Palm Beach native and resident India Foster put in years as an interior designer at her mother’s acclaimed design firm, Leta Austin Foster, with offices in Palm Beach and New York City. Her work has included projects from historical preservation to new, modern construction. “I worked on such a wide breadth of projects and with such discerning clients that I ended up developing a lot of custom designs,” says Foster. “I really enjoyed the process of collaborating with metal artists, woodworkers, textile designers and stone fabricators to bring these concepts to life.” She was able to build a great network of relationships with local talent, so it was only a matter of time before she branched out on her own. Now, she’s launching furniture brand Shizen (“nature” in Japanese), all fabricated using organic materials. We spoke to Foster about this natural progression.
What made you want to showcase the work of local artisans in this way?
As a fourth-generation Floridian, I have always been inspired by our sublime subtropical surroundings and distinct cultural history, so ideas for vernacular designs have been forming for years. I wanted to create a brand known for sophisticated designs crafted by hand in SoFlo. Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of artistic expression here, so the timing is perfect.
What void in the furniture market did you see that you wanted to address?
As the daughter of a decorator, I grew up going to many studios and workrooms run by talented local artisans. Over the years, as designers and clients started sourcing materials from the global market and using bigger operations in faraway cities, many of these places disappeared. Now, I sense that the tide has shifted.
Tell us about the materials you source for the furniture.
The raw goods are carefully procured from the region. The wood comes from trees felled by storms or timbers reclaimed using modern technology. Each piece of stone is a handpicked remnant from a local project. The alligator skins are sustainably wild-caught from the southeastern United States. I design and produce all of the pieces in collaboration with local artists and craftspeople, who masterfully elevate these materials into sophisticated designs.
What’s special about these pieces?
Savvy customers have grown weary of that which is available to anyone, anywhere. To be sure, there is a place for mass-produced pieces in the modern home, but without handmade objects—textiles, art, furniture—a living space has no life force, no identity, no soul. I’ve tried to create functional pieces that add richness to any style of home.