"Why create another piece of furniture?"
- Hella Jongerius


Movie: Dutch designer Hella Jongerius explains why she enjoys working with colours and textiles rather than designing full pieces of furniture in the third video interview we filmed at her studio in Berlin. 

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius
Eames lounge chair and ottoman

"It's just one solution for design, making stuff," says Jongerius, who works with Swiss furniture company Vitra as creative director of colours, textiles and surfaces. "You can do so much more with your talent and brains [as a designer]."

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius
Eames ESU shelving

Jongerius has worked on refreshing the colour palette Swiss brand Vitra uses for its furniture, including famous designs by Charles and Ray Eames and Jean Prouvé.

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius
Standard Chair by Jean Prouvé

"Vitra have great stuff," she says. "Why do they need me to create another piece of furniture? They need me on another level."

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius
Vases by Hella Jongerius for Maharam

Jongerius says that she enjoys working with textiles for the same reason; they enable her to express her creativity without designing a new product from scratch.

"If you design a textile you don't have to design a full new piece," she says. "Just the skin can make the new design. That's why I find textiles interesting and also a nice subject for the future. There are not many designers that are good in textiles."

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius
Colourwheel by Hella Jongerius for Maharam

However, Jongerius says that many companies are resistant to using new colours or textiles in their products, valuing consistency and durability over quality of colour or texture.

"There are very many colours to choose from," she says. "But [the colours manufacturers use] only come from a certain scheme in the whole colour world: colours that do not change due to daylight. That's what they think consumers want, colours that stay the same from morning to the evening and I think that's really a mistake."

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius
Daylight Wheel by Hella Jongerius showing how colours change in different light conditions

She continues: "Testing in the industrial world is really so outdated. It's all about the functional level. If you ask people if they care that a colour changes during the day, or if a fabric wears out after some years, I think there are many consumers who will see that as a quality."

"But still we are testing as if you are wearing velcro on your jeans all the time, or you [will] invite an elephant to sit on your armrest. A lot is lost because of the testing."

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius

Despite the difficulty in convincing manufacturers to change their approach to colours and materials, Jongerius believes it is a worthwhile pursuit.

"It's very difficult to sell," she says. "But it's a topic where I can use my brains and talent to change something in the industrial world. If you design the skin you have a new product and you don't have to have a whole new table or a whole new sofa."

See our previous story about Vitra's updated Prouvé range »
See all our stories about Hella Jongerius »

"Why create another piece of furniture?" - Hella Jongerius
Hella Jongerius
  • marcos

    Alessandro Mendini had the similar thought (with more revolutionary impact) 30 years ago.

  • Jongerius is one of the most interesting designers currently working.


    OK, seems to help you, but why design a new textile? Why not take the same textile and apply it to new forms?

  • Love her take on colours and designs. Vitra are market leaders – Matt Cimmermann.

  • Arjay Cee

    I like her thinking. There is little hope of her or anyone else bettering the Eames or Prouvé furniture, though of course everyone is welcome to try and everyone does.

    Her ESU rethink is warm and autumnal, taking the Eames’ preoccupation with primary colours into a new subtle maturity. I found her use of pastels with Prouvé to be a dumbing down.