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Musical Chairs

Celebrating the festive season with a new film by Lernert & Sander, we invited six furniture designers to play a game of musical chairs.



Wearing a selection of timeless pieces from the COS AW16 party collection and accompanied by a live band, the contenders circle their chairs as they are removed one by one, slowly narrowing down the group. When the music stops, the designers must find a seat even when only one chair remains…



Canadian designer Philippe Malouin lives and works in London where he set up his studio in 2009. Here he is pictured with his Typecast chair created for New York-based contemporary design manufacturer Matter Made.

Tell us about your Typecast chair…

The chair is made from maple plywood and solid maple and was originally cast in aluminium for an exhibition I had in Milan called Simple, which was all about reduction and using materials in a different way. Matter Made contacted me because they were interested in making a production model of it in wood to reduce the weight and the result is a very pared-down, minimal and light chair with pleasing proportions.

We hear that you like to use unconventional methods. Can you describe your approach to the design process?

Sometimes I do. I’m often interested in experimenting to discover new ways of designing and a good example of this is the Mollo sofa I designed for Established & Sons. We started the process by cutting apart an Ikea foam mattress and folding it to create a soft upholstery piece that didn’t have an inner frame. By bending and cutting the foam, we designed the actual shape of the armchair. We couldn’t have done that by using a computer or sketching.


What’s the relationship between your product and interior design work? Do they inform each other?

They’re quite separate from one another but also share a few approaches, such as simplicity over lavishness. The products I design tend to use a single material and are very pared down. Sometimes the interiors created by London-based design practice Post-Office (I’m the Art Director) mix eras, palettes and materials so they’re quite different.

Do you have a favourite iconic chair?

This might be extremely cliché, but I think that most chairs created by Charles and Ray Eames are impossibly perfect. The moulded fibreglass chair uses very little material, its shape is completely timeless and its use can be high or low brow. I think that this is the aim of any designer who sets out to create a chair.



Typecast chair


Seungji Mun is the founder of Seoul and Copenhagen-based studio Mun. The studio operates with the philosophy that ‘a designer is a storyteller and with his products, new stories are created’.


The Four Brothers chair is created with no material waste. How does your work bring together good design and environmental responsibility?

A few years ago before I designed the Four Brothers chair, I visited a furniture factory in South Korea. I saw the chair-making process in that factory and I was surprised because a lot of wood waste was thrown out during production. In the end, 50% wood was wasted during the process of making each chair. I didn’t know about the issue until I visited the factory and after that, I started to think about how I could create a no-waste system for producing wooden furniture.

How do you tell stories through your products?

When I design new products I always think about social and environmental issues. For example, whenever people discover my chairs they learn more about waste and that a lot of reusable material is thrown out during standard furniture production processes. I hope people will enjoy the story of my products and make their own new stories by using them.


What does the future hold for MUN?

I have been managing my design studio Mun for almost five years in South Korea however as I’m a young designer, I moved my base from Seoul to Copenhagen one year ago to interact with designers and clients from different countries. In the future I hope to design more products with a focus on sustainability.

Do you have a favourite iconic chair?

My favourite iconic chair is the Monobloc chair, which was designed by Italian designer Vico Magistretti back in 1967. It’s one of the most common chairs in the world and is cheap to produce so most people recognise the design. Because of this chair, we can drink a bottle of beer with friends in front of the beach or enjoy barbecues with family in the garden.



Four Brothers chair


Originally from the Netherlands, Marjan van Aubel is a designer and founder of solar power design studio Caventou. Her practice transforms materials and technologies into objects and her Well Proven Chair, designed with James Shaw, is made from foaming wood, a lightweight and mouldable material.


Your Well Proven Chair is made from foaming wood. How do you source or develop new materials?

I think it comes from a curiosity about new things and the realisation that it takes a very long time to become an expert in something. For example ceramics and woodwork require skills that take years to master, but I don’t have that much patience so I look for new ways of doing things. Researching seemingly ordinary things, linking things that don't belong to each other or simply doing things wrong can allow you to experiment and form new ideas. James Shaw and I made the Well Proven Chair by developing a new way of working with wood and reinventing the production process.

Where did your interest in blending design with science and technology come from?

I think it was always there. As well as studying design I’m interested in science and technology and have taken courses in subjects like quantum physics. Science and technology both exist because of a natural human curiosity and a wish to constantly improve things; everything around us is basically technology. Earlier this year I visited CERN in Switzerland and was so fascinated by how far this curiosity goes, constantly looking into the unknown for answers on all things very big and small. The building itself however is not that impressive because all the effort and money goes into researching and building those incredible accelerators, but this makes me appreciate it even more.



You and several of the musical chairs players have studied in the Netherlands, what do you think is the appeal of Dutch design schools?

I did my BA at designLAB in Amsterdam, which is very much focused on design research and dialogue. There I developed a certain way of thinking before moving to the Royal College of Art in London in order to master methodology. I am really happy that I had both experiences; my conceptual Dutch approach, which is in my opinion honest and clear, and my experience in London, which allowed me to execute my ideas.

Do you have a favourite iconic chair?

