You first put pen to paper for BoConcept in 1993 and are still doing so now. How has designing for the brand changed since then?
In some ways, it was harder back then. At that time BoConcept was a manufacturer that designed and built its furniture and relied on retailers for distribution. Everything was manufactured in-house, so, as designers, we were limited by what the company’s current machinery could produce.
At the same time, it wasn’t the big brand that it is today, so, we would come up with ideas and just run with them. I would say that perhaps they weren’t so well thought through as they are today [laughs]. But looking back, the designs were innovative and very successful. Even then, we created some wall systems and tables that got a lot of attention from the public and the industry.
I’ve always loved working with BoConcept, because we share the same feelings on minimalism: that you shouldn’t just add to a design for the sake of it. Every element should have a purpose and should improve the design.
You’ve produced numerous designs during your career. Where do you find fresh inspiration?
I’m not the guy who says he needs to sit in the woods and watch birds. [laughs] But wherever I go, I’m always using my senses and looking at the world around me. Whether I’m walking down the street here in Valencia, or anywhere else in the world, I’ll often say to my wife “look at that over there, that could be turned into a wall system,” or “the detail on that building could make a great chair.” So, I guess I would have to say that my biggest inspiration, by far, is life…you know, living.
It’s also about making time to think. And I often do that on planes. I take many long-haul flights, and there’s nothing to do other than think. It’s also good to step away sometimes and watch a game of soccer or have a gin and tonic you know, because it is then when your subconscious will bring forth an idea. But returning to the importance of living, your subconscious can only work like that if you feed it with a lot of information.
Your designs age gracefully remaining aesthetically pleasing and contemporary. What is your recipe for enduring, timeless design?
The recipe is about minimalism. I think it was Winston Churchill who wrote, “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter,” and I completely agree with his sentiment. It is very easy to make a piece of furniture if you just add this piece here and that detail there. But what happens? The price goes up because of the added materials. And secondly, you have these needless details that don’t do the design justice.
What I learnt, during my time at Bang & Olufsen, was to always keep my designs to their essentials, and that you should be able to be describe a design in just a few lines. It’s what the mid-century Danish designers did so well, and I was born in 1958, so I’m from that school.