Do you think that the materials used have contributed to their enduring quality?
I think so. Certainly with a lot of the plastic pieces. There’s always been a stigma about plastic, especially recently. Plastic is seen as cheap. But at the time that a lot of these were being designed, it was the height of technology. If you had these designs it was a very luxurious thing. That mindset has obviously sort of flipped, and then has come back around again recently. It’s not necessarily luxury now, but I think there’s still great value in what they’re able to achieve with those materials.
People are starting to think about plastic as being much less disposable these days; do you think that’s affected how people see it in a furniture context?
I think so, definitely. Obviously from a sustainability perspective, we’re producing far too much plastic, that’s pretty obvious, but it is a bit different when you’ve got these pieces that have an incredibly long lifespan. Some of these Kartell pieces were produced in the early 1970s - that’s getting on fifty years, which is good by any standard. In my mind, giving life to those pieces and adding to that lifespan is a huge positive.
New Zealand is a young country and tends to have an obsession with the new - do you think that is changing? Do you see more appreciation for timeless design?
New Zealand definitely has a much shorter history than many places around the world. Even from a sourcing perspective, I’ve been focussing purely on sourcing things locally. In a lot of cases that has meant that there’s not that depth of history, and so a lot of things weren’t available when they were produced, but that does make it even more special when you find those pieces that you were never expecting to find here. I think New Zealand is a little obsessed with the new, but I think as we move forward in time there is a nostalgia related to some of these objects. There’s a memory of your childhood or a memory of someone you know having one of these objects when you were younger, and there’s a real magic in that. Obviously good design is timeless, because it’s quality and beautiful and it lasts forever, but there’s also something to having that personal connection or that little hint of something extra. It makes you so much more likely to hold onto something.
With a new generation entering the furniture-buying stage in their lives, do you think there is a greater appreciation for buying vintage today, as opposed to buying new?
I hope so. I think it’s that balance. Obviously you can go to K-Mart and kit out your whole house for probably under $200.00, but where I think vintage is important is that it’s got history, it’s got character. It’s giving new life to a piece that’s been around for many years, and I think that it’s the combination of the two that’s where the magic happens. If you had a house where every single piece is from the Seventies, it’s going to look a little ridiculous, but I think the same could be said for a house where everything is sparkling clean and brand new as well. I hate to use the word eclectic, but I think it’s that mix of different time periods and different styles that I think works really well. It makes a space feel so much more personal, rather than something you’ve seen in a catalogue and gone “oh, I’ll just take that look. I’ll adopt that.” There’s more of a personal interest in the objects.
- Ben St. George