Wednesday. 26/10/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Fair weather

This week we head to Köln for Orgatec, the world’s pre-eminent office-furniture fair, where we get switched on to Midgard’s adjustable lighting, recline on Thonet’s clever update on a classic chair, speak to Italian colour consultant Giulio Ridolfo about the shades and hues that are setting the tone, and much more. But first, here’s Nic Monisse from the trade-fair floor…

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Taking office

I don’t mean to boast but I was one of the first through the door at Orgatec in Köln yesterday morning. Yes, the world’s biggest trade fair devoted to workplace furniture is back in the halls of Koelnmesse and I was eager to see how the office-furniture industry, so affected by the societal shifts caused by the pandemic, had responded. Which stalls are drawing the crowds? And do suppliers and designers think – as we’ve so often heard – that the office is dead?

The busiest stands that I saw were those that showcased furniture evoking a domestic environment – think warm timbers and gentle lighting (see FDB Møbler, Midgard and Artemide below). And while some might argue that this is the result of people wanting to recreate “working from home” in the office, many companies have long strived to create workplaces that feel inviting and almost homely.

Having settled my first query, I sought out Carlo Molteni, the managing director of Unifor who also collaborated on the Citterio display (pictured, above), for some advice on my second. When I asked him where the office was headed next, he suggested that the communal spaces where we work will become more and more crucial. “We need offices because we need to stay together, to share ideas and to work better,” says Molteni. “We won’t go back to an environment where there are 5,000 workstations in a row but we’ll see co-operative spaces where you can spend quality time.”

It’s this insight that visitors to Orgatec, which runs until Saturday, should consider over the coming week. When looking for products, seek out those that might best serve the entire office and not just the executives. And, of course, they’re all the better if they make your workplace feel a little calmer and more homely too.

The Project / Midgard, Germany

Quick fixes

Both in the office and at the trade hall, it feels good to get hands-on – and that’s exactly what you can do with the products at the Orgatec stand of heritage lighting brand Midgard. Its Ayno range (pictured, top), designed by the award-winning Stefan Diez, allows users to tailor light to their specific needs. It’s a function that is made possible by the bendable fibreglass rod that forms the backbone of the lighting system; its curvature can be adjusted using two sliding rings and the textile-covered cable stretched between them (pictured, bottom).

Available as a freestanding floor lamp, desk lamp and now as a wall-mounted version, each component of the light can be replaced. “We gave Stefan a brief with a few rules,” says David Einsiedler, Midgard’s co-owner and managing director. “We agreed that the lamp had to be adjustable and have an LED light source that could be replaced – most can’t, which means we throw away good lights. And it should all be repairable by the customer.” Based on Einsiedler’s demonstrations to visitors at the fair, in which he quickly changed light sources and fibreglass rods, Diez accomplished his objective: good news for customers looking for long-lasting, versatile lighting.

Design News / Kettal, Spain

Let the right ones in

In recent years the outdoors have increasingly made their way inside: whether in our working or domestic environments, we now want plants and fresh air. But Kettal has taken it one step further. Known for its smart outdoor furniture, the Spanish brand is kitting out interior spaces with pieces that are equally at home in a lobby and a sunlit courtyard, such as its new Giro chairs by Vincent Van Duysen. Meanwhile, its Hydroponic Garden, created in partnership with Tectum Garden, allows you to grow plants and vegetables inside.

Image: Sebastian Wolf
Image: Sebastian Wolf

Beyond these two pieces, Kettal’s most significant release at Orgatec is the Pavilion O. Designed to help architects quickly reconfigure offices to their clients’ designs, it consists of a modular aluminium frame that can be finished with a variety of materials: glass to create a transparent meeting room; wood to provide a moment of privacy; fabric to soften the sounds of a noisy workplace. All of these materials are, of course, made by a company specialising in furniture for outdoor use, which means that they’re more than capable of withstanding the rigours of a busy workplace.

