Homework Vs Teamwork

Homework Vs Teamwork

IBM are perhaps the most recent Blue Chip to abandon the home office. In a recent policy change, employees are now required to work from regional offices, or seek alternative employment. Ironic, seeing as IBM are champions of remote tech software, but clearly a case of ‘do as we say not as we do’. Or something.

Arguments for and against home office working are nothing new. Company policy is often driven by CEO opinion, with trust being the deciding factor. Tricky as it is, one size does not fit all. For most of us, the office will remain central to our working lives and I believe that’s a good thing. However for many employees, flexibility still outweighs the lure of cool office design. But who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?

home-office-tax-deductions-home-business

Leading businesses understand they need to go the extra mile to have the edge. This means offering a wide range of formal and informal workspaces, having a positive management style, providing employee flexibility and great office design in order to attract and retain industry talent. Many bosses fear that home office is an opportunity to skive, but in actual fact for many remote workers, longer uninterrupted periods combined with the absence of daily commute, means higher productivity.

float_gallery2-2

In today’s competitive economy, ambitious employers should liken their facilities and employee management policies to top athletes’ incessant drive for improvement. For the likes of Usain Bolt, it isn’t just ability and training that keeps him at the top, it is also diet, biomechanics, physiotherapy, psychology and more. Each small refinement improves overall results. Equally, improvements to the workplace environment can directly improve productivity, performance and company profit. Here are 10 ways to reduce stress, improve performance and improve overall team results:

  1. Tools for the job: Don’t cut costs with IT hardware and software. Invest in the best tools for your team.
  2. Positive Management Style: Be approachable and proactive with problem solving. Keep an eye out for over-exertion amongst your team in a bid to avoid burnouts.
  3. Acoustics: Noisy offices mean stressed workers, higher absenteeism and lower productivity. Get advice from an acoustician or interior expert on how to reduce sound levels in your space.
  4. Ergonomics: A height adjustable desk, monitor arm, task light and good office chair needn’t cost the earth. Employee absence due to chronic back pain however, might.
  5. Collaboration, focus & relax: Ensure your team have a range of places to chat, collaborate, meet and eat together as well as places for quiet focus work (many see home office as quiet concentration space).
  6. Flexibility: A hot topic and high on employee wish-lists. If the working week is structured to accommodate both office-based and flexible working you will have a happier workforce. 
  7. Biophilia: Plants, natural light and nature make us feel good and work better. Integrate these into the design of your office space to improve wellbeing.
  8. Good health: Some big companies have in-house nutritionists, gyms and restaurants. Smaller companies can compete by arranging healthy lunches, fruit, private healthcare and encouraging team sport activities. 
  9. Teamwork: Fostering a positive team spirit is hugely beneficial. Where possible, team responsibilities and rewards should be shared.
  10. Scent: A topic gaining momentum in interior circles. Scents such as lemon oil stimulate the brain and when used in the office can provide a more pleasant working experience. But trial it first – it may not be to everyone’s taste.

1461957324678

There is no one size fits all for today’s employees. An engaged leader should look to find the balance between employee wants and company needs. Some team members need more management than others, but trust, structure, support and positivity are hugely motivational factors and should not be underestimated.

Ultimately employees are both a company’s biggest asset and expenditure. By investing in their wellbeing, environment and company culture, businesses are re-investing in themselves. 

Usain-Bolt-celebrating-his-victory-after-a-match-win

What’s your opinion on home office working – is it all it’s cracked up to be? Hive of productivity or pyjama party?

Advertisements

This Swiss furniture designer

This Swiss furniture designer

Whilst at a friend’s charity launch, the host excitedly insisted I should meet his neighbour.  “He’s a furniture designer!” he beamed. As the event itself was far beyond the realms of furniture and interiors, I expected to find myself feigning interest whilst some bloke called Heiri gave it the big one about refurbishing his Granny’s coffee table or weaving a hammock from horse hair. I reluctantly shuffled over anyway and to my complete surprise I was introduced to Matthias (‘This’ for short) Weber; an accomplished designer and genuine nice guy, who designs furniture based from his cool studio in downtown Zürich. Unfortunately, our meeting was cut short, that is, until we were coincidentally re-introduced some months later alongside Alfredo Häberli and Luke Pearson at the Alias Party in Milan. Who knew eh?

designer-this-weber
This Weber in his Zürich studio

Having gotten to know more about This’s work, I called in to his studio in the trendy Hardbrücke area of the city some weeks later. There I found him, surrounded by furniture prototypes, sketches, works in progress and models (of the furniture kind). Over a great coffee, This told me about his journey to date, initially training as a mechanic before working with some of Switzerland’s most renowned furniture designers and now making waves under his own banner. I asked him a few questions for your reading pleasure….

