With its rounded edges and curved back, the L40 lounge chair is visually striking. More important to its designer, Geoffrey Lilge, it is also comfortable and functional. Occupying a corner of his own living room, the piece tempts visitors to relax in its low-slung seat.
"If you have a personal need, it can inspire a better design. It can motivate you to do something unique," he says.
From an early age, Lilge watched his mother in her workshop designing and creating kitchen items, and he witnessed the satisfaction of designing a beautiful and functional item.
He designed his lounge chair as part of his master's thesis for the University of Alberta's industrial design program. Through the project, he explored the challenges faced by an Edmonton designer searching for a manufacturer.
Lilge ran his own manufacturing company, Pure Design, from 1993 to 2004, along with two partners. They produced bar stools, tables, shelving and accessories designed by other designers until he formed his current design company, Geoffrey Lilge Design, in 2007.
Using his manufacturing knowledge, Lilge made a prototype of his lounge chair to show at trade fairs in New York and Milan. A U.S manufacturer signed him up and production began, but the deal was cancelled when the company suffered financial trouble in the economic crash.
Lilge has plans to pursue some other leads with his lounge chair. In the meantime, he developed a project inspired by his wife, Cindy Lazarenko, proprietor of the restaurant Highlands Kitchen.
Having helped with the design of the restaurant, Lilge wanted to create a pepper mill for the kitchen staff. Now manufactured by Umbra, the pepper mill is Lilge's first produced piece. He's working now on a series of cutting boards inspired both by his involvement with Culina and by his mother.
As a sessional instructor for the U of A, Lilge shares his knowledge with students: "I tell them to design for themselves and their own places."