The pair found themselves inspired by the Gulf Coast’s green waters and orange skies and developed a piece that could mirror these colors down to an exact hex code and be customizable by architects and designers. Behold, the lean-on chair — an uncomplicated bent-ply approach with minimal waste and bold, clean lines. “We named it lean-on because we thought, finally, the architect or the designer could lean on the furniture within the space to tell the story of the space,” Somani explains. There’s a sense of joy and playfulness to the piece, which eschews traditional design and pushes its users to rethink what exactly makes a chair … a chair. 

This meta-unboxing approach to furniture design led the pair to their next project: the orb. “We took this very tactile experience of light and then tried to translate it to something very touchable but in modern form,” Somani says. “We really wanted it to have this magic to it.” The orb invites interaction from its users through a simple design — the orb can be placed on three different levels, with the brightest light shining at the top placement and the dimmest at the bottom. Users of the orb revel at its magical dimming effect, and for the duo, it felt like introducing a child to a new toy. Waah indeed. 

As for what’s next, they’re already dreaming up new designs that inspire waah moments — a utensil that can turn into a mirror, aromatherapy, engagement rings for each other and a highly anticipated side table to go with the lean-on chair.

Cover of spring issue of Savannah Homes magazine

This story and much more in the Spring issue of Savannah HOMES magazine. Get your copy today!