Many New Yorkers and other city dwellers can identify with trying to transform a very small space into a home reflective of their personality and tastes. Such was the case with Robbin Brosterman and Benno Schoberth when love and marriage found them living together in a 475 sq ft alcove studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They knew they wanted a room divider to make their space appear larger, and spent some time searching for the perfect one.
One day, Schoberth had a vision of creating his own divider out of steel and glass. He was inspired, and set out drawing possibilities for his design over few weeks. What started out as a gift for his wife soon became a new project for the couple to work on together “I love art and I love nice things --and I loved not knowing what he was going to make!” says Brosterman proudly. There are now two protoypes of their idea; the first is a floor to ceiling single panel divider called “Una”, and a three-panel stand alone masterpiece titled “Andra”.
The process begins with Schoberth conceptualizing a design between hand drawn doodles and computer drafts. Once he has decided on a design, a single sheet of steel is laser cut by machine. Upon completion, 95% of the metal sheet has been discarded away to reveal Schoberth’s intricate design. The hand blown glass is then added as a finishing touch. Furthermore, the metal is finished by hand which is the most labor intensive part of the process. Schoberth and Brosterman chose the gage of the metal sheets to be ¼ of an inch thick because any thicker, and they found that the piece lost its “elegance”. The finished product reveals a stunning visual divider, one that brings “oohs and aahs” to all guests that visit the couple’s apartment.
Working with steel one would expect a finished product to be heavy on a room, yet the glass orbs bring a “lightness” and a “sparkle” that pleases the eye. Schoberth explains that his choice of materials “creates a juxtaposition between the laser cut steel and the way the light plays upon the glass, and it brings another dimension to it, a feeling of warmth.” He goes on to explain that his favorite time of day is when the sun goes down and a low light is glowing behind the divider “They come to life when they are backlit because they are basically lenses… when the room is dark you have an incandescent light on in back of them and they become these sparkly things. Each one is like a super lens … you get the idea of what the glass does for the light.”
Benno Schoberth (a film editor), and Robbin Brosterman (a design director), are now also the founders of Vital Steel NYC, the company they have created to provide their steel and glass dividers to others by special order. It became a business organically by way of the positive reactions of anyone who saw their pieces as well as the love and passion Schoberth found in creating the dividers “I forgot how much I love working with my hands. You use a different part of your brain than when editing.” Schoberth credits his inspiration to bring beauty to the practical, everyday things found around the house to growing up in the medieval city of Aachen, Germany… “Generally speaking in Europe it is much more commonplace to have simple household items be more designed. It is more often that people will have, you know, beautiful salt shakers.” Vital Steel is bringing this strong sense of design and artistry to New Yorkers one divider at a time.