Sharing his good taste

Times Staff Writer

ROB FORBES was not only the founder of Design Within Reach, but also the writer of the home furnishings store’s e-mailed newsletter, Design Notes, which started offering a personal -- and, some might say, more insightful -- take on developments in the design world long before home décor blogs began littering the Internet.

Now the 56-year-old entrepreneur has announced his next venture: Studio Forbes (, where he will post musings about worldwide design as well as food, wine and culture.

“Design is all about our sensibilities and how they are fused together,” Forbes said Monday after flying back home to the Bay Area from Milan. “I don’t see how you can separate furniture from the way we live.”

He says Studio Forbes is “still in its infancy,” and he’s not sure what else the website might offer. “Eventually I’d like to have unique products that reflect local culture,” he said. “That’s broad enough to include food, music, maybe even lamps.”


Stating that he had accomplished all that he set out to do with the company, Forbes formally left DWR this summer and announced he no longer would regularly author Design Notes.

His new blog won’t be getting the exposure he had at DWR -- those newsletters are e-mailed to more than 400,000 people -- but he’s optimistic about starting fresh. He’ll still travel the world, taking photographs and filing his reactions to structures, posters, pretty much any compelling example of effective design.

In September, Forbes posted eight blog entries with topics as diverse as “Koolhaas: The Character of Color” and “Does Fidel Castro Have an Email Address?” The latter filing begins: “If you want to learn about the modern world, go to Havana. But go there quickly, before it arrives.” Tucked into his zigzagging columns are photographs of old cannons used as roadblocks and fire hydrants sunk into cement. He describes every object he sees -- be it a bus, an arch or a door -- as a social metaphor.

Thought-provoking prose is a hallmark of Forbes, whose DWR newsletters patiently led readers by the hand and walked them through distant design worlds without condescension. He took readers along to the house Le Corbusier designed in La Plata, Argentina, and let them tag along with the movers and shakers of technology, entertainment and design at the invitation-only TED conference in Monterey.


Forbes said he’ll continue to contribute occasionally to DWR’s Design Notes, much to fans’ relief. The sentimental probably never imagined the day when Design Notes would lead with the line that DWR Chief Executive Ray Brunner posted last week: “I recently read an article about dinosaur flatulence. . . . “