Wednesday. 28/12/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Julius Hirtzberger

Desirable design

In our last design dispatch of the year, we shop at a new retail space in Singapore and visit a forest in Austria providing timber for furniture brand One For Hundred (pictured). We also speak to Polestar’s head of design, set the mood with a candleholder by Ilse Crawford and leaf through a book documenting smart solutions to urban woes. First, Nic Monisse on launching design brands.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Opportunity knocks

As we round off the year, it might not seem like a particularly opportune time to launch a furniture or design brand. With global supply chains strained, access to materials difficult and consumers demanding products that enhance their wellbeing by being designed, produced and supplied transparently, it’s more difficult than ever to be in the industry. Despite this, there’s hope and, to prove the point, we looked at five growing young businesses for Monocle’s forward-looking annual publication The Forecast.

There is Part & Whole, a Canadian company that recognised the need for individual parts of its sofas to be repairable, ensuring that there is circularity with its components and not just its whole products. There’s also One For Hundred (see below), an Austrian firm that decided to take control of its supply chain, while Reframed in Denmark has elevated the flat-pack furniture experience, delivering smartly designed beds quickly and efficiently.

Each brand has shown that, despite the gloomy outlook, there are plenty of possibilities for savvy entrepreneurs seeking to deliver quality furniture. Indeed, as with most design endeavours, it seems that these current constraints have been fundamental to the foundation of these businesses. And in many cases, the constraints have shaped the design of businesses and not just products – a good reason to be optimistic as we head into 2023.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor.

The Project / Asaru Studio, Singapore

Personal service

Asaru Studio, a new retail and studio space in Singapore’s Pearl’s Hill, is a cosy joint so appointments are encouraged. Owners Hui Shan Pang and Vincent Teng, whose shop stocks a lovely selection of ceramics, objects and clothing from Japanese brands such as Apotheke Fragrance and 3rd Ceramics, receive customers as guests. Over tea and refreshments that they personally serve, the duo share stories about their travels to Japan and the brands they bring in.

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

Asaru means “to forage” in Japanese, a word that captures Pang and Teng’s curatorial approach and the shop fit-out. Fittingly, the hand-planed carpentry here is made from timber reclaimed from construction scaffolding, while the central island is built from old bricks salvaged from a demolished shophouse. Black volcanic rocks, bonsais and a wall clock picked up from Japanese retailer Dulton furnish the space but the less-tangible elements leave the deepest impression. The roasted aroma of kinako (soybean powder), steam rising from bamboo baskets in which wagashi (a Japanese confection) is warmed, matcha being whisked and, of course, conversations with Pang and Teng blur the line between retail and hospitality.

Design News / One For Hundred, Austria

Resourceful approach

In 2015, Anna and Karl Philip Prinzhorn swapped their flat in central Berlin for a house in Karl Philip’s centuries-old, family-owned forest, one hour from Vienna. Here, the duo has been using its white oak, larch, spruce, ash, maple and walnut trees to produce timber furniture for their brand, One For Hundred. The name stems from the fact that for each chair, table or design-minded object purchased, the Prinzhorns plant 100 trees. “It wasn’t enough for me to just work with a sustainable resource,” Anna says. “I want to build up the resources that I’m using. As designers, we can’t go on just producing new stuff. We want to be disruptive and come up with innovative concepts. And customers want transparency and honesty.”

Image: Julius Hirtzberger
Image: Julius Hirtzberger
Image: Julius Hirtzberger

Once felled, One For Hundred’s wood is taken on a 90-minute drive into the Czech Republic, where a carpenter realises the made-to-order furniture. “I’ve been working with this carpenter from the beginning of One For Hundred,” says Anna. “She is a third-generation tradesperson who is super-skilled with solid wood.”

One For Hundred’s designs place an emphasis on timelessness and minimalism. “I never wanted to reinvent the wheel,” she adds. “I’m all about removing the ego from design and creating objects that last for generations. What is trendy in 2022 probably isn’t going to be cool in 2030.”

For more stories on the future of furniture, pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’ online or on newsstands now.

Words with... / Maximilian Missoni, Sweden

Celebrating technology

Gothenburg-based electric car maker Polestar is known for combining Scandinavian minimalism with smart stylings associated with high-end vehicles. Leading the charge on the design front for the Swedish firm is Maximilian Missoni (pictured); as head of design, he has overseen the recent release of the brand’s first SUV, the Polestar 3. We caught up with Missoni on ‘Monocle On Design’ to discuss the new car, the cultural impact of the automobile and how symbols of luxury have shifted over time.

