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The Insider: Henri Wilson

April 24, 2016

The Chevron shelf, a new storage staple by Sydney design star Henry Wilson, proves that elegance plus practicality is a formula for magic. 

Henry Wilson believes that beauty is a byword for functionality. The Sydney furniture designer, who received a masters degree at the fabled Design Academy Eindhoen in the Netherlands and has since enjoyed a swift career trajectory thanks to commercial fitouts for brands such as Aesop and initiatives such as Things Revisited – a series that sees him re-imagine design icons such as the Wassily Chair – says that aesthetic value stems from utilitarianism, not the other way round.

“For me design is about honestly resolving problems,” says Wilson, whose plaudits include the 2011 Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award and a SOYA Craft and Design Object Award, which led to a mentorship with Mark Newson. “I’ve always thought that an object’s beauty stems from the way that it’s resolved. I try to resolve a sense of truth in each piece and hopefully create a bond with the user in the process.”

It’s difficult to dispute the power of Wilson’s approach. For instance, his singular take on the Wasily Chair – which incorporates tan bridle leather and powder-blue coating – captures the spirit of the Bauhaus classic, which was designed in 1925 by Marcel Breuer, while rewriting it for the Australian user. And Wilson’s Chevron shelves, a  modular storage unit that represents his first collaboration with NOMI, speaks to the needs of modern-day customers and preserves the integrity of the Ancient Greek design.

“The Chevron is an ancient interlocking symbol – it’s an honest shape that can be seen in Ancient Greek and Aztec cultures and I’ve always been struck by it,” says Wilson, who designed the shelves a year before joining forces with NOMI to manufacture and distribute the product. “At the same time, I’d noticed that print media was dying in the sense that cheap, monthly magazines were going away but there was a rise in well-crafted independent magazines. For instance, if you collected Monocle magazine or a particular journal, the Chevron shelf is somewhere you can store them. I designed it for people who are storing a small selection of quality books and magazines rather than a large library of paperbacks.”

Wilson says that the Chevron shelves, which are made from precision-milled Birchwood, available in shades such as rose pink and teal and revolve around the symbol’s interlocking pattern – the perfect union of elegance and functionality – are also designed to evolve with user’s lives.

“You can add more shelves to the system as your collection grows and simply stack them up,” he explains. “And if you’re moving house, you don’t have to empty them all, you can just carry them like a box.”

Wilson, who cites successfully maintaining his own practice as his proudest career achievement, says that the next twelve months includes making space for his own evolution.

“I’ll be working with NOMI on on some possible new collaborations – I’m continuing to work on my new practice and some interior fitouts. I’m also opening a new studio in Darlinghurst that will be an open studio and showroom that the public can visit,” he says. “By necessity or interest, I love how varied my job is.”


Posted on April 24, 2016