Wednesday. 23/3/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: UrwahnEngineeringGmbH

Making sense

We start off this week with some thoughts on France’s inspiring relationship with the hand-made, before eyeing up a highlight of Melbourne Design Week, speaking with designer Marc Newson and trying a smartly designed new Swedish bed.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Helping hand

The quality of a designer’s work can be improved by the craftspeople around them. That was the sentiment of a recent discussion I had with Lily Froehlicher, managing director of The Invisible Collection, an international retailer that sells custom, handmade furniture. Talking to her from the brand’s new showroom in Marylebone, she explained that the bulk of the collection’s wares comes from France. And while this is partly to do with the brand’s French roots, Froehlicher says that it’s also to do with the fact that high-quality work is continually coming out of the country – a quality she attributes to the nation’s championing of hand-craftsmanship.

In global terms, France seems to offer more education, training, prizes and grants for carpenters, upholsterers and leatherworkers than any other nation. Indeed, there’s even a revered annual prize for such craftspeople, bestowed by the ministry of culture: the Award for Hand Intelligence. And it’s this “hand” that Froehlicher says is key to the enduring appeal of French designers.

“We couldn’t have great designers without great craftspeople,” she says. “What we see in France is the marriage of the intelligence of the mind – the creative intelligence of the designer – with the intelligence of the hand.” There, designers take half-finished ideas to the craftsperson to have it finessed, making for a better end product.

So what can designers in other countries learn from this? For a start, getting craftspeople into the design process earlier would be a boon. There’s also something to be said for detaching from your own creative vision and welcoming that of a different kind of creative person. And it’s worth noting that while your own region might not be blessed with skilled French artisans, beginning to build relationships with nearby makers could be the first step to building similar handcraft capacity in your own design community.

The Project / Seoul Mama, France

Feast your eyes

Seoul Mama’s second Paris location has been designed with a homely vibe in which to dine on hearty South Korean cuisine. This has been achieved with a warm interior scheme by French architect Marine Castanier, aided by a suite of furniture from Kann Design. “I wanted a streamlined atmosphere, simple but not simplistic, with meaningful details,” says Castanier.

Image: Rudy Bou Chebel
Image: Rudy Bou Chebel

These ideas come together in elements such as green-stained oak versions of Kann’s minimalist Tal chair, comfy terracotta-coloured cushions and long benches for communal dining. Organically shaped pendant lamps droop over a custom timber bar and the lighting is dialled back just the right amount. The result is an inviting, canteen-like environment that will satisfy visitors even before they tuck in.;

Design News / Rushcutters Bench, Australia

Sitting pretty

As we reported in our previous dispatch, Melbourne Design Week, which wraps up on Sunday, has presented Australia’s creative community with the opportunity to highlight their hard work on home soil. It has also been a moment to showcase unique Aussie design to an international market and Adelaide’s James Howe has certainly generated some buzz around his creations, particularly this Rushcutters Bench.

A highlight of the event, the attractive number consists of a kilometre of hand-crafted Danish cord, which is tightly woven around a sleek stainless-steel frame. The contrasting textures of the cord and metal, as well as its smart two-tone colour scheme, make it a hit worthy of international praise.

Words with... / Marc Newson, UK

Form and function

Australian-born, UK-based designer Marc Newson works across a range of disciplines, from furniture and luxury goods to technology and transport. Over the span of his 30-year career, he has served as creative director of Qantas Airways and helped to design the Apple Watch, and his iconic Lockheed Lounge chair is the most expensive item ever sold at auction by a living designer. His latest foray is into the world of bathrooms where he has designed bathtubs, shower sets, sinks and vanity units for Drummonds. To find out more about this collaboration and his design process, we caught up with Newson for this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

We heard that you were a customer of Drummonds before you designed these products for them. Is there some truth to this?
Yes, there is. The reality is that when I go into a shop and I’m faced with the idea of spending my hard-earned money, I find it remarkably difficult to find things that I like. But I know what it takes to produce things the way that I want them to be. With Drummonds, I made it clear that I could offer my services if they were interested in working with me – and that’s what we did. With this kind of project, it always helps if you’re a consumer as well as a client, because you understand the ethos and the values of the company.

