Emerging Talent Award Winner 2016: The Cairn side table

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Oct 14, 2016


When you look at this side table, does it remind you of anything? Perhaps it makes you a little peckish. If you’re seeing a bamboo steamer, you’re quite right. Design team Kimxgensapa modelled it after the kitchen utensil, entered it into MADE Emerging Talent Award, and got the most votes from the judges, and the public. But before you order one, get to know Kimxgensapa (pronounced ‘Kim-jen-sappa) their design background, and why their Cairn side table is a saviour for small, urban spaces.


“We met as students in Milan, and we’d always admired Italian and European design,” says Moon Kim, one half of Kimxgensapa.

“In fact, there was a time we tried to avoid taking any inspiration from our own cultural heritage. We wanted to design something neutral and unidentifiable - something that doesn’t necessarily stand for any ethnicity. But in the end, we decided not block ourselves and to explore freely, taking advantage of our two, three different backgrounds.

To be honest, Cairn seemed a bit risky at first,” she divulges. “It resembled dim sum steamers too closely. So during the design process, the biggest challenge was turning the idea into a simple, beautiful piece of furniture rather than something related to food. After many design modifications and colour variations, we finally arrived at something that satisfied us.”  

Entering the competition

Kimxgensapa were introduced to MADE.COM three years ago through an Italian friend, and later, came across the Emerging Talent Award. They decided to enter the competition this year, but leaving nothing to chance, they came up with a winning plan.

“Throughout the design process, we always kept the brief beside us as a guide,” says Moon. “We read through it numerous times, highlighted the keywords, added our own research, collected images and turned those images into ideas. The reason we worked this way is that from our experience, we know how easy it is to get carried away during the design process. It can lead to misinterpreting the brief and over-designing. So whenever we had a doubt or made a change to our design, we checked the brief as a guide.

“In the end, we came up with a design that had two solutions for small spaces: space saving and multitasking. Then taking inspiration from the bamboo steamer, we developed our idea into vertical and stackable storage.”

Bold design, big risk

Though Cairn won with a clear majority, at the time of designing, they were aware how polarizing the idea could be. Either the public and judges would love it, or, it would be too much of a departure from a commercial, marketable concept. Were they nervous about which way the voting would go?

“I was pretty confident in Cairn but at the same time, couldn’t help feeling anxious,” says Moon.   

“However, I knew that we poured all of our efforts into it so I would not feel any regret. Whichever way the vote went. I was ready to accept the result.”

“I was not confident when we started working on our entry at first,” says Tsewang Gensapa. “But as we started to develop the design and were about to submit it, I started to feel more confident.” And how did they feel when the judges announced them as the winners?

“First of all, very, very relieved,” says Moon. “It feels like I woke up from an awesome dream - one that has become a reality. It was kind of like I knew but I never really knew.”  

“It’s the first time we’ve won an international competition so yes -  the feeling was very overwhelming. We were very happy and thankful to the people who appreciated our design and supported us,” says Tsewang. “We’ve already received emails from people asking us the price, and where they can buy one.”

The Cairn side table with be available to buy on MADE.COM in 2017.

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