Words With... / Giulio Ridolfo, Italy

Living colour

Italian-born Giulio Ridolfo advises interior, clothing and footwear companies on their colour use. At Orgatec he unveiled his latest collaboration with Kvadrat: a new range in the Steelcut series in which the Danish brand’s textiles were woven with several yarns whose colour tones he selected. To find out more about his work and this collaboration, we caught up with Ridolfo in Köln for this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

First, what is a colour advisor?
Well, I started my career in fashion. Then I slowly began to advise companies on colour, finishes and textures. I work behind the scenes a lot of the time and I’m not a designer in the traditional sense. I help companies to smooth out aspects of their work.

You have been working with Kvadrat for many years. How did your first collaboration come about?
I was talking with Kvadrat’s CEO, Anders Byriel, and he offered me the chance to do a coloration for a new textile that was being launched on the market. It was exciting because I’m not a weaver and textile design is a complex process. But we developed a dialogue that was completely different to what Kvadrat had with the designers, who were very clever at making and weaving textiles and designing new structures but weren’t as interested in their coloration. That’s where I came in.

How do you hope that the new Steelcut textiles will be used?
They would fit beautifully into a domestic landscape. They’re very flexible and clean in a way but they can also fit into larger, broader spaces, such as hotels and banks, and more executive situations. This is because, in terms of colour, they adapt to spaces as they aren’t solid colours, like a Pantone, but a composite of colours.

For more from Ridolfo and Orgatec, tune in to ‘Monocle On Design’.

In The Office / FDB Møbler, Denmark

Home from home

Danish brand FDB Møbler is best known for fitting out houses with timber furniture but in recent years it has also moved into the contract market, creating homely pieces for offices and commercial spaces. Take, for example, its solid-oak C66 Øst high table (pictured, top), launched at Orgatec. Though designed by Stine Weigelt for domestic purposes, it’s ideal for commercial use. Pair it with a few J165B stools by Jørgen Baekmark (pictured, middle) and employers will find that it’s the perfect perch for informal gatherings in the office canteen.

Another highlight is the L32 Suru (pictured, bottom), a new lounge chair designed by Carina Maria that was also launched in Köln. The piece, which has a solid-oak frame and woollen upholstery, is intended for use in the office, though we wouldn’t be surprised if it made its way into homes too.

On the desk / Tizio table lamp, Italy

Shine a light

A good desk lamp is an essential part of any workplace but isn’t always easy to come by. Luckily, Italian manufacturer Artemide came up with a solution years ago with its iconic Tizio table lamp, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is on show at Orgatec. To mark the occasion, Artemide has launched a bright-red, limited-edition version.

The lamp was originally designed by German industrial designer Richard Sapper, inspired by his messy desktop and need for flexibility. “I wanted a table lamp that could be adjusted at the touch of a finger and that wouldn’t fall onto the table because of worn joints,” he said. When it was first released in 1972 the Tizio was considered revolutionary. Its small halogen bulb ensures that light falls only on what is directly in front of you. Thanks to two counterweights, it can easily be positioned with one hand. Electricity is conducted through the structure of the lamp, resulting in a highly functional and sleek design without cumbersome cables getting in the way. Little wonder, then, that it remains one of the bestselling office lamps of all time. You’d be wise to snap one up before the crowds at Orgatec place their orders.

Take a seat / Thonet S220, Germany

Mix and match

The new S220 chair, which Thonet released at Orgatec, might look familiar. When the Frankenberg-based furniture brand ­– the creator of the first modern bentwood seat – commissioned London studio Industrial Facility to design a new chair, the latter decided not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it drew on Thonet’s 214 chair from 1859 for the shape of the plywood shell, with its armrests following the lines of the 209 from 1900. “The designer’s job is to introduce alternative materials and assemblages so that a new chair is born and is relevant to modern situations,” says Sam Hecht, who co-founded Industrial Facility with with Kim Colin.

The chair, which will make a smart addition to any office, is available with or without the armrests (the latter version is stackable and ideal for conference rooms) and comes in a light or dark finish. By blending two of Thonet’s iconic pieces and using a modern combination of materials – plywood and steel – the S220 proves that quality and good craftsmanship never go out of style.;


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