Design Matters

Design is not just a luxury sport

by Val Nehez
Posted 7/6/23

As designers, we wanted the transformational magic of our work to be accessible to people from all income brackets. 

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Design Matters

Design is not just a luxury sport


When Studio IQL hit its stride over a decade ago, we quickly realized that architectural and interior design are luxury sports. Having the means and leisure to afford design considerations is reserved for only a few.

But as designers, we wanted the transformational magic of our work to be accessible to people from all income brackets. 

An iconic designer with the same mission was Verner Panton. He too had a lifelong commitment to making his work accessible to the mass market. 

His Flower Pot light, for instance, has recently surged again in mass popularity. It is the perfect desk lamp, available in many colors, and can lift the design of a room for the affordable price of $108.  

Panton was unabashedly our inspiration for the Jet Wine Bar at 1525 South St., where we were tasked with making their downstairs basement space inviting for private parties and overflow from the bar on busy nights. The space had a low ceiling and no windows. It was a cement box. 

We decided to recreate the ceiling over the swimming pool that Panton famously designed in 1969 for the Der Spiegel building in Hamburg. This was no easy task and took a tremendous amount of engineering. Ultimately it paid off as Verner showed us how to make the ceiling come alive. We also created a faux window using a backlit image of the TWA parking lot circa the 1960s. 

Ida Engholm, writing about Verner Panton for AnOther online magazine, perfectly captures his impact:

“The irony of being celebrated as an icon of contemporary design would not be lost on Verner Panton. Two decades have passed since the Danish designer’s death, but as we dive head-first into a world of political and economic unrest, the desire to break the social convention that defined his work in the 1960s and 70s is as enticing now as it was then…

“Coming of age in a post-war economy, Panton was familiar with the habits and needs of the ordinary person. Intelligent design, to him, should not be reserved for the wealthy, but made accessible to the mass market.”

The revolutionary designer blossomed as part of a movement that believed in widespread social progress through sophisticated design solutions and reforms, which ultimately paved the way for social welfare models that continue to create global change. He was a maverick and an outlaw, yet his work is now synonymous with the unprecedented shift of an entire industry. 

Panton famously said, “A less successful experiment is preferable to a beautiful platitude”. While resilient and progressive, the world he set about building with his dedication to pragmatic design was not without its challenges, but it was a world that promised social mobility and an optimistic future.

Through careful study and application of pattern, systems and color, Panton created mass-produced products that the end-user could curate to build their own unique world, inspired by his.

Please raise your glass to Verner while enjoying a delicious glass of wine from the fabulous selections at Jet. 

Val Nehez is the owner and principal designer at Studio IQL in East Falls. You can find her at and on Instagram at @studio_iql or @quickandlovely_design for smaller projects.