You initially trained as a mechanic – what prompted the switch to design?

I grew up in a family of creatives. My mum a textile designer, my father a typology specialist at the School of Art in Zürich. My uncle – a great, calm person – was teaching design and interior architecture, also at the School of Art. I just wanted to do what he did in his precious workshop…

20160915-231552-z970
Symphonie

Ever consider becoming a car designer?

No – we don’t have a big history of car design here in Switzerland and I’m not the biggest car fan, so that was never my wish. Especially as a young designer, I wasn’t really aware of my skills, so was looking for small design studios with smaller projects – as opposed to working in large teams in the car industry.

What was your breakthrough moment in the furniture industry?

I see my whole career as an empiric process, with every project that I’m working on to become a product. To me, each one is a breakthrough.

Bergere armchair / contemporary / in wood / canvas
Bellevue Armchair (high back version)

You’ve worked with Alfredo Häberli, Christophe Marchand and Hannes Wettstein. How valuable was that experience and how does it compare to solo work?

It’s been a competitive everyday challenge for me, to work on various projects and to fulfil the visions of my author bosses. Like craftsmen who have done this for decades, these were my ‘wanderyears’ where I learned from – and practiced with – the experienced ones.

What single piece of advice do you give to furniture designers just starting out?

I encourage them to start their career working for established studios and also to try to develop their own things and get in touch with brands…

20160117-003025-z776
NOMAD Lido chair

What designs do you currently have in development?

We’re working on a wardrobe collection to suit the needs of schools, universities and public spaces for Swiss company MAKK, a new range for VERYWOOD; an Italian furniture brand focused on hotels, gastronomy and cruise ships… plus some new upholstery for German manufacturer Rolf Benz.

20141219-092306-z697
Bellevue collection

What challenges do you see in the furniture industry?

We need to communicate the quality of our products better. We’re all responsible for the fact that consumers have lost their ability to qualify quality.

Last question – who’s your (living) design hero?

Rodolfo Dordoni. Antonio Citterio.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“My goal is to give objects a recognisable value, which is perceived intuitively by the user…”

Since 2010, This is also a visiting lecturer in the faculty of design and Art at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art. Keep your eyes peeled for This Weber – a rising star in furniture design – you can check out some of his inspiration here. And next time you’re at a friend’s party and they offer to introduce you to a furniture designer, go and say hello. You never know who you might meet…

Catch you soon ar kid.

i-love-mcr-800x600

 

Ben Capper is an award winning Interior Specialist based in Zürich Switzerland, working with Zingg Lamprecht AG on interior and furniture projects for commercial clients. Ben has 20 years experience as a trusted independent consultant to Architects and Interior Designers having completed projects such as Manchester United stadium expansion, private Airport lounges, University campuses for 1400 students and 1000 person office schemes. b.capper@zingg-lamprecht.ch

Milano goes Pop!

Milano goes Pop!

Milan. City of cobbled streets, driving without rules, Vitello Milanese, Ray-bans and more recently, Salone del Mobile. An actioned packed few days of design, prosciutto and prosecco has drawn to a close. So what’s new? Here’s a few quickfire highlights from me…

80’s pop

Its been sneaking back for a while now, but Salone proudly unveiled it’s 80’s intentions on a number of stands. Dig out your cords and stick some Eurythmics on. Whether it’s bold stripes, thick velvety rugs, retro furniture or speckled stone finishes… 80’s influences were far and wide.

Jaime Hayon takeover

From Fritz Hansen’s Fritz Hotel to the Wittman Hayon Workshop. From Viccarbe furniture to Nanamarqina rugs. There was no escaping man of the moment Jaime Hayon’s influences across Salone – and he led the 80’s charge. With Huey Lewis’s Hip to be Square on full blast, leather fingerless gloves and bleached drainpipe jeans, Hayon softened every angle, added playfulness and fun and a recognisable Spanish design language of his own. Man of the match? Sí señor!

