The Tolix chair is woven with leather laces, a topsy-turvy table has a glass bottom, furniture inspired by plate racks – German designer Sebastian Herkner shows us how to put the fun back into everyday products.
Earlier this year, German designer Sebastian Herkner was awarded the winner of the ‘Young Design Talent of the Year’ at the 2015 EDIDA (Elle Deco International Design Awards). This accolade is one of many – an indication of the popularity and prolificacy of this young designer.
Born in 1981, Herkner studied product design at the HfG Offenbach am Main (Offenbach University of Art and Design), focusing his studies on designing objects and furniture, he combined new technology with traditional craftsmanship. While still a student, Herkner interned with Stella McCartney in London, the experience polishing his innate sense of design.
Herkner founded his design studio in Offenbach am Main in 2006 and has since designed for brands such as Moroso, Rosenthal, ClassiCon and others. He has designed furniture, lighting, products and interiors.
Herkner’s designs stand out from the crowd thanks to the beautiful blend of traditional craft and colour with modern textures and materials. Take for example the beautiful Banjooli range for Moroso’s M’Afrique collection. These elegant and colourful chairs are made using woven threads normally used for fishing nets.
The designs are handwoven and each chair is different, “human in their perfections and flaws.” This chair, and particularly the shape of its armrests, is inspired by the mating dance of male ostriches – banjooli in Wolof language – who stretch out their wings to show off their beauty to the female.
The Kate Chair (2007) is an elegant update to the traditional wing chair. By using new materials and an over-sized back, the familiar design gets a fresh look. The Clip Chair (2011) is a simpler design “made without wasting any material in the production process.” The ‘clip’ shows up in a contrasting colour where the arms of the chair meet the backrest. It’s all in the details.
The Arnhem Sofa (2012) seems innocuous at first glance. The multifunctional design allows the sides and back to be raised to three different heights making it a super option for a cosy, private space. In contrast, the Coat for Moroso (2012) is an armchair available in ice-cream hues and is inspired, of all things, by children’s socks. There’s also a Coat Sofa (2013) that follows the same principles.
The playful design of the Ala range (2015) was inspired by plate-racks. The backrest in the furniture becomes a protective shell for the user. It sits comfortably, much as a plate would, on a plate rack. Also pretty funky is the new Pipe collection for Moroso (2015), which is inspired by, well, pipes. The final product is a fun yet comfortable range of furniture that will bring out your inner child.
To celebrate the iconic Tolix chair’s 80th anniversary, Herkner reimagined it as the Paradigm for Tolix, where the chair got a festive dose of woven jewellery. Leather laces of different colours were woven onto the chair giving it the perfect combination of industrial chic and traditional craft.
Other Herkner designs for furniture include the Alwa side tables for Pulpo (2015) with a mouth-blown table top; the Neon side tables made from onyx and acrylic (2014); the topsy-turvy, yet beautiful Bell table (2012) with a coloured glass base and a metal table-top and the Salute (2013), a table for one. A new version of the Salute has just been released in May 2015.
The Container tables (2014) are stylish and sexy, the shape and texture old and new at the same time. Made out of the rapidly-vanishing mercury glass, the containers are shaped like traditional plastic ones. Mercury glass was once pretty common, but is now increasingly difficult to find. Herkner finds this dichotomy interesting – what was common is now rare, what once was ordinary is now special.
Herkner’s designs for lighting include the Bell light (2013) with interchangeable lampshades; the Oda (2014) which is a large floor light, a “reservoir of light”; the Nebra pendant lighting with its pan-like spherical shape and the new Lyra lights (2015) that are contemporary replacements for your string of fairy-lights.
Herkner’s interest in other cultures reflects in products such as the elegant traditional baskets created in collaboration with Zimbabwe (Fara and Pamwe, 2015). Working with rural craftspeople, the baskets were given contemporary patterns and a new bicolour look. Other interesting designs include the minimalist Compagno (2015), a trio of small, smooth objects representing the earth, water and wind. “Our aim was to get small scaled objects which you can take with you like a talisman.”
At Studio Herkner, the accolades pour in with regular frequency, as do their sleek designs. Sebastian Herkner brings a rare sensitivity to everyday products and the design world has much to look forward to from this young designer and his talented team.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer