This month, we’re celebrating all things modern design, thanks to our semi-annual Design Event happening now at Lumens.com. We’ll be highlighting pieces that have made design history, new and buzzworthy introductions and the stories behind contemporary work from all over the globe.
From bold lighting and furniture designs, to baroque-meets-modern interiors, to glam cosmetic cases—powerhouse Marcel Wanders has brought his provocative style to designs both big and small.
He’s considered a bit of an anomaly in the design world, dubbed by the New York Times as the “Lady Gaga of design.” Sure enough, Wanders balances a mix of modern silhouettes with touches of traditional baroque style, moving from simple and functional design to avant-garde statement makers.
The Dutch designer honed his skills first at the Eindhoven Design Academy and then at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten) in Anhem. His education and work eventually led to opening his own Amsterdam studio in 1995 and then to co-founding Dutch design house Moooi, where he is still art director. The company name alone offers a glimpse into the playfulness behind it. Mooi translates to “beautiful” in Dutch—but an extra “o” was included to express an extra beautiful aesthetic.
Since he began, Wanders has embraced the novelty of imperfection in design, eschewing the monotony of the sameness created by industrial techniques. Many of his works have been influenced by the Memphis movement, an incredibly exciting point in the world of design when artists recognized the importance of incorporating individual originality in every aspect of a creation.
Here are a few of the most well-recognized lighting and furniture designs from our favorite “wandering” designer:
Knotted Chair: Quickly gaining attention from designers around the world, the Knotted Chair for Cappellini sent Wanders into design stardom. His use of a low-level technique (macramé) with high-quality materials led to the creation of a not-so-perfect-exactly-perfect creation that portrayed a unique twist on an everyday object. It’s a perfect blend of simplicity and complexity into a design that remains famous today.
Set Up Shade: Wanders readily admits that he is easily bored, so exploring new materials and processes is a key part of his quest for new and inventive designs. In 1989, that exploration led to his Set Up Shade, in which he aimed to bridge contemporary design with traditional functionality. The portrayal of multiple lamp shades is playful and perspective-bending, diffusing a gradient of light from top to bottom.
Egg Vase: This porcelain vase is recognized as one of Wanders’ most elegant pieces—though its origination is perhaps a bit unconventional. The playful form is achieved by stuffing latex condoms with hard-boiled eggs.
Dressed Collection: This expansive collection of tableware is a beautiful expression of Wanders’ subtly in design. Traditional “rules” would mean the decorative part of a design is in plain view, applied to the most important part of a product. With the Dressed collection, however, the rich flowery/baroque pattern is tucked on the underside or delicately used in the silhouettes. The result in a pattern that is overall elegant, light, and distinctly Marcel.
Marcel Wanders is a true pioneer for his innovative use of materials and the creative techniques he utilizes as he borrows hints of historical styling and blends them with inimitable twists in design. His acknowledgement of traditional methods, modern techniques, and innovative design ideas, has earned him notoriety in museum exhibits around the world, collaboations with lighting, furnishings and consumer appliance brands and interior/architectural projects like the Mondrian South Beach hotel in Miami and the Kameha Grand hotel located in Bonn, Germany.
Are there other products or spaces you’d like to see Wanders put his stamp on?