We haven’t got time to register. We haven’t even got time to see if ‘the people’ are out on the streets. It’s the first morning of Clerkenwell Design Week 2017 and we’re excited – not just because the sun is shining and we have what is certain to be a great three days ahead of us.
We’re particularly excited because our first port of call is the Malmaison hotel, where leading British furniture manufacturer Hitch Mylius is unveiling its latest collection. We’re not just here to see the new range however – we’re also here to chat with its multi-award winning and critically acclaimed designer, Ineke Hans, who has now collaborated with Hitch Mylius.
Ineke set up her studio in the Netherlands in 1998 after studying Product Design in the Netherlands and graduating with an MA in Furniture Design from the Royal College of Art.
In 2015 Ineke moved back to the UK to set up studio|salon: design studio & research salon. Today she is based in London, from where she works with her studio in Holland on design projects for leading international design manufacturers. With the salon she explores ‘the future of furniture design’ and ‘the changing position of the designer’.
STUDIO | INEKEHANS designs industrial furniture and products as well as handmade items produced in smaller batches. Next to that the studio works on exhibitions and architectural commissions. Ineke started off by initiating furniture and product collections herself, which are still sold via INEKEHANS | COLLECTION today. Her early work centred around pictograms and archetypes, but has evolved in many ways; investigating the psychological roots of products, perceiving and playing with the interaction between people, objects and space.
Ineke is recognised for her down-to-earth and simultaneously hybrid design approach with a focus on detail, function and clarity, an interest in the vernacular and of things to come.
All her work is based on the interest to design and define projects that fit into new ways of living, new materials and appropriate production methods. Old and brand new production methods are used in intelligent, unconventional ways. Crafts, industrial methods, and digital production are equally important: ‘We have to cherish all skills,’ she explains. ‘Designers can use them to make products by challenging the old techniques, just as they have to stretch the limits of a modern laser cutter and recent open source methods. Innovative materials and production techniques and thinking about future human values and habits have become most important triggers for new work and make it multi-layered, playful and social.’
Ineke’s portfolio contains work for leading international manufacturers including Arco, Cappelini, Iittala, Lensvelt, Magis, Offecct, Royal Ahrend, RoyalVKB, and for clients such as Cooper Hewitt Museum (NY), Royal Dutch Forestguard, Shorefast Foundation (CA) and Dutch governmental organisations.
“You now have a whole generation of people who aren’t so interested in possessions anymore – they are interested in the experience”
Now, Ineke has collaborated with our own Hitch Mylius for the first time. The result of this collaboration is FLIX – a playful system that works for both formal and informal spaces, offering multiple and single seating options.
With a minimum of components it’s possible to create a range of configurations for office, hospitality and co-working environments. FLIX also offers many options to play with materials, fabric colours and textures.
‘When we first talked, they really wanted something that was a little more soft,’ Ineke says, recalling her initial discussions with Hitch Mylius. ‘They have quite a lot of ‘hard’ furniture. They also spoke about the possibility of high backs – but at the same time there are high backs everywhere, so I didn’t really want to do just another high back.
‘That’s why I thought more about the idea of starting with a system – so basically there’s the same mould for the shells, you have a low arm and then you have a different back. There are a number of backs you can choose from – there’s a low one, a higher one and a super-high one, which means that you can play with the system. It’s a bit of a Lego system.
‘Then there are three different bases – a swivel base, a wooden base and a metal tube – and you can make it into two-seaters, into three-seaters or even into a whole beam. You can play with it – it’s very flexible and it fixes situations. That is why it is called FLIX – although my son is called Felix, so it is a nice combination of those words!
‘Above all it is softer. Spaces are getting smaller and contract spaces are getting a lot more domestic, so it gives a slightly different touch. Contract clients are looking to reconfigure, to change and at the same time they want the comfort.
‘This is not rocket science – it is a system that can help people to organise their spaces. If you look at offices today, you no longer have the classic situation of a desk, a swivel chair and a filing cabinet. Filing cabinet makers are having a really hard time! Now, because we are so mobile, we work anywhere and the only reason a lot of people go to work in the office is for meetings. Therefore, these flexible areas are now so important – more important than ever. I’m really happy that we’ve been able to create a system that works in many different situations and, according to the fabrics you put on it, can be much more serious or feel much more domestic. ‘
We ask Ineke how familiar she was with Hitch Mylius before the FLIX collaboration. ‘As you know, I studied in London and I worked here for quite a while before returning to Holland,’ she tells us. ‘I knew Hitch Mylius from the time I was studying here. I knew Tristram (Mylius) at that time – and this was a long time ago now! I only properly reconnected with the company about four years ago – although we always seemed to be talking about doing a project together, somehow it never seemed to work out. So when I moved back to London two years ago, we decided it was finally time to do something together!
‘We had a couple of conversations. They told me about the projects they were working on and what their clients were saying they wanted and needed for their projects.
‘One of the reasons I came back to London was that I did a research project last year. When I was working in Holland in the studio I realised that – and this wasn’t about being in Holland in a studio – it was about working in design, working in furniture and you know that a lot of things are changing around you…and when you’re stuck on your own treadmill it is not easy to pay attention to everything that is changing in furniture around you. So I decided to set up salons here in London. I set up 12 in London last year. I specifically wanted to do that in London because furniture is what I studied here and furniture is also where my heart lies.
‘As I was saying, spaces are getting smaller and more expensive – especially here in London, which is really under the magnifying glass. We have seen that the classic ‘hardcore’ contract furniture companies have struggled, so this was a great opportunity to see how design and designers are changing. Furniture has had to change and the way it is delivered has also changed. You now have a whole generation of people who aren’t so interested in possessions anymore – they are interested in the experience. These kids have a completely different idea of how they want to live and how they want to work. They can’t stand the idea of sitting at a desk for an entire day – that is completely alien to them. They are the ones who are now starting to dictate how and what we design in contract furniture and what the office looks like.
‘You have to be honest – some things you can do with furniture and some things you can’t. You can make your furniture reconfigurable. You can at least try to organise your product in such a way that it is a set of ingredients you can play with and configure for specific situations. What’s more, the interior designer has their own experience – they get to play with the Lego!’