Piet Hein Eek is collaborating with IKEA for FY 18. This will be Piet’s second collaboration with the Swedish furniture giant, and this time around, Eek will bring to us INDUSTRIELL- a limited edition furniture line that’ll celebrate the beauty of handmade through intentional imperfections.

Together they aim to bring in variation to products through slight change in material and make, which will not only affect the final piece {Read: render each piece unique} but will also add that much needed warmth and character, which mass produced furniture often lacks. You know what? This is exactly why I wanted to interview the “Jassa” star. In a dry and daft world where we are constantly under the pressure of perfecting, he comes as a fresh burst of rain for those who love handmade & imperfect.

I had a salubrious 20 minutes with Eek in IKEA Democratic Design Day and here are the takeaways. But before that, who is this guy? Like really!

Imperfections is the key to great design: Piet Hein Eek

Piet Hein Eek, is the undisputed master of recycled wood. No introduction required. Its in the Bible {Rukmini: 1:2}.

It was in late 80’s that Piet produced his first ever waste piece as a student at Design Academy Eindhoven- he presented as his assignment a cupboard made entirely from salvaged floorboards and old planks- which quickly placed Piet on a pedestal he so deserves to be at. Piet Hein eek was the name in everyone’s lips, and the Dutch top designer has been creating fabulous ever since. He lives in Netherlands with his wife and daughters and creates beautiful things for the world to enjoy.

Having followed his work for years and to finally get to see Piet Hein Eek and his upcoming designs in person was truly exhilarating. Found in the world’s plushest gallery, it’s unbelievable that he will bring us commoners a chance to flaunt Piet Hein Eek.

But is that viable? For him, IKEA and for us? And considering we evaluate a lot on price point, will it work in a market like ours?

So I blurt out: How do you see your designs working in an Indian market?

Piet seems unaffected with that question. Which is a great thing because when it comes to India, designers are either skeptical or disappointed. In his calm self he asks me back, “Why wouldn’t it work in India? Because I think people will really like this kind of new, raw, handmade feel to their furniture which I intend to bring through INDUSTRIELL”. It got me pondering that maybe I should stop asking this question. If I, being a commoner, can go gaga over Scandinavian design, why won’t the rest of the country. And preferences are changing. We don’t like garish fabric or hefty cumbersome things anymore. And often its a matter of availability than choice. I should stop asking this and ask better questions perhaps. For example,

How did this come about? This whole idea of creating something uniqueness in a mass produced line? And will it affect the cost that IKEA is known for?

“When IKEA approached me, it turned out that we had been wanting to explore the same thing for ages – how to give objects individuality while still having an industrial production process. When you work together, you invest in, and learn from, each other.” says Piet Hein Eek.

Through implementations of technology and algorithm, this, Eek says, will be made possible. This will allow Eek and IKEA to offer unique designs to many people without making it too expensive.

Our 20 minutes was getting shorter by the minute though I still had to know one more question nagging in my head. And this question is the mother of all questions

What design philosophy do you generally work on? What are you mostly thinking when you start a new project? Let us in

“I get that a lot! I think its respecting Material, Technique and Craftsmanship. You must respect material, technique and craftsmanship individually. Use up natural materials that are easily available around you other than sourcing it. That alone will lead you to do a lot more and lot effectively.” And he fills us up with an amazing story of his place in Netherlands where he turned an old mill into a restaurant & stay, using natural materials and local techniques for getting maximum impact out of the place. He adds, “With natural things in and around you, you can make honest furniture. And that never loses charm because even if it gets old or scratched, it still looks beautiful. It gets better with time and its aesthetic value never diminishes. It is not factory perfect but products that aren’t perfect still can appeal to our sense of aesthetic and functionality.”

Music to my ears Piet, music to my ears. And all along I had to explain why do I pick up old furniture off the street. Because time. Because worn. Because story. It was such a happy dance inside my head that we thought we’d take a blurry selfie. Don’t ignore my deformed face. That’s a natural happy contortion.

But finally it was time to address the elephant in the room. Do we still have time? God damn.

But Piet, you are found in world’s most revered galleries. Why mass?

“Oh yes. People were sort of upset about the mass produced idea. But I think it was a good idea to collaborate because by doing so my IKEA designs will be available to a much wider audience. And the opportunities with such large numbers are completely different. I am not used to this so it was good to step out of the comfort zone. And both Ikea and I wanted to explore how can we make good design more accessible to the masses where the price remains low but you still get a product that feels its specially made for you.”

And pop goes 20 minutes! Just when the conversation gets better, the clock gives up. Always!

A sketch of the ever so popular chair from INDUSTRIELL from Piet’s own website

New is not a goal in its own right, but the result of a process whereby the existing elements and the possibilities form the starting point.

Yeah, never ask me now why old furniture and windows okay? Because Piet said.

You know, when people wanted Marcus and Mia, all I wanted was 15 minutes with Piet. Because there is no other who picks up things around him and turns it into something worthy of spotlight. I am sorry, but I am biased. And that alone connects with me in so many levels. Remember I told you all that if I die, I’ll go to furniture heaven given the amount of furniture I picked off the curb? I think if I did get there I’ll find Piet Hein Eek as the God of that heaven. Ya, alright, he will look pretty perfect playing God if I must add.

And what does all of this mean to us? Regular people?

Well, what it will mean is, designer collections will lace the aisles for us with global designs and put revered designers at our reach. Not online but you can touch and feel them before you make a decision. You will have a chance to connect to a product before you shell out your money. It means that you can be the proud owner of designer furniture and home ware and not feel shortchanged. This also means, you saying more of, “Oh, my home needs a chair that can be passed on to my next generation” over, “lets buy one chair”. This means we will finally start to appreciate furniture and look beyond its textbook purpose. This means we will finally connect with something we buy because you know someone has thought over and over it and created something special for you.

You know, the thing is- IKEA in India will not only mean great, global home improvement products but amazing home improvement products, at a price we will be happy with and designs that will make us proud to own. This will be revolutionary.

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