Objects With Narratives is somewhere between a design studio, a brand and a collective, centered around telling stories through design and allowing objects to not just be functional and pleasant but to have a narrative to them - hence the name. Objects With Narratives (abbreviated to OWN) was founded and is still curated by brothers Nik and Robbe Vendewyngaerde who come from an architectural background and who believe that the architectural approach to design is something that should transcend fields to furniture and object design. We spoke to OWN during the pandemic to talk a bit about the future of design and how collaboration fuels their work.
Tell us a little bit about Objects With Narratives and how it compares to other brands and labels.
We believe in shifting the incentive of design from esthetics and function to objects powered by narratives. With this approach, the object becomes merely the medium. These narratives are critically approached by architects, ergonomically shaped by designers and carefully crafted by engineers. OWN offers a global platform that actively empowers bold creators in terms of design, marketing, finance and logistics. Our goal is not just to be another label, but rather a creative space where designers can be storytellers. The aim is to provoke consumers to look beyond a design label and to built an affinity with these story-driven pieces that relate to a wide variety of audiences.
One Curve Chair by Objects With Narratives
Not everyone will know that you are brothers, how did you both find yourselves in object design?
Nik is an engineer & architect who works for the architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and Robbe is an architect & designer that worked for OMA. The world of architecture and design are closely linked to each other and so we have always been interested in furniture design. After some years of looking at the world of design, we saw many beautiful pieces but little of them had a narrative. Yet architects approach design more often through narrative-based ideas. So about a year ago we decided to manufacture objects with narratives as a way to express ourselves. At the same time we wanted to construct a creative space where we support other narrative based designers who we really believe in.
Where do you see the importance of collaboration within design and what does being part of a collective mean to you?
At this moment we represent 10 objects: 3 from ourselves, 4 through collaborations and 3 from other designers. Even the objects from ourselves are made with local craftsmen to get the results we aim for. Collaboration is thus fundamental for our label and we think as well for all professions in these contemporary times. There are so many talented designers and craftsmen that it would be ignorant of us to state that we alone create objects with compelling narratives. It is self-evident that there are many designers who think this way, so why not embrace and support each other by the means of the collective rather than those of the individual.
Anti-Libreria by Studio Vlora, one of the designers within OWN
Where did the inspiration for the Fragmented Shelves come from?
One of our greatest inspirations is the Belgian surrealist Réne Magritte who in ‘Evening Falls’ depicts a broken window where the shards still duplicate the sunset. A possible interpretation suggests that a window was understood as a condition to observe the world, even to observe oneself. Today computers and smartphones are our new windows to perceive society. These screens try to idealize everything while this is only an illusion of reality. We love how Magritte’s work is loaded with meaning or perhaps no meaning at all (as he says so himself). We pursue this ambiguous idea into the world of objects where someone can simply see it as a functional piece or an object that tells narratives resulting in a dialogue with its user. Therefore we wanted to make a physical ‘screen’. That absolute rectangle is then broken into irregular shards, as is Magritte’s painting. The pieces are composed together into an object (without screws) as unique fragments that are part of a bigger whole. While breaking is usually related to destroying, here it means creating.
Evening Falls by Belgian surrealist Réne Magritte and Fragment Shelves by OWN
When curating for OWN, are there elements that you look for to recognise a successful design?
A successful design is not about how functional or beautiful it is, but how it can evoke feelings for everyone. An object should speak to professional designers as it should to children who know nothing about it. This is accomplished by design that tells stories and as our labels suggests that is exactly what we look for when we curate. An example is the dynamic bookshelf of Studio Vlora where the modules are literally shaped by the movement and weight of the books it holds compared to traditional static bookshelves.
Looking forward, what role do you see technology playing in the future of object/ furniture design?
One thing of the future is certain, that nothing is certain… What we do know is that technology’s footprint is increasing in every aspect of our lives. We get inspired by these new inventions and applications and so it is very important to adapt to our ever changing environment. Yet we can’t forget the history of craft this world of design embraces. So we (will) always work with local craftsmen and continue to support our local economy.
One Curve Chair by Objects With Narratives in production
Could you highlight some other products or designers within Movimento which really excite you?
We have been following many of Movimento’s designers over the years now, so we are very
honored to be a part of the same club. As we love all these products it is very hard to find a
personal favorite. We both have an architectural background so there is one object named
Cosette by LAPIEGAWD that took our interest since it could also be translated to an
Cosette by LAPIEGAWD
Find out more about Objects With Narratives and see their products at movimento.club