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Opinion / Nic Monisse

Too much or not enough?

Too much or not enough?

I’m prone to exaggeration in my personal life, hamming up stories for comic effect. Professionally, however, I’m careful to ensure that it doesn’t creep into my work (after all, as a journalist, I’m in the business of accuracy). And, when I was a designer in a past life, exaggeration was all but stamped out of me. Simplicity and understatement were the hallmarks of the timeless designs to which I aspired.But a recent conversation with legendary minimalist British designer John Pawson turned that on its head. “I am sometimes worried that I exaggerate too much,” Pawson told me, referring to a portfolio of work that, on closer inspection, includes a host of overemphasised elements. There are galleries with grand stone frontages, offices with striking white walls and, in the case of his own home, 15-metre-long Douglas fir floorboards connecting several rooms. The latter led to the creation of a line of furniture with Dinesen, a Danish timber specialist. First launched in the 1990s, it has recently been updated to include dining tables, benches, sofas and daybeds made from impressive lengths of Douglas fir and oak.“If you stand on these wooden floorboards that are 15 metres long and 50cm wide, you feel different,” says Pawson of the decision to use them. “With the furniture too, it’s not some little piece of wood but an impressive piece of timber that can change how you feel.”However, Pawson is keen to impress that exaggeration needs to be employed in the right place and at the right time. Perhaps it doesn’t have a place in my journalism but maybe I can continue to roll it out at the pub. “Did I tell you about the time I met John Pawson? No? Boy, do I have a story for you.”This column appears in Monocle’s July/August issue. For more design opinion and analysis, pick up a copy today.

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