Dutch Duo Crafts Contemporary, Efficient Office Furniture

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By Jane Szita / Published by Dwell
Dutch designers Makkink & Bey prove that flexible furnishings can increase efficiency in the modern workplace.

Jurgen Bey is a designer on the move. He splits his time among three locations: his studio in Rotterdam; Amsterdam’s Sandberg Institute, where he teaches; and in the countryside, where he lives with his family. Though each place has its own "rhythm," he says, "I am very disciplined about what I do, when, and where."

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The extended wings of Studio Makkink & Bey’s Ear chair for Prooff provides visual and aural privacy in the workplace.

Tapping into his own peripatetic work habits, Bey—along with his partner, the architect Rianne Makkink—joined forces in 2006 with Leo Schouten to form the office furniture company Prooff. They focus on atypical, ahead-of-the-curve products and in-depth research projects (the most recent concerned office acoustics). "The goal isn’t to develop a big company," says Bey, "but to slowly develop a product line that’s connected and coherent: a family of things with a strong identity."

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Their WorkSofa collection is a series of modular benches in gradient hues that can be grouped for presentations or casual meetings.

Prooff’s current collection includes Makkink & Bey’s Ear chair, with an asymmetrical, wraparound headrest; the quirky-but-practical wall-hung PhoneBox by Axia Design; and UNStudio’s spatially intriguing SitTable. What they all have in common is an attempt to subvert what Bey calls the "busying" tendency of the modern office: "In open-plan spaces, you need to create the opportunity for privacy," he says.

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Rianne Makkink and Jurgen Bey joined forces with Leo Schouten to form the office furniture company Prooff in 2006.

Paradoxically, Bey believes that envelopes of privacy lead to greater exchange. "The idea behind Ear chair and the other pieces is to create an intimate space, the kind of setting where you can have a meeting without going into a special room," he says. "We focus on enabling informal interaction, the kind of furniture that makes it possible for people from different departments to encounter and exchange knowledge with each other."