2Modern is so pleased to announce yet another designer who has come aboard this summer: François Chambard of UM Project. “UM” stands for “user” and “maker” and François’ philosophies about creating furniture fit ours to a “T”. He believes in connecting the person making the product with the person who will be using it, and considers it special for someone to know the background of his pieces before they buy them. We do, too!
We just love all the simple, fresh shapes of UM Project, as well as all the fun colors that pop up in unexpected places. His pieces have a light-hearted, funness to them, and we enjoy that they can also be taken very seriously because they are all handmade and of the highest quality. François finds inspiration for his work from all sorts of sources, from designers of old to current designers to even the materials themselves. We sat down with him to ask him about his inspiration, how he got into furniture design and what UM Project’s future plans are!
Transcript below! Don’t forget to check out UM Project on 2Modern today!
2Modern: We’re sitting down with Francois Chambard today, the founder of UM Project. Thank you talking with us today.
François Chambard: Thank you, it’s a pleasure.
2M: Oh, pleasure to have you. So we love the aesthetic look of your company’s products, but we really love your company’s philosophies. In a few words, why don’t you explain why you do what you do?
FC: I think it starts with name of the UM Project, the name of the company. “UM” stands for “users” and “makers.” When I started UM, I really wanted to create pieces that connected users and makers; pieces where people would actually buy the furniture and know who makes it and feel like if they know where the furniture comes from, then they could continue the story, and the pieces would really become their own and become a part of a never-ending story. It’s very much about the connection between the users and the makers and also fulfilling this need for functional, practical pieces with an emotional and personal connection. Again, they’d know the story behind it. And in practice how we do that is we look at timeless, proven craftsmanship and we kind of tweak it in a new way. Little details, new connections, connections that are very old from old woodworking techniques, and we make it new. New details and new materials. That way people recognize something they know, something that is very familiar, something they have seen before, but different.
2M: That’s the first thing I noticed that there was a familiarity to your designs but that they were unlike anything I had ever seen before, too.
FC: Well thank you. I think what’s important for design in general is story telling. Is to meet people where they are, meet them in a familiar place and then bring them some place new, some place different. When you look at some of the things we do, at the stools at the tables, those pieces are archetypes of classic stools and classic tables with new elements that make them totally intriguing.
2M: So what is your background like? Because I think it must take a lot of skill and talent to be able to do what we’re talking about.
FC: Life is never a straight line – at least it’s not for me. I grew up in France, in Europe. I studied in France and Germany; I actually studied business, believe it or not. But I always knew I was a designer. More than a designer – a maker. I also build things. After I finished my studies I worked for pretty big design firms in Europe and here in the US. More on the marketing side, working with high profile brands like Nike, Motorola, IBM. After awhile I realized that all of that was very conceptual. That design was more than just strategy and guidelines; that you need to connect on a more basic and elemental level. So it was great to come up with strong ideas and strong brands for products but you were unimportant when it came to making them and building them. So long story short, I decided to start UM Project to make things – to get my hands dirty.
2M: Well let’s talk more about your designs…where do you get your inspiration for your design elements?
FC: It’s interesting because it’s a typical question “where does inspiration come from” but it’s very hard to explain…to quantify. To quote that classic quote “it’s 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” What happens is as your body of work grows, you start to develop a design vocabulary of the way things are designed and the way things are made and vice versa. And I think a lot of the things that interest me, especially the past 3 or 4 years, more and more is looking at connections between materials, how things are joined together. I like simple materials. How do you combine simple materials, like old and new? Combining wood and Corian. Combining wood and aluminum. How do you combine these different materials, with structural elements and details? You can see that in a table we just launched, the NGL table. It has a Corian top, and is aluminum in color, has an aluminum stretcher. Where do I get that inspiration? You know I look at old tools, hammers and very simple tools. How is the handle attached to the tool? All of that fascinates me.
As far as designers…the small group of designers [that inspire me] include…anything going back to [Charles Rennie] Mackintosh, Hoffman, people from the Bauhaus. More recent designers from the early to mid-20th century…I’m a very big fan of Pierre Chareau. He was the key inspirer of the L.U.M. lamps. It was a very big Pierre Chareau moment.
2M: What’s in store for the future?
FC: The future is now, because we just launched a lot of new pieces at the ICFF furniture fair. They got really good feedback. We’re making a big push to sell online, and 2Modern is an important key to us achieving that. We might do a floor lamp version of some of the lights; we got a lot of requests for that. We might do taller heights of some of our popular stools, we’re thinking of different colors as well. And obviously we’re already thinking ahead to next year’s furniture fair. We’re working on a couple of new pieces already. The last thing that is happening is we have a lot of nice custom projects.
2M: Awesome. Well thank you so much for talking with me today. It was really great.
FC: Thank you it was a pleasure.
2M: For more information about the UM Project visit umproject.com. You’ve been listening to a designer interview podcast. For more great interviews, blog posts and design advice, check out the blog at 2Modern.com.
Audio file: Francois Chambord 2Modern