“Sometimes we’ll be
sketching the same
things in our sketch
books, or we’ll have a
big sheet of paper and
work together on it “
, Words by Helen Parton for onoffice January 08 issue
Photography by Panos Vasiliou
The guys at Lime Studio have barely left the doors of higher education swinging behind them, but already they are wasting no time in getting themselves noticed in the professional design world. Matthew Dabbs, 23, from Chelmsford in Essex, Cypriot-born Panos Vasiliou, 24, plus 23- year-old Oscar Tange, who is half Japanese and half Swiss, make up this multicultural trio currently based in Nottingham.
I’ve made the trip up to see them in a city that regularly makes the top ten of worst places to live in the UK, but the panoramic skyline viewed from their office window on a sunny day makes it seem quite the opposite. “It’s the best light to sketch in,” says Vasiliou. Their working environment is lined with their respective computers against one wall and filled with the fruits of their labour in the centre of the space where I interview them. I’ve barely had a chance to take off my coat, get my notebook out and had a strong espresso placed in my hand before the trio have launched into where they want to be and how they’re going to do it.
They’ve just come back from Japan, where they were exhibiting at 100% Design Tokyo, and it’s gone well. They talk of scribbling down their contact details on anything they had to hand as their stash of flyers rapidly disappeared to interested parties from across the world, and have since found themselves an agent in Japan. Much like Nottingham’s best known design luminary Paul Smith, who famously developed a penchant for bringing back objets trouvés from his early trips to Japan, so Lime Studio was fascinated by what it found there too. “We’d just walk around the city, kind of deliberately not knowing where we’d end up,” says Dabbs, with Vasiliou adding, “At the shows, the student stuff was amazing, and there was some great architecture and design shops. You kind of get inspired without realising it and I really want to go back again.”
All three have just completed a Furniture and Product design degree at Nottingham Trent University. “We met in the first year when we were in the same group and I remember pulling an allnighter at Oscar’s house,” says Vasiliou. Instead of completing a placement year with a manufacturer or designer, they decided to form Lime Studio, a move not wholly endorsed by their tutors. I doubt this initial lack of support crossed their minds when they found themselves rubbing shoulders with the great and good of design at the launch of the Puerta America hotel in Madrid. The trio had designed a bathroom accessory for Holger Kehne of Plasma Studio, which was responsible for the fourth floor of the building. They’ve gone on to do similar work for a number of architects to supplement their main furniture design enterprise
Unsurprisingly, given that they all live and work together, the design process is highly collaborative. “Sometimes we’ll be sketching the same things in our sketch books, or we’ll have a big sheet of paper and work together on it,” says Vasiliou. They seem happy to work under the umbrella of Lime Studio rather than their individual designer names, perhaps having seen the success that Leeds’ based Naughtone and Newcastle’s Deadgood, both made up of similarly ambitious twentysomethings, have enjoyed.
They first came to my attention at the Freerange exhibition for graduate design this year with their triangular Nonagon coffee table, composed of powder-coated steel. “For us to make prototypes being based in Nottingham really helps, as there are quite a lot of metal companies around,” says Dabbs. Aimed more squarely at the office market is Piano, a storage unit in polypropylene, which was shortlisted for a design competition for Greek office furniture producer Dromeas. “I don’t know why more young designers don’t do office furniture,” Dabbs continues. “It’s a very big market.” Both Leaf, a low-height rocking chair, and Heirloom, which functions as both a stool or a table, could be possibilities for a brainstorming area or lobby, and the studio is currently putting the finishing touches to some new office furniture entitled The Butterfly Series.
The trio is also half way through prototyping a wooden desk with “legs that taper down like toothpicks,” says Tange. He then shows me the Frame floor light, which, with its 14mm-thick frame, is really rather elegant given its height.
Lime Studio was also part of the inaugural 100% Futures – 100% Design’s emerging talent zone. “We really didn’t know what was going to happen,” says Dabbs. “We just wanted to get our name out there. Afterwards it gives you the motivation to keep on going.” Their persistence is beginning to pay off too. Post 100%, they caught the eye of Spanish stone company Levantina, and are currently exploring the design properties of ceramics for a range of furniture concepts to be exhibition in Milan in 2008. I wouldn’t be surprised if other manufacturers soon follow, such is their ceaseless enthusiasm (combined with a healthy dose of self-promotion). It’s a good job they’ve got the talent to back it up. Dabbs sums up their approach: “We’ve just got to go out there and do it ourselves.
“The limes” answer the yatzer questionery :
yatzer. Describe yourself in five words.
Matthew Dabbs: Ambitious, spontaneous, explorer, energetic, reliable
Panos Vasiliou: Inpatient , exciting , curious + +
Oscar Tange: Shy, quiet, different, creative, designer
yatzer. If you could be a different nationality, what would it be?
Matthew Dabbs: :I’m alright with being British, does it make a difference it never changes who you really are!
Panos Vasiliou: Don’t really care about nationalities.I wouldn’t change i think.
Oscar Tange: I think it’s better if I don’t start confusing people, I will stick with the one I have which is Swiss.
yatzer. What’s your favourite movie?
Matthew Dabbs: Theres not just one, ‘Thank you for not smoking’, ‘Monty Pythons: the life of brian’, ‘American Psycho’ so many I like all types of films but that new Rambo film was a joke!
Panos Vasiliou: As with all “favorite” issues..i haven’t got one.I have movies that stay in my mind like “a night on earth” but not favorites
Oscar Tange: I would go for the Aviator or Midnight Express, these are the ones that come to mind now..
yatzer. What kind of music you like to listen?
