Friends from college, John Christakos, Charles Lazor and Maurice Blanks shared a passion for art, architecture and design.
After graduation, the trio turned their mutual hobby into a career. While furnishing their first respective homes in Minneapolis, they didn’t like the furniture they could afford and couldn’t afford the furniture they liked.
“Back in the day, if you were interested in modern design, you had two choices—Ikea or high-end European imports that you could only buy at a showroom. You basically needed a secret handshake to get in,” said John. “Good modern design was hard to come by and it was crazy expensive.
So together, they saw an opportunity and a solution—to design their own collection of sleek, modern furniture without the hefty designer price tag.
Blu Dot was born in 1997 and quickly became a go-to among industry insiders. Founded on the principle to bring good design to as many people as possible, John, Charles and Maurice create products that are useful, affordable, desirable and accessible. With a similar philosophy (and hometown), Target didn’t hesitate to ask their new neighbors to create a few pieces for a back-to-school collection in 1999.
More than a decade later, Blu Dot is teaming up with Target once again for a collection of bright furniture and home décor for every room in your home (Sabrina Soto is already a fan!). As one of six new Target.com exclusive brands, TOO by Blu Dot is an online-only collection. But throughout January, you can check out the collection on display at Target’s five CityTarget locations, where guests can scan QR codes to purchase product or learn more.
If you can’t make it out to a CityTarget, don’t worry! Find out more about the collection below in our interview with John Christakos.
How did the collaboration with Target come to life?
JC: About a year ago, Target approached us to do an exclusive collection for their guests. Of course, we were super excited about the opportunity—it’s a great chance to bring our designs to a wider audience.
How did you work together for the collection?
JC: We worked with the Target team to hash out the basic items and categories that we wanted to include. It’s a very cohesive process. We started with a basic brief of an item—what we were designing, the focus, use, and basic guidelines. We pinned up ideas and inspiration on our bulletin board in our studio. We drew sketches and had critiques. For every item, we developed four or five ideas that we felt good about.
In terms of the look and feel, it is true to our Blu Dot design DNA. Target was very open-minded with all of our conceptual ideas, which made the process even more fun. A lot of the collection is humor driven and very tongue-in-cheek, and they were great sports about entertaining our ideas. It’s very encouraging to see how open Target is to new ideas as such a large company.
How is this line different from Blu Dot?
JC: We design from the inside out, so it’s not just an aesthetic design exercise. Affordability was such an important aspect to this process, and it’s a real challenge to make a quality coffee table that retails at $149! In the very beginning, you have to think about efficiency in production, packaging, shipping and assembly. It’s a multivariable problem-solving design process, which is the type of design we dig the most.
Were you excited to see the TOO by Blu Dot samples for the first time?
JC: It’s always super exciting to see a sample on any item we work on. One of the most fun parts of the process is seeing an item come to life.
What makes the collection so unique?
JC: A lot of pieces are scaled for smaller spaces and are versatile, so they can work in multiple rooms with multiple functions. They can morph and transition from one apartment to the next, so it’s great for starter homes. For example, our Twilight Sideboard is a gorgeous piece with a perforated sliding door. It works well in a dining room to hold dishes, in a home office or in the living room as a media console. We also have a shelving system that is completely open—it can be a room divider or a bookcase; you can make it low or tall. We wanted to create a collection that can move and change as your needs change. Items that are flexible in their design and use are some of my favorite pieces.