INTERVIEW

Scholten & Baijings

Rotterdam

23 February 2013

Scholten & Baijings is a studio defined by its startling use of colour, emphasis on craftsmanship and and embrace of asymmetrical patterning. Now, its design work will form part of the 100-year anniversary celebrations of the furniture brand Pastoe. Below, one half of the studio - Stefan Scholten - speaks to Disegno.

Founded in 2000 by Scholten and Carole Baijings, Scholten & Baijings has produced work such as the Amsterdam Armoire (2010) for Established & Sons, the Colour Porcelain collection (2012) for 1616 Arita and the Colour Stool (2011) for Karimoku New Standard.

This year, the studio launched its Colour Glass collection for Danish brand Hay at Maison & Objet in Paris: a minimalist set of glassware enlivened by pastel colouring and grid patterning.

Today the studio's work goes on display as part of Like Pastoe 100 years of design innovation, an exhibition opening at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the traditional Dutch brand Pastoe. The exhibition will include Scholten & Baijings's Shift, a cabinet developed for the company in 2012 and the most recent addition to Pastoe's collection.

Below, Scholten speaks to Disegno about colour, working with Pastoe, design handwriting and why the studio obsesses over detail:


What did you want to bring to Pastoe's collection?

Like most Dutch people I grew up with Pastoe furniture. It's a very classic Dutch company, but its products are quite austere: grey and minimal. So when Carole and I were asked to create a product for Pastoe, our first idea was to mix our hand writting with their qualities. We wanted to make a contemporary cabinet.

Was it difficult to differentiate Shift from the rest of the collection?

We have a personal way of using colour and Pastoe has its own colour palette. It's always a challenge to bring in new colours when you work with a company with its own colour system. A lot of brands are beginning to get more and more involved in colour. You suggest a red or a yellow and people say "Oh, well we already have a red and yellow in our collection." There are lots of different yellows and reds but only one will be the right one for the design. That can sometimes be hard to explain to companies, but normally we came to the preferred result in the end. For Pastoe, we created six designer choice cabinets. Then the customer can also mix these colour gradient with Pastoe's standard colour palette. Pastoe was really flexible about it all.

How involved are you in the manufacture of your designs?

We can’t work if we’re not able to be involved in the production process. The design process isn’t just the sketch or the idea: that’s only one small part of the process. We like to be involved in the prototyping and building of the first models. It's a pretty intense process. Adjustments are sometimes needed but if you are able to make them together the end result is always satisfing. If a product is leaving our studio it’s going into the hands of someone who will sell it. We discuss together with the producer how the products will be presented; what the packaging will be like; how the design will be wrapped; what the label will say. It goes really far.

The studio has a very highly-resolved design style. How do you reconcile that style with the traditions and styles of the brands you work for?

It's difficult because we like to add as much of our own handwriting as we can with respect for the DNA of the client . Most of the time our collaborations start out with a request from the client, so we know that the company is interested in a fusion of both. As designers you need to be interested in doing the extra work to get involved in a company’s tradition, but we like to stay close to what we always do: The Atelier way of working. Our name is on the product, so it should be clear that it’s in our handwriting. If you don't look after your own work, you become like a factory producing design after design with no real link between them.

Do you have plans to change your design style?

The Scholten & Baijings handwriting is all about colour, transparancy, layer and grids. We are constantly studying. Our colour use gets stronger and stronger with each design. The more well-known our products become, the more clear the links between them should become. Sometimes a design doesn’t need an fluorescent colour. We're also interested in colours created by texture and composition. We like the idea that there are many different ways to describe our handwriting: people shouldn't just recognise us from our colours.