British-Ghanian designer Kusheda Mensah seeks to create rich and refreshing social interactions through bold playful furniture. Motivated by the power of social design, Mensah’s work promotes wellness and communication at a time when many of us find ourselves spending endless hours behind a screen. ‘My practice, Modular by Mensah centres around people, and our projects are reactions to forces that shape everyday existence,’ says Mensah.
Mensah’s venture into the furniture world began at the London College of Communication (LCC), where she studied surface design. ‘Print and textiles are part of my Ghanaian heritage, so I was instinctively drawn to this subject’ explains Mensah. ‘Messages and colours within fabrics are a big part of my culture. However, coming from an African household, creative subjects weren’t championed. So I felt compelled to excel at university.’
At LCC, Mensah developed a strong interest in interiors and social spaces. It was here that she would learn to adapt prints into furniture. ‘I’d come in and print lots of forms and shapes based on my emotions on the day’ laughs Mensah. This resulted in her final year project being a series of modular volumes covered in screen-printed suede. This would in turn act as a ‘baby version’ of her inaugural collection, Mutual.
Mutual is a series of abstract bolsters, seats, and backrests that encourage impromptu moments of togetherness. After critically reflecting on how people communicate in modern society, Mensah wanted to design forms that would help foster meaningful social connections. Coming in a range of humble hues, the unconventional modular elements slot together to create a variety of compositions. The ergonomic furniture set first debuted at the 21st edition of SaloneSatellite, in Milan in 2018. ‘The fun aspect of my work was the very thing that captured people’s attention. It made people stop and explore because of its tactility and adaptability.’
More recently, the Peckham-raised designer was nominated for the Hublot design prize and collaborated with Clarks for the 70th anniversary of its iconic desert boot to create the Desert Raft. Mensah has also worked with Adidas to create elegant seating for the sports giant’s flagship building on London’s Oxford Street. ‘To have such a notable brand co-sign your work is amazing’ says Mensah. Made from recycled foam and PET fabrics the furniture for the central London store aimed to reimagine social wellbeing through forward-thinking arrangements.
Functionality lies at the heart of Mensah’s work so it’s no surprise that some of her biggest influences include Verner Panton, Gaetano Pesce, and Ettore Sottsass, designers who all made their art functional. Her practice is also heavily inspired by Ghanaian architect David Adjaye whose work meticulously blends African culture with contemporary design, something that the London-based furniture designer actively seeks to do.
Mensah has developed an impressive portfolio of playful and precise work that generates intimate social interactions. By using furniture to help people bond her practice addresses many of the anxieties social media can produce. Through engaging and tactile collections, she continues to instigate genuine moments of togetherness and promote good mental health.
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A version of this story appears in January 2023 Wallpaper*, The Future Issue, available now in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today (opens in new tab)