An interview with designer Johan van Hengel on his Folded Shelves for Muuto
How did you first get the idea for the Folded Shelves?
I’d wanted to do something with shelving design furniture for a while—I always thought that there was something missing in that area. I saw a painting one day that had multiple shadows and layers atop of one another, inspiring me for the design of Folded. I sketched it up and that drawing was almost identical to how the design turned out in the end.
I wanted for Folded to be a whole family of shelves that could be used in any room, whether it be offices, a bathroom, the hallway or living room. Designing it in multiple colors and sizes allowed for people to create their own personal take on the shelves.
Why is it unique?
I think the most unique aspect of the Folded Shelves is how the multiple layers within the design changes as objects are placed on it. Also, when the shelves are placed naked with nothing on them, they bring something sculptural, refined and simple to the room though they aren’t serving a functional use at the time.
How would you say that the design embodies the mantra of New Perspectives?
I knew upon sketching Folded that it’d be difficult to produce. If you follow the rules for bending metal, the Folded Shelves would be impossible to make but I knew that it could be done. It was rather about finding a shape that didn’t exist yet and pushing the boundaries to end up with something completely new.
Its form makes for surfaces that highlight and complement the objects placed on the shelves; the folded elements give it a playful, experimental touch that changes with the objects placed on the surfaces.
What do you personally like the most about the Folded Shelves?
I’m really drawn to how Folded is a naked product that you can make your own, both by combining different sizes and colors but also by using it to hold your personal objects of affection. I’m quite a chaotic person myself and I wanted to design something that through aesthetics prompted me to keep things tidy and organized, simply because it looks nicer that way.
Does that tie in with your own design philosophy too?
Creating a functional, unique product that has an individual character and a simple form is always the objective of my work—searching for uniqueness in aspects that are unexplored and subtle. Only then will a design grow on you as time goes on, slowly unveiling its aesthetic characteristics.