If you are reading a design magazine, chances are that you will start appreciating and coveting beautifully crafted products for your home and office spaces. It would do you immense good then to also peruse Brussels-based product designer Sylvain Willenz’s simple and elegant designs which prove that good design need not be complicated.
Born in Brussels in 1978, Sylvain Willenz studied MA Design Products at the Royal College of Art in London and graduated in 2003. In 2004, Willenz opened his design office, based in Brussels. The studio describes its approach to design as characterised by “a clear inquisitiveness for products, industry and processes.” The designer has won several prestigious awards including the iF Awards and Red Dot “Best of the Best” Awards in Product Design.
Willenz’s range of furniture and lighting products span the gamut of simple to complicated minimalistic chic. One of his earliest designs for lighting was the award-winning Torch light series (2008). This Torch light is made from a “flexible polymer with a matt grainy and tactile finish”. Inspired by the hand-held torch, the series includes the Torch Table, Torch Bunch, with the lamps bunched up together, and the Torch suspension, a neat row of Torch lights in many colours.
In 2009, Willenz designed Landmarks, a range of roof lights designed to be “seen from the sky.” The light was “inspired by signs found on the road which indicate mileage and underground gas conduit trails.” The Landmark Cone light was inspired by the windsock which is essentially a textile tube attached to a pole and used to indicate the direction of wind.
The Print lamp (2010) is a round globe reminiscent of vintage hand-blown lampshades. This lamp is unique as it is made out of a single bubble of blown glass where the reflector and diffuser are made out of the same piece. In 2011, Willenz created Ray, a pendulum lamp which was made out of Bakelite balls to create a domestic light fixture with Tubular Lighting technology.
Setting the tone for his simple designs, the uChair (2010) one of Willenz’s first designs in furniture, was intentionally kept low-tech and simple and aimed at use in homes and offices. The colourful Homerun Chair (2010) for Japanese furniture maker Karimoku was inspired by the “bold and rounded features” of old cartoons. As part of the Homerun range, Willenz also created wall pegs that are reminiscent of raindrops.
The Lock (2010) is a deceptively simple chopstick-like coat stand made out of three sticks and a Bakelite ball. The ingenious design has just one sole screw that holds the whole outfit together.
The simplicity of Willenz’s designs are similarly showcased in a range of products designed for Cappellini including the Candy Tables. Other products in this range include Profile table and chair (2012) and Candy Shelves (2012). All of these have straight elegant lines that reinforce the ‘form follows function’ ethos.
Apart from designing furniture and lighting, Willenz also creates electronic products such as sleek USB drives and stationery products like the Block Office series made using a glass cutting method inspired by the lost-wax technique. Instead of using wax, each piece is made and hand assembled using Expanded Polustyrene (EPS) board as base material. The series includes paper-weights, bookends, file boxes and trays, among other things.
I am especially partial to Sylvain Willenz’s textile designs. Among his recent designs is Razzle Dazzle (2014), named after the “camouflage painting technique that inspired its complex pattern of intersecting lines.”
The Folk pattern for Chevalier (2012) is a more traditionally patterned rug where the motifs “organise geometric forms while exploring colours and structures.” One of my favourite patterns is the Scribble (2013), which was born out of Willenz’s love for cartoons. The lines are hand-drawn with a thick marker and silkscreened. The pattern is available on various home linen series produced by the One Nordic Furniture Company.
Simplicity is the hallmark of this young designer and as discernible, his streamlined designs don’t mess with structure – they just enhance it.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer