6 lessons designer Tom Dixon has taught us

Livingetc discovers what makes designer Tom Dixon tick

Tom Dixon is a designer who ‘likes to know how things are put together’ – a curiosity that led him to start out welding chairs from salvaged railings. After ten years at the helm of Habitat as head of design, he established his eponymous brand in 2002, going on to produce such iconic pieces as the Wingback Chair and Mirror Ball pendant. With a growing line of accessories and interiors projects under his belt, it seems Britain’s furniture maverick is just getting into the swing of things… We interviewed him to find out what makes him tick…

1. “‘Extraordinary objects for everyday use’
is my mantra. I guess I’m trying to create a modern take on British design – whatever that looks like. I’ve never been a big one for comfort. I’ve got the industrially produced things in the collection, like the car headlight-inspired pendant lamps, which are very masculine. As the collection gets bigger, I’m able to work in a couple of different aesthetics.”

2. “For me, successful designs are never
‘mono’. Too many designers have a mono aesthetic – your house should have a different feel in every room, from the bedroom, where it can be warm and soft, to the kitchen, which is a machine for manufacturing food. Shoreditch House is a good example of that. I like people to go through a sort of adventure, from space to space – like ghost trains, where you go through different events.
Contrast is the key for any space, whether it’s texture, shape, colour or materials.”

3. “There isn’t really a piece of design I would love to own. I’m not very acquisitive – the more I design, the less I want things. But I like things like transport – I’ve got a Fifties Bentley that I’m currently restoring. It’s that type of thing that I covet – I like big objects.”

4. “The people that have inspired me are engineers and sculptors. From Noguchi and Hepworth all the way to Anish Kapoor.
And the more maverick engineers, like Eiffel – you can see the Pylon chair has taken direct influence from him. When I joined Habitat, I went to see all of the masters – I met Castiglioni and Panton and lots of extraordinary people, just before they died. Philippe Starck is quite inspirational. It’s not that I like his stuff, but you have to admire his openness to the new and for being the only recognised designer in the world – ever.”

5. “There are several career-changing objects, like the S-Chair that I did for Cappellini, which got into New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The Mirror Ball pendants kind of powered the company along for a little while, so that piece has actually allowed other ideas to flourish.”

6. “I recently designed the Mondrian London
hotel. The original building is called Sea Containers House, so the idea was that the rooms were ship’s cabins – they’re relatively small spaces but with amazing views. But the main challenge was the furniture. The battering a hotel gets is unique – it’s like a new family moving into your house every day. I mean, it has to be able to be cleaned constantly and bullet- proof, basically.
But it was a good lesson in how to make things robust and really thinking through every misuse things can be put to.”

Learn more about Tom Dixon’s designs and interiors projects.

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