You may or may not know the Dutch designer Marcel Wanders by name, but you've definitely seen his very contemporary designs before.
Born in the Netherlands, Wanders is known for his eccentric home designs and otherworldly interiors. Throughout his career, he has established himself as one of those design superstars who has never played by the rules -- and he most likely never will. Whether it's a life-sized horse-shaped lamp that he picked out for his company Moooi or a lavish hotel lobby designed by him and completely covered in a whimsical pattern, Wanders' creations have never failed to excite and surprise his admirers.
We had a quick phone chat with Wanders at his Amsterdam studio and were similarly surprised to find out that the designer, despite his thoroughly modern aesthetic, is quite the traditionalist (and philosopher) when it comes to design: "There is nothing that grows old faster than the new," he said.
Scroll down to see our Q&A with him about his work and life and where he thinks design is heading.
What has your design inspiration been throughout the years?
What's key to my work is the idea that I would make design work that’s durable and lives with people for a long time. It's been a key element since the beginning of my work and still is today. So in all my designs, I try to put in my respect for the aging of things by using old traditions and old materials, whether it's through the typology, shapes, craft or color schemes.
Was there a defining moment in design for you personally?
When I was 27 or 28, I felt very alone in the world of design, and I didn't have anyone that I felt I could talk to. My girlfriend said to me, "If you want someone to talk to, how would that person find you?" So I learned to communicate better with the world and with myself. I came to understand that I couldn't search for all the things I looked for, but that I had to become the person that other people would look for and speak out loud to tell the message. So I think communication has become more important to me than other designers.
Aside from your girlfriend during that moment, has there been a person who's inspired you in the past?
In the early years of my life I met Tony Robbins and I learned a lot from him, and he was an important person who was a teacher for me. This might mean very something very different in the States. [Chuckles]
The world of design is a very different place now from what it was five years ago. Have you been approaching design differently?
The rules for design are changing rapidly, the rules for industrialization has changed, and the market where ... is changing. I don’t think I’ve changed my design philosophy; the quality of products and the meaning of products is something I continue to develop in my work. But there are more and more ways to reach the market now. And we actually have quite a lot of products that we don’t need and we throw away, so I say let's buy less and have more fun with the things we have.
So what's it like in Marcel's world, where all your ideas come from?
It's like one of my hotels. It's a mix and juxtaposition of all things: colors, cultural references, rational and emotional things, soft and hard, light and dark spaces. I like to make design that really makes your day.
You've also collaborated with a lot of companies as a designer. How do you go about deciding on who to work with?
As a designer, I want to realize a vast amount of great product. I like to work on really high-end products, but I also like to make simple objects for the majority of people, and brands like Target allow me to do that. What I look for is mutual respect, so that together we can do something that neither of us can do alone.
Five essentials that you always carry with you?
My passport, lip gloss, eight-hour facial cream, a bottle of water (and a little bottle that reorganizes the pH level in my water), and food supplements. I also always carry a book with me; I've been reading a lot of classics lately.
I'd live in Amsterdam, but my favorite city is Tokyo. It's a fabulous city that's so beautiful, so well-engineered and has so much going on.
And what does your Amsterdam home look like?
It's small and delicate and has a modern surrounding. I have a cabinet by the maestro Alessandro Mendini, the Italian designer, and a mural that's in the making by the fantastic artist Femke Hiemstra.
Three words that describe you?
Romantic, passionate, straightforward.
What projects are you working on now?
There's a hotel in Amsterdam that is opening in August. It's the first Hyatt boutique hotel in Amsterdam with 122 rooms, and it's right by the canals. I'm excited because it's very creative and fun.
Where do you see design heading?
We are making new antiques. The iPhone is important now but it isn't going to be important in 20 years. Some things are more lasting and we don't have too many of these objects in our culture, so it's important that we create these types of products.
See the slide show below of interiors and home products designed by Wanders. All photos courtesy of Marcel Wanders Studio.