The art of transformation

Interview with Piet Hein Eek

Upcycling is bang on trend: right now, it's all about reusing old products, not throwing them away. This concept doesn't just benefit the environment; it also helps drive designers across the globe to new creative heights. Designers like Piet Hein Eek. The Dutch creative designs original furniture using materials with a past, giving interiors a wholly unique character. A stunning example of this can be seen at Motel One Amsterdam-Waterlooplein, where the creator cut loose:

His chandeliers made out of old lampshades - discovered at the nearby Waterlooplein flea market - lend the lounge its cosy ambiance. He combined all kinds of old window and door fittings to create the big wall unit in the bar. The paint is starting to peel over here, there's a scratch over there - but who cares? A little wear and tear makes every piece unique. Perfect imperfection, after all, is upcycling's charm. The artist tells us more:

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10 questions for... Piet Hein Eek

Mr Eek, do you have a design philosophy? 
Yes, I do! Well, at least I think I do.

Do you see yourself as an artist, designer or producer? 
If I have to make a choice – and that is only if someone asks me this question – I always say ‘designer’ because design is an integral part of everything I do.

Where do you source the materials for your work? 
It’s the other way around. I’m always inspired by what’s around me. The material is one of the most  important things, that’s also why I started using scrap materials before anybody else did.

What does rubbish mean for you? 
Compared to other people, I don't see a lot of things as rubbish because I can often use them to make new things.

Where do you design your unique pieces? 
Most of the time I do my designing at our office, but also at home or on holiday and when I’m traveling.

When you visit a flea market, what are you looking for?
Actually, my wife is the one who loves flea markets and she collects almost everything. Her collections are always very inspiring. The old lampshade lamp is inspired by her collection of old lampshades. Since she made this collection, we have been using old lampshades for other products too and try to purchase as  any as possible. This is just one example – we collect all kinds of things.


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There is no such thing trash for me. In what other people call trash or rubbish I see design potential.

Piet Hein Eek

What does your home look like? 
Like a flea market! (Not really, but we do have a lot of old stuff and it doesn’t particularly look like a designer’s home.) My wife and I don’t like things to be over-designed and prefer to live in an environment that develops organically.

What does the past mean to you? 
For me, the past is the connection to the future. Nowadays people in general, but designers and other creative people specifically, seem to think that coming up with new ideas is more important. And that the world will provide the means. In reality I think it should be like it was more than hundred years ago. We should use what’s available, already there in abundance in our environment and not the other way around.

What is the best compliment you have ever received for your work? 
I remember a French designer who saw my oak glass case for the first time in Tokyo and he started crying because he thought it was so beautiful. This has happened a few times in my career but this time it really struck me because he loved the glass case so much. It’s one of the highlights of my career. The design came about when I found a large number of square pieces of old float glass in an old lumberyard. If I didn't come across that lucky find, I would have never hit on the idea. Turning the glass into a display case was simply the next logical step.

What is your greatest goal? 
To remain as happy as I am now!

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Watch the Interview Video