The story of Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings began, like many Dutch stories do, in a church. In the late ’90s, Baijings was working for an agency whose headquarters were located inside one of the country’s many abandoned houses of worship. Scholten, a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, had a burgeoning design practice nearby. Scholten was asked to design a small bar for the agency’s office, and “the rest is history,” says Baijings. “As our lives came together, working together was a natural progression.” The two seem totally at ease with the idea of spending nearly every waking moment together: “Stefan is really good at the big picture. I’m good at the details,” Baijings says serenely.
In any case, the partnership works. Over the past 10 years, the couple has produced, mainly on commission and in collaboration with venerable Dutch manufacturers, a portfolio of exquisitely crafted, instantly covetable objects — soft, vividly striped merino pillows and throws, delicate glass vessels, gridded silk scarves, and last year for the Milan Furniture Fair, a series of five pieces exploring different modes of decoration. (Their steel-frame and aluminum armoire, a sleeper hit from that series, will be presented at this year’s fair by Established & Sons.) Their work is defined by an eye for graphics, an impeccable sense of color, and a somewhat peculiar sense of humor. (On our visit to their studio this fall, we found among the detritus an unresolved centerpiece fashioned from a pile of potatoes.)
A year ago, they moved into their current space, a light-filled, two-floor studio inside a new development overlooking Amsterdam’s harbor. A look inside it reveals much about the way they work; the surfaces are covered with sketches, paper models, prototypes, and failed experiments. “We work more like artists,” says Baijings. “We start with materials and colors and then try to create a shape or a design. It’s a different approach than starting with a word or a concept or an idea.”
Atelier NL’s Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck keep a studio in the airy loft of a ’70s-style church in Eindhoven. They live there, too, but you wouldn’t exactly say that’s where they work. More often than not, the designers can be found doing fieldwork, whether that means scouring the area’s secondhand shops for mechanical knickknacks to inspire their more analog designs — like van Ryswyck’s hand-cranked radio — or digging up clay in the Noordoostpolder, an area of reclaimed farmland north of Amsterdam that until the 1940s was submerged under a shallow inlet of the North Sea.
The scientific process behind many of life’s workaday phenomena is something called capillary action, which is the molecular attraction that makes liquid flow through a porous medium, for those in need of a high-school refresher. It’s what makes tears flow through your lachrymal ducts, what gives micro-fiber its super-absorbent properties, and why groundwater naturally spreads into areas of dry soil. It’s also what powers the Ink Calendar by Oscar Diaz.
Julien Carretero's work invites metaphor the way cheese fries beg to be eaten — make a bench that's perfectly shaped in front and slowly morphs into chaos in back, and suddenly it could be about anything: humans' ultimate lack of control over the universe, politics, the pressure to succeed, mullets. For the Paris-born, Eindhoven-based designer, though, it's mostly just about one thing.