Fredrikson Stallard, the former Swedish, Patrik, the second British, Ian: the Financial Times has listed them among the 10 top designers of the decade; Driade entrusted them in 2014 with the design of the stand at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, introducing the new approach of the ‘aesthetic workshop’ acquired by ItalianCreationGroup.

This year, still at the Salone, still with Driade, they have created a new collection of outdoor furnishings, which “we can’t wait to put on our terrace”, they say. And they have done an exhibition entitled Gravity at the David Gill Gallery in London, their adoptive city.

So from Milan to London, we went to discover their new home-studio in Holborn, for an Interni exclusive, to see how their unconventional, artistic objects come to life, as solid articles made to last and to enthuse.

A large loft, reflecting the density of two personalities in a shared project that combines industrial logic and craftsmanship, and the influences of Abstract Expressionism. Constantly being transformed, like life, but rooted in the history and tradition of a beloved urban context.

“That of Holborn, which has always played an important role,” they observe. “This is the zone where we studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art, where we found our first studio and our first home. The position is ideal, central, halfway between the West End of Soho, Mayfair and Covent Garden, and the more artistic areas of Clerkenwell and Shoreditch to the east.

It has fascinated people of the caliber of Charles Dickens, who lived in nearby Bloomsbury and made it the hiding place of Fagin in the famous novel Oliver Twist, when in the 17th and 18th centuries it was a district of vice; it later became London’s ‘Little Italy’ in the 19th and 20th centuries, and those iron bridges on the River Fleet that cross it (bringing the connection with our times) evoke New York atmospheres, like the Meatpacking District – where Fredrikson Stallard made their debut.

We have remained here, but we have moved from the old warehouse, on a single level, to this larger space on two levels, which lends itself to better organization between the house on the first floor and the studio on the ground floor.

When we first saw this place, actually, it was little more than a warehouse, with an atmosphere like a cellar: a rugged open space, without windows or natural light. On our second visit, the following morning, we understood its potential, from the outside: the windows had been walled up, and at the back there was a hidden courtyard, overgrown with vegetation. We also saw that it would be possible to create a terrace on the upper level. So our doubts vanished.”

What were the most important design choices?
“To bring natural light into the space, opening the old windows, first of all. Having reinforced the structural parts, the cast iron casements from the Victorian era came back to life, with one of them adapted to make a glass door to the terrace. Then there was the more creative choice of organizing the space in three main zones – the tunnel, the gallery, the private flat – each with a specific mood emphasized by the lighting (mostly halogens), for mutable luminous effects. The new layout had to provide a contemporary setting for the display of our works, prototypes, pieces from our personal art collection, but it was also important to treat the original architecture with a holistic approach, incorporating it and making its salient characteristics recognizable.”
The tunnel represents the entrance space: heavy cast iron gates from the 19th century separate it from the street, while exposed brick walls and cobbled pavements underline its crude, bare, dramatic character, with shadow effects. From this initial setting one moves to a second contrasting space, conceived as a neutral backdrop lined with white walls, a two-story space with floors in polished concrete, sophisticated lighting and minimal architectural details.
The assonance-dissonance between old and new continues between the main design office, organized at the back, lit by skylights and enormous glass doors that open to the courtyard, an oasis of relaxation featuring moss, ivy and green hues grafted with the contemporary look of a Japanese garden. The workshop, for prototypes and research in progress, connected to the office and the gallery but also hidden from prying eyes, is the last space of the ground level.
On the upper floor, the apartment has a more intimate feel, in spite of the open spatial continuity, with burnished black wooden floors and white walls. Here the works of Fredrikson Stallard take on a familiar allure, accompanying various everyday activities, from entertaining to cooking, reading to relaxing, in the company of art and the silvery branches of the birch trees that embrace the terrace overlooking the courtyard below.

Which materials have you used to underline what is new?
Steel, concrete and wood, above all. Left in a natural state so they can age well, in an honest, authentic way, with rust, stains, patina, over time. The only thing we touch up is the white paint on the walls, every two years.”

After 60 years of design history that has enriched our panorama with objects of all kinds, is it still necessary to design new products, in your view?
“Of course, because much of what we see is nonsense, the result of input generated in meeting rooms where managers talk about what they think the market “wants”; instead of letting designers and artists do what they really feel, making it physical, material, with much more probability of creating a good product.”

Do you think sustainability is a priority in design?
“Definitely. The mistake, however, is to associate this parameter only with the use of recyclable or biodegradable materials. How can you think you have solved the problem with something made of recycled plastic, if that item ends up in a dump after just three weeks of use? For us, being sustainable is about the long term – making fabulous things people want to own, care for, repair, and pass on to their.”

Photos by Ed Reeve – Text by Antonella Boisi

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The gallery space, a neutral enclosure containing one-offs, prototypes, manifesto products. On stage: Iris Light by Swarovski; Parachute Table and Species 2, both for David Gill Gallery; the Hurricane mirror, self-produced; the Hurricane console, a prototype for the Gravity exhibition in 2016 at David Gill Gallery in London.
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Portrait of Patrik Fredrikson (left) and Ian Stallard.
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The so-called ‘tunnel,’ an entrance space that represents the first display zone in the London island of Fredrikson Stallard, with the Sereno table designed for Driade and the self-produced Rock Light and Meteorite lamps.
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View of the main design studio, organized on the ground floor in the back zone of the restructured warehouse; a white, luminous space, thanks to the skylight and the large windows facing the courtyard outside.
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The large windows facing the courtyard outside.
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The dining area with the table from the FS Core Collection, with an original Taraxacum by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni from the 1960s. On the wall, Youth, a photographic work by Ruud van der Peijl.
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View of the terrace, part of the private space of the apartment on the upper level, furnished with pieces designed and produced by Fredrikson Stallard: the Camouflage daybed, the Chairs & Table of the outdoor line, and the Portrait lamp.
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View of the living area on the upper level of the house. The Plaster table is a first white prototype, made with David Gill Gallery; the Pyrenees sofa, also for David Gill Gallery; the other pieces, from the Fort sofa to the two Holborn chairs, are self-produced.
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Bronze sculpture, prototype for the Crush lamp.