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Posted in Design Stories

e15: Authen­tic­ity

E15, Phillip Mainzer & Farah Ebrahimi

On the face of things, e15 furni­ture is a company that doesn’t give much away. In today’s product-heavy, market­ing-driven world, many brands exist in a cloud of manufactured hype.


e15 stands back from this mania, recog­niz­ing that although this envi­ron­ment can be stim­u­lat­ing, it can also bring us close to exhaus­tion. Instead, archi­tect Philipp Mainzer and designer, art direc­tor Farah Ebrahimi seem intent on oper­at­ing their joint venture in a design-focused manner that is almost elusive in its sophis­ti­ca­tion. From paying homage to a circle with a metal table tops to insist­ing on the perfectly square corners of a solid timber table, their restraint is refresh­ing, their reservation highly-considered.


E15-furniture

Even the company name, e15, feels like a secret code. The combi­na­tion of a single letter with numbers of hints at an over­rid­ing system. But the meaning behind the name is both less compli­cated and more mean­ing­ful than this: e15’ is, quite modestly, the postal code of the company’s first work­shop in London.

Like every­thing e15 touches, what might at first seem to be a typical name conceals layers of meaning. In a simple nod to the work­shop, e15 directly recalls the loca­tion where people come together and craft­ing takes place. The speci­ficity of the address feels personal, an invi­ta­tion into the world where people, mate­ri­als, ideas, and place collide. As the objects and images we find ourselves surrounded with are increas­ingly place­less, and glob­ally repli­cated, this feels more impor­tant than ever. And with a simple name, built into the very core of this company is an ever-present reminder of where things come from.

Recog­ni­tion of the exter­nal envi­ron­ment is a theme that e15 carry forward in their methods of design and produc­tion, step­ping beyond the defi­n­i­tions provided by the postal code. In doing so, they manage to shift the empha­sis away from the image of the brand, allow­ing their prod­ucts to present them­selves and to resonate on their unique terms individually.

Of course, at a certain level e15 still adhere to a prescribed system: it’s just that the system isn’t prescribed arbi­trar­ily by the design­ers or the media, but funda­men­tally by the nature of the mate­ri­als. Each article poses a unique set of rules, toler­ances, and limits of manip­u­la­tion. Seeking to engage with these systems, e15 often chose to focus each project on the qual­i­ties of one partic­u­lar mate­r­ial. Working primar­ily with solid woods and metals, the detail­ing is deftly resolved in the same primary substance, or hidden to give a sense of purity.

Sofa-KERMAN
Sofa KERMAN, by Phillip Mainzer and Farah Ebrahimi

Their unique, poignant names match the mate­r­ial singu­larly of the designs: This & That,’ Issac,’ Stop,’ North.’ The moves are punchy, the design responses unapolo­getic. These are pieces that we instantly recog­nize, but that also elevate the every­day. And, with their palettes and primary forms, pieces like Bigfoot,’ a gener­ous solid timber table, are at home in a diverse range of environments.

This subtle reminder of where things come from is played out again in the making of new stuff from offcuts that might other­wise be labeled as left­overs and discarded. You might refer to this process as focus­ing on sustain­abil­ity, but that makes it seems compli­cated, like this kind of prac­tice takes effort. Instead, for a holis­tic prac­tice like e15, there’s a sense of ease to it all.

BACKENZAHN-stool-e15-1
Backen­zahn Stool

The most recog­niz­able outcome of this very process is the Backen­zahn Stool, whose four taper­ing solid wood totem legs that, together, make up both the legs and the seat, were shaped from offcuts from the Bigfoot Table. Like Bigfoot, the timber has been care­fully incised from the heart­wood of the tree, meaning that over time, char­ac­ter­is­tic cracks will form uniquely to each stool. The top is ever-so-slightly shaped, giving a concave surface for the body to nestle into, while the legs seem to draw in towards each other, but never quite touch. The finely consid­ered nega­tive gap left between them lends a deli­cacy and light­ness to what could other­wise be an over­bear­ingly heavy mass.

e15 explores solid­ity through­out their furni­ture collec­tions, at varying scales and levels of refine­ment. How robust­ness might provide a defined place for an activ­ity is teased out with the Mo Bed, which offers an elevated plinth for resting. The empha­sis on the hori­zon­tal plane of the bed is height­ened by the use of thick planes, or slabs, of the solid timbers — care­fully connected at right angles to reveal the natural grains and tonal vari­a­tions. Here, the solid­ity brings a sense of being anchored and of rest­ful­ness to the Mo Bed, making it a place we would happily spend a Sunday morning.

MO-bed-e15-12
Mo Bed

e15 is about creat­ing a space to pause, to reflect, and to take delight in these moments quietly. These are furni­ture pieces and objects that, over time, will take on new postal codes, collab­o­rate with differ­ent crafts­peo­ple, and define new places. It is the way e15 give their craft over to the search for authen­tic­ity resonates deeply with us. And as each step along the way is as valu­able as the outcome, e15 cele­brate design for what it is — a journey.

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