French designer Ronan Bouroullec describes his expressive, abstract artworks as "totally opposite" from his design practice. In this interview, he reveals why he has combined the two worlds for the first time.
Bouroullec told Dezeen he has found pleasure in drawing for as long as he can remember, but has always kept it separate from the Paris-based design studio he runs with younger brother, Erwan.
"It's a process that is totally opposite to my design process," he told Dezeen.
"When I draw, I don't know what will happen," he said. "It is something that is extremely free, without a goal. The goal is just the pleasure of doing it."
Bouroullec often uses felt pens to create his drawings, creating swathes of colour that are highly nuanced in tone and texture.
While these works have been exhibited in major galleries around the world, the designer said he has turned down numorous offers from fashion designers keen to rework them into garments.
"I didn't want my drawings to be used as patterns," he explained.
Textiles "not a reproduction" of drawings
The Kvadrat collection was created through a different approach. Rather than producing prints, the brand spent three years developing textiles that reinterpret the colour palettes and textural quality of Bouroullec's art.
The result is a collection of three upholstery fabrics that have a similarly multi-tonal appearance.
"It's not a reproduction of the drawing, it's really more the drawing as a starting point of texture, of motif, and from that extends something totally different," said Bouroullec.
Collectively, the Bouroullec brothers have produced some of the most iconic furniture designs of the 21st century, including the Palissade outdoor furniture, the Steelwood cafe chair and the Aim ceiling lights.
However the pair were not as close in childhood, due to the five-year age difference between them.
Growing up in rural Brittany to parents who would not tolerate idleness, the older Bouroullec found companionship in his drawings. He felt they gave a sense of balance to his life, he recalled.
As he grew older and refined his technique, he treated these drawings as a form of exploration.
Unlike his design sketches, always created with a sense of the big picture in mind, the drawings focus primarily on the detail of the lines and how they progress across the page.
"It's very instinctive," Bouroullec said. "I just start in the middle of the paper and, from there, things grow."
"There is no bad colour, it's how you use it"
The choice of colour is born from the same sense of curiosity.
"I especially like to use colour that is not in my palette," Bouroullec continued. "For me, there is no bad colour, it's how you use it."
Kvadrat's textiles take cues from some of the designer's most restrained, monochromatic works, and particularly those that have a resonance with natural landscapes.
The first, called Alle, is a soft woollen upholstery fabric that uses voluminous yarns in different weights to create the effect of brushstrokes.
Sone is a more graphic textile made up multidirectional lines, while Tero Outdoor is a jacquard weave with a three-dimensional feel, designed for outdoor furniture.
They aren't the first Bouroullec designs to join Kvadrat's textile collection – the brand previously worked with both brothers on the jersey-style Canal, Moraine and Gravel fabrics in 2014 and the translucent Rennes and Chainette fabrics in 2018.
For Milan design week, Bouroullec has used these textiles to create an installation at Kvadrat's Corso Monforte showroom, called Paravent.
The designer said he is more interested to see how these fabrics become used in furniture and interiors created by other designers, rather than himself.
"That's why I like this discipline of being a designer," he added.
"When I design a chair, I don't know what table it will sit at, or the type of room it will be in. It's like a song; it can appear in different contexts and situations."
Paravent is on show at the Kvadrat showroom at Corso Monforte 15 in Milan from 18 to 23 April 2023. See our Milan design week 2023 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.