Into the fold

‘I’m very process driven,” says architect and designer Richard Stretton, of Durban firm Koop Design. ‘I seldom have a clear idea when I start. It’s a good way of removing ego from the design process.
There are five things that influence the outcome of an object—design, geographical context, social context, materiality and available manufacturing processes. If you make yourself personally important in that, you mess with the balance.

‘I don’t use computers to draw. I design by hand. Then my office models it up and I draw over it by hand again. For me, it’s a very tactile experience. I need the friction in my pen to make a mark.

‘The linenfold table was made for the Joburg Art Fair, so it didn’t come with a traditional ‘client’. It allowed me to explore. On an aesthetic level, I was interested in traditional furniture design that used linenfold in the scrolled shapes on the fascia of tables, of antique furniture. I wanted to pursue that, make it slightly more contemporary. I’d been wanting to make a wooden bed where the sides were carved to look like a night frill made out of timber. I wanted to use the wood grain to imitate the fall of linen. With the table, I wanted to make a table with a timber tablecloth.

“Halfway through, I realised people would still need to get their legs under the table and so the design changed. It became a sideboard—with an elongated height and length, a different profile. It added to the elegance of the design.

‘I’m very traditional—I use traditional components. This was more modern. All the timber was ­robotically formed. But it was all hand-assembled.

‘We used maple because it’s so hard. This is a very engineered piece of furniture. I also liked the subtle grain of the wood. By scooping it out, along the ‘folds’ the grain became more pronounced. This surprised me during the production process; it wasn’t something I’d anticipated.

‘This table is all about imperfect symmetry and proportion. Like a Paul Smith stripe. How does he make them look so nice? It’s the relationship of wide to narrow. A massive reduction of elements. Even bar codes can be beautiful. One method does not deny another. You have to have a good eye.”

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