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Tom Dixon

on his dark side

Sebastian Conran on his breed of domestic robots












t’s what’s inside that counts, and here at Groove this motto is at the heart of our ethos. We believe in the simple philosophy that the interior is always better than the exterior.

Take for example the Great Pyramid of Giza . They are a majestic example of architectural ambition and were the world’s largest manmade structure for nearly 4,000 years. Indeed their exterior is grand, but we are more interested with the beauty within. 53,000 m sq withi built from limestone and fitted together which such precision that many of the joints are only 1/50 of an inch wide.

Lessons from the ancient Egyptians can be transferred to a contemporary setting: the home. With a good eye for detail, artistic flair and creativity the ordinary abode can become extraordinary. And that’s what Groove is all about. Oscar Rousseau

Issue One Spring


CONTENTS 4 In focus



56 Studio, the neo-ethnic designers on combining fashion and furniture

17 Conran

Will Sebastian’s new kitchen range “make or break” him?

36 What is a home? A literary journey to find the author of the timeless phrase: “home is where the heart is”

52 Say it like Ikea

Is it ‘eye-kee-uh’ or ‘ee-kayuh’? How to look like a pro in front of the Swedes

59 Wonderwalls

Transform your plain colour walls into something bright


40 Awards

Groove celebrates domestic design around the world with first-ever awards night Groove

“Design is the

legacy of thought



Issue One Spring

Sebastian Conran is one of Britain’s most influential and innovative designers. He has worked with everyone from The Clash to Mothercare and he joined Groove over a pot of green tea to talk design, legacy and his new breed of domestic robots. “My design philosophy is that elegance lies in simplicity. I invest a great deal of effort into coming up with products that are simple to use, simple to own and simple to make” begins Sebastian Conran. The 58-year-old explains his approach to design with one of his fingers hooked around the handle of a porcelain white mug. The industrial designer has charm and charisma exuding from every pore in his body and considering he is a Conran – a family that has had a remarkable impact on British culture over the last sixty years – he is surprisingly down-to-earth and chatty. He is the Managing Director of Sebastian Conran Associates (SBA), a product design and development studio, set-up in 1986 and the commander-in-chief has design in his blood. Born in 1956, his father is the acclaimed designer and restaurateur Sir Terrance Conran and his mother is the journalist Shirley Conran. He is a Londoner through and though, has always been surrounded by drive and creativity. After leaving college with A-levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry, Sebastian studied Industrial Design at the prestigious Central School of Art and Design – now Central St. Martins. During his time at university he was the Union’s treasurer and was the first person to give the Sex Pistols a gig - and his relationship with the British punk movement does not end there. After he graduated from art school the first “proper job” he had was designing record sleeves,

t-shirts and other merchandise for The Clash. He even shared a flat with the band’s lead singer Joe Strummer, so if anyone can claim to have influenced the punk revolution behind-the-scenes, Sebastian certainly can. The interview with Sebastian took place in his office in Hammersmith. It is a lovely 5,000sq m building with a vibrant open plan workroom on the ground floor. Sebastian greeted me wearing a navy corduroy shirt, blue jeans and red suede sneakers, it seems clear that Jasper, Sebastian’s younger brother with his own fashion label, has influenced his attire. The walls of the office are covered in an array of posters, design sketches, post cards and two A4 photographs which caught my eye: one being the iconic black and white image of Albert Einstein, whom Sebastian regularly quotes on his Twitter account. The other is of his father, Sir Terrance Conran. Both men are poking their tongues out and this affection for playful rebellion clearly derives from the early punk that is still hiding under the fine hair, facial stubble and double denim of the middleaged designer. But it is not punk or his personal life that we have come to discuss – although it is, indeed, interesting. At the top of our agenda is simply design. Sebastian implies that he is acutely aware of the environmental impact his design legacy may have.

Many of his products such as the Anywayup Cup and his Universal Expert range are all sold with some plastic packaging. “If you have bits of polythene and small bits of packaging that end up in a great big swirl somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, design has an unsustainable legacy” he says. The task now for Universal Expert - his “make or break” design and supply model - is to minimise the use polymers. ‘Deplastification’ is the official term, he quips, and the design industry is quickly waking up to the fact that a reliance on plastic packaging is not environmentally sustainable. This is why the Universal Expert range is designed using minimal polymer. Boasting over 200 kitchen items and shipped to over 40 countries around the world, plastic is only used if Sebastian “truly believes it will do the job better than other materials”. He prefers to use beech wood, heat-resistant laboratory glass, porcelain and stainless steel instead. But the decision to use less plastic derives from an aesthetic point of view too. “I put my designs in my showroom and after a couple of years the plastic looks tired. The wood grows gracefully, the ceramics look just the same as does the stainless steel and glass; but the plastic yellows and gets tired.” S e b a s t i a n ’s enthusiasm for innovation is still as Groove

A new breed of domestic robots strong as it has ever been. Most recently he has been working on the prototype for a domestic robot that will be designed to do our food shopping, work in our hospitals and operate as a mobile table (it’s confidential so we cannot show you any images). In February 2014 Larry Page, the CEO of Google, gave an unorthodox speech at Silicon Valley. He stressed the absolute importance for “humans to win” against computers and humanoid robots in a fight for jobs that he predicts could start in around 60 years time. His comments sounded more like the plot of a dystopian sci-fi movie and Sebastian does not seem to buy the hyperbole. “My view on robots is this: humanoid robots will always be disappointing because the day they can outperform a human being in cognitive tasks is so far away. There really are very, very few cases where you need a robot to do [a job] rather than a human being.” He is immensely animated as he explains the free-

moving robotic table which looks and sounds like something out of the future. The prototypes are very new and we were not allowed to publish the preliminary sketches which he presnted during the interview. But rest assured the table “is magic; it can whizz about and come to you and you can work on it… and it even has ceiling mapping so it can navigate around indoors too” he continues excitedly. Eventually these robots will have voice recognition as well so one can command it without using an android device. Sadly, these won’t be available on the high street anytime soon but it is clear that they could be more revolutionary than his Anywayup Cup, of which he sold 25 million. These tables, Sebastian explains, could be used to great effect in hospitals. Bed-bound patients will be able to verbally command the robot to deliver their medication, food and many other things without having to rely on the nursing staff.



Luckily for the young employees of Sebastian Conran Associates, their jobs are not under any threat from the new breed of robots. “I absolutely love working with young people because there is a real sense of exchange. I can bring the experience and lots of mentoring and they can bring awareness of what’s going on in the world,” he says. At nearly 60-years-old, Sebastian stopped learning how to use new computer software a long time ago and, still to this day, says he cannot get his head around computer-aided design (CAD) which is used to improve the productivity of his designs. For him, the trusty HB pencil reigns supreme and the legacy of a career spanning more than three decades, will always start with a pencil. Regardless of age or experience, the quality of any “designer worth their salt” is the ability to use intuition and creativity to produce elegant and functional designs concludes Sebastian as he sips down the last of his green tea.

Evaluate Develop


Refine Research





Understand Visualise



Marketing Production





The Tube Map of Design Process “Not circular because time is linear and we all have deadlines” - Sebastian Conran

Discuss Brainstorm Analyse



Issue One Spring

How to pronounce everything in Ikea



Piña Colada?

What a piece of stool

Wake up in the 80s

RAMSÖ“ rahm-ser”

MAMMUT “mahm-mut”

VÄCKIS “veh-kis”

A chair, not a Swedish musician

HENRIKSDAL “hen-rick-stal”

Let us all be honest and admit we’ve been there. Perusing through the giant fields of homeware design at Ikea only to find that the nice-looking set of shelves you’ve travelled hours for to purchase is not available from the shop floor. So you’re in Ikea: it’s crowded, stuffy and you can’t find the item so you must locate an unoccupied shop assistant who can fetch the shelf you need from the back. And then you freeze. How do you even pronounce the name of that thing anyway? It’s hard enough knowing whether Ikea is ‘eye-kee-uh’ or ‘ee-kay-uh’ let alone the name of that other triple syllable name with all the diacritical marks dangling in your face. “Fjälk-um” you mutter apologetically

Sting’s favourite pillow

Protect your valuables

MAMMUT “mahm-mut”

KONSMO “khon-smour”



ISALA “iz-sar-la”

DUDERÖ “doo-der-rer”

and the yellow-clad shop assistant gives you that disdainful look which sets you running for the hills, quite content to be happy with your frugal home as long as it means never having to repeat that awkward visit again. Well now all that can be put firmly in the past. Groove has searched through the Ikea catalogues with a fine-toothed comb hunting some hardto-pronounce popular purchases and we have given you the phonetic why to say them. Hopefully this will go some way to eliminating the unavoidable quagmires of shopping in the largest furniture and home furnishing warehouse in the world. But if not, at least you can impress some Swedes.



Mirror, mirror what a bore



Smother your balls in sauce

Swedish saucery

Rocking chair 2.0

LINGONSYLT “ling-on-sil-t”

GRÄDDÅS “gred-sau-s”

POÄNG “por-au-eng” Groove

Issue One Spring

Circus Pendant


Best of the rest The Groove editorial team has had a tough job selecting the best furniture for the 2014 Design Awards. Friendships were broken and re-forged as the team battled passionately and valiantly for the most beautiful, elegant, and functional domestic designs. In the next 10 pages you can see all the winners and nominees with interviews and hilarious anecdotes from the brains behind the best international design. Here is our pick of great designs that didn’t quite make the cut.

Pure Math

All bow and worship the Etch Shade by British designer Tom Dixon, inspired by pure mathematics. The brass geodesic design is made of many sheets of metal carefully fitted together and casts a beautiful, intricate shadow when lit.

H o w on earth does the Conran Shop keep producing so many classic designs. This time, Berlin-born Corinna Warm made this smooth ceiling lamp and the Big Top tent at the circus inspires its shape. Made from aluminium, it has a matt, powdercoated exterior and a gold interior, which creates a warm glow when lit.

Bad Ass

Unique avant-garde chairs made from old storage boxes and scarp wood. Saran Yen Panya from Thailand was sponsored by Heiniken to craft these progressive designs and will exhibit them at Milan Design Week

The ‘Bard’

Conceived out of tribute to Milan, this is a small, upholstered lounge chair by Italian designer Giulio Lacchetti. And it looks exactly like a concrete bollard - genius! Groove


History’s best lounge set The brainchild of photographer Fien Muller and artist Hannes Van Severen. Unbelievably gorgeous furniture, which reminds us that when megacreatives combine their skills, greatest can be achieved: the symmetry and nonchalance of this design is unparalleled and these two young artists are on the cusp true genius. Groove will be watching their every move with avid anticipation.

From stump to stool, New York-based design trio Fort Standard carves these geometric seats with a chainsaw. The muted colours are said to represent the colours from Hurricane Sandy which devastated much of east coast America in the winter of 2013. All proceeds made from these stools will go to an aid fund for victims of the storm.


Chainsaw massacre






The Winners Graphic






Art and design for the home.