We like hybrids. Now don’t worry, we’re not going to start getting all Clarkson and Hammond, discussing whether the new McLaren is better than the Porsche. No, we’re talking stories here – and this is a perfect hybrid between a brilliant young designer profile and a fascinating focus piece. Furthermore (and we know you like a bit of this) there is even an element of social responsibility and design nurturing thrown in here.
We’re in Stockholm with Ola Giertz – rapidly emerging Swedish furniture and product designer, and this year’s recipient of Materia’s Newcomer of the Year.
Ola’s designs are characterised by clarity, simplicity and a utilitarian approach. He strives to create timeless products in which design, material and form are matched in harmonious dimensions and which are designed to meet the needs of the user.
He often sees his work as playful and experimental, always gently twisting not only everyday objects, but also different materials and manufacturing processes in new directions. With a minimalistic touch he creates innovative and sustainable solutions – with the focus very much on furniture, product and interior design.
We should say that Ola also looks the part; from the found glasses and tied back hair, through to the sharp, skinny trousers. He’s even wearing a Lego bowtie – and when we say a Lego bowtie we really do mean a bowtie made from Lego!
Ola’s contribution to Materia’s 2014 range is, however, anything but child’s play. The eye-catching Frame might look simple – but then again, how often do we use the phrase ‘It’s beauty is it’s simplicity’?
Ola graduated in furniture design from the Carl Malmsten Furniture College in 2010. Apart from taking part in numerous exhibitions and fairs, Ola has also been commissioned for various public and private projects. His work ranges from specially designed interior solutions for restaurants through to innovative seating solutions, lighting designs and even jewellery. Ola is based in Helsingborg, Sweden, where he has his own design studio.
The client list is varied and includes companies such as Materia, Götessons, EssemDesign, DesignIdeas LTD, Lappset, Woodpoint and Oriva. ‘I mostly design furniture – but I also design products as well,’ Ola confirms. ‘I like to design different things for different areas – and I already have a wide range of furniture and product designs. I left school in 2010 and started my own company in 2011 – so I’ve been working on my own for three years now.’
‘I mostly design furniture – but I also design products as well…’
We are joined by Materia’s Lasse Kölner – who tells us a little more about the background to the Newcomer of the Year. ‘The first Newcomer was in 2006,’ he explains. ‘The idea behind it was that the founders of the company were both designers and architects when they were young, and they found when designing products that it was very difficult to get them out into the market. They decided that if they had the opportunity later in life to help young students, then they’d do that.
‘We started with Form Design in that first year. They were famous at the time – but only through installations and not through products. We made four products for them in our accessories range – including the now famous wastebasket, which was a great success of course.’
Lasse shows us several more of the Newcomer recipients, which, we’re delighted to see, are still very much part of the Materia offering. Indeed, a number of the recipients have gone on to gain international success and acclaim. We ask how the Newcomer is chosen. ‘We simply try to find students whose products are interesting for our company. Our founders know the design schools in Sweden very well – and we also look to the Greenhouse here at the Fair, where a lot of talented young students are given an opportunity to show their products.’
So how did Ola come on to the Materia radar? ‘I went to Materia about six or seven months ago and showed them some of the ideas I had – and one of these was Frame. I think they hadn’t decided yet about the Newcomer.’
‘This year we struggled for a long time to find a real Newcomer – someone whose products were interesting to us,’ Lasse admits.
‘Then I met with Materia and we had a good connection – and I think they liked my idea and they liked me as a person. They gave me a call and asked me if I’d be interested in being the Newcomer. I said ‘Of course I’d be interested!’ I knew about the concept and I knew some of the past recipients. It is a great opportunity for any young designer in Sweden.’
We move on to talk about the impressive Frame (which, as we speak, is receiving yet more attention from another group of young visitors). ‘The idea came form the frame in a picture or a painting,’ Ola reveals. ‘With the right frame a painting can feel more exclusive and ore valuable. I like the idea that a person can sit in the chair and it frames them – like a three-dimensional painting.
‘I think it has many advantages in that people can sit in many different ways. Also, because it has no back, people can sit facing either direction – and this allows it to sit very well in the middle of a room or space. I think it is a new type of furniture.’
The simplistic beauty of Frame means you can indeed face either direction, or you can straddle it, using one of the sides as a backrest. Looking across now, we see a girl immersed in what is on her smartphone, straddling Frame but with her legs up.
‘When you are at a Fair like this it is good to have something that stands out,’ Ola grins as our group of youngsters takes it in turns to find different sitting positions. ‘I think this kind of furniture – quiet furniture – is becoming more and more important and popular. Maybe this is the best of both worlds – it is open and yet it is private, somehow.’
We agree. Frame is clever. It is, of course, in no way a closed product, yet at the same time it does offer a sense of solitude. This is a product that plays with your mind a little. We like that.
‘I think this kind of furniture – quiet furniture – is becoming more and more important and popular.’
‘When imagination and reality cross paths, an interesting design process occurs,’ Ola muses. ‘This is a simple solution in many ways. We thought about how people would approach it, and I like the fact that people do so in many different ways.’
We tell Ola that, upon first seeing Frame, we were reminded of an iPhone bumper. ‘I hadn’t thought about that,’ he smiles. ‘I think that’s a really good thing. Everyone knows the iPhone and everyone knows the look and shape. I like that.
‘We have already thought about what’s next – about other family members for Frame. Because it is a very simple form, it is easy to add family members – maybe a landscape rectangular model, maybe a big circle or maybe something that can work for two or three people.’
We’ll definitely keep our eyes and ears open.