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Slow design with Thomas Bentzen x Muuto

The softly spoken and eloquent Danish designer Thomas Bentzen shares his slow and meticulous approach to design with IndesignLive on the Muuto stand during Salone del Mobile Milan.

  • Thomas Bentzen in his studio, photo by Benjamin Lund Nielsen.

  • Thomas Bentzen working on the Loft Chair for Muuto. Photo by Benjamin Lund Nielsen.



BY

April 27th, 2018


IndesignLive: Can you share your design philosophy with us?

Thomas Bentzen: I work mainly with furniture… I’m a slow designer. I work very firmly and know that things take a long time to develop. I put a lot of energy into details, and I follow the process of the products very closely. So, I don’t work on many assignments. I try to keep them few but good, and do my best for each of them.

I think that comfort is essential when you make furniture, and the functionality and aesthetic, of course. But I guess I’m really old school because it’s function and aesthetics.

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“I think that comfort is essential when you make furniture.” – Thomas Bentzen
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What I really like about my job is the process of developing stuff. The drawing, the model-making from small models to big models, working in the wood workshop. Just creating stuff with my hands. I can’t really leave it to others, so I have a very small studio with one guy helping me out. And I like to work on different things with him.

When we go to visit the factories, I’m always there and always learning and being inspired.

My hope by being a slow designer and paying great attention to details and the proportion of stuff is that then I can make something that lasts longer than just a couple of years, and I think that’s really important nowadays.

Thomas Bentzen working on the Loft Chair for Muuto. Photo by Benjamin Lund Nielsen.

Thomas Bentzen working on the Loft Chair for Muuto. Photo by Benjamin Lund Nielsen.

So, along with that process of drawing and making, do you also use digital techniques?

Of course. They are the three tools that cannot work without one another – the drawing, the model making, and the computer designs. Because nowadays when you hand over a product to a prototype developer or to production, you hand over a digital file. You don’t hand over a drawing anymore. But often, for me, it’s a digital file followed by a model. And then there are always prototypes inbetween the production.

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“They are the three tools that cannot work without one another – the drawing, the model making, and the computer designs.” – Thomas Bentzen
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When I present my designs to clients, I never present only renders, it’s always a model. That’s just how I like to work. Also, I think it’s really important that the process of working is a joy while you are doing it. I find more joy in the building rather than making renders, but I still love the computer. It’s an essential tool to understand colour and proportion, but to really judge a piece of design, you need to see it in three dimensions.

The Loft Chair has been released as a stool.

The Loft Chair has just been released in a stool version.

Something that stands out with brands like Muuto and a lot of the other brands you’ve worked for is that there is a real Scandinavian aesthetic, which is very popular. What do you think makes Scandinavian design?

Again, I think it’s the old values of rationality and trying to keep it simple; the functionality. It’s pretty simple, I guess.

It’s not something you think about in daily work because, in a funny way, it’s in your blood because you grew up with the simple stuff. So, I don’t think much about it. I’m standing on the shoulders of some really great designers before me.

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“I’m standing on the shoulders of some really great designers before me.” – Thomas Bentzen
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I think back in the day people lived very simple lives, so we made simple furniture, simple tools, and there was no need for extra detailing. No big, loud, fancy, golden details, it was just simple life in the countryside.

The Enfold Sideboard in a tall format, a new release from Salone del Mobile Milan 2018. Image courtesy Muuto.

The Enfold Sideboard in a tall format, a new release from Salone del Mobile Milan 2018. Image courtesy Muuto.

Can you tell me about the new pieces that you’ve done for Muuto?

So I recently released the Loft Stool and the Enfold Sideboard. The Enfold has been a really nerdy project for me because it’s borne from the beauty you find in industrial objects and the industrial process.

It’s a cabinet that wouldn’t have been possible 25 years ago because we didn’t have the machines to do it. You can see the way it bends at the seams. It has been a trial into what is possible with CNC bending.

It’s hard to see, but the Enfold has a really complicated design in order to make it a simple construction. It uses only one bending program, and you can make the four important parts with the one program.

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“The Enfold has a really complicated design in order to make it a simple construction.” – Thomas Bentzen on his new sideboard for Muuto
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These are the types of things that I find really interesting to dive into throughout the design process. It’s the stuff that you can only learn if you go to the factories and work together with the people who use the machines and see how they work.

Enfold Sideboard, designed by Thomas Bentzen for Muuto.

Enfold Sideboard, designed by Thomas Bentzen for Muuto. Image courtesy Muuto.

What is manufacturing like in Denmark?

It’s getting better, actually, because 60 years ago, all the furniture was produced in Denmark. Then 30 years ago, not much, but now things are actually coming back because the Danish suppliers have adapted to the new demands and they can now compete on quality.

Working together with Muuto is really a pleasure, for example, the new sideboard is developed in Sweden. Likewise, with the Loft Chair, the backrest, seat and frame are developed in Denmark.

Many Danish companies now own their own factories in Poland and Lithuania for example, and there are Danish people who are taking the craftsmanship there. I think it’s cool.

Muuto is available through Living Edge in Australia.

We take five lessons from Swedish design on this story.


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