Where was your favourite place to live?
I’ve been really fortunate to live in some amazing cities in different parts of the world but it’s hard to beat London for its energy and cultural institutions. I am grateful to have grown up surrounded by the natural world of New Zealand, but currently I’m enjoying living in a truly global city, where world class museums and galleries are on my door step.
Although… in the depths of winter we do fantasise of moving somewhere sunny and warm and haven’t ruled out a shift to Barcelona sometime in the future.
What’s your favourite room in your home?
Last year we removed a wall that had previously separated the kitchen/dining room and the living room—opening it up has created a wonderful space and on a sunny weekend with the door open to the garden, it’s definitely my favourite spot in the house.
What is the best designed item of all time?
In late 2013 I was in Romania (Transylvania in fact) visiting a furniture factory. It was perched on the side of a hill across the river from the small town, and to get there we crossed the “Austrian Bridge”—and as we crossed, my host remarked that several years previous, the company in Austria who manufactured and installed the bridge had written to the local municipality to inform them that the 100 year guarantee on the bridge was about to expire. I find this profoundly impressive and inspiring–that all those years ago the producer designed a product to such high production values that they could make a 100 year undertaking—and also that a product of such quality was valued by the village who had commissioned it.
What are your sources of inspiration?
When I’ve got a bit of a block, when a project isn’t heading in the right direction, I try to get out of the studio for a few hours—whether it’s roller-blading around one of our local parks or pushing my daughter on a swing—it’s good to get a bit of head-space outdoors to allow the thoughts to settle and inspiration to sink in—it’s something you can’t force.
What one item do you wish you owned?
When we moved to the UK from Brisbane 14 years ago, I put a lot of cartons in storage at my father’s workshop there. A couple of years ago, they had terrible floods and my father’s workshop went under. The flood waters and mud had a devastating impact, especially to my childhood photos. I threw out hundreds, stuck together into impenetrable bricks. It was truly heart breaking—but the negatives were in a carton stacked on the others so they survived—so the one item I currently wish I had was a slide scanner—to resurrect at least something from the old 110 and 126 negatives.
What are your interests outside of design?
We have a young family—my son was born just a few months ago—so home life is quite a focus at the moment.
Who are you design icons?
When I was studying Industrial Design in Brisbane, my father bought me an original Eileen Grey E1027 side table at an antique fair—it was the first iconic design object I owned and inspired me to learn about modernism and Bauhaus. Now I find the work of Naoto Fukasawa never less than the most considered, elegant and refined forms—with just the right level of minimalist composition.
Form vs. function?
Instead of thinking of “form” and “function” on a linear continuum (like a ruler with one at each end) I think they form a triangle along with “experience”, and it’s towards this experience vertex that my designs are intended. Each inform the other and both form and function are essential aspects, but ultimately it’s the experience of using a product, day-in-day-out, that is the focus of my design process.
What’s your favourite possession?
I received a pen for Christmas, produced by the UK design studio Ajoto. My new instrument is machined from a solid block of aluminium and is fantastic to use—it’s perfectly weighted and flows smoothly across the page. I find myself looking forward to my next sketching session, just so I can use it. I enjoy using a tool of such quality and finished to such a high level of detail—even the packaging is impressively considered.
Do you have one low budget decorating tip?
In a word, REDUCE. Humans are natural hoarders and it’s easy to accumulate a bewildering array of “stuff”. If you’re thinking of decorating, reducing your stuff is a good starting point—whether you pass it on friends, sell it at a boot sale or market, recycle or upcycle it—it can be really cathartic to clear the decks and reduce the visible clutter before you start. Although, using the same rational, my advice could be oodles of built-in storage, where you can stow away your stuff out of sight.
What’s the best career advice you ever received? Ever gave?
I think there’s a lot to the 10000 hours hypothesis—the idea that it takes about this many hours of dedicated practice to master a particular skill or become an expert. It raises aspects of dedication to and being completely focused on an endeavour, and about the effort and time required to achieve your goals.
To see all of Leonhard’s current works for CB2, go here.