Houtlander defines high-quality wood furniture design
By integrating minimal design with responsibly harvested hardwood, Houtlander develops environmentally conscious and longlasting furniture pieces.
The South-Africa-based design-makers duo Houtlander creates timeless, highest quality wood furniture.
Merging traditional craftsmanship with simple and contemporary aesthetics, Philip Hollander and Stephen Wilson, with years of experience in furniture making and a detail-oriented attitude, founded Houtlander.
Stephen’s woodworking career started with yacht cabinets, developing a deep understanding of different materials as well as a perfectionist mentality towards the final product.
DesignWanted had the change to ask Houtlander some questions to better understand their sophisticated works.
What is the production of a Houtlander furniture piece like? How long it takes? Is there any specifically challenging part?
Stephen & Philip: “We rely very heavily on 5 axis CNC technology, we use it as an enabler of craft as a way of utilizing the relatively low skilled labor we have in South Africa to produce very high quality crafted products.
An enormous amount of time is spent on developing the designs and ultimately the CNC programs, which are the set of instructions the machines carry out, in order to manufacture the parts we assemble into furniture.”
“We have a very iterative approach to our design whereby we keep producing the same item over and over with tiny changes made each time until we arrive at a point as near perfection as we can achieve. Then, once we have this recipe which is as optimized as far as possible, we can produce furniture relatively quickly.
For instance, it takes us approximately 14 minutes to produce all the parts in our spindle back chair, which means we can offer it at a really good price relative to the quality we achieve. The development process for each product though is very long, up to a year for a single chair.”
What other designers you are inspired or influenced by? What other fields and inputs outside of the design world provide you inspiration?
“Studio Drift, in particular, is on our radar as designers, their study of the confluence of the organic world and technology really speaks to our approach. Beyond other designers, we are greatly influenced by craftspeople and in particular, the Zulu Basketweavers that we are working with, in South Africa, are having a big impact on our work at the moment.”
What is it about wood that is so fascinating for you? And with all the applications that wood can be used in, why furniture?
“We are enamored by wood on so many levels, first off we consider it to be the most sustainable material for building anything on earth! It’s the only material that actively absorbs carbon out of the atmosphere rather than putting carbon into the atmosphere through the consumption of energy required to produce it.”
“If one considers the impact on the environment of steel production for instance- the enormous amount of energy required, the fossil fuels used to drive the mining operations, etc. The timber we use comes from naturally regenerating forest on the North American continent-the more of it we use the more incentive to allow the forests to return, the more carbon that is sucked out of the atmosphere.
It’s an amazing virtuous circle, as humanity, we have this incredible symbiotic relationship with trees and wood, it is the reason contact with it has been proven to improve our sense of wellbeing.
Furniture is such a natural thing to produce from this incredible living material-we are in constant contact with our furniture as human bodies-timber responds to our touch with texture and warmth. It delights our sense of smell, visually it presents us with its organic grain, each and every single piece slightly different and unique in some way. No other material resonates in quite the same way with our humanity.”
Houtlander pushes not only the limits of craftmanship but also of creativity simultaneous, creating collectible furniture design pieces that intersect craft, design, and art. The Houtlander collectible collection carries the company’s philosophy and integrity to a new level, maintaining the same attitude towards high-quality, sustainable, detailed and genuine wood furniture.
The Collectable Design collection is rather impressive and challenges the craft of furniture design. How do you approach these projects?
“We treat these projects primarily as a form of research, whereby we allow our design studio and workshop to develop new techniques. We are therefore trying to push the limits of what our machines, our hands, and minds can do as well as exploring the properties of our chosen materials- namely American Hardwoods.
What we learn from these exercises gets applied to our more conventional furniture range, improving efficiencies in our manufacturing and opening new design possibilities.”