“I talk with my hands”, says Pierre-Emmanuel Vandeputte who has always been fascinated by carpenters, welders and other craftspeople. He comes from a small Burgundian town in rural France - home to Sancerre wine - where several family members had their farms. “One of my grandfathers was known as a true bricoleur (a handyman, and more). And in a way, I am a bricoleur too.” Just like his ancestor, Vandeputte seeks solutions to contemporary challenges, albeit in a poetic and emotional way. “My grandfather had to find answers to needs peculiar to the post-war period he lived in, when scarcity was an issue. Now that we are living in a time of abundance, the challenge is the fulfilment of needs on an emotional, non-material level.”

So, we won’t catch Vandeputte designing candleholders or door handles. He instead shapes new objects with new functions answering new needs. Like his Cork Helmet which enables the user to insulate themself from noise; Nascondino gives the opportunity to create one’s own personal space; desk divider Diplomate creates privacy in the workplace; a stool collection called Pausa allows users to rest, sit or lean on them and take a moment for themselves. “In times of multi-tasking and co-working in open spaces, people long for privacy, silence and rest.” Vandeputte considers it his challenge as a designer to translate these needs into objects. He wants to make positive designs, objects that induce users to have a feeling of wellbeing.

At the forthcoming Salone del Mobile in Milan, Vandeputte is launching a new design, one that invites us to chill in the middle of a room: a standing chair called Paradosso. Many of his objects carry Italian names – “My muse is Italian”, says the young designer as if he were a painter. Another reason is that he finds the Italian language especially useful to translate the story behind his objects and in the way multiple interpretations are possible. “I like paradoxes”, says the designer who finds choosing the right name for his objects very important – “It always calls for some reflection. I tend to call it ‘the new object’ until it’s ready.”

It may seem the ultimate paradox that the author of these emotional design pieces offering silence, harmony and tranquility, is based in 'hellhole' Brussels. "With great pleasure!”, he enthuses. “Everything is possible in Brussels - the spirit of the city is very free as it's a huge mix of people and influences from everywhere. Being a small world capital, the city has kept the pleasant human proportions of a village. I find Brussels a very inspiring place to live and work - so much so that I actually call myself a ‘Belgian designer’: it’s here that I studied and became a professional designer, and all my influences are made in Belgium.” A devil’s advocate interpretation of this paradox might be that after a stroll through Brussels, one might need some time inside a Vandeputte design to recover…

sketch 'Paradosso' standing chair
Pierre-Emmanuel Vandeputte’s Design Studio is based in the MAD until April 2017 (Aimed at promoting the economic development of fashion and design industries in Brussels, MAD is hosting several designers in residence.) Later on, Vandeputte is moving to a space he shares with other makers, with whom he feels loosely related on a creative level.

Images by Miko/Miko Studio

Pierre-Emmanuel Vandeputte
Cork Helmet