Director of East London-based practice POST-OFFICE, Philippe Malouin is a designer in demand. After several years working for English design maestro Tom Dixon, the 35-year-old started out on his own back in 2009.
Today his award-winning portfolio includes tables, chairs, lights, art objects and installations. While a rising profile has brought a burgeoning workload, the Montreal native still imbues his creations with a sense of handcrafted solidity and permanence.
ArchiExpo caught up with Malouin for a quick chat in his Hackney-based studio.
ArchiExpo: When it comes to design, which is more important for you: aesthetics, function or durability?
Philippe Malouin: I think they are all very interlinked. For me, it’s all about choosing materials that are aesthetically pleasing, but that also have durability. I’m not against mass production, but we like to produce things with a weight and delicacy that mean the owner wants to keep and cherish them. I always wanted to produce items for people that weren’t insanely expensive, which obviously relates to manufacturing techniques, as well as the materials being used.
ArchiExpo: You’re renowned for using an eclectic range of materials in your work. Typically which comes first the design or the material?
Philippe Malouin: When we had a lot of time to work we would experiment with materials first and push where those materials could go. We applied one action to a range of products. This is known as process-based design. For example, we took MDF and polished it up to such a degree that we created an interesting laminated, painterly effect.
These days, however, we have 17 projects on the go, so it becomes a little bit more difficult to work how we did in the beginning. We can’t always spend weeks trying things out. Now we work with a little bit more of an industrial design focus, but still using a process that focuses heavily on materials. We keep the extreme hand-made experimentation for special projects such as solo or gallery shows.
ArchiExpo: You’ve often stated that you don’t really follow trends. What about other young or established designers whose work you admire?
Philippe Malouin: To me, people are far more important than trends. There are certainly people of my age and generation who inspire me. Max Lamb is a favorite of mine—he’s a master of materials—as well as Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren of Glithero. Daniel Rybakken is also an incredible designer. Perhaps from the older generation, my biggest inspiration has always been Charles and Ray Eames. They’re such an inspiration to me because their studio didn’t only deal with product design—it was obviously predominantly a design studio, but they also worked with film, graphics, plays, dance and other types of social interaction.
ArchiExpo: Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now? Where can people see your work in the near future?
Philippe Malouin: As you can see from our studio wall—we’re very busy. Two interiors in London; a residential project in Canada; various private commissions; a series of settees, chairs and stools for an American company; product collections for companies in Italy, New Zealand and America; sanitary ware for an Italian company; and stoneware and glassware for English companies.
We have a big outdoor public art installation in the United States in December for Art Basel Miami Beach, art installations in Lebanon and London, a big sculpture in London and a gallery show in Monaco. These are all coming up soon. So it’s a bit overwhelming, but we’re on top of it.