Nico Hendriksz and Anton Louw are the dynamic duo behind Cape Town-based furniture design studio, Kino. The two recently won the Best of 100% Talent award at the recent 100% Design showcase. They talk to us about their making process, materials, and sustainability.
How did you find your way into furniture design?
We spent a lot of time in the workshop while studying Industrial Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), This is where we realized our love for working materials, especially wood.
We opened a woodworking workshop in 2014, and spent the first period of that time building skills and relationships in the industry. This was valuable time spent on skills development, material knowledge, and supplier relationships. At the start of 2017 we finally had the courage to start our own furniture brand.
How would you describe your point of view, and how does this come through in your work?
There are so many furniture pieces available on the market and it’s important for us as a young brand to find our place. We have asked ourselves, “Does the world really need another furniture piece?” Yes, of course it does, but only if we can reflect a fresh approach to furniture design.
We have an appreciation for quality work and strive to reflect this quality in our products. Our work must look just as good from underneath as from above.
Describe your studio space, how it influences your work and supports your design process?
We recently relocated our workshop to a farm in Durbanville. This offers beautiful surroundings and a nice break away from the city noise. This space is much bigger than our previous workshop, which allows us to structure the workflow and also provides room for future expansion.
What comes first – the materials or the design idea?
I would say about 60/40 for the design idea. I don’t think we can separate the two entirely, as the material choice plays such an important role in the design.
Sketching a concept on paper or computer provides great freedom as you are not restricted by what is possible with a certain material. However, the design often restricts material options and every material has its advantages as well as limitations. The art is to consider the material, as well as the form and function of a product, and bring these elements together in the most effective way.
Tell us about the various materials you use and where do you source them from?
Woodworking is our core material and we love to combine wood with other materials to create a unique aesthetic or contrast, which often improves the functionality of the product.
We love contrast and black at the moment. We are also starting to explore new textures.
Our most recent product, the Botanic Cupboard, is a perfect example of this love for contrast and combination of materials. This piece features a black Ash exterior, somewhat geometric in shape, with hints of contrasting white Ash in the legs and handle detail. Open the cupboard, and explore the unexpected combination of geometry and organic, colourful surface appearance.
The interior is lined with a Botanic wallpaper, designed by Room13 and supplied by Robin Sprong.
Can you describe from beginning to end how a piece of furniture?
We start with the function or purpose of the product. The function dictates the form and ergonomics. The details and material choice make the design complete. Thereafter, we figure out how to bring this design to life. In other words, we consider the best options in terms of production and joinery of the parts.
I would say that the design comes somewhat instinctively, and that our main goal is to perfect the production. This involves making jigs, prototypes and experimenting with finishes.
Do you see any movements within the industry that can be described as unique to young` South African designers?
I see a lot of products made from Birch plywood and steel components coming from young designers. I believe production processes like CNC routing and laser cutting has become more accessible, which makes it an attractive option for young designers. It also gives young designers the opportunity to manufacture, without having a large workshop or workforce.
Do you work in a sustainable way?
Yes, I believe our sustainability is built into our material choices and quality of product. The production and material quality must be an investment to a long lasting furniture item. Products with a long lifespan, automatically becomes sustainable products if combined with conscious material choices.
Our suppliers provide us with timber that is sustainably sourced, and this is a comforting advantage of working with such a wonderfully sustainable material such as wood. We are also quite good at keeping our off-cuts to a minimum. This comes with careful planning and also with having a range of different sized products, from small to large, which allows us to be material efficient.
What’s your favourite piece from your studio?
Our floor mirror is quite a special piece for us. The design is clean, but features a wide combination of materials, processes and engineered components to create the final product. A simple concept, that employs various production processes to reach quality result.
What have been some of the challenges you faced in setting up your own creative business?
It is very difficult to convince a public of quality, only with images. Furniture is something that needs to be seen in true form in order to assess the craftsmanship. This is still a challenge to us with not yet having our own showroom, building trust in the quality of a brand takes time. You have to prove yourself and the quality that you are capable of, before you can expect to receive commissioned work of value.
In the start of our creative business, we did everything ourselves, and often still do. This includes being a designer, craftsman, workshop manager, receptionist, accountant, cleaning dude, etc. all at once. It is challenging taking on all these responsibilities and just as challenging letting go of them and putting your trust in someone else
What new projects can we look forward to seeing from you next?
We will keep exploring different combinations of materials and forms. We are also exploring the capabilities of more advanced machinery. This will definitely spark some new ideas. Currently, we are working on a desk as well as a drinks cabinet. Stay tuned.
See the beautiful collection below: