This fun collection of furniture and decor is what happens when adult designers approach their work with a child’s sense of whimsy and endless possibility. Seemingly freed from the restraints that have kept most furniture design fairly static for centuries, the designs of Muller Van Severen command attention in any room.
Comprised of artists Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen, the collaborative project produces equal parts form and function, and the work is clearly at home in a gallery setting. But what makes the collection truly special is the way the vision of both artists intersect, and the traces of this dialogue that can be found in the designs. Two shelving units become “entangled and inseparable,” with simple loungers consisting of canvas stretched across wire framing forcing two people sitting simultaneously into intimacy.
There’s also a charming fluidity to many of these pieces. A pair of wall shelves called “Waves of Leather” gives a second life to unused Hermés textiles, draping them over metal wall supports. Hanging and standing lamps made of brightly painted curving metal poles celebrate the simple elegance of line work. In fact, many of the designs almost seem like sketches rendered with just a few swipes of a pen brought to life in three dimensions.
The Muller Van Severen designers refuse to follow established rules of furniture design, choosing whatever shapes and materials suit their own creativity, which can result in objects like the “Wire S #,” a mesh lounger made of powder coated steel. It may not be the sort of padded, comfortable lounge chair you’d place in your living room, but who says every piece of furniture has to fit that criteria?
Other pieces may seem a bit nonsensically arranged at first — like a table with an upper platform set at an angle, which would actually be quite useful for placing certain objects at different levels but keeping them easily accessible. Similarly, the “Strangled Rack” shelf looks a bit chaotic at first glance, but just imagine how beautifully it could display art objects in a corner of a living space, or carefully curated dishes in a kitchen.
The duo’s bio on the official Chic Cham website explains that “Muller’s photography is suggestive of someone who considers everything in her daily life to be up for participation in the theater of her compositions — whether choosing her characters from the woodpile, scavenging Hannes’ offcuts, or realizing the sculptural aspect of a skinned eel, nothing escapes the pot. It seems it’s not so much the qualities of an individual object that are important, but what happens when that object is introduced to another. Her sense of color is extraordinary in the same way, with quite odd combinations — sometimes subtle, sometimes glaringly opposing, but always with a harmonious result.”
The designers add that “Fien’s interest in the material is also apparent in her art works…it’s not necessary to ask why she has selected these elements to sit together but these incongruous objects are somehow compatible and appropriate. The work of Hannes is often the other way around — with the familiar becoming absurd, in the sense that it loses its function and turns irrational. A staircase laid on its side goes nowhere and a closet run through the circular saw loses its balance. The everyday is turned on its head and apparent function negated. The inspiration of their art world is readily seen in the furniture collection with forms reminiscent of Donald Judd or Sol Lewitt but with the humor that comes with collaborations such as that of Fischli and Weiss, who also created from the commonplace and familiar.”