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?

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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

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Jack of all trades, master of none: An old saying that’s still bang on the money. It’s impossible to excel at everything. We all have strengths and weaknesses. For most it takes time to grasp what they are, but we learn to focus on what we’re good at.

In Benjamin Hubert’s recent interview with Dezeen, the designer claims the furniture and lighting market is ‘saturated’ with designers creating the same things. Can I get an Amen? I’m right with you Benjamin. I lay the blame firmly at the footstool of ambitious short-term CEO’s targeting aggressive growth at any cost.

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“This is FOMO: Fear of missing out..”

When a forward-thinking design company present something groundbreaking, competitors are quick to replicate, often with little consideration of the relevance to their own brand and collection. This is FOMO: Fear of missing out. In this case missing out on making a quick buck on a passing trend. Visit any leading exhibition and you’ll see companies once known for niche solutions now experiencing an identity crisis that would put Lady Gaga to shame. Following ad-hoc add-on after add-on, many product portfolios have morphed into each other. A bit like John Travolta and Nicholas Cage in Face Off. Remove the branding from certain exhibition stands and I challenge you to a quiz on who is who.

I’ve always appreciated going to specialist manufacturers for specialised solutions. People who do what they’re great at. With this in mind I’d like to focus your attention on a few niche brands who continually provide innovative solutions in their field. They focus on their own design philosophy and aren’t swayed by the crowd.

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PROOFF Ear chair

PROOFF is an abbreviation of progressive office, which sums up this edgy Dutch company. With a unique collection of acoustic seating, barrier-challenging meeting furniture and unique workplace solutions; each addition to their collection is carefully considered and was created to solve a problem. The Ear chair is simply the most acoustically ‘sound’ piece of furniture I have ever witnessed, ar kid.

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PROOFF: Sit table

Their collaborative Sit Table and Work Sofa products were pretty unique when launched a few years back – and remain as ahead of their time as Marty Mcfly was in Good ol’ 1955.

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PROOFF Work sofa

In 2015 PROOFF launched 4 new designs, taking their collection to 10 pieces in total. These designs come from tireless R&D into the changing workplace and – crucially – complement their groundbreaking range and brand ID.

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PROOFF Off Size

Flamboyant Belgian manufacturer Extremis specialise in modern outdoor furniture settings. With a focus on fun, social spaces to enjoy and relax in, their simple clever designs are as well-suited for posh private parties as they are for private bank terraces. Mine’s a G&T please Hugo.

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Extremis: Hopper Table

 

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Extremis: Bundle Swing

In keeping with their brand style, they launched Anker Anchor (is there an echo in here?) and Pontsun for 2016. Different ideas, but same great feel. Measured progress. Brand intact.

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Fredericia are the epitome of Scandinavian furniture craftmanship. With heritage stretching back to 1911, they specialise in quality hand-made design furniture. As modern interior trends recently turned their attention back to wood, Fredericia must have felt like Barcelona heading into a home fixture with a 5 goal lead.

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Fredericia Soborg chair (1950)
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Fredericia Swoon chair (2016)

Swoon chair, designed by Space Copenhagen is difficult to pin down. 1950’s? Nope, it was released in 2016. Underneath the beautiful upholstery is an injection moulded shell, whilst it’s wooden feet display the family DNA.

Fredericia’s well documented collaboration with Jasper Morrison demonstrates a measured, long term approach to growth. Morrison’s Kile sofa speaks an understated design language, sympathetic to Fredericia stalwarts, whilst demonstrating his understanding and appreciation of the company’s hand-crafted heritage.

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Fredericia Kile Sofa

I’ve been watching with admiration since Vitra acquired Finnish craft masters Artek. With respect and love, Fehlbaum’s team have nurtured and gently repositioned parts of the collection, whilst appointing the immensely talented Bouroullec brothers to continue the product journey in a sympathetic manner.

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Artek Domus chair 1946
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Artek Kaari table 2015

And for those manufacturers with an appetite for growth, maybe this is how it should be done. Acquiring a specialist craft company, whilst retaining their individual design ethos, philosophy and identity. Rather than an endless absorption of trends into a confused catalogue already bursting at the seams; to the detriment of a time served brand.

Be original. Be different…

Which camp would you rather be in? Expert producer of respected niche design solutions, renowned for your knowledge, passion and dedication to the cause – or a mainstream ‘me too’ provider? I say commit yourself to doing something different. Ditch the herd, nerd. Be an innovator. Be a trailblazer.

