Wednesday. 30/11/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: James Harris

Part of the furniture

In this week’s dispatch, we take a spin on a set of rotating benches in Indiana, bed down with the founder of a Copenhagen-based furniture brand and browse a new boutique in Singapore that brings fine craft to the table. Plus: a Danish lamp with in-built hygge, a sleek, new task chair from Knoll and a monograph celebrating Basel’s Buchner Bründler Architekten. But first, our US editor, Christopher Lord, on Design Miami (pictured).

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Magic city

As I write this, a line of collectors is forming at the doors to the Miami Beach Convention Center. There are champagne corks being popped and I sense a growing hum of hustle. The 18th edition of Design Miami, which runs until Sunday, feels like a particularly important one. There has been an extraordinary influx of newcomers, many of them New Yorkers relocating for the abundant sun, opportunity and technology jobs that the city offers. The fair’s CEO, Jennifer Roberts, says that this has bolstered an already large local collector base. There are shiny new homes here ready to be filled with top-flight design.

As a result, there’s a lot to play for at Design Miami and it’s evident on the exhibition floor. Paris’s Galerie Patrick Seguin is showing a profusion of sought-after pieces by Jean Prouvé, for example, and London’s Sarah Myerscough Gallery is presenting works in cypress, sycamore and flowing fibres from the agave plant. Keep an eye out for an astonishing console by Marc Fish; meanwhile, Mexico City’s Ago Projects has paired Fabien Cappello with Cerámica Suro in Guadalajara to tile the walls and floors of its space with a dash of south-of-the-border sunshine.

What’s also striking is how many brands have pitched up in Miami to get a piece of the action. Panerai, Kohler and Audi all have a presence in the show and there are pop-ups and collaborations across the city. It says something about how Miami has emerged as a design centre. The Miami Design District, for instance, is a shopping neighbourhood that has given luxury brands the space to work with ambitious architects on flagships. This fair, like Miami itself, is pitched as a place to indulge – and it’s refreshingly unashamed about it.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor.

The Project / Artifactt, Singapore

Table manners

Singapore’s Orchard Road might be better known for high-street brands but new boutique Artifactt is bucking the trend by offering tableware made by Japanese artisans and European designers. “Many good brands don’t serve the retail consumer,” says Annie Li (pictured), Artifactt’s co-founder. Though she initially sought to cater to the home cook, the shop’s selection of brands such as Belgium’s Serax has resulted in a broader customer base, with some of the city’s best restaurateurs and chefs coming through its doors. This is also partly thanks to Artifactt’s interiors, which allow customers to see, hold and feel the pieces in a gallery-like environment.

Image: Lauryn Ishak
Image: Lauryn Ishak
Image: Lauryn Ishak

Designed by Li’s husband, Chris Lee, who runs creative firm Asylum, the fit-out features carefully placed lighting and a palette of dark timber and leather, an approach that ensures that the wares on show stand out. “Black leather absorbs light and the pieces reflect it,” says Lee, who fine-tuned the mood with ambient music from the likes of electronic act Aphex Twin. “A lot of the pieces are intricately made and imperfect so you want a quiet environment to appreciate them,” he says. The result is a space that allows customers the time and space to make considered purchases. It’s a reminder that good retail design can afford to be subtle and doesn’t need to push products forcefully.

Design News / Daydreamer benches, USA

Spin city

As the mercury dips across the northern hemisphere, a hush typically descends on cities as residents spend more time indoors. But a new project by Montréal-based art and design studio Daily Tous les Jours aims to give residents in South Bend, Indiana, a reason to stay on its snowy streets. In Plaza Park on the city’s riverfront, it has installed a new set of public benches called Daydreamer.

Image: Leah Tribbett
Image: Leah Tribbett

The site-specific installation consists of three long, white oak benches topped by aluminium arches that sweep above the seats; their embedded lighting brings a welcome glow to the public space in winter. To add some levity to the plaza, the benches rotate and gently play music based on users’ movements. The outcome is smart seating that offers moments of surprise to pedestrians willing to stop and linger.

Words with... / Kasper Simonsen, Denmark

Springing into action

“I’m trying to make smart design accessible because people’s lives are better when they’re surrounded by good interiors,” says Kasper Simonsen, founder of Copenhagen-based bed-maker Reframed. Simonsen has been working to spice things up in the bedroom by offering well-designed furniture at an accessible price. Established last year, Reframed makes lightweight beds from powder-coated, post-consumer recycled aluminium. These are then flat-packed and shipped to customers in less than a week; tension locks built into the frames ensure that the beds can be assembled in minutes without screws. To find out more about Simonsen’s efforts to shake up the furniture industry, we spoke to him on Monocle On Design.

Image: Jan Søndergaard

Why have you focused on the bed as your primary product?
There are already a million chairs out there and we wanted to make some noise. We had seen good examples of businesses in other industries focusing on one product and doing it well; a bed seemed like a good place to start because we couldn’t name a really nice brand that specialises in it. So we took a design philosophy and applied it to the bedframe, an item that has often been overlooked.

What was your design philosophy?
We look at our product as a whole experience. We worked with Tim Rundle, an incredible London-based designer from New Zealand, to create a product that’s made from 82 per cent post-consumer recycled aluminium. Because the bedframe is made from aluminium extrusions, we can flat-pack and ship a lot of frames on one pallet. With furniture, you usually end up shipping a lot of air and empty space because products can’t be packed so compactly. The other advantage of our beds being flat-packed is that you can take the frames apart and put them back together again, making them more versatile.

Where does Reframed sit in the Danish design scene?
We’re at a crossroads right now. Many new design brands are following the traditional playbook, which caters for retailers with long lead times. With Reframed, there’s an opportunity to do something that reaches a broader audience because our beds can be quickly and easily distributed to consumers.

For more from Simonsen and Reframed, pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’.

Christmas Gift Guide / Newson Task chair, USA

Sitting pretty

If a task chair isn’t high on your Christmas list, it’s probably because you haven’t seen this new perch designed by Australian industrial designer Marc Newson. Created for furniture company Knoll, it takes ergonomics and aesthetic appeal seriously and delivers on both counts.

Illustration: Eugen Fleckenstein

Around The House / Colette lamp, Denmark

Glow of contentment

The Danes are well known for creating a cosy atmosphere in their homes, thanks to their dedication to hygge. A crucial part of this is good lighting and Copenhagen-based brand &Tradition’s Colette lamp provides just that. This is thanks to a tactile shade and base, fully encased in a crisp, off-white cotton-linen fabric, which gently diffuses light. Designed by &Tradition’s in-house creative team, the lamp is finished with a black or dark red trim and has a weighted base that ensures that it can’t be easily knocked off your bedside table. All of this makes for a luminaire that is striking, elegant and practical, bringing a sense of hygge wherever it’s placed.

Image: &Tradition


Structural integrity

Founded in 1997, Basel-based Buchner Bründler Architekten has built up an impressive portfolio that includes Hotel Nomad in Basel and the verdant Garden Tower in Bern. Both projects feature in Buchner Bründler: Buildings II, published by Zürich-based Park Books. Designed by Ludovic Balland and Annina Schepping, the book – the second monograph dedicated to the practice – features significant works completed between 2010 and 2020. Some 1,500 photographs, sketches, plans and visualisations are placed alongside snappy pieces of text explaining the design process and historical, social and economic aspects of each project. It’s both a pleasure to look at and highly informative.

Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay


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