Nendo’s calming influence

At Jil Sander’s showroom in the Brera district, Nendo’s Invisible outlines exhibition blended a backdrop of meditative music with 16 Nendo projects on display exploring new ways of seeing and sharing things. Meanwhile at Salone, the prolific design team infused Japanese calmness to the Alias stand, with a coffee table range integrating Asian greenery, new refined Twiggy chair and the Okome modular soft seating range setting the scene.

Marble gets, erm… marblier

Marble has been back for a couple of years. But typically white marble with grey veins or vice versa, whereas now the trend is much more exotic, opulent and rare natural colours, often mixed with brass, copper or dull bronze metal framework. Sits nicely with 80’s vibes too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And finally… ch–ch-changes

Over recent years we’ve seen many brands reinvent themselves at Milan to re-align with emerging trends, the Wittman Hayon workshop was nothing short of a complete overhaul and a very positive one at that. Hayon’s Mediterranean baroque meets Wittman’s Austrian quality. Very cool.

Photo 06-04-2017, 15 44 47

Unconfirmed rumours at Salone circulated that internationally successful design team Lievore Altherr Molina have split, with Manel Molina going it alone and releasing solo work. Is their website to be read as confirmation of this?

Japanese design was more prevalent than ever – with fantastic collaborations and influences. Yuru Suzuki, Stellar Works, Tokushin Yoshioka and of course Nendo. More please!

RIP Bar Basso. The design faithful’s bar of choice finally reached bursting point. A taxi ride to the other side of town, followed by a 4 deep bar scrum and drinking warm beer whilst standing on a roundabout has finally started to wear thin.

We need a new Bar Basso….

Until next time, Ciao! X

 

Ben Capper is an award winning Interior Specialist based in Zürich Switzerland, working with Zingg Lamprecht AG on interior and furniture projects for commercial clients. Ben has 20 years experience as a trusted independent consultant to Architects and Interior Designers having completed projects such as Manchester United stadium expansion, private Airport lounges, University campuses and 1000 person office schemes. b.capper@zingg-lamprecht.ch 

Open Source Furniture

Open Source Furniture

The sharing revolution has changed the planet. The way we call a cab, the way we holiday, how we work and live. And as often happens, what begins as a bold new phenomenon becomes normalised and must evolve to head off new challenges, or be replaced by the next big idea. Trudging around shops to buy DVD’s is pre-historic, we now stream and share the cost of ownership with monthly prescriptions. And in a world of spiralling ownership costs, millennials are leading the sharing revolution.

So why can’t we share design?

giphy
“Laser cutting and 3D printing….”

Open source refers to a code made available online to be refined, improved and infinitely shared. Originally applied to computer software, open source furniture is one of the most searched-for subtopics of the sharing genre. Laser cutting and 3D printing – once mythical ideas – are commonplace in workshops across the globe. Combine open source design with affordable hi-tech local production and we have a furniture revolution in the making, driven by the Maker Movement.

Open Source, Opendesk

Opendesk are a new breed of furniture manufacturer, disrupting the typical consumer supply route. They have become synonymous with open source furniture, linking designers and makers to the general public via an online platform. “Designed to be downloaded and made locally”, they’ve embraced the democratic nature of open source, inviting critique and feedback in order to improve design, processes and sustainability. See for yourself.

What were initially limited and clunky designs have developed, multiplied and improved albeit there is a clear design language within much of the collection due to the limitations of materials used and the inherent ‘simplicity’ of production and assembly.  Opendesk count Greenpeace, Impact Hub and Digital Ocean amongst their corporate clients and are currently featured in Vitra Design Museum’s Hello Robot exhibition – a sure sign of their success. But how far will the movement evolve?

To get the opinion of a true maker with sustainable ideals, I chatted to Rainer Kyburz – Director of Basel-based Kyburz Made and self-confessed furniture addict, who is enthused by the trend.

kyburz-made-neue-raume-2
Kyburz Made: old materials lovingly restored and unique – the opposite of open source?

“This movement is a perfect example of globalisation.” says Rainer, “We should make the best out of it and use it in a sensible way. Transportation of resources is optimised, local Materials can be used, or sent in Bulk as a single product to the customer, often flatpacked. Information as to how to produce something is shared and accessible. New international interdisciplinary cooperations are developed and ironically, creativity is pushed by the very limitation that a product has to be designed to allow it to be produced on the other side of the globe.”

That’s an interesting point. The very limitations imposed by remote access, production and logistics can in fact be a design catalyst. So where’s the down side?  “At present, the limitations of production techniques” explains Rainer, “but this will evolve over time. Quality control could also prove difficult as the complete product does not come from an individual provider.” Indeed. Using a vast network or supply chain means results may vary.

d5165e54ec842e1fcd8fe1f937b6ec58
Manufacturing techniques are constantly evolving

We’re currently seeing a boom in plywood, coworking and tech-style interior schemes and this theme fits perfectly – not just in terms of design, but also target audience. But playing Devil’s advocate, in the words of the Dragons Den cash wad stroking suits, Is it truly scalable? Will production limitations prohibit development beyond the techniques and materials currently used, or will it evolve to integrate other materials, upholstery and ‘internet of things’ style tech? Keep your eyes on Opendesk who have a few interesting new developments in the pipeline.

“Could designers end up as disgruntled cabbies, who’s time served knowledge is kicked to the kerb…?”

Cutting out middle men and delivering design direct to the people, open source furniture promises to be the uber of the industry, but in the highly competitive field of furniture design, could designers end up as disgruntled cabbies, who’s time served knowledge is kicked to the kerb. With real people power undertones, the complex topic of design ownership is widely discussed on the open making site.

15
Herman Miller use 3D printing to speed up R+D process

And what of the big furniture players in contract and retail – Will IKEA offer open source production any time soon? Herman Miller (amongst others) are already using 3D printing to significantly speed up their R+D process. Maybe they feel open source is best left to the DIY-ers, or the margin just isn’t there. Smartphone apps to convert 2D images into 3D CAD files for printing and 3D printers are universally available, meaning anyone can be a maker in the market. Where that will leave intellectual property rights is yet to be seen.

Part Man, part Machine

Is the online maker movement the arch nemesis to the traditional craft movement?  Do the two meet somewhere in a ply bar at CDW to exchange notes over a craft beer, or would they end up in a Anchorman style barfight using downloaded ply chairs versus handmade oiled oak barstools? Personally, I think we will definitely see more ‘fusing’ of different production techniques across the industry as even old school manufacturers wise up to the benefits. Tech meets tradition. Furniture that is part man, part machine. Solid wood chair frames with 3D printed seat and backs and open source design with locally produced upholstery. One thing’s for sure, sharing isn’t going anywhere – it’s only just begun.

Until next time, you stay classy.

anchorman
Craft versus Tech at CDW

 

Ben Capper is an award winning Interior Specialist based in Zürich Switzerland, working with Zingg Lamprecht AG on interior and furniture projects for commercial clients. Ben has 20 years experience as a trusted independent consultant to Architects and Interior Designers having completed projects such as Manchester United stadium expansion, private Airport lounges, University campuses and 1000 person office schemes.        b.capper@zingg-lamprecht.ch

 

Tech Interiors of Future Past

Tech Interiors of Future Past

I enjoy reading about the future. Future cities, future cars, future office. Who doesn’t? The implications of technological advances are debated online with readers in awe and fear at what may lie ahead. I published Office 2030 and Smart @rse articles earlier this year on this very subject.

Mark Eltringham wrote a great article last month for Workplace Insight suggesting our limited human grey matter cannot fathom where this is going. He’s right (well my limited bonce can’t). IT, AI and VR amongst other technological advances are accelerating at such pace we’re lagging farther and farther behind, our puny imagination unable to digest the far reaching consequences as speed of progress is infinitely redoubled. And redoubled.

Computer says yes. Brain says ‘erm wait… gimme a second…”

docbrown
Great Scott…….

Eltringham quotes Stewart Brand’s ‘How Buildings Learn’, “describing each building as consisting of six layers, each of which functions on a different timescale. These range from the site itself which has a life cycle measured in centuries, through to the building (decades), interior fit out (years), technology (months), to stuff (days). The effectiveness of a workplace design will depend on how well it resolves the tensions that exist between these layers of the building.” Very well put. And with our future workplace needs so uncertain it is clear that flexibility is vital.

