Meet A Furniture Designer Who Appreciates Quiet Designs

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We chat with American architect and designer, Sean Dix, to find out what inspires him.

You’ve lived in many places – did the different cultures you were exposed to ever impact or influence your aesthetic?
Absolutely. Though I’m from Kansas City, I grew up in countries all over the Pacific, and got my first experiences living the life of a wide-eyed foreigner. I’ve always been intrigued by people – what they do and why they do it, how different cultures perceive things. Before I discovered design I took a lot of Cultural Anthropology courses – it turns out that studying the behaviour of people is a great foundation for designing for them.

The desginer and architect believes that studying the behaviour of people is a great foundation for designing for them.

The desginer and architect believes that studying the behaviour of people is a great foundation for designing for them.

You’ve also designed for a broad spectrum of clients – from F&B to retail – are there any differences when you embark on each creative process?
The creative process is the same, whether it’s for the design of a restaurant or a chair or a teaspoon or a city. Communicate with the client as much as possible, develop an understanding for the requirements, spend a lot of time talking and looking at things together, focus, and eliminate the extraneous.

Sean's collection for OM is all about functionality and streamlined aesthetics.

Sean’s collection for OM Home is all about functionality and streamlined aesthetics.

Tell us more about your creative direction and your perspective on design.
I think the best design is quiet and subservient. For example, when I design a restaurant I want the guest to focus on the experience, not the design. The guests are most important, then the vibe, the food, the service, etc. If they notice the design then I should’ve worked harder. A lot of design should be invisible – acoustics, illumination, flow within the space. I love when people say, “I could tell you designed that restaurant but I can’t tell you exactly why I knew.”

The designer believes that well-designed things should be quiet and functional – things that do what they are supposed to do without having to brag about how “creative” they look.

The designer believes that well-designed things should be quiet and functional – things that do what they are supposed to do without having to brag about how “creative” they look.

Who are your favourite designers?
I guess my favourite designers are those anonymous designers who created so many of our quotidian objects – things that just shut up and do what they are supposed to do without having to brag about how “creative” they look. There are some famous designers that share that approach ­– Achille Castiglioni in particular is a big influence, as is Dieter Rams.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from everywhere; from the most unlikely sources. I’m curious, I love to learn, I try to understand. I am very critical, and think a lot about mistakes I see and mistakes I do and how they could have been avoided.

Sean’s Reverso bench for his furniture collection is inspired by the mid-century style he admires.

Sean’s Reverso bench for his furniture collection is inspired by the mid-century style he admires.

What was your most challenging project to date?
I’m working on a couple of very challenging projects right now. The Hong Kong Cricket Club, founded in 1851, has given my team the opportunity to design three new venues for them, starting with a pub. It’s a huge challenge for lots of reasons, not least that there is the immense responsibility to respect and reference all of the incredible history of this Club.

I’m also working on a new restaurant for a great client – the noted chef Matt Abergel. This is our fourth collaboration, and by far the biggest and most complex. We are creating an updated and improved Yardbird in a great, authentic Hong Kong location.

Sean’s furniture collection is available at OM Home, 16 Tai Seng Street, level 8, tel: 6235 0777, www.om-home.com

This was adapted from an article originally written by Ho Li Yen published in the January 2017 issue of SquareRooms. 

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