Thom Moran is an American designer and educator based in Michigan. His design work focuses on reclaiming the domestic interior for architectural speculation. Currently teaching at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College, he joined the school as the 2009-2010 Muschenheim Fellow. His work has been exhibited at the Center for Architecture, Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Venice Biennale. Thom collects design he likes (with Michael Savona) at Frontieriors. He is currently a collaborator at THING THING.

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Made from Detroit’s discarded plastic, Making Friends is a room sized puzzle made of friendly pieces. Each piece, or “friend,” can stand alone as an enigmatic domestic object as well as be a part of a larger whole. The project is made with an impoverished material process (recycling plastic by hand) to promote an optimistic attitude about what is possible with very little resources for both design and Detroit. Shown at the 2012 Venice Biennale.

A Collection of Friends


Like a domesticated animal, Pet Mountain brings a subtle sense of the rawness of the wilderness to the domestic interior. It is not deliberate about trying to promote specific activities. Rather, the mountain is an intuitive form, not tailored to any specific lifestyle. It is intended to suggest new types of activities rather than facilitate known ones. Pet Mountain also specifically references two known forms: a mountain and a rug. These precise associations are hard to avoid, and the image of a mountain is an unambiguous one even at such a diminutive scale.

Pet Mountain


With Steven Haulenbeek, Michael Savona, Caroline Linder, and Lisa Smith, we constructed a “factory” in the 12x12 gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art. We worked in the space during the week of the installation, producing multiples of hand-crafted balloons for museum guests to purchase. The factory functioned as a workspace and spectacle at once. Through it, we explored methods of producing objects for consumption in a direct way, collapsing production, distribution and consumption into one space. The project combined elements of industrial production and hand craft to demystify the production processes behind familiar objects, in this case a balloon, by making them visible and explicit.

balloon portrait


In 2009 I bought a house in Detroit with four other architects for $500 at the tax foreclosure auction in order to conduct architectural experiments at full scale. I provided the house with its missing staricase. Something between a shelf and a ladder, the stair can serve as permanent home for plants or a temporary place for a book or a drink. Its bleacher-like quality creates a space to both move through and linger in. Each tread measures 15 inches on a side, large enough to comfortably sit on, use as a surface, and maintain a manageable, if unusual, rise and run. Inspired by Enzo Mari's Autoprogettazione project (this translates roughly to "self-made" or "self-designed"), the stair was intentionally realized with minimal means. It was designed with a nod to the sensibilities of survivalists, Home Depot, and the typical apartment dweller’s toolbox. This frankness and simplicity in making, initially a response to the lack of infrastructure (like electricity) in many Detroit homes, celebrates practicality and an economy of means.

tables and chairs