Hubert Burda Media

Design couples: Partnerships made in Heaven

Meet the industry’s most innovative design couples who constantly churn out products that make heads turn.

Scholten & Baijings (Photo credit: Freudenthal Verhagen)

Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings

Who would have thought the Netherlands, a country, famed for its tulips, wooden shoes and sinuous canals would have its own power design couple to put Amsterdam on the furniture design map?

Meet Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings, born in 1972 and 1973 respectively, who established Scholten & Baijings Studio for Design in 2000. While they may not be household names for the layman, their creative prowess is rocking the furniture, lighting and home accessories circuit on an international level.

Scholten studied at the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven while Baijings is an autodidact in the design field; one is formally trained and the other is self-taught. Nevertheless, their synergy and chemistry have led to innovative products for brands such as Hay, Moroso, Moustache, Georg Jensen and Moooi.

What makes their designs stand out is their penchant for grids, light effects, transparency, colour and layered patterns in their creations. In addition to keeping things minimal, tempered with an eye for detail and aesthetics, it is these attributes that help characterise their work so effortlessly.

In fact, Wallpaper magazine awarded them Winner Best Grid for Solid Patterns in 2015 for their marble table collection made up of carved geometric patterns manufactured by Luce di Carrara.

“Our method is the atelier way of working, one that emphasises constructive thinking,” Baijings explains. “It means making your own materials, your own colours, your own models and looking at what’s happening under your hands. Is your idea really working? Or is it more suitable for another design?”

Neri and Hu

Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu

If you thought Asians had no mark on the international furniture scene, think again. Neri & Hu Design and Research Office is made up of Filipino Lyndon Neri and Taiwanese Rossana Hu, who founded their practice in 2004. Trained as architects, their business is based in Shanghai, China with an additional office in London. Even as architects, they are buoyed by their complementary disciplines in interior design, master planning, graphic and product design.

This is a couple that embraces diversity and their firm consists of employees that speak over 30 different languages. A multicultural firm bodes them well as they respond quicker to global views, while employing individuals who have overlapping design disciplines for a new shift in architecture.

Both husband and wife obtained their Bachelor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Neri later pursued his Master of Architecture at Harvard University while Hu completed hers at Princeton University. Their formative years were spent learning at the illustrious Michael Graves & Associates, where Neri was an associate and director for projects in Asia, before co-founding their own firm.

When asked why they chose Shanghai as their work hub, Neri is quick to enthuse: “Shanghai sits purposefully in the centre of contemporary chaos. The city’s cultural, urban and historic contexts function as a point of departure for the architectural explorations involved in every project. Because new sets of contemporary problems relating to buildings now extend beyond architecture, the practice challenges traditional boundaries to include other complementary disciplines.”

Putting themselves in the creative process gives them a greater awareness of the dynamic interaction of experience, and an eye for details and materiality, so as to create new forms rather than conforming to a formulaic style. “The ultimate significance behind each project comes from how the built forms create meaning through their physical representations,” says Neri.

Among their built works is the acclaimed The Waterhouse on South Bund (a hotel inside the abandoned headquarters of the Japanese army in Shanghai), designed in 2011. The duo also have a flair for designing products for the home and have collaborated with the likes of Moooi, De La Espada, Gandia Blasco, ClassiCon and Lema. While the two respect the European aesthetics of these respective brands, they never fail to incorporate Asian elements in their design identity.

Ludovica and Roberto Palomba (Photo credit: Enrico Costantini)

Ludovica and Roberto Palomba

The 1990s was a time of discovery and experimentation, and when it came to the creative process of designing furniture, lighting and home accessories, one Italian duo stood out — Ludovica+Roberto Palomba.

As trained architects and designers who run design studio PalombaSerafini Associati, their oeuvre spans architecture, interiors and furniture, even the interiors of yachts to the realms of graphic design, design management and art direction. Adding credo to the duo’s branding is that Roberto is also a contract professor at the Industrial Design faculty of the Politecnico di Milano.

The pair is often lauded for their design language that is grounded in the observations they make in changing human behaviour and lifestyles. As Roberto says: “Design should evolve with lifestyle. It is important to see these products outside a fixed location or period — they do not reflect the latest fad, but are the result of rationality and considered craftsmanship.” And their true work is not complete because it is through the test of time where you witness how a product endures the rigours of usage.

For the couple, good design is one that feels fresh but must not appear unfamiliar when it is discovered. Aside from putting their stamp of originality, they fuse innovation by merging function with the best materials they can acquire.

“Our goal is to design free projects, able to interact in an evident and immediate way with people who choose them. Our success is measured by the amount of persons worldwide who have chosen to share their lives intimately with our products,” says Roberto.

Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien

Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien

One of the most endearing design couples with Eastern and Western roots prove that disparate ethnicities can churn out creations that are beautiful and purposeful. Case in point: The union of Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien.

Doshi’s Indian heritage is evidenced in her designs, while Levien’s dexterous hands were trained in fine cabinet making, followed by academic training in industrial design. Her astute eye for visual culture paired with his sense for industrial precision and deep understanding of materials have made them a force to be reckoned with ever since meeting at London’s Royal College of Art.

It was in 2007 that the nascent designers caught the attention of Moroso creative director Patrizia Moroso, who saw their work as a breath of fresh air and began to invest in their work and designs. Doshi recalls: “She’s very interested in mixing things together, making connections where traditional manufactures in Italy would not even dare go.”

But it is the duo’s work that combines influences and inspirations from their respective Indian and European backgrounds that make their creations stand out. Their design studio Doshi Levien has catapulted them to elite status, working with brands such as Moroso, Hay and B&B Italia.

Aside from industrial and product design, the pair works across disciplines, including interior design, product packaging and branding. Their predilection to work with diverse cultures, technologies, varying trades of craftsmanship, materials and different typologies of industrial design have made them more adaptive to the demands of the furniture industry.