Text by Irene Labruna
Portrait by Boudewijn Bollmann
Love for experimenting
This year, during Salone del Mobile 2018, the Borek brand presented its new collaboration with Maarten Olden, Frans van Rens, Marcel Wolterinck, Eric Kuster, Remy Meijers, Bertram Beerbaum at Masterly in the Palazzo Turati. I had the pleasure to meet Maarten Olden, and gain some further insights.
Irene Labruna: First, I would like to focus on your personal concept of ‘home’; how does it govern your design process?
Maarten Olden: To put it simply, home is where I meet my relatives and friends, a place where I can share the mundane activities of the everyday life with my children and my love. In particular while cooking.
IL: As both a designer and an architect, which aspect comes to mind when I say the word ‘house’?
MO: Yes, I have an architectural background as well. According to that background, my answer would be space. I study how space and its elements interact with each other. I just finished setting up my new bedroom; it could be described as a house within a house. By building this little pod in the attic, we have our privacy, like in a niche.
IL: Back to your designs; it’s obvious that you interact with materials a great deal.
MO: Honestly, material experimentation is my overriding passion. It is the starting point for me to end up with a successful result. The tool I work with is SolidWorks, then I print drawings generated by this very precise programme. To see whether my idea is feasible, I have to get my hands dirty. To find a solution, I analyse, test and play with materials. I often switch more than one material during experimentation. Nevertheless, it’s never a waste of time. I consider it my way of gaining knowledge and applying it not only to my projects. In my mind, I store both successful and unsuccessful experiences, and these memories help me to question design and train my critical senses and problem-solving mind-set. This process constantly feeds the feeling of pure love that I have for my job.
IL: During Milan Design Week the Borek brand will be presenting your Monsaraz garden furniture at Masterly. Did this originate from material research as well?
MO: Naturally. I was captivated by the combination of a rather low-tech process with high-tech material. In addition, the brand offered me aluminium in a more domestic look, in ordinary rope shapes. I made a model a long time ago, at a scale of 1:5 with open weaving. The models came from a study in which I was searching for more feminine lines in garden furniture, because I wanted to create something different that was intriguing from all sides. There is an optical effect due to the layering of graphic striped surfaces in different directions, which allows a game of weight elevation. It’s very interesting in the case of armchairs and sofas.
IL: Was there any other inspiration related to the aesthetic?
MO: Actually, the construction technique is based on an archetypical one. When the Second World War was over, Dutch people left Indonesia to return to their homeland. They brought rattan furniture with them, which brought an exotic style into an entirely new and different culture. Later in the 80s, rattan became a trend, used for restaurants and terraces in particular. Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to withstand the Northern European climate when placed outdoors, so to be more functional Indonesian companies replaced the material with aluminium. The yarn feels more natural and it makes seating more comfortable and suitable for indoor use as well, since it is easier to combine with interior fabrics and furniture.
This interview was published in the magazine The Dots no.15 and distributed during the Milan Design Week 2018 where work by Maarten Olden was presented at Masterly.