Matthew Dabbs: Anything really, indie, rock, house, jazz pretty much anything gets played in our studio.
Panos Vasiliou: Anything i believe it has quality , from jazz to house
Oscar Tange: It all depends on the moment, if I want to kick start the day usually punk rock music but when I want to be in an inspirational atmosphere Jazz is a great choice!
yatzer. What is your favorite design material?
Matthew Dabbs: Interesting, at the moment metal but I am only at the beginning of designing, ask me in 10 years when I’ve explored many materials and I’ll really know.
Panos Vasiliou: I don’h have one…but i do like super materials like honeycomb structures and fiber synthetic materials
Oscar Tange: Wood, because of its smell, texture, warmth and manipulative possibilities.
yatzer. What is the most expensive piece of furniture in your house?
Matthew Dabbs: Probably either my bed or the Nonagon coffee table
Panos Vasiliou: Don’t have any expensive pieces in my house, most expensive piece of design though is probably my laptop and my watch
Oscar Tange: A Steinway & Sons grand piano
yatzer. What inspires you?
Matthew Dabbs: Everyday objects, I can’t really say because I feel it happens subconsciously without you realizing
Panos Vasiliou: Sunny days , traveling , coffee and music , and in depth talk with the other two limes.
Oscar Tange: Japan is the inspirational land where anything is possible. I feel it’s a place where they don’t see just in “black or white” but the widest colour wheel, meaning they have a product for everyone and every purpose imaginable. I think that all the designs inspire me as it helps distinguish what’s a good idea and what isn’t.
yatzer. You are going for a weekend “somewhere” and you have to invite seven famous people, dead or alive to join you. Where would you go and who would they be?
Matthew Dabbs: Good question, I would probably go to the mountains where no one would disturb us. Leonardo Di Vinci, Columbus, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Salvador dali and Louis Armstrong, people who have achieved so much, it’ld be so interesting what they were thinking when they were doing what they did.
Panos Vasiliou: Miles Davis , Bob Marley , Santiago Calatrava , Jean Prouve , Pablo Picasso , Leonardo Da Vinci and Ross Lovegrove. We would go to a big house/studio were they can create influencing each other…
Oscar Tange: Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Eduardo Chillida, Charles Eames, Mies Van der Rohe, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. It would be in the old Paris in the 50’s to experience how they lived back then and enjoy a concert by Frank Sinatra and the crazy Elvis.
yatzer. Are you afraid of the future?
Matthew Dabbs: The futures unknown that makes it more exciting
Panos Vasiliou: No…hopefully earth will still be ok.
Oscar Tange: The problem is that nowadays people think too much on the present and don’t think enough on the future, and this is what makes people afraid. Personally I believe in destiny and whatever happens, happens for a reason, you need to aim high in order to have a successful and not be afraid.
yatzer. Describe me the perfect day?
Matthew Dabbs: At work a day of exploration that results in a successful outcome in the studio, outside of work having a great time with friends or travelling around a new place like when we were in Tokyo for our exhibition at Tokyo Design week.
Panos Vasiliou: Sunny day near the beach with the people i love, music and good food.
Oscar Tange: Blue sky, silence, snowboarding down endless km of slopes with meters of fresh snow. Quality food and enjoying it with someone dear to me. Romantic dinner on the mountains…
yatzer. What does space mean to you?
Matthew Dabbs: An empty of volume that could be anything
Panos Vasiliou: Emptiness.
Oscar Tange: A place where our furniture will be! Or a black mysterious place..
yatzer. Luxury is?
Matthew Dabbs: Depends on who you are, to me something that has been has been cleverly developed and crafted over time, a piece of beauty, so special that you dream about wanting
Panos Vasiliou: Having free time to do whatever you want , chocolate , water.
Oscar Tange: Food is luxury as it’s essential, and unfortunately not everyone can afford to enjoy this luxury.
Matthew Dabbs: The best thing you can ever do, creating objects of desire that people appreciate, seeing something coming from just a thought through the process to the final design, then too be able to touch it, now that is a job!
Panos Vasiliou: Design is everything!!! Because everything around us needs to be designed before it exists!
Oscar Tange: Anything that comes from our imagination with a purpose in life.
Lime Studio at Salone Satellite, Salone Internazionale del Mobile (Milan furniture fair), in April
Lime Studio will be showcasing new designs at the Salone Satellite, Milan from 16th-21st April 2008. They will be showing a range of furniture that explores material and their usability in furniture. Some of the designs to be seen include a triangular coffee table series mixing ceramic and metal; a bench combining wood and marble; an oak desk with an 8mm top; and a wall leaning shelving unit using LG Hi Macs.
The up and coming UK based studio was formed by a trio of international designers after a series of collaborative projects. They have been working together since 2005. The trio consists of British born Matthew Dabbs, half Japanese half Swiss Oscar Tange and Cypriot born Panos Vasiliou who since finishing design degrees have gone from strength to strength.
Having launched their work at 100% Futures, London Design Festival 2007, they then went onto 100% Tokyo, Tokyo design Week 2007. Their designs caught the attention of both press and the design world where their work is now highly publicised in the international press. Lime Studio’s noticeably bold style explores furniture’s real functionality. As a result a now well established working relationship was developed with Spanish based Levantina which has allowed Lime Studio to work with them exploring a range of ceramics used for architectural facades and flooring to incorporate them into furniture
This is only a few of the designs to be shown at Salone Satellite, Milan 2008 of which further concepts are to be taken by Levantina on a world tour showcasing the usability of the material into furniture concepts for both the outdoor and indoor markets. Later in the year Levantina and Lime Studio’s collaboration will be showcased at the London Design Festival 2008 on a much larger scale.