For me it’s the Friso Kramer school chair designed in 1958, made of bended plywood with steel legs. They were our school chairs in the 80s and 90s so probably the chair I sat on most. If you asked me as a child to draw a chair I would draw this one; very comfortable, nice and simple.




Well Proven Chair


Inspired by history, art and science, German product designer Tino Seubert sees conceptualisation, design and production as a cumulative process and finds it important to involve himself in each step. He is pictured with his Nobel Peace Prize chair, sold by Gallery S. Bensimon Paris.



Your chair is from the Forming History series that started life as your degree thesis at university. How did the idea develop?

For my bachelor degree thesis I looked at how personal stories and experiences can give value to objects and make them important. We all have belongings, which have no or hardly any commercial value but we keep them because they remind us of a situation or a person. I started wondering if it was possible to create a new product, which already carries a story before it has been touched by the consumer.

Talk us through your creative process…

Once I had decided what the project should look like, I started researching iconic historic moments in books, through the internet and in photography archives. I created a collection of historic photographs that captured scenes like the end of the Vietnam War or the signing of the treaty to reunify Germany in 1989. All of these scenes took place on furniture and I started sketching new furniture pieces around these scenes, right on the actual photographs. After lots of research I made a selection of historic moments to be realised and refined the designs in further sketches and CAD-drawings, which I then built in the university workshop.



How important is function and material to your design work?

Functionality is fundamental in my work, as I guess is the case for most designers. Making useful objects is what separates us from artists but the challenge is to be experimental and creative while maintaining function and ensuring that it can be produced at a decent cost without excess waste, material or labour. Materiality is usually one of the most exciting factors and the one that gives me the most freedom to play by combining and recontextualising.

Do you have a favourite iconic chair?

My favourite chair is the postmodernist Seconda chair by Mario Botta. It is quite uncomfortable, but just beautiful to look at and a great rebellion against pure functionalism.



Nobel Peace Prize chair


Combining industrial materials with contemporary aesthetics and practical design, furniture designer Lucy Kurrein set up her own studio in 2013 after working for some of Britain’s most established designers.


Your Panel chair is made from sheet steel and tailored wool or leather; do you prefer working with innovative, new materials or more traditional upholstery?

I have a display of different material samples across a wall in my studio and this becomes a sort of palette where unexpected materials can stand out at opportune moments. I like working with utilitarian fabrics that can take on a more structural role, like the industrial felt on Panel chair. This allows me to build shape in a different way and challenges the idea of what upholstery is. But I also really appreciate traditional upholstery, and there is loads of room to experiment with that too.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I work on my own so my days can be very solitary – in a good way. I love shutting myself into my studio and getting absorbed in a project, though at the beginning of a new project I am out gathering inspiration. I also ask the people around me for their input so my day can include a lot of conversation. I work with some great producers and they bring a lot of value to a project so we will regularly Skype to discuss the finer details. When I’m not doing any of this I’m at a factory and this is the really fun part of the job.



Do you have any favourite pieces?

Of my own? My favourite is usually my most recent piece. Most of my work is a progression from or reaction to the previous project, so in theory it should evolve to become more insightful. Panel chair was one of my earliest pieces and was conceived amongst all the nerves and energy of starting a new business. I think the chair reflects that, making it one of my favourites.

Do you have a favourite iconic chair?

I have a few! I like Borge Morgensen’s Shaker Chair because it looks so dynamic to me. But then on closer inspection, all the components are either vertical or horizontal with very little shaping. I use this chair to remind me how well subtlety can work. Saying that, Panel chair is probably the antithesis!


Panel chair


Mette Hay is the co-founder of Danish design house HAY, which combines technology and quality materials with uncomplicated aesthetics. The Soft Edge chair was designed by Iskos-Berlin who worked with plywood technology to ensure that you never come into contact with sharp edges or corners.


How do you oversee design at HAY?

My husband Rolf and I, together with our business partner Troels Holch Povlsen founded HAY 13 years ago. I am responsible for the design and creative direction for HAY accessories and the HAY Mini Market. I work together with our internal design team as well as external designers on accessories and textiles.

The Soft Edge chair series uses moulded plywood techniques; how do you develop new ways of working?

Iskos-Berlin designed the chair and worked with existing plywood technology from the 1940s that was made familiar by Ray and Charles Eames, but their job was to push the technology further. Ultimately they were able to give more shape and form to Soft Edge so no matter where you sit you never lean on an edge, creating a much more comfortable chair.


Where do you go to find inspiration?

When it comes to inspiration I find a lot in my everyday. I try to listen to my intuition and that gut feeling, so if I see something I like I always try to bring it home. My suitcase is always filled with small objects from my travels, which could be anything from a napkin at a restaurant to a ceramic cup or a bar of soap. I can be passionate about a lot of different things and you can definitely see that in our HAY Mini Market.

Do you have a favourite iconic chair?

There is one particular chair that changed mine and Rolf’s life a lot and that is the About a Chair by Hee Welling. This chair has really taken HAY to the next level and allowed us to work on a totally different scale. For us it is definitely an icon.


Soft Edge chair