Muller Van Severen - Designer(s) of the year 2015 ! Design - 03 February 2015
Tenth Designer of the Year prize-winner, the Muller Van Severen studio is also the first winner to show such a strong inclination towards art and limited series. Interview with the male half of a duo bound to the city and to the job, Hannes Van Severen.
What was your reaction when you heard you’d won?
It’s obviously a great honour to receive such a prestigious award. That will influence the whole of our year to come and will attract a lot of attention to us.
How do you explain your success?
I don’t know, it must be something to do with the feeling we sustain with the materials, colours and proportions. We come from the visual arts. Fien spends her time taking photographs of still lifes, combining shapes and tones, while I’m more interested in space and landscapes. When we make a piece of furniture, we always try to give it lightness and transparency, as well as an extra dimension, which makes it more than just a furniture unit. The result often turns out to be very sculptural and, as it happens, I love the fact that the things we create look like sculptures.
Always with that very particular style ...
Yes, it reflects the worlds we’ve come from. Fien comes from a family fascinated by antiques. The interior of her parents’ home is very baroque, filled with old paintings, marble and colours. My environment (Editor’s note: Hannes is the son of the famous designer Maarten Van Severen), on the other hand, consisted of only pared down lines and restrained colour palettes. Those two extremes have come together perfectly in our work. The different elements of them are evident in it. And people seem to like that combination.
How do you employ that synthesis on a daily basis?
We don’t even think about it. In fact, we try to go with a feeling rather than thinking. Everything is instinctive. Usually, we start with very rudimentary prototypes that we sculpt from nothing, rather than working for hours on over-elaborate scale models. Among other things, because neither of us can wait to see what each new idea may produce.
Given that you started out in 2011, it’s fair to say that you’re not in the habit of wasting time ...
In a way, you could also say that we began at art school, 14 years ago. We didn’t appear from nowhere in 2011, it’s just the result of a slow process that’s reached maturity. Besides, we don’t really feel as though we’re doing anything different than we were before.
But this "Furniture Project" has become your main activity…
The first exhibition at the Valérie Traan gallery led to a second one during the Design September festival. Then everything followed on until Lowie Vermeersch included us among the guests of honour of the Biennale Interieur in 2012. Since then, it’s really taken off. Not a day goes by without someone calling us. It doesn’t mean we’re rich now though. Our output has a lot in common with art, so materials and production costs are high. But I’m not complaining, we’re very happy!
Would you be tempted by a change of style, such as making industrial products ?
Of course, that’s something we’re considering now for that matter, although we’re only in preliminary discussions about it. A collaborative project becomes interesting to us as soon as we can see the possibility of reconciling our two kinds of activities, which isn’t always the case. We have a huge number of projects underway, among others for cutlery and quite a substantial order from the architect responsible for the Bahrain pavilion for the World Fair in Milan. We have to supply him with two marble benches, fifty chairs and twenty tables made of aluminium. We don’t have time to get bored.
Talking of the Milan expo, you’ll soon be taking part in Belgium is Design with the previous nine designers of the year...
Yes, we met them recently at a big gathering. Apart from Bram Boo, we only knew their names and products before, but that contact went well despite our initial shyness. Our worlds are quite different but that’s not a problem: the time’s come to experiment.