Be you.

See you next week!

 

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From Stockholm with love (sequel)

From Stockholm with love (sequel)

Welcome back!

Following part one‘s review of Form Us With Love, Barber Osgerby and my personal struggles with the colour burgundy, what have I got for you in part two I hear you ask?

Are you sitting comfortably. Then let’s begin…

Trend: pastels and zing!

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The HAY stand was packed – their growth continues at pace. They went with another colour trend at #2016sff: pastel colours, muted greys and salmon pinks, with sharp accents of day-glow reds and luminous yellows. The kind of bright colours that when worn in Manchester people say ‘well you won’t get knocked down wearing that, love.’ It creates a nice fresh feel and I would have taken more photos if some women in ponchos hadn’t gotten in my way. Pfft.

BAUX – fantastic acoustix

Those clever chaps at Form Us With Love are at it again. They discovered a manufacturer called Traullit producing a simple yet sophisticated material they describe as ‘Wood Wool’ – made from wood, water and cement. Inspired by an old ceiling tile system and a belief that functional design can also be beautiful, FUWL formed a joint venture to develop a modular wall mounted acoustic tile system. Baux was born. There are a number of size, shape and colour options allowing architects and designers to create pixellated, textured 3D murals individual to each scheme. I absolutely love it; the possibilities are endless.

They recently commissioned Swedish electronic music artist Smutskatt to play around with the Acoustic 3D pixel. Check out the cool vid below:

 

Designer DIY

Form Us With Love are part of a growing movement of designers taking products to market themselves. Pioneers like Tom Dixon have done this for years (he just sold his business by the way). Increasingly, today’s designers are unleashing entrepreneurial talent in a bid to retain complete control over how products are designed, developed, manufactured and distributed.

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Form Us With Love even have their own watch collection

The financial risks of going it alone are high – so are the potential rewards – as many larger manufacturers look to acquire successful new brands in order to expand collections (e.g. Fritz Hansen and Lightyears). Meanwhile 3D printing and open source designs mean manufacturing is more widely accessible than ever.

Back to the fair…

Bla Station

The Swedes best known for wacky design, Oppo cement chairs and the Innovation C swivel whatsit had a great stand that hummed with visitors. I almost got into a tussle with a Swedish bloke equally eager to try out the new Honken chair. He backed away from the Honken when I threatened to bonk him on de conken. I’m kidding (love the name though).

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Honken Chair

A great design with mesh backrest, removable upholstery and the option for a work table and ottoman. The sustainably minded Swedes designed the chair with longevity in mind. Metalwork can be repainted and cushions replaced if you wish to spruce up your tatty old Honken after years of faithful service. Ok I’ll stop now.

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chilling on his Honken

Bla Station also celebrated 30 years (wow already?!) with the launch of the Ahus chair. I like the continuous line of the metal frame on this chair – lovely touch with the perfectly proportioned marble side table too. Nicely done.

(((Acoustic overload)))

I attended a talk chaired by Dezeen editor Marcus Fairs, who drew attention to the sheer volume of acoustic products on display throughout the fair. And the sound quality in there was so good I heard him perfectly, without any reverberations whatsoever.

Seriously though. There are so many hard surfaces being specified in modern interior schemes that noise reduction has become an industry of its own. We know it takes 15 minutes to regain full concentration after an interruption in the office. We know noise equals stress. We know stress equals time off work. So good acoustics makes us happy right? Don’t believe me? Ask the guy with his head in the Darth Vader style acoustic pod above. He can’t hear you but he’s smiling.

And for dessert: Menu

Last but not least is Menu. This cool young Danish company showed a really tasteful range of typically Scandinavian style furniture, lighting and beautiful objects. Very delicate curved black metal frames, with lovely upholstery, side tables and lighting. Timeless and elegant.

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Menu

Their first chair collection, designed by (and named after) another Stockholm design studio: Afteroom, has echoes of Jacobsen and Le Corbusier. Other pieces in Menu’s collection such as the easy chair and day bed nod towards Thonet and Carl Hansen respectively. And that’s quite a compliment.

Well that’s all that’s on the menu for today (sorry). I hope you enjoyed my little tour of Stockholm Design Week. If you did, all I ask is that you share my blog. You can also sign up to get the blog straight to your inbox. Cool eh?

See you Monday!

PS. and they say sequels are disappointing… pah!