Meet the Contestants—and Winner—of HOT NEW NEXT Portland

Event photos by Ian Whitmore

Our Hot New Next series kicked off with a bang during Design Week Portland last week. Design Within Reach hosted 150 of the design community for the first of a four-part series to uncover the next big thing in design. Guests mingled in the showroom and sipped Browne Family Vineyard wines and snacked on Portlandia gourmet popcorn to the musical stylings of DJ Gregarious. We raffled off a $250 gift certificate to Crosswater restaurant courtesy of event sponsor Chown Hardware, and an Eames Hang-It-All, courtesy of Design Within Reach, also an event sponsor.

Five pre-selected designers, who submitted their ideas to us last month, got to give their pitches to an esteemed panel of judges that included Nike’s senior material and color innovator, Kim Kovel, Amy Golden—co-owner of Seattle-based PR and marketing agency Paxson Fay, Jeffrey Valles, who leads Chown Hardware‘s Pacific Northwest showrooms, entrepreneur and business consultant Linda Lowry, and Liz Boscacci—buyer and product developer for Design Within Reach.


Five contestants pitched their ideas to the judges, and one came away as the judge’s pick to advance to the championship round at Interior Design Show Vancouver in September. The designers of the Rainier Cloud from Rainier Industries impressed them with their acoustic hanging “cloud” sculptures that can be custom configured to suit a myriad of spaces that require sound attenuation. The marriage of form and function, plus the design’s scalability gave it the edge to pull off the win.

Then, the audience voted for its favorite—a  modern rocking chair by Mark Hanson. The dearth of modern rocking chairs in the market makes his design something we want to see more of. The other very worthy contestants all brought something different to the table, starting with a sleek chair design by architect Quang Truong that uses carbon fiber technology, until now only typically only used in the automotive, aerospace, nautical, and energy industries. Zenvans got the audience into a #vanlife state of mind by showing off the bentwood, modular and modern van systems that they have developed to retrofit Sprinter vans. On the conceptual side, architect Emi Day from Mahlum showed off an initiative to put digital screens in schools that encourage in-person interaction and learning, rather than escalating social isolation among school-age kids.

Meet the contestants:
Rainier Clouds
The winning contestant was Rainier Clouds from Rainier Industries.
Mark Hanson Studio
The audience favorite, a modern rocking chair from Mark Hanson Studio.
Zenvanz makes the Sprinter van into something special.
Dunes Chair
Carbon fiber technology goes from industrial to beautiful with the Dunes Chair, designed by architect Quang Truong.
emi Day
Architect Emi Day illuminated what it's like to be in grade school in 2018, with technology omnipresent, and shared her vision for a more thoughtful future.

The Rainier Cloud team will receive more mentorship from the judges, and go on to pitch against the winners from the upcoming Vancouver and Seattle Hot New Next events. The grand prize is $1,000, coverage in GRAY, and the distinction of being the next big thing in design.

After Hot New Next, guests were invited to Provenance Hotels‘ Hotel Lucia for the exclusive after party—a cool, low key but lively gathering featuring DJ Rachael Balancephotobooth by The Original Photobooth, and food and drinks from Imperial.  A thoroughly GRAY way to end the night.

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