Products by Carol Catalano

When Carol Catalano was seven years old, she spent six weeks in bed with rheumatic fever. “To keep me from being bored, my dad gave me several books on drawing,”
she recalls, “and they opened a whole new world for me. That’s when I decided I wanted to do something creative in my life.”

Her creative interest found a focus when she entered the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) after high school and discovered industrial design. “After the first project, I knew I had found my life’s work,” she says.

Catalano says the training she received at RISD added a whole new dimension to her creativity. “They had a very hands-on approach, so I worked a lot with materials in the machine and wood shops.” In fact, that hands-on training proved valuable when she was working on her Capelli stool. “One of the requirements for the International Furniture Design Competition in Asahikawa (Japan) was to build a full-size prototype,” says Catalano, “which we did—in my garage.”

The effort paid off: Her stool took a Silver Prize in the prestigious competition in 1999—one of only eight awards given and the only American design selected from over 700 entries from around the world.

“I love giving artistic expression to things I’ve learned, and I’m always looking for ways to ‘cross-pollinate.’”

- Carol Catalano

Catalano has applied her creative talents to a wide variety of products since founding her business in 1987, including high-end headphones with laminated wood earcups, EEG headsets that record brainwaves, a fish-cleaning knife with a dual-purpose blade, and custom lifestyle eyewear.

She finds learning about new industries one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of her job. “I love giving artistic expression to things I’ve learned,” she says, “and I’m always looking for ways to ‘cross-pollinate.’” For example, the Capelli Stool and the molded earcup in the Hifiman HE1000 headphones, designed by Catalano Design, both incorporate the same molded wood process.

Catalano likes to push the current boundaries of her field and has prioritized the end user’s experience in all the firm’s designs. “It used to be about just creating a good design,” she says. “Now the first thing we think about for any project is how we can simplify and enrich people’s lives.”

With the energy and enthusiasm she shows for her work, it’s clear Catalano loves the career path she’s chosen. In her time away from the office, she and her husband, an architect, enjoy exploring the world on their sailboat and spending time with family.