Husband-and-wife duo Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen have injected their recognizably playful, color burst of hues and eclectic design spirit onto most aspects of everyday life since joining forces in 2011. Conjuring visions of the work of visionaries like French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand, as well as proponents of the De Stijl Neoplasticism and Bauhaus movements, their works range from kitchens for Denmark’s Reform to abstract ceramics for Italy’s Bitossi Ceramiche. Their creations even served as the backdrop for a Cos campaign in 2017.
Under the aegis of the “Enjoy!” theme, they were named 2023 designers of the year by home, decor and lifestyle fair Maison & Objet. From Thursday to Monday, the Belgian couple will showcase their “cocoon exhibition” — a dive into their imagination, uniting a selection of their latest collections and signature pieces.
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“I think our work lies between being tamed and breaking out. Between being wild and being calm. Between the loud and the soft. We use tight frames, but wild things can happen in them. The colors also add a kind of extra dimension that goes along with the shape. By using color we do not mean to cheer things up,” Van Severen told WWD.
Their exhibition, called “Oasis,” is a scenography inspired by a walk through a selection of objects through their journey over the last 12 years. “With very new and old pieces from the beginning, we create a landscape inside a room…surrounded by the fair, but also hidden,” Van Severen added.
Within four walls and a ceiling accessible only through three openings, three islands act as pedestals and mark the oasis, creating a world the duo refers to as Evergem, which is where they live, just outside of Ghent, Belgium. “It’s where our house, atelier and garden are linked in a triangular relationship with a path in between. Away from the noise, highways and commerce,” he added.
Elsewhere, they will be busy unfurling steel wall cabinets, featuring prominently within their Wire series; their tubular “Alltubes” benches and cabinets in aluminum; a series of vases for Bitossi Ceremiche; the Arcs Trolley and Arcs Mirror for the Danish brand Hay, and the Standing Lamp Marble and Round Trivets with Valerie Objects.
For the fair organizers, Muller Van Severen fit in perfectly with this year’s theme.
“They fit perfectly…because they have two facets as well: one is happy and bold with the use of colors, the other one is more centered, more essential with their pure lines and their aesthetic approach,” said Maison & Objet’s managing director Mélanie Leroy, who added that the fair was delighted to propel a Belgian team to the fore. “It’s a huge country in terms of designs and very avant-garde as well. They have visionaries and no doubt, Muller Van Severen is one of them.”
The duo will also present two new rugs developed with upholstery textiles firm Kvadrat, which was also presented at the Salone Del Mobile in Milan. Titled “March” and “July,” the two models’ structures and surfaces are inspired by the different stages of natural shearing of a sheep.
“Maybe in these strange times, people have come to realize that their home is a safe haven that is important and should be cherished. I feel people want to make it a special place and are more open to authenticity and experimentation. I also think people are also more open for a warm and colorful place,” Van Severen said.
This season the unexpected materials incorporated into their designs will also feature prominently. Recently they have opted for enamel as coating and clay with a glossy finish. Most importantly, each object, no matter what material or color, needs to respect its environment.
“We always feel the need to make a design sculpturally interesting and exciting, but we also care about how it relates to its background,” he added.
Looking ahead, Muller Van Severen said there are no signs of slowing down. The next 12 months will be busy with a roster of exhibits in the works. In November, they will showcase at the Berlin shrine of design, the Andreas Murkudis store, together with fellow-Belgian artist Willem Cole. Muller Van Severen is planning a solo exhibition at Tim Van Leare gallery in Antwerp and at Gallerie Kreo in Paris for next year.