Here, Richard Hutten discusses his inspirations, his design philosophy and the ultimate goal of his works

By Pallavi Mehra

June, 2021

Richard Hutten on the Wolk Chair, which he designed for Scarlet Splendour

Rotterdam based Richard Hutten is one of the most influential and successful Dutch designers. He is well known for his conceptual and playful designs. A true innovator, he has established himself as one of the leading international figures in his field, continuously pushing the boundaries of design. Born in The Netherlands in 1967, Richard Hutten graduated of the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 1991, the same year he started his own design studio. With a team of experts he is working across furniture design and interior design. Many of his products have become successful design icons and are represented in renowned museums all over the world.

Richard Hutten is one of the founders of the “Droog Design” movement

He is a key exponent of “Droog Design” in which he has been involved since it’s start in 1993, making him one of the main founders of the famous Dutch Design movement. Since 2008, Richard Hutten is the art director of Gispen, Holland’s second largest and most famous furniture brand with an almost 100 years history. Moreover, his work is held in the permanent collections of over 40 museums around the world making him one of the most collected living designers. The list includes MoMA New York, Victoria & Albert Museum London, Centraal Museum Utrecht, Vitra Museum Weil am Rhein, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Design Museum London, Design Museum Gent, Stedelijk Museum ’s Hertogenbosch, Chicago Art Institute and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The iconic Dandelion lamp by Richard Hutten designed for MOOOI is probably his most copied design

Playfulness is an important aspect of Richard Hutten work. Referring to “Homo Ludens or Playing Man” by the Dutch historian and cultural theorist Professor Johan Huizinga, Richard Hutten’s designs are aiming to contribute to the importance of play as culture. For Scarlet Splendour, Richard Hutten has designed the spectacular Oasis collection and the awe-inspiring Wolk Chair. Here, Richard Hutten discusses his inspirations, his design philosophy and the ultimate goal of his works.

The Oasis Cabinet designed by Richard Hutten for Scarlet Splendour

Pallavi Mehra (PM): Tell us about your biggest inspirations…

Richard Hutten (RH): People and their behavior inspire me. While designing a particular product, I think about how people would interact with it. Traditionally design is about solving a problem. I don’t solve problems; I create possibilities! I want people to interact with my works not in the conventional way. I want them to have fun! Product and furniture designing to me is not just about function, it’s also about emotion. I believe that the feeling and emotion that a product evokes is just as important as its function.

Youhutseymatic Table by Michael Young, Richard Hutten and Jerszy Seymour

PM: Your works are innovative and playful. What is the ultimate goal of these works and why do you think it's important to continuously push the boundaries of design?

RH: While my works don’t solve a problem, I want them to help make a better world. I hope to make the users of my products happy! I believe that playing and fun is the essence of living. Celebrating life is important. I want my products and furniture pieces to spark joy and help you enjoy the simple things in life such as spending time with your loved ones or enjoying a hobby. Now more than ever, we are realizing the importance of the culture of fun. Therefore, my designs are not only beautiful but also optimistic and fun.

Scarlet Splendour’s Oasis Sideboard by Richard Hutten

Moreover, my works always represent the changing world and I want them to make a difference. Thus, environmental sustainability is an integral part of all my works.

Hutten & Lensvelt’s Blink chairs for Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. These chairs are made of recycled chairs and 95% less carbon than that of any comparable product

PM: What have you been busy with for the last few months, during the Coronavirus lockdowns?

RH: Surprisingly, the last year has been busier than usual for my firm. After a break in March 2020, things picked up, and we had one of our best years yet! I believe that the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has made people realize the importance of their homes. In the past year, as people have been spending most of their time at home, they are choosing to invest in furniture pieces that will enhance their living experience. This has kept us very busy!

Llayers Llove hotel by Richard Hutten for an exhibition in Tokyo, Japan

In addition, the pandemic has resulted in a positive shift in work culture. With the efficient use of technology such as Zoom and WhatsApp calls, people have realized that they do not have to physically travel everywhere. This has opened up a lot of time for designers like me to be more creative! I hope this change stays post-pandemic as well.

The Hutten Copier Vase 15 by Richard Hutten

PM: What does luxury mean to you?

RH: Luxury to me is time! It is the only thing I don’t have! To me, luxury is the uninterrupted time to spend with your loved ones, to relax and to have fun and play. I hope that everyone takes time out to unwind and bond with his or her family and friends.

Inverse clock for LEFF Amsterdam by Hutten

PM: What is your current favorite design object?

RH: That’s a tough question for me, as I am an avid art and design collector! That being said, my all-time favorite design object would have to be a chair. I have over 50 chairs in my home! As a designer too, I am a specialist in chairs. I believe that chairs are one of the most complex objects to design. They are the perfect canvas to express ideas and offer designers the perfect learning material. While a bookshelf or a table holds things, a chair holds people. As it is the furniture piece that is closest to the human body, its structure is important. But that doesn’t mean that its form doesn’t matter. Take the Wolk Chair for instance—it showcases exquisite form as well as function!

Wolk Chair by Scarlet Splendour and Richard Hutten

PM: According to you, what is the future of design?

RH: In my opinion, sustainability is going to become a big part of design. The ongoing pandemic has taught us that our consumption patterns need to change. Instead of excessive buying and throwing, people need to transition to buying less and keeping things forever. Even in homes, there will be a shift in consumption. I believe that people will spend money on purchasing precious and special products such as Scarlet Splendour’s Oasis Cabinet or Wolk Chair. These exquisite products can be passed on to the next generation and be cherished forever. Additionally, like art, design also gains value. So investing in furniture a great investment. Over the years, furniture pieces gain value and can be used and enjoyed as well!

The renowned ‘Playing With Tradition’ carpet by Richard Hutten