MEET: Marcel Wanders of Moooi

Moooi’s Unexpected Welcome was for the second time housed in the atmospheric space of Via Savona 56, outside of the fairgrounds of the Salone del Mobile Milano. This year, as with the year before, living environments were created with stunning 4.5metre-tall photographs as backdrops to Moooi’s new collection of furniture and lighting. The breathtaking works of photographer Massimo Listri, which depicted architectural wonders such as the Vatican Museums in Rome, and Palazzo Pitti in Florence, lent interesting contrast to Moooi’s rather safe, but still playful collection this year.

We sat down with Moooi’s art director and co-founder Marcel Wanders to learn more about their Unexpected Welcome.

Why is the showcase called Unexpected Welcome?
It’s a bit like what design is, you try to surprise people in such a way that they feel happy. It’s difficult to do this – you want to make things which people recognise when they see, but it’s something they’ve not seen before. So it’s new, but it’s familiar, plus it makes them happy at the same time.

Is it getting harder to surprise people every year?
I think it’s not harder every year. The world turns and we turn with the world, we listen to the people. There is change, and we are a catalyst of change. It’s not more difficult because the information we have is new, every time. The world gives us new things, and we give new things back.

How does the whole showcase come about? Do you see the new pieces, then design the environment?
It goes two ways. Last year we had this space for the first time, because we wanted to do a really different presentation. We wanted to show that Moooi has gone to another level, to show that we’re not only making icons but environments. We wanted atmosphere, so we needed a new space – the collection decided we needed a new space; it works together.

This year of course we have the same space, but we wanted to do something which feels different, but at the same time we wanted to do something which feels also a bit connected, logical, with continuity.

Last year you used the works of photographer Erwin Olaf. What made you decide to use the works of Massimo Listri this year? What was the fit?
The works Massimo does, it is about interiors, it is about beauty. So it is really interesting for interior designers and designers. But it is also about timelessness and eternity. It is opposite to the work of Erwin because it is not theatrical, it uses natural light, and there are no people photographed. It’s the perfect work; it also connects to people, our world, and it is very different from what you were shown last year.

We would like to see this as two parallel universes. One is the universe of Massimo Listri, his art. The other is our furniture pieces, which is our art. Here and there, they might touch, they might infuse each other with beautiful ideas – two worlds coming together. I think it works really well, I’m really happy with it.

So are the furniture settings are like extensions to the background?
Sometimes they blend, sometimes they don’t. They don’t have to be harmonious, they can be complementary. It’s not like we are hanging a painting above the sofa and it has to be the colour of the sofa, at all. We try to make situations which are interesting together.

Do you imagine that this are real home settings or are they more of fantasy rooms?
It is a fantasy home for a fantasy person, which might as well be a real person. We have a person in mind. We have a certain idea who this person is, and what he likes. We create the surroundings, which is something he would like.

Is this person partly yourself?
It’s part of me, it’s part of you. It’s a certain type of person. It’s not the most boring person, it’s not a really crazy person, it’s not a very unsophisticated person. He’s got a cat (pointing to a scratching post nearby). I think it’s the type of person our clients want to be. They want comfort, but they’re very much open to the world of creativity. They’re smart, and also welcoming to others. They have a comfortable house, and they’re silly.

Is there one set this year you wish you could transport back into your own home?
I don’t think so. They’re all really versatile. There is no holy set. We show that you can play with these objects; the collection of Moooi is a very eclectic collection which shows that things can live together, and it shows that a piece of factory furniture can go with a very sophisticated lamp. And that’s kind of what we envision, we don’t want to have a very stable universe where everything is polished.

Are any of the amazing props yours?
A few of them, but I will not tell you which ones (smiles). There is stuff owned by us, and some we found. The mash-up ceramic items are by a Dutch artist; there are lots of fun things.

How would you describe this year’s collection of pieces?
I think it’s a mature collection. It’s very useful, it’s comfortable, familiar, and cosy. I think the collection is very much for real people, and then we have crazy pieces, such as this wonderful lamp (the Inkborn table lamp), and the Love sofa. A house needs subtlety and it needs excitement, you cannot only have one or the other.

Be inspired by these images from Unexpected Welcome, and check out Moooi's other designs here. A round-up of Moooi's latest 2014 collection can be seen here.

Read about what we saw at this year's Salone del Mobile Milano:
Milan Furniture Fair Report #1 — Our Picks From Brands We Love
Milan Furniture Fair Report #2 — The Best From Young Designers
Milan Furniture Fair Report #3 — Quirky & Unconventional Designs