Voting is now live for the inaugural Image Interiors & Living Design Awards. Need a little more information? All the nominees are introduced here, but over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting interviews with our shortlist. In the first of the series, here’s the Furniture Designer of the Year nominees…
Conor and Nell, founders and furniture designers of Snug, have an organic approach to design with ideas often originating from casual conversations after dinner. If the idea is one that can grow, the sketching process begins and Conor produces various mock-ups until they are happy with the end product. “We often have different pieces around our house at prototype stage, just so we’re constantly noticing it and can make small changes that can make a real difference to the overall feel and look of the piece.”
Dip-Dye Kitchen Bench
With a love of working with most Irish hardwoods, designs are often made out of ash. “The change in shade and grain can vary greatly from tree to tree, so it’s always interesting to see what’s beneath the bark!” Birch plywood has also been incorporated into products.
Selection of Milking Stools
“It is really incredibly inspiring and to see what other people are creating and to feel part of a larger Irish design community.” With invitations to exhibit at major design festivals including Milan, Beijing, New York and London and huge support from the Design and Craft Council of Ireland and customers, there is lots happening for the Wicklow-based company. “We’re growing our range of furniture on a continual basis and we’d hope to have our new e-shop up and running in early 2017 with select products added. We’re also hoping to do more pop-up shops so people can have more of an opportunity to come to Wicklow to see our furniture, our workspace and have a cuppa!”
Meet Simon Doyle.
Simon Doyle, founder and furniture designer of Simon Doyle Furniture starts his designing process using a black marker. “The weight of the line gives some sense of the weight of the material.” His initial approach is using paper, resisting 3D modelling on the computer for as long as possible. This then proceeds to a process of back-and-forth between paper and the screen.
“It is a matter of patience, understanding the subject and the brief and holding the design up to scrutiny until it starts to take form. I will ask people close to me for their thoughts and gauge their reactions. Once I feel I am nearing an idea, I will move it to the workshop and start to work quickly with cheap materials to make a mock-up or test a process and make decisions about proportions and finished dimensions.”
Simon says he is inspired by “the simplicity and resourcefulness of Irish vernacular furniture, a tradition of skilled design and manufacture in small workshops capable of creating beautiful furniture with limited materials”. With a background and training involving wood and a great appreciation of European and Irish oak, Simon designs with a clear aim for the final product.
“I always like the furniture to express the structure and material, to try to tell the story of how the object is made and the properties of what it is made from. It is also important that the relationship to the end user is considered, not just purely from a functional sense but in a way that might enhance the experience in a quieter way, like when someone touches an object without being aware of it.”
2016 has been a busy year for Simon, a winner of Future Makers award, global exhibitions and also a collaboration with furniture designer Adrien Coen, which can now be found in the Phoenix Park. The picnic bench was commissioned by the Office of Public Works with to encourage spontaneous interaction between picnickers and also be accessible for people with reduced mobility.
Phoenix Park Picnic Cluster, a collaboration with furniture designer Adrian Coen
Garrett O’Hagan is founder and furniture designer of Aodh, a company “working to create universal, elemental, essential objects with a strong character”. With an aim that furniture “should work everywhere, last lifetimes and be rewarding to use and behold”.
With no set systems or approaches, Garrett is in enjoyment of a state of flux. “I want to be nimble. I want to be open. I want to be receptive. I want to be on edge. How I keep constantly open to new ideas, materials, places, spaces is the creative challenge for me. Process comes after I have set upon an idea that excites me and that I want to explore”.
An important project for Aodh was their first chair. “Getting the Aran chair to completion proved to be extremely difficult and at times it seemed that it would be impossible. It turned out to be an absolute labour of love and all commercial objectives went out the window. It was extremely complex to make and very difficult to find the expertise to help. So many challenges, so many disappointments, but an incredible journey in terms of what was learnt on the way.”
To date, projects have mainly consisted of timber; oak, ash, Douglas fir and beech. “Wood is very beautiful to work with and to be in the presence of. It creates atmosphere. It’s lovely to touch. It’s forgiving. It is so many things and above all its useable by all – there are no constraints in terms of tools or machinery.”
With a love for technical materials, there are hopes for introduction in the future, along with other natural materials such as wools, linens and ceramic. “Good pieces have character. They have staying power. They are typically well made and improve with age – they become old friends.”
Meet Zelouf & Bell.
Susan Zelouf and Michael Bell, founders and self-taught furniture designers of Zelouf & Bell describe their pairing as “a kind of alchemy, engendering extraordinary pieces grounded in practicality, a dialogue between art, design and history”.
For every project, luxe materials are hand selected. “We don’t fit in, but for us, that’s a strategy.” Their works are influenced by travels, fashion and architecture. “Our classic Span table is inspired by a span bridge on the M50”.
By participating in shows internationally and “having designed and made their furniture designs for 13 embassy residences abroad”, the duo work overseas a great deal. “We’ve played a part in raising the profile of Irish design as far afield as Tokyo, Canberra, Beijing and Abuja.”
When designing, Zelouf and Bell have their client front of mind. “Good design takes into consideration the people who will be living with it. We have no interest in designing pieces that seem to need a gallery or museum setting. We’re interested in designing for people, both for how they dream of living and how they actually do. For the past 24 years, we’ve been designing useful, beautiful things our clients love to live with; form, function and beauty in equal measure.”
Koi + Noir
They also have their makers in mind during projects. “As part of our commitment to a healthy work-life balance, we provide home-cooked lunches to our makers, served in our own kitchen at a long white oak and salvaged steel table and benches. We’re toying with the idea of compiling a cookbook detailing many of the over 6,000 lunches we’ve made for the team since 1992.”
To vote for your favourite nominee in each category, click here.