Best in show: Houtlander's minimal oak furniture is built to last
Posted: 29 August 2017
The winners of Best Furniture Design at 100% Design South Africa this year, Houtlander impressed us with their timeless, streamlined approach. The company began during Phillip Hollander's university days, providing an outlet for him to practise his craft (and make some extra cash on the side). He was later joined by Stephen Wilson, who began his woodworking career as an apprentice to an Austrian cabinet maker in Durban. The pair met on a furniture design programme in Sweden in 2013. Currently favouring a Mid-Century Modern aesthetic and working primarily in oak, Houtlander's products are beautiful and built to last. Here, Phillip fills us in on the rest. Between form and function, what is more important? As they say, 'form follows function', but for us, it has to be function. For one of our chairs, we prototyped about 10 different seat bases, 10 different armrests and 10 different backrests – just to make sure it’s comfortable. We want the use of our furniture to be a pleasant experience. What are your pieces inspired, influenced and informed by? Our latest range is very Mid-Century Modern in style. We are inspired by the craftsmanship that used to go into making a piece of timeless furniture, but we don’t shy away from using technology in our production methods. So, to a large extent, we are led by the way we use new technologies in our manufacturing processes. All the pieces in the spindle back range have turnings in them and we don’t use screws or nails – only wooden joints machined to a 0.1mm accuracy. What are your materials of choice and why? We are currently using mostly oak. Despite what people might think, it is a sustainably harvested hardwood. It has all the properties we are looking for in wood: it's strong, durable and well understood in the market. Tell us a bit about your design process… what does it typically entail from start to finish? We see ourselves as makers first, designers second. So our design process is very workshop-orientated. We start with a concept and translate that into a 3D model – Stephen is a genius on SketchUp 3D modelling. After this we build a prototype out of cheap material and we change it, part by part, until we're happy. We both love being in the workshop so that's where most of the refinement takes place. What’s the one thing you can’t work without? Coffee and a proper Vernier calliper. And lastly, what are you busy with at the moment? Any exciting projects we should keep an eye out for? We are mostly just trying to focus on getting our new range into the market. There is a prospect of collaborating with some other local designers but it’s too soon to start talking about that. Visit houtlander.co.za for more details.