• Michael-schoner-lead

    Michael Schoner: Z Step (detail)

Product Design

We speak to Michael Schoner about the mini-architecture of his Z Steps

Posted by Catherine Gaffney,

Amsterdam-based architect and designer Michael Schoner is responsible for these pieces, and yep, they’re pretty damn great. They can store and display objects in all sorts of different configurations, and the furniture itself can be swapped and changed around – a bit like life-size lego blocks.

It’s the kind of item you imagine might, some day, be in your super-awesome penthouse apartment where you’ve so much extra storage space that you can have this little exhibition area for all the amazing stuff you’ve somehow acquired. But for now, we’re in the real world and very happy to sit back and appreciate Michael’s Z Steps, and discuss the work with the great man himself.

  • Michael-schoner-1

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal

Hi Michael, firstly, are these works designed with retail or home-living in mind, or both?

I designed the Z Steps more with retail in mind, however I have gotten some feedback from people, stating that they could also imagine it in their house. To me they are better for highlighting a selection of objects rather then storing a lot of them. Furthermore, they are best to be seen from all sides, so it is better if they are central in the room and to be walked around. If you have the space to put a 1 × 1 × 1 meter shelf-across in your house, then great! Ok, you can also put them in one line, and then they are 33cm wide and up to 132cm long…

  • Michael-schoner-12

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal

How did they develop?

I have only (fully) started my office a year-and-a-half ago with the focus on furniture and objects. Before that, I worked as an architect. When I went solo, I started to hear from a lot of friends that most industrial designers earn a living by making interiors or exhibitions, while only investing into their products. So I thought, why not do both and come up with something that one can buy as object, but could also lead to furnishings for an ideal store. It would be nice to think of the rest of the shop.

The easiest way to start designing is to fold some paper. Folds make something strong, but also introduce a rhythm. One fold supports the other. It is just turned perpendicular to it; this is how you get one step.

In CAD programs you have isometric views. If you look at the Z Step from those views, the lines that would previously be zig-zagging become rectangular, while the “straight” steps start to zig-zag. It unsettles your habits of perception. I’m also very curious about things that from one point of view form a body only to reveal that they are just a two-dimensional surface as the perspective changes. Sometimes they are a thing, sometimes they are a plane. It’s mini-architecture.

  • Michael-schoner-3

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal (different configurations)

  • Michael-schoner-4

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal (different configurations)

  • Michael-schoner-5

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal (different configurations)

  • Michael-schoner-7

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal (different configurations)

  • Michael-schoner-sketch-2

    Michael Schoner: Z Step (sketches)

We notice that the pieces emphasise display; did you wish to create a system for both storage and mini-exhibition?

Well, it’s almost going in the other direction: I’m even happy with them without them storing or displaying anything. This is why I also shot so many images without magnetic helpers. To me it is more like a usable sculpture. But I also like to keep it open to the user to experiment and find out for themselves what to do with them.

  • Michael-schoner-2

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal

Can the work be configured and arranged in a variety of combinations, and was this important while you were developing it?

The Z Step really is a system. It is two times exactly the same shape, but since all the steps are the same dimensions one can flip and turn them how you want. There are 14 combinations of how to stack them and even more how to set them next to each other. Each hold different display chances from different sides.

I like systems! They give you a little hold of why things should be the way they are and it’s nice to mess up those systems, or if the twist your perception.

  • Michael-schoner-9

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal.

  • Michael-schoner-10

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal.

  • Michael-schoner-11

    Michael Schoner: Z Step. Sheet metal.

Portrait13

Posted by Catherine Gaffney

Catherine joined us as an editorial intern after studying at Trinity College Dublin and Central Saint Martins. She wrote for the site between June and August 2012.

Most Recent: Furniture Design View Archive

  1. List

    Moving Mountains is the brainchild of Hawaiian designer Syrette Lew, who founded the company in Brooklyn as a vehicle for her stunningly simple designs. She has a range of jewellery and bags, but specialises in furniture, having launched her first collection last summer. The objects are all hand-crafted from wood and maintain a timeless sensibility, drawing inspiration both from traditional shaker furniture and modern geometric shapes and colours. The resulting objects are simple but stunning, showing off the marks of the maker’s hand to highlight the uniqueness of each made-to-order piece. They’re damn good at photographing their catalogue too…

  2. List

    There was a time when if someone said “leather furniture” to me, a horrid image of an ugly, olive green, squashy three-piece looking like it had had an allergic reaction to something was conjured. Thankfully, designers such as Kueng Caputo have refreshed my opinion of leather furniture by bringing it into the present day with an air of sophistication and coolness.

