It’s rare to hear a coat rack described as sci-fi, but just brush your hand across Rene Siebum’s recent Wardrobe project—a tessellating field of wooden hexagons—and you may think you’re playing with sophisticated visual effects. The temptation to touch the smooth mahogany blocks is unavoidable, and deliberate. The Dutch designer wants to encourage that kind of interaction, to create products with tactile attraction.
“Style for me is capturing the essence of an object, what it should be or do,” he says. “For me, design is about making things beautiful and telling stories.”
A Design Academy Eindhoven graduate who realized “business and numbers” weren’t his thing, Siebum still found himself drawn to mathematics, specifically geometry and clean, spatial design. While the influence of his country’s design culture plays a role in his process, his attraction to minimalist architecture, such as the work of Shigeru Ban, has been more informative. His simple stool, for example, is just a stack of small blocks influenced by the shape of the human spine. For Wardrobe, which he designed last August and presented at Milan in April, he played with shapes to create a system people could touch and experience. It’s a process of challenging convention, “exploring the boundaries, not taking the old customs of woodworking as fact,” which he’s done since he started working with wood in high school. During class, teachers constantly told him his geometric desk project was too complicated, until he finished it. As his evolving work demonstrates, he’s won’t shy away from the challenge of refining an idea.
“Design has the life expectancy of a picture,” he says, “it’s becoming sort of like fashion. I want to show how I’m thinking when I design.”