Yet as advances continue apace, the very style of our commercial interiors is stripped back to basics. Check out my last post on Factory Office to see what I mean. Swathes of furniture and interior design has become utilitarian in appearance. Exposed beams, ceilings and plywood are rife. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

160816-ahmm-google-480-749x500
Google King’s Cross Office

AHMM Architects recently unveiled Google’s King’s Cross Office, complete with ‘Jack’; a meeting room which is reconfigurable and portable within the building. Plug and play. Effectively the rooms which come with built in video conference equipment can be hacked to suit requirements – something that no doubt appeals to the IT crowd.

Dr Kerstin Sailer, a lecturer at University College London commented “The inflexibility of space has become particularly problematic in the 21st century business environment. It could be argued that Google is now making a move towards a more profound workplace innovation.”

Again the scheme’s overall interior style is very ‘coworking’ flavour, stripped back, typically tech. The IT industry that has led the coworking interiors style revolution are perhaps more aware than most of why commercial interiors should be simple, flexible and updatable. Perhaps these IT folk that live in dark cupboards snacking on pot noodles and energy drinks think of the building floorplate as a mother board onto which updates should be regularly downloaded in order to maintain its effectiveness.

160816-ahmm-google-541-749x500
Google Jack meeting room

Away from tech-focused desks and meeting furniture, we’ve seen the rise of young edgy breakout furniture firms with playful, retro and ironic styles ripe for Palo Alto. The likes of Facebook and Twitter have had cuddly soft breakout spaces with rocking chairs and old school sofas for years. The antisocial nature of technology itself perhaps promotes the need for good old fashioned chat in a space that feels safe and warm. But stripped back ceilings and plywood doesn’t necessarily feel warm you say. Ah yes, but it feels basic.

133whitechapelhighstreet3_crop
Deadgood at the Office Group, London

 

There’s the ‘everyone wants to be a start up’ factor. A leaning towards personal, approachable ‘low tech’ human service. “Hi I’m a friendly human. Let’s sit on a sofa, drink coffee and chat business.” steering clear of the high tech server stack that is beeping, whirring and being cooled by air-con in the back room.

And we’re now seeing not just the return of bent metal utilitarian furniture, but a number of other materials formerly linked with granny’s front room are popping up. We’ve had mid century design and Scandi lounge settings re-appearing. Marbles and velvet too. But who would have thought that handwoven wicker, the antithesis of technology, would be making a comeback anytime soon? But here we are. And here it is.

urquiola-ilsereno-00-mainimage-large

Perhaps it’s part of human nature to dig our heels in. As IT races on at light speed, keeping our interiors ‘real’ gives us echoes of days gone by. A visit to old Aunty Beth’s for a cuppa and some custard creams. If people feel good, they are happy and productive, remember? Whatever the key driver to this trend is, it’s ironic that as IT progresses to new found heights, our interior style is going backwards. And nowhere more so than in the tech industry hubs themselves.

img_1882

 

 

 

 

Factory Office

Factory Office

As this year’s Orgatec comes to a close and local airports shepherd battle-hardened armies of salespeople and creatives back to their respective hubs, I reflect on some themes from this year’s show.

20406721The Office: a place of industry.

Vitra have been presenting an industrial feel for a couple of years with Jean Prouve and the Bouroullecs leading the way. This show very much continued where they left off. Unfinished metal frames, warehouse style plastic doorflaps to divide spaces, metal mesh side panels and screens hanging from pulleys that would usually be found on a factory floor. The ‘start-up feel’ is still flavour of the month as everyone wants to work at a coworking desk wearing jeans and trainers with no socks, whilst sipping lattés and eating carrot cake…

The industrial feel echoed through the fair this year with many brands acknowledging a factory floor setting, either with a new modular mesh shelving product or simply with the backdrop of their set design. If the Hacienda was still around I’d tell Tony to stick some big ply desks on one side and a coffee barista next to the DJ booth and Fac51 would become a coworking mecca.

img_2054Modularity… 

An important feature in architecture and interiors; the ability to create a grid format of interchangeable blocks allowing users the flexibility to increase or decrease in line with changing requirements. The latest modular trends at Orgatec include space dividing screens suspended by a ceiling mounted rail system, allowing screens to be slid around continuously to carve up spaces (see my Office 2030 blog). Black metal styled storage systems such as Wiesner Hager’s Cage product (below) and boxy storage modules with integrated desking, acoustic panels, soft seating and other features industrialised an office planning theme made familiar by Herman Miller’s Living Office, where soft seating peels off desks, which in turn peel off a modular storage system.

img_0775

living_office_taipei_event_8_april4

The use of modular systems on exhibition stands (whether product or prop) firmly illustrates a desire to split up a large open plan commercial space with towering high storage as both a feature and a facility.

8

 

In general, workplace furniture fashion is beginning to look like commercial exposed ceilings: stripped back to bare boned essentials, bolts and fixings proudly on display rather than hidden from view. Solid, rigid, mesh and modular. Carefully considered, then intentionally styled to look a bit rough round the edges. A bit like Jason Statham.

And Tom Dixon’s getting in on the act, with his first foray into the workplace. Aside from a promising chunky wooden trestle-legged team desk, his Boom task light makes no secret of its industrial DNA.

tom-dixon-office-furniture-tables-chairs-lights-accessories-british-design-london-uk_dezeen_2364_col_13Soften the blow

With all this harsh, technology driven metal framed office furniture, we need some softness to compensate. And following in the footsteps of Verpan, Walter Knoll – and more recently Gubi, there was a lot of dark opulent velvet upholstery and mid century vibes. Buzzispace seemingly had a personality transplant and you’d be forgiven for thinking their stand was actually of Danish heritage, with wooden framed easy chairs and muted velvet fabrics, long curtains and screens. Large numbers of plants and foliage are also needed to offset all that tough metal, so expect even more biophilic integration in the new wave industrial workplace.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In spite of a return to metal frames, there’s still a strong appetite for wooden furniture. Soft linoleum (or linoleum effect) meeting table tops with wooden underframes are as popular as ever, with huge numbers of wooden frame breakout chairs, tables and bar stools launched. Hussl quietly slipped in a nice family of wooden framed chairs and barstools with a rather unique linoleum backrest. Nicely done.

The Scandinavians are still doing what they do best: beautiful wood and hand stitched leather combinations, with Fredericia looking the part. Meanwhile Poltrona Frau impressed with exquisite quality leather meeting and waiting furniture for high quality interiors.

img_0865

img_0864
Swoon chair in velvet

Walter Knoll displayed a range of succulent leather and velvet furniture, with a great new linking meeting table system. In addition they tapped in to another theme which was large executive V shaped electric sit stand meeting tables, perfect for group discussions and ideal for video conference.

img_0846

Aside from these themes there’s still plenty of marble, black chrome, copper and brass – plus a wave of 3D style fabrics, tiles and textiles sweeping through. As ever, halls were awash with hundreds of clever stacking, folding, flipping and collapsing solutions- and the race is well underway to embed ever smarter data gathering hardware within furniture. ‘Millennials’ and ‘Digital Nomads’ are mainstream topics now and brands like Samsung, Google and Swisscom are developing IT products to optimise the way current and future generations use buildings and furniture.

But that wraps up my general thoughts on Orgatec this year. Ultimately wellbeing, communication and technology remain centre stage in the modern office and the stripping back of office design only emphasises that. With the fourth industrial revolution looming, it’s ironic that office design chooses a factory style design backdrop to personify itself. The creation of the Factory Office, the rise of smart tech, metric data harvesting and coworking means the future of the workplace is cool, edgy and exciting. And definitely not dead.

img_0822

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stripes, Industrial Chic and Zebras

Stripes, Industrial Chic and Zebras

As I work on projects searching for the right products, trends can gently (or sometimes not so) present themselves. In the run up to joining over 50,000 trade visitors at Orgatec in Cologne next week, I’ve recently felt my ‘furniture nerd antennae’ twitch to a couple of design styles which I’ll share with you.

kin-tiny-01-b
Zeitraum

There’s a movement within certain design circles of simple, chunky legged, childlike design. Mathias Hahn has developed a number of pieces for Zeitraum in this style and I like the playfulness of it. He makes it look easy and effortless, but the proportions are very carefully considered and well executed.

okapimissanaperezochandocualitijimenezdenalda01
Okapi chair by Perez Ochando for Missana

