Furniture as art: a synergy of function & aesthetics in every piece - Lifestyle AU
Furniture as art: a synergy of function & aesthetics in every piece

Furniture as art: a synergy of function & aesthetics in every piece

Contemporary art meets furniture design in each of Melbourne-based designer Dean Norton’s sleek, minimalist pieces

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

Shunning the notion that logistics need to sit at the forefront of the design process, furniture designer Dean Norton crafts pieces that place equal emphasis on function and aesthetics. Born and raised in Essex, England, Dean studied both graphic and interior design, enjoying a career in the latter field spanning well over a decade before delving into the world of furniture design. Combining rich materiality with organic, natural forms, Dean’s work thoughtfully toes the line between functionality and aesthetics while staying true to minimalist design philosophy.

Render by Alexis Christodoulou

“I’ve always loved contemporary art,” Dean tells ArchiPro from his studio in Melbourne. “That’s where I draw most of my inspiration from, it’s more contemporary artists as opposed to other designers.” The inspiration is evident. Playing with materiality and taking on organic, natural forms, each piece serves double duty as both furniture and art.

Dulux Colour Forecast. Photo by Lisa Cohen, Styling by Bree Leech

Contemporary minimalism

Eschewing the conventional minimalist tropes of exclusively neutral hues and clean lines, Dean’s designs often take on curved, undulating shapes and utilise bold colours, resulting in pieces that are simultaneously striking and subtle. “I kind of like my furniture to be seen as art,” says Dean. The harmoniously uninterrupted nature of each piece makes that desire a reality. Devoid of any visible joinery, each piece appears as if crafted from a single entity, exemplified in pieces like the Mood Coffee + Side tables. “I don’t really like seeing things like fixings, I don’t have any visible fixings on my work. It’s a seamless kind of form, which lets the shape and materials speak for themselves.”

Render by Spot Studio

Placing form first

Determined not to be curtailed by the confines of technology, Dean typically takes a more conceptual approach to the design process. “When I start my design process, I start from a form,” he notes. “If I’ve got a shape I want to explore or a material I want to use, I start from a form. I try not to think about how I can make it at the beginning because I don’t want that to restrict the idea.” The process is one Dean has carried through from his uni days and into his commercial interior design practice. “If you can’t quite get that shape right [in a CAD program], you can just sketch it and figure out how you’re going to make it afterwards, rather than letting the program dominate your finished result.”

Dulux Colour Forecast. Photo by Lisa Cohen, Styling by Bree Leech

An ongoing conversation

A key facet present within all of Dean’s pieces is their ability to create a dynamic dialogue with their surroundings. “I tend to go for materials with a performative finish,” Dean explains. “Mirror is a performative finish as it changes the perception of something, a zinc finish also reflects its environment so the piece merges into the space even more.” Translating to worlds both real and imagined, Dean frequently collaborates with render artists overseas who place his designs within their virtual worlds, allowing the story of the pieces to continue. In particular, the Moodlum Zinc pieces utilise a performative finish that reflects the tones and colours of its surroundings, simultaneously harmonising with and enhancing the space in which they’re placed.

Render by Spot Studio

Design with depth

Although contemporary art and sleek minimalism are central to Dean’s designs, they’re often also the result of personal experience. Conceived during lockdown in response to the theme ‘Ingenuity’ for a virtual exhibition presented by design collective alt.material, the Daylight lamp saw Dean draw from his observation of the often inