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The Secret to Simple, Elegant & Sustainable Design


Interview with Designer | Jose Manuel Ferrero

Have you ever tried to create a product system that was designed and built with sustainability in mind, yet could reach and appeal to an international audience? How would you start the project?

I heard the words ‘Simple and elegant is often the most difficult to produce’ and these words seemed to ring true, in a profound way that could be applied to describing any type of design. In this instance, I was listening to a conversation between a top furniture designer, Jose Manuel Ferrero and the manufacturer of the Hattie chair. I was of course captivated. Like a fly on the wall getting the inside view of designing and producing a product that resembled simple and elegant design, yet made with sustainable materials.

I joined the conversation with intrigue as I wanted to understand more about how a designer goes about creating a sustainable design. Where do you start? In answering this Jose said ‘You don’t wake up one day and say I am going to build a sustainable design. It takes a structure to be put in place, which is built up over many years.’

At this moment, on hearing these words, I thought to myself, that anything worth achieving is usually the result of hard work. However, it also takes a sustained focus, and for that focus to be important to you, in order to keep manoeuvring up and over any hurdles. It sounds easy to ‘make a chair in a sustainable way’ and yet if any of us tried to go about doing this, where would we start? Yet we almost expect sustainably manufactured products to be ‘the norm’, that someone else has worked out ‘that bit’ and we can just carry on as always when we purchase products to create inspiring interior designs for hospitality. Sustainable products used to be more expensive and yet this is no longer always true. No longer can price or lead times be the reason that sustainable products are not bought.

I listened intently to learn about how this once small manufacturing company had always valued local production, and that this was always a core philosophy of theirs. Over the years, this had then grown into experimenting with different environmentally-friendly materials. Materials that could still be strong and create an aesthetically pleasing look. In this case, I was learning about recycled polypropylene which incorporated post-industrial polymers and recycled material resulting from bottle caps as well as ways waste can be reduced during the production process.

But what about the design? As that is where the magic is. The essence and the feel of a product start with the designer. Jose wanted to ‘create something flexible’, to design a system rather than just a product so that the client can feel total freedom to ‘create their own version’ through the selection of materials, colours and wood finishes. A system is always trickier to communicate as there is not just one headline look because there are thousands of possibilities. A simple, flexible design has the capacity to fit into any interior design with comfort and ease.

One of Jose’s creative inspirations is the literary character Phileas Fogg. When this came up in conversation, Jose explained he liked that Phileas believed that he could go around the world, and found the creativity used to arrive on time from point to point was truly inspiring. It can often feel like this in design. At first, people can say ‘your crazy’ but then you find a way to get from point to point.

I left this conversation, feeling the passion and vision behind this one furniture designer. I had learned the journey behind a furniture range that had grown and developed over the years and had international appeal. The thought, skill, and knowledge that had gone into creating a simple, elegant, and sustainable chair, which is suitable for hospitality, education, or the workplace.

As for knowing the secret behind creating a simple, elegant, and sustainable design, I think this can be summed up as having a vision combined with a perfectionist edge when it comes to manufacturing alongside the determination to keep trying new ways.

To find out more about sustainable contract furniture, click here.

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