Meanwhile Missana recently launched the Okapi chair, designed by Perez Ochando. The design studio based in Valencia describe ‘the front side of the chair reminding us of a giraffe and the back of a zebra’. Ok. That’ll be last orders at the bar guys…

Bla Station have been on this theme for years, with tele tubby forms, oversized upholstery buttons and simplified shapes. Sometimes our subconscious is drawn to a design style as it reminds us of something. If we have an inner child, then Bla Station have been waving Kinder Eggs and Alcopops at it for a while now.

dunder_150408_27
Bla Station

But there’s another theme that has caught my eye. A more grown up theme, based upon simple clean lines, 3D shapes, industrial materials and graphite shades. And I have a feeling Orgatec – and 2017 – will be awash with it…

slim_rack_ambient
Zeus: Slim Irony

Zeus have been creating cool iron furniture for decades. Their ‘Slim Irony’ range is a culmination of their time-served expertise. They call it ‘Industrial Chic’. With a blend of minimalism and urban Milanese cool, the range includes rusted top finishes and a glass option that reminds me of school windows… Rusted metal finishes have been a regular feature in external architectural design for some time – perhaps they are finally creeping indoors.

slim-ret2
Zeus: Slim Irony

But that’s not all Zeus are known for. During Milan Design Week the lovely food served in their showroom (a converted car garage tucked away in an unassuming Milan side street) has also gained notoriety. So much so that old folks from the local neighbourhood suspiciously shuffle through the showroom doors en masse around lunchtime, hoping for a free bowl of risotto. The lovely folks at Zeus usually oblige.

Back to what Zeus do best – furniture. The pure, simple form of Slim Irony is nothing new as far as shapes go. But this cubic semi transparent ‘3D’ linear theme is something we’re going to see a lot more of.

slimironyshelf
Zeus: Slim Irony

“Handcrafted furniture from the Industrial North…”

From downtown Milan to down the Toon (that’s Newcastle, UK if you didn’t know). Nestled amongst and inspired by faded crumbling industrial heritage, a furniture brand called Novocastrian is emerging with a style of their own. Acknowledging modern trends, with hints of art deco and inspiration from the industrial revolution, a group of metalworkers, designers and architects with a self-confessed obsession with metal are steadily growing their furniture collection. And fanbase.

I love how Novocastrian present themselves: Handcrafted Furniture from the Industrial North. In an era of Brexit, declining industry, fear and propoganda, this is a brand bursting with northern grit to turn it all on its head. Go on lads and lasses.

1424638049818
Novocastrian’s Straiths Unit – inspired by industrial architecture

Aside from a growing product collection, Novocastrian turn their hands to one off commissions and bespoke products. Whilst retaining their flavour and classic style, they deliver unique elegant forms echoing Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in fabulous materials such as blackodised or bronze patinated steel.

4
Novocastrian tables (above and below)

Light years ahead…

But this theme of dark lines and stripes isn’t exclusive to furniture. In recent years we’ve seen lighting designs hit the trade fairs, perhaps illuminating (sorry) this dark linear trend. Michael Anastassiades’ String lights (below) were inspired by electricity wires as seen through a train window…

A recent favourite of mine is Arik Levy’s playful Wireflow collection for Vibia which adds a decorative Gothic touch to a project. Great for a large reception space or gallery. This would look really cool over a bespoke Novocastrian Blackodised steel boardroom table.

arik_levy-ldesign-vibia-wireflow-09
Wireflow by Arik Levy

In both of these lighting collections, the clever twist is that the actual light itself isn’t the main event. The power cord cuts a stripe in thin air, allowing a 2D or 3D shape to be created and make its presence known.

Another related example is Lee Broom‘s Opticality exhibition from LDW last month. With 80’s undertones, Broom plays with the senses to present his latest lighting product ‘Optical’. This is where the playful linear trend crosses over to 3D graphic design, visual perceptions and perhaps even fashion.

lee_broom_opticality_black_nd_white_striped_lighting

Once you tune in to these themes it’s hard to stop noticing them and I could literally go on and on throwing related products at you. But I won’t. If like me you’re jetting off to Cologne next week for Orgatec, look out for cubic linear shapes, black stripes, 3D frames and industrial black metal. Oh and keep your eyes peeled for the occasional zebra or giraffe lurking in the background…