With moving and static components, cars are incredibly complicated products to design. How do you approach this complexity in your work?
Cars are the most complex consumer product because, unlike planes or large vessels, they are mass-manufactured. People sometimes wonder why it takes so long for a car to end up in production – four years or longer. The reason is that we not only develop a car but also engineer the manufacturing, including the production line at the factory and the robots that will assemble the parts. It is fascinating to have the power to influence that and to create desirable products that are a result of this process. Beyond the complexity of the product, there is a cultural impact that cars have: they are omnipresent in cities. In that respect, cars can have a much larger impact on cities than architecture can ever have.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
If you start a new car brand – which we had the privilege to do in 2017 – you must ask yourself, which way do you want to go? Do you want to remind people about the paradigms of the past or do you look at where we stand now as a society and address new problems? We have chosen the second path.

With this in mind, how are you breaking those paradigms?
In the past, the lifestyle symbols of a luxurious car were chrome, wood and leather. We have abandoned these features and instead we are using technology as inspiration for our designers and using technology as an element of luxury. For example, we include the technical elements in our design work and show them off. You can see our cameras and radars, our heating systems – we’re not trying to hide them away because that threshold has passed. We’re now at the point where it is time to celebrate technology.

For more from Maximilian Missoni and Polestar, tune into ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / LL04 lounge chair, The Netherlands

Lounge act

There is no piece of furniture quite like a living room lounger to tell the uninitiated from the design-minded; spotting an Eames Lounge Chair or Corbusier LC4 is a sign your host knows a thing or two about furniture. But for those looking for a marquee design that’s a little less known, we’d suggest turning to Maarten van Severen’s LL04, produced by Dutch brand Pastoe. Designed in 2004, shortly before the Belgian designer’s death, only 130 numbered pieces were ever made.

Like all good ideas, the appeal of the LL04 lies in its simplicity. Van Severen used a pioneering technique whereby leather is stretched directly over a steel frame, creating a lounger that is both wafer-thin and robust. The hand-stitched vegetable-tanned saddle has a natural elasticity that makes it extraordinarily comfortable to lounge on, and the in-built side table is ideal for balancing a glass of wine – or that’s what the few lucky owners say.

Around The House / Wästberg Holocene, Sweden

New flames

For Swedish lighting firm Wästberg, innovation means – on occasion – ditching electrical illumination. The Malmö-based company has just launched three new products in its “fire-based” Holocene collection, headlined by a new candle holder designed by Ilse Crawford. Called Holocene No 6, the new release is a highly polished, solid-brass concave disc with a central spike on which a candle can be mounted.

Image: Andy Liffner

“By making Holocene No 6 so reflective, it almost seems to disappear,” says Crawford. “That’s how I feel about the flame when the candle is lit: it’s there but not there. The point of electrical lighting is to get rid of darkness but fire adds mystery. It’s mercurial and emotional.” With this in mind, the Holocene collection is a reminder that lighting is about much more than illumination: fire-based luminaires have the ability to add welcome visual and emotional intrigue to our day-to-day life.

For more seasonal stories, pick up a copy of Monocle’s winter newspaper, ‘Alpino’.

In The Picture / ‘Meanwhile City’, Slovakia

In-between spaces

It's important that city halls across the globe are nimble. This allows them to quickly tackle issues that affect the daily lives of those they represent, from housing and employment to transportation and education. By staying agile, a temporary fix – such as a pop-up bike lane that provides cyclists with a previously unavailable level of protection – can present itself as an ideal solution to an urban problem. It’s this notion that inspired Meanwhile City, a new book by architect Petra Marko.

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

Published by Bratislava-based Milk, the book celebrates “meanwhile” interventions such as smart-looking parklets and temporary cinemas on city streets. “We wanted to look at how you can actually activate spaces and how powerful they can be in changing someone’s perception of places, altering people’s behaviour and affecting long-term change,” says Marko. Across 160 pages, playful illustrations and beautiful photography help bring to life more than 30 temporary installations and interventions that will serve as inspiration and precedents for city leaders – and their design teams – across the globe.


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