Dutch-designer Tord Boontje draws inspiration from nature and the objects around him to design his iconic products. From lighting and furniture, to jewellery, to postcards, the Boontje magic is ever evident.
Popular Dutch designer Tord Boontje is known for his beautiful designs in lighting, furniture and textiles. However, he secretly dreams of designing for Madonna. Or, maybe even making a film. He is also moved by nature and this is reflected in his designs.
Born in the Netherlands in 1968, Tord studied Industrial Design from 1986-1991 at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, followed by a Masters from the Royal College of Art in London, where he is now professor and head of Design Products.
Two years after his Masters (in 1996), the award-winning Studio Tord Boontje was born. Growing up in a creative environment has its influences – Tord’s mother taught History of Art and it was inevitable that some of this would seep into young Tord’s life.
Tord Boontje’s work is an exquisite combination of new technology and elegant design. His work encompasses a range of products – lights, furniture, glassware and even jewellery. From minimalist design to mass-produced items, Studio Tord consistently comes up with innovative ideas.
One of the first bestsellers from the Boontje stable is the tranSglass range of tableware fashioned from recycled glass bottles. tranSglass is a collaboration with Emma Woffenden, Tord’s partner. Emma is a sculptor who works with glass and the team was able to successfully experiment with the equipment in her studio.
Empty bottles were turned into candle-stands, carafes, orchid holders and a range of glassware. Today, the tranSglass range is produced in a new workshop in the city of Guatemala, where a team of young people are employed in the cutting and polishing of these simple yet tasteful products. The workshop not only provides employment but teaches skills as well and tranSglass remains one of Tord’s most favourite projects.
The elegantly named ‘The Wednesday Collection’ (2000) was developed after the birth of Tord’s daughter, Evelyn. A desire to create something feminine, yet not “too perfect – normal, like any Wednesday” turned into a collection of furniture that is utilitarian yet distinctive with its red streaks and laser cut embellishments. The Wednesday Light was later redesigned to be mass produced with Habitat.
In 2002, the design for the ‘Garland’ light for Habitat (a long metal garland of flowers that can be wrapped around a light bulb for a stylish, cascading cover – up) took Studio Boontje into the realm of mass production. Ten years on, the Garland is still a hot favourite and you can buy it at fairly inexpensive prices, making good design accessible to the masses.
In the same year, collaboration with Swarovski resulted in the Blossom chandelier where LED lights placed next to crystals resulted in a “magical light”. ‘Night Blossom’ for Swarovski is a gorgeous jet black version of the 2002 Blossom chandelier. The Blossom is regarded as a classic now and if you want to channel your inner Snow Queen, this one is for you.
A series of romantic lighting designs have followed in the years since. ‘Midsummer’ for Artecnica (2004) is a whimsical paper lamp that looks like a veil of old lace; ‘Come Rain Come Shine’ (2004), is a handmade organza and paper lamp made by a Brazilian women’s co-op; the stunning ‘Icarus’, a 3-D light from extruded polyester that resembles a swan’s (or an angel’s) wing ; the ‘Shadow’ (2003), a “carousel of dreamlike imagery’ that creates a magical world on the wall and the ‘Daedalus’, is a table-lamp with wings (2007).
Tord’s furniture designs are equally elegant and cherished. The striking black ‘Witch’ chair with its legs apart; the red ‘Revolution’ chair (2004) and the ‘Dondola’ sofa, both for Moroso, draped with woollen flowers; the funky ‘O-Nest’ plastic egg-shaped chairs in vivid colours (2006) and the beautiful ‘Shadowy’ chair (‘handmade with care in Senegal’) with its African influences (2009) are examples of his classic chairs, while the ‘Oval’ and ‘Pressed Flower’ table use new techniques to create patterns.
In recent years, Studio Tord has designed a range of textiles, household products like coffee-makers (‘Senseo’ for Philips, 2007) and even an artwork for a special translated edition of Doctor Zhivago (2010, Random House).
Tord’s work is displayed in many museums and galleries worldwide including the MoMa, New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The whimsy of the designs and the use of new materials is a hallmark of Tord Boontje’s work – which actually makes it perfect for a modern, experimentative icon like Madonna.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Studio Tord Boontje