Eric Trine is still figuring things out. The 34-year-old designer has managed to get this far by following his instinct, so why change things now?
Trine, a Southern California native, has made furniture and home objects for nearly a decade. Along the way, he’s managed to cultivate a distinct aura of California coolness, both online and off. In fact, the journey has been documented (and beautifully art directed) for everyone to see on his eye-catching Instagram. His eponymous design studio has also snagged write-ups in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and has landed retail accounts big and small, like home decor chain West Elm and trendy e-commerce tastemaker Need Supply. For something that is so quintessentially West Coast, Trine’s work has certainly gone far beyond The Golden State.
Trine grew up a pretty average California kid: sports, surfing, skateboarding—all the usual happenings of a sun-soaked upbringing. He eventually realized his calling when he joined a set design program during high school. “I didn’t care about academics anymore, I had found my tribe,” he says. “It wasn’t about a sense of rebellion—this was just really important to me.” His grades slipped as he put all his energy towards his newfound extracurriculars, but Trine still enrolled in a local city college upon graduation. He’d meet a bunch of up-and-coming artists and musicians within the Los Angeles scene, many who attended the small suburban Biola University. He eventually transferred there to pursue a Fine Arts major, spending his senior year focusing on painting and sculpture. After graduation, he started working for his father’s business but continued to work as a freelancer building retail fixtures and installations.
It wasn’t until Trine had an empty home to furnish that he decided to try his hand at building his own furniture. Piece by piece, he and his wife slowly filled their space with his first attempts at original work. Trine would share the photos online and was an early adopter of the fledgling interior design blogosphere. Word spread to their friends (and then friends-of-friends) and he soon found himself busy with commissioned orders. “After a couple of years, I finally tipped the scales and realized I could do it full-time,” he says. “But I was just making stuff for people and I knew nothing about design because I didn’t formally study it until grad school.”
He quit his day job and focused solely on making furniture, and eventually decided to pursue his MFA in Applied Craft and Design from Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland. After that, Trine showed his work during New York Design Week. It was a busy year. He settled back in Southern California and set up shop in a proper studio; no more working out of his garage. Trine speaks fondly of his time at grad school but stresses the importance of getting your hands dirty in a non-academic setting: “When working on your own, there is no one giving you critiques and feedback. You’ve got to really find your voice.”
“Why does [my work] need to be in the MoMA? I just want it to be in someone’s living room.”