  3. Main

    Sometimes the best projects are just people injecting some light into dormant, ubiquitous objects that lurk in corners waiting to be transformed. Ever contemplate how the clutter of objects on your shelves don’t really fit on your shelves? No problem. Kyuhyung Cho – creator of such design classics as the Poke Stool and Oneness is back with collaborator Erik Olovsson to give a new answer to our interior design prayers in the form of ROOM, a collection of mismatched boxes that can be arranged to form a curiously beautiful shelving unit. As well as being easy on the eye, it’s also pretty hilarious, particularly the part that has a separate hole for each of your pens to sleep in like a stationery version of a dovecote. Lovely.

  4. Wolfond-list

    We’re absolutely gutted not to be at the Salone Del Mobile right now as it turns out this is the year that everyone is there (that’s right, EVERYONE). Among them is Jamie Wolfond, one of Brooklyn’s youngest and finest furniture designers, who’s there to launch his debut collection at Designersbloc. If last year’s display is anything to go by the whole Designersbloc show should be a treat, but Jamie’s work in particular is well worth the journey.

  5. List

    Ambika Subramaniam is currently studying for a BFA at Washington University in St. Louis, though the level of skill evident in her designs suggests a skill far beyond her years. Her design fuses her Indian and Louisiana heritage to create efficient design solutions influenced by the mythologies and traditions of eastern culture. These chairs are from Ambika’s Framed Seats series, through which she considers furniture as a means of framing interior spaces. Constructed from wooden bases and a series of interwoven ropes, they almost resemble sailboats – practical and sturdy while simultaneously appearing somewhat fragile. They also come in a choice of big, medium or very very small, much like the chairs Goldilocks tests in The Three Bears tale. Furniture design doesn’t get much more appealing than this.

  6. List

    I’d like to say that I tracked Jamie Wolfond down through meticulous research and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the North American furniture design scene, but the reality is I was trying to find his email address to contact him about a magazine delivery. Still I’m seriously glad I found his website as its contents are a refreshing take on contemporary furniture design.

  7. List

    Piet Hein Eek already has an international reputation for creating furniture from waste material. He made his name in the 1990s for producing products built entirely from discarded materials too expensive to be turned into anything else. His frustration with this situation stemmed from the fact that the materials were thrown away not because they were of no use, but because the cost of labour was too great to make the finished products economically viable.

  8. List

    It’s no secret that Fort Standard make fantastic objects of use and pieces of exquisite furniture. The New York-based designers have been featured on the site before for their intricate and extraordinary contribution to the world of adventure, Life Is Precious, a ten-piece survival kit for the distinguished hiker. Now we’re featuring them again for their most recent beautiful object, created for an excellent cause. Chainsaw Stools are a collection of stools roughly hewn from fallen trees and painted with colours inspired by storms. They’ve been produced to raise funds for aid relief after Hurricane Sandy and we’re pretty confident they’ll have done an excellent job of it.

  9. List-2

    Where can you find a giant bronze thumb, a chair made out of a female mannequin and a statue of a cowboy all in the same London location? That’s right, The Barbican! And it’s not a collection of weird, semi-fetishistic memorabilia, but an excellent exhibition of some of the most notable works to mark Pop Art’s takeover of the design scene in the latter half of the 20th Century.

  10. Main

    ‘Tis the season of furniture adverts and we’re getting bombarded from all sides by bogus pine warehouses flogging their beige leather numbers at ‘only one nine nine!’ To counteract this is the cooling oasis of Nick V. De Marco’s website, which showcases his extraordinary, ultra non-boring furniture. Sure, Nick’s more of an artist than a carpenter, but it doesn’t mean we want his molecular Void table in every room of our house. Check out the rest of his rather colourful portfolio over on his site.

  11. List

    Jack of all trades and master of quite a few Jonathan Zawada has added yet another string to his already stringy bow in the form of a set of beautiful textured tables. Affordances #1 (You Only Reincarnate Infinitely) are an open edition of side tables made from three modular pieces of marble and granite. Easily pieced together and intuitively designed, the really exciting feature of these hard furnishings is the patterns; the limitless possibilities afforded by the rich natural textures in the granite and marble that add a maximalist aesthetic to an otherwise minimal design.

  12. Apo-list

    There was a time, as a young budding freelancer, when my business partner (that’s much too professional a title really) and I used to work on his kitchen table all day. We’d eat breakfast and lunch there and sometimes dinner too, with our computers pushed to one side for five minutes so we could shovel down tins of soup. The best part of this otherwise disheartening existence was rigging up a table tennis net on the table every lunchtime and pretending we worked in some trendy up-and-coming studio where 50% of your time is spent brainstorming over foosball or hot-desking on bean bags.

  13. List

    It was London Design Festival last week and so creative stores city-wide joined in the excitement; perhaps none more so than Darkroom. The design accessories store launched a season of products based on the work of Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass using themes he introduced during his time with the legendary Memphis group.