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DESIGN
JM Ferrero
Playful minimalism in the work of a well-rounded Spanish designer
by Karen Day
on 26 May 2011
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Spanish designer JM Ferrero recently sat down during ICFF to discuss his singular vision in the areas of lighting, furniture, interior design and textiles. With a miniature version of his first lamp pinned to his sweater, I quickly learned that Ferrero (who's helmed his own studio since 2003) might be serious about his work but he always adds a touch of underlying humor. His thoughtful approach even comes through in the naming of his atelier. Called estudi{H}ac, the silent "H" isn't pronounced in Spanish, but without it the word doesn't make sense. Ferrero chalks this up to the way he designs, weaving important design details into the overall scheme to the point they're unnoticeable.

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The industrious designer calls what he does "bespoke projects," because no matter the client or field he's working within, he customizes every design and experience. Rather than repeat work, he instead chooses to work with a new set of challenges for each project. But he does of course have some tendencies. Repeating patterns show up often, such as in the Tea collection he designed for the family-run furniture brand Sancal. Following the molecular structure of tea, Ferrero plays with the hexagonal quilted pattern in a series of chairs, couches and wall coverings—which can also double as a headboard.

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His understanding of textile design stems from earlier work he did after graduating from college. Ferrero, originally from Valencia, moved to Barcelona and first worked with renowned designer Oscar Tusquets before joining the team at textile design firm Manterol, where he developed graphics and packaging. This experience not only laid the foundation for a keen interest in fabrics, but the packaging and graphic design side seemingly aided to his overall ability to design a concept from top to bottom. For SIE7E Jewels Gallery, Ferrero designed the jewelry brand's boutique, website and most recently a collection of small home accessories using the reconfigured "7" he conceived.

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The collection spans desk caddies to serving trays and includes a shoe horn, an object with personal meaning for Ferrero. A slight shoe fanatic (he wore leather Paul Smith oxfords with playful socks when we met), Ferrero takes photos of his feet in front of meaningful places around the world during his travels, which hang on the wall of his studio and serve as a conversational starting point for explaining his design inspiration. For example, the Tea collection reflects how much he enjoyed the afternoon tea experience during his years living in London.

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One of his favorite countries to spend time in is Japan. Designing colorfully simple indoor and outdoor furniture along with conceptual bath fixtures that express the Japanese lifestyle, Ferrero also won Toyota Japan's competition to design the interior of a new car. Honing in on the fact that for many, a car is an extension of their personality, his approach was to allow customers to personalize the car's interior using a mix-and-match assortment of upholstery choices and colors. This has led estudi{H}ac a permanent place as a collaborator on interiors with Toyota's European Studio.

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While his first lamp, dubbed "Sister Lamp" was a playful nod to '60s nuns with their oversized caps as the shade and a long rosary as the chain, his most recent lighting project for Vondom is a slightly glossier concept. Initially conceiving a collection of giant pot planters ideal for upscale hotel patios, when Ferrero presented the plans to Valencia-based Vondom they noticed a drawing where he had turned the shape upside down into a floor lamp, and commissioned the young designer to continue the series.

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For Valencia's new gastro bar, Cuina al Quadrat, Ferrero designed a space centered around the woven baskets women carry to the local food market—a symbol of the restaurant's desire to deliver a high-quality menu at a reasonable price. The warm earth tones present an inviting environment, and the simple decor of plants and fruits allow the food to speak for itself.

Sincere and extremely hopeful for the future of Spanish design, JM Ferrero's estudi{H}ac demonstrates the wide range of potential one studio can possess when focused on exploring new materials, styles and projects.

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