Dezeen Magazine

Smoke by Maarten Baas

Twenty-First Century icons: here is another of our irregular serialisations of chapters from Marcus Fairs' book, Twenty-First Century Design, which was published by Carlton Books last October.

Date 2002 -
Designer Maarten Baas
Material Wood

Young Dutch designer Maarten Baas is one of a new breed of designers whose work involves customizing existing items of furniture rather than creating them from scratch. Baas appropriates and metamorphoses found wooden objects, making them his own with a signature technique that involves singeing them with a blowtorch.

Along with fellow Dutch designers Piet Hein Eek (see page 188) and Jurgen Bey (see page 162), and Hella Jongerius (see pages 247 and 248), Baas subverts existing notions of beauty, believing that objects that have a history, a patina of use or a degree of unique human intervention are more interesting than flawless, identical objects from a production line. It is interesting to note that the work of all four designers is now highly collectable, with pieces selling for large sums through galleries rather than the traditional design retailers.


Baas developed his Smoke furniture for his graduation show at Design Academy Eindhoven in 2002. He was interested in the way that the wear and damaged suffered by well-used pieces of furniture gave them new – and to him, more interesting – qualities.

To replicate this effect, he tried soaking, scratching and throwing chairs off tall buildings before discovering that he could give them an entirely new character by burning them. The wood chars in unpredictable ways, giving even the plainest object a random but highly decorative patina.

Baas preserves the fragile charcoal surfaces by applying multiple layers of epoxy resin, which lends them a luxuriant sheen akin to lacquer. For his degree show, Baas burned a series of second-hand, Baroque-style pieces that he bought via Internet auction sites, and a range of cheap IKEA chairs and tables.

His work was immediately spotted by innovative Dutch manufacturer Moooi, which put several of his chairs and a chandelier into production. These are now produced in Indonesia, where craftsmen first reproduce the original item and then burn them. Baas also creates one-off pieces by burning design classics or antiques, as shown here.


Read more sample chapters here.


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