Mr. Waffles Explains Design

General / People / Places / Products / September 27, 2019

Mr. Waffles, once a shelter cat, has won the design lottery.

Adopted by Lisa Roberts’ son, he became his mother’s ward when travel prevented the feline’s proper care.

Luckily, Mr. Waffles took up residence in a home full of iconic furniture. There’s Michael Graves’ Teakettle, Ron Arad’s Bookworm, Harry Allen’s Pig Bank, and a Corolla Chair made of orange wire.

“That chair was like a jungle gym to him – he was precariously climbing over it,” Roberts says. “He loved it – but it was challenging to walk on.”

There’s also Karim Rashid’s Garbo Trashcan, a cardboard chair by Frank Gehry and a lamp akin to a light bulb with feather. But first and foremost was The Up 5, by Gaetano Pesce, a museum piece from the ‘60s. “There are breasts and a lap you fit into,” she says. “Mr. Waffles jumped into its lap and nestled in there.”

His star ascended when Roberts, an author of two design books, first took his picture. “In my mind, this cat gravitated toward these objects,” she says. “That started me following him around, and taking pictures of him interacting with them.”

She launched an Instagram account for the curious cat, then did a pod cast interview with Design Milk. “The interviewer said that it would make a great book,” she says. “I wasn’t thinking about another one, but decided to do it.”

The idea is to increase awareness of design, and open people’s eyes to why they should care. Besides, a jet-black cat grabs anyone’s attention.

“Mr. Waffles is in every photo and gives his perspective – he has some point of view and connects and looks at it like a cat,” she says. “It’s like: ‘How do I relate to this object? What’s this about, how does it work and why should I care? Is it a great scratching post? Is it comfortable to sit on? And what’s the material?’ There’s a greater connection to the object from his point of view.”

This could be a book for cat lovers, but it’s for design aficionados too. “No other design book takes two such disparate subjects and puts them together,” she says. “It humanizes design out of a more erudite area and makes it accessible to a larger audience.”

In the process, Mr. Waffles becomes an Alfred Hitchcock for the 21st century.

For more, go here.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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