These are items that are going to be used by people, in their homes, every day. How did that shape your design?
Function in the home is critical. As I said, being a consumer is really important because it makes me a user: if a cooker or a toilet that I design doesn’t function then I can feel the pain as well as anybody, while also getting the flak. So it’s really important to make sure that these things work. For me, it also all comes back to quality: doing things in a way that is proper, honest and qualitative. I do love the idea that things will last and that something can be made once with the possibility of keeping it for a relatively long period of time.

You have a vast range of works to your name. Where does this collection with Drummonds fit into your portfolio?
This is the third range of toilets and taps that I’ve designed – somehow, this stuff sort of follows me around. But it’s important for designers to embrace a broad range of products, typologies and projects. Ideologically, it’s healthy to be able to address and solve a range of problems, whether it is for a few people or a lot.

For more from Newson, tune in to this week’s episode of ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Pioneer HPM-100 Lucite, Japan

Sound and vision

Many hi-fi enthusiasts claim that the Pioneer HPM-100 is the best speaker ever made. It was produced in 1976, before the invention of the CD, and few home sound systems since have come close to the depth, balance and warmth of its four-way speakers. And Pioneer’s engineers at the time were clearly proud of every woofer and tweeter (for low and high-end sounds, respectively). So much so, they made a special plexiglass version to expose the inner workings of its flagship model to customers.

Illustration: Anje Jager

This transparent edition was never officially for sale but it claims a small spot in design history as one of the earliest examples of “see-through” consumer technology. If Pioneer decides to reissue the original version of the HPM-100, fulfilling many an audiophile’s dream, it should also consider bringing this transparent model to the marketplace for the first time. Plexiglass is apparently an excellent material for speakers, thanks to a high material density that creates a crystal-clear sound. As for our verdict on its looks? Well, that’s crystal-clear too: it’s very cool.

Around the House / Dremer bed by Hästens, Sweden

In your dreams

“The Dremer bed is a physical manifestation of our mission to make our world a better place,” says Jan Ryde, CEO of Swedish mattress-maker Hästens. It’s a bold claim but the fifth-generation leader of the family business has science on his side: a good night’s sleep can help us feel healthier, be more productive and even slow the effects of ageing. The brand’s latest release, the Dremer, celebrates the company’s 170th anniversary in style.

Image: Hästens

Designed by Canadian Ferris Rafauli, it can be paired with a luxurious headboard and is available in a range of finishes. The attention to detail continues under the upholstery; the mattress is made from wool, cotton and horsehair, and is hand-crafted in Sweden to give users a sense of weightlessness.

In The Picture / Spiekermann Bike, Germany

Gearing up

German e-bike company Urwahn’s latest release, a new version of its Platzhirsch model, comes courtesy of a three-way collaboration. Working with furniture-maker and retailer Magazin, and German designer Erik Spiekermann, Urwahn has reimagined the look and feel of the award-winning two-wheeler, with new graphics and paint.

Image: UrwahnEngineeringGmbH
Image: UrwahnEngineeringGmbH

Spiekermann led the charge on the visuals. The Berlin-based creative used the typeface Input Serif to subtly print the name of every element of the bike frame – such as ober rohr (“upper tube”) – on the corresponding parts of the cycle. And while the font’s generous spacing and easily distinguishable letterforms are reminiscent of those used for coding and computer programming, the bike is certainly ready for use in the real world.

Its 3D-printed steel frame conceals a battery with up to 100km of range, while its elegant pebble-grey hue is reminiscent of the asphalt of city streets, perfectly complementing an orange accent that nods to the uniforms of construction workers. The outcome is a sleek bike that’s perfect for riding – and looking good – in urban environments.;;


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