A couch called Ibis, inspired by ancient Egypt. It was designed by Terry Crews, an actor and former N.F.L. player.
Terry Crews has an enviable résumé: former professional football player; actor on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”; star in the “Expendables” movie franchise; and, according to People magazine, one of the sexiest men alive.
But there’s a new job title that he finds especially thrilling: furniture designer.
“There’s nothing more satisfying,” Mr. Crews said, discussing his first collection of furniture for Bernhardt Design, which will be presented during the ICFF furniture fair in New York later this month. “I want something beautiful. I want something special. I want to see something that I did with my own hands that touches the world.”
The brawny Mr. Crews has long had a creative side. He studied graphic design at Western Michigan University on an art scholarship. As a player in the National Football League, he painted portraits of teammates for about $5,000 each to make ends meet when he was cut from teams. After retiring from football, he tried to get a job as an animator. That didn’t work out, but he began acting — and that did.
In recent years, he has also developed an irrepressible passion for design. Mr. Crews speaks about his April 2016 trip to the Salone del Mobile design fair in Milan the way other people may talk about a
“I remember meeting David Weeks, Marc Thorpe and hanging with Bjarke Ingels at Bar Basso in Milan — and me and Bjarke having this huge talk about architecture,” Mr. Crews said. “It was like ‘Oh, my God, I’m hanging with the people who are going to be responsible for how the world looks over the next 30 years!’”
Weeks later, he visited NYCxDesign, where he met Jerry Helling, the president of Bernhardt Design. Upon learning of Mr. Crews’s artistic background, Mr. Helling proposed a collaboration.
The resulting collection comprises three designs inspired by ancient Egypt: the Ibis sofa, which has a long, shapely back recalling outstretched wings; tables named Float with smooth, rounded edges resembling pebbles softened by the Nile River; and the Lily Pad chair, which blossoms with a seat and tabletop on a single elevated platform.
“Terry’s sofa is the best thing we’ve ever done,” Mr. Helling said. Coming from a man who has spent years working with design luminaries like Yves Béhar, Ross Lovegrove and Jaime Hayon, it’s a significant statement.
But Mr. Crews is not the only successful creative professional from another field to recently turn his attention to designing furniture and home accessories. When fashion designers cross over, it seems more natural. Raf Simons released new upholstery fabric, throws and pillows for Kvadrat in March. Badgley Mischka introduced a furniture collection during New York Fashion Week in February.
But actors and singers? Ellen DeGeneres introduced a line of furniture for Thomasville and a collection of rugs and pillows for Loloi earlier this year, and has curated an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Brad Pitt is at work on a second furniture collection with Pollaro after releasing his first range in 2012. Lenny Kravitz designed door levers and cabinet pulls for Rocky Mountain Hardware and a furniture collection for CB2. Kanye West has even expressed a desire to design for Ikea.
Suddenly, it seems, designing furniture and objects for the home is the most coveted job around.
At Bernhardt, Mr. Helling has also developed new upholstery fabrics with singer and songwriter Tift Merritt. The upside of working with such unconventional designers, he said, goes well beyond the marketing boost that comes with a celebrity name (although that can’t hurt).
Unlike experienced professionals, “They don’t know all the things that they’re not supposed to do,” Mr. Helling said. “It’s a clean slate. It comes from their heart, rather than being an academic exercise.”
Why would highly accomplished individuals from other creative fields bother with designing furniture and fabrics?
“It’s just so exciting to see an idea come to life,” said Ms. Merritt, who collects vintage ribbon and has used some to make her own guitar straps.
Mr. Helling is a longtime fan of Ms. Merritt’s music, and every time they met, “He always wanted to talk music, and I always wanted to talk design,” she said. “I had been hoping for many years that he might give me a shot at making something.”
When he finally did, she used her ribbon collection as inspiration for a line of six striped fabrics with names like Verse, Reverb and Swing.
Such cross-disciplinary design collaborations are increasingly common, said Joel Towers, executive dean of Parsons School of Design. “There’s a real breakdown in boundaries,” he said, where creative people are no longer expected to stick to their specialties. “Some of these people are performers who really understand their audience and the sense of what people desire. These are all key components of design.”
He also pointed to social media, where celebrities often share pictures of their homes and personal style choices. The idea that people can then get involved in designing those style choices “feels very much of our time,” he said. “It’s about design being more democratized.”
Indeed, when Mr. Kravitz, who founded Kravitz Design in 2003, speaks about design, he frequently does so in a very personal way. “The products I design I do use,” he said. “It’s very rare that Kravitz Design does something and I don’t have a piece in one of my homes. It’s very important to me.”
That intimate approach has led to products like Mr. Kravitz’s Trousdale collection for Rocky Mountain Hardware, which includes rectangular door levers and pulls with a deeply pitted surface inspired by one of his belt buckles. “It’s a different, edgy, modern look — more so than other things we’ve done,” said Christian Nickum, the chief executive of Rocky Mountain Hardware. “It’s enlightened our customers to some of the different designs that we can create.”
That growing diversity of voices in design is something new, said Cara McCarty, the curatorial director of the Cooper Hewitt. “What’s really interesting about design now is that there are so many different styles, not one dominant style,” she said.
The Cooper Hewitt is hosting the exhibition “Ellen DeGeneres Selects,” which features the talk show host’s favorite objects from the museum’s collection, through May 21. It is also at work on a similar exhibition with the musician Esperanza Spalding scheduled to open June 9.
“Many of these people have well-developed visual interests,” Ms. McCarty said, which makes the move into furniture design almost natural. “Just think of the design of their stage sets, the clothing, the music. It’s all part of a look and an identity.”
At Kvadrat, a Danish textile company specializing in fabrics for upholstery and drapery, the idea to partner with Raf Simons grew out of the fashion designer’s decision to use the company’s fabrics in his 2011 fall/winter collection for Jil Sander.
“When you work in industrial design and interior design, you’re pretty disciplined, and programmed in what’s right and what’s wrong,” said Anders Byriel, the chief executive of Kvadrat. “We wanted to create a space that was a little more freethinking.”
Since 2014, Mr. Simons, who is now the chief creative officer of Calvin Klein, has designed four collections for Kvadrat with fabrics featuring beautiful blends of color and texture that have a depth rarely seen in furniture. His new Ria range, for instance, has a lively mottled appearance inspired by pointillist paintings.
“In a way, it merges interiors with haute couture,” Mr. Byriel said.