Current projects: We recently launched two new products: the Drawer Table for the Dutch brand Arco, and the Aline bar stool for the Swedish company Johanson. In addition, we recently designed one kilometer of balconies for an apartment building in Haarlem, the Netherlands.
Portrait by Gerard van Bree
Mission: I'd like to design products and projects that are clear, clean and clever. I try to make them innovative by using new materials or techniques, or because they deal with changing social habits. I like to look at my work as "characters"—but they have to be able to stand the test of time.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? I started to study art, but soon realized that I was not a painter but a sculptor, and that I liked to think about how people deal with objects: how they use them, or not use them, or recognize their use.
Education: I studied 3D Design at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, then did an M.A. in furniture design at the Royal College of Art, London.
First design job: I was an intern at Studio Sipek in Amsterdam. I worked on all kinds of jobs that came up in the studio, but also had a project on my own and designed special packages for Sipek's glass works. That was presented during the Milan fair in 1989, but it did not really get produced. (Welcome to the world of design!)
Inside Hans's studio in Arnhem
Who is your design hero? Rietveld is one of them. His furniture changed a lot from the red/blue/yellow chair to the more "industrial-thought" work of his later years. I like all of it also because he dared to change along the years!
Describe your workspace: Colorful and spacious, with lots of loose papers and notes on my desk, lots of plants and lots of light
Other than the computer, what is your most important tool? My brain, my pen, my sketchbook and my hands
Hans's new Drawer Table is a rethinking of the classic kitchen table, intended to be used for a variety of activities throughout the day.
The drawers are lined with recycled PET.
What is the best part of your job? Puzzling and thinking about difficult problems. Solving them and turn things into products that look like they have always been meant to be like that.
What is the worst part of your job? Administration, paperwork and dealing with the business part. I really hate it and find that it makes it difficult to start conversations with new people.
What time do you get up and go to bed? I'm out of bed at 7:30 to 8:00 in the morning, and back into bed at 2:00 a.m.
What is your favorite productivity tip or trick? Not too many people and no noises around me, and a serious deadline coming up
What is the most important quality in a designer? Clever thinking and poetic hands. I like it when head and heart go together in products.
What is exciting you in design right now? We have some great projects and collaborations coming up, with nice clients. This April in Milan we'll be showing work with Iittala, and it looks like we might start doing some projects in London.
In Haarlem, Hans designed one kilometer worth of balconies for an apartment building by the architects Kühne & Co.
The balcony "leaves" hang out from the facade and prevent pedestrians on street level from seeing onto the balconies.
If you could redesign anything, what would you choose? I have thought for a long time that I wanted to work on a camper van. The idea is that you are out for a holiday and it's supposed to be more flexible than camping—but there is a total lack of a camping feeling with most of them. Nowadays, most of them contain what you already have at home: a TV, even a shower! And I have always found it unbelievable that campers look like movable fridges. So I would love to have a go at one. It feels like a super interesting project where you have to deal with how you experience space and deal with space where there is little available.
What do you hope to be doing in ten years? I hope I'm still working with some of the clients we work for today—perhaps art directing for one or two of them—and also with potential new clients that we have been in touch with over the last number of years, but so far haven't been able to start collaborating with because of time or other commitments. Other than that, I'd like to mix working on furniture and products with working on public spaces—I see the studio doing a mix of interiors, installations, exhibitions, architecture and outdoor spaces.
Lastly, who's more fun to have a drink with: architects, industrial designers, or graphic designers? All of them, but also: ARTISTS! I live with one!