Gerard de Hoop is an independent designer and interior architect living and working in Groningen, the Netherlands. His passion gives life to versatile pieces of furniture created to suit a modern lifestyle. The first thing I noticed about Gerard was his unobstructed attention to details. The interview is punctuated with examples and images that illustrate the inspiration gathered in the years that led to creating such an interesting portfolio.
Tell us about your first steps towards design – when did you realize you want to become a product and interior designer?
- The first time I realized I wanted to be a designer was during the last year of high school. In that year we had to make an assignment for the “Crafts” course. I chose to make a cabinet that you can unfold to a desk. A cassette box was the inspiration for the shape and principle. (See photo CASSET) Converting a concept into a functional thing, in this case a piece of furniture, I found very interesting and fun to do. I therefore signed up for the Art Academy in Groningen, to study interior and furniture design.
How did your short exchange student experience in Budapest help you on the long term?
- Difficult to say. It broadened my vision naturally. Essentially what I did in Budapest was photography, wandering through the city, and capturing the things I found interesting. At that time I was fascinated by the industrial remains of the communist era. For example the metal industry areas, with the old factories and machines, I found very interesting and inspiring. Here are some examples.
What are the most challenging things when working in collaboration with other designers?
- I like to brainstorm with other open-minded designers. A sense of humor I find also very important in collaboration. Humor puts things in perspective and this can be a way to come to new fresh ideas.When you work together on a project and there is synergy, you come to a different result than working alone. It’s more or less like jamming in a band.
You have had many exhibitions during your career, most of them in the Netherlands, but also outside your country. Can you tell us the main difference between Dutch and non-Dutch visitors, clients and admirers of your work?
- Most exhibitions I participated in were mostly in the Netherlands and only a few abroad. These were not enough to tell the difference. Maybe and hopefully I can answer this in the future.
How do you see versatile furniture in a world where space has become a challenge?
- A nice example of versatile furniture is my design STICKS. A cabinet system with boxes in four different widths and four different heights, standing on one leg. The total height of each Stick can always be different, because of the four different lengths of the legs (the sticks). The STICKS can be used as a low board, as a sideboard and as casual wardrobe (varying in height) or loose as a hall cabinet or bedside table. It also gives you the freedom to choose your own combination, function and colors. Also the OH cabinet is also a good example of. As a single element it can be used vertically or horizontally as a table and cabinet. By piling up the cabinet on several manners, you can create yourself your own wall unit.
Can you describe the design process from idea to finished product?
- I usually design intuitively and also find inspiration in nature, art, materials, technique and in everyday things.When an idea occurs in my mind, I start drawing in a sketchbook. After that I try to visualize it on the computer and start studying the measurements and forms by making mockups. Later on I make the proto-types. It’s a long process. A study can take weeks, months or even years before I am satisfied.
What is your favorite material and why do you find it challenging to work with?
- I like to work with all kinds of materials and I’m always curious about new techniques and materials.
What are the main characteristics of your pieces, except simplicity and functionality?
- Versatility, surprise, graphic, and playfulness.
Which piece of furniture in your home is your favorite and why?
- My bed, not by its design, just because of its function and comfort.Besides that, I love our Eames DAW chairs. They are very graceful, timeless and comfortable. Almost all furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames is great and timeless.
What advice would you give to those just starting out in the design field?
- Well they’re a few things: be critical, be original/unique, find out what your interests and qualities are. Be patient and don’t give up. Practice and don’t be afraid to experiment or fail, that’s how you learn. But most of all be passionate and enjoy what you do!