Blu Dot, the homegrown furniture company started 21 years ago by three former college buddies, is now officially a big deal in the design world. Blu Dot’s collection of modern pieces was awarded a 2018 National Design Award for Product Design by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, an awards program considered the pinnacle of the industry, similar to the Oscars for film or the James Beard awards for food.

“It’s great news! Awesome for our whole team,” said Blu Dot co-founder and CEO John Christakos.

Christakos (pictured below, right), along with Maurice Blanks (pictured below, left) and Charlie Lazor, fellow alumni of Williams College in Massachusetts, launched their Minneapolis firm in 1997 with about 15 to 20 pieces. They now produce several hundred designs, sold online and at their northeast Minneapolis outlet store.

Blu Dot furniture and lighting can be seen in commercial hot spots from the Bachelor Farmer and its Marvel Bar to the Radisson Red and the new Intercontinental Hotel at the airport, as well as custom pieces designed for the Hewing Hotel, in partnership with an outside architect. Blu Dot also is gaining international business, Christakos noted, supplying furniture for Starbucks and WeWork co-working spaces.

Cooper Hewitt cited Blu Dot’s mission, “to design and manufacture furniture that is useful, affordable and brings good design to as many people as possible,” in presenting the award. The collection also was recognized for its “inventive use of materials, fabrication technology and assembly methods.”

Blu Dot’s collection grew slowly at first, but the firm is now poised for growth with a larger staff. “We’re unique, in that 100 percent of what we sell, we design,” said Christakos. “Now we have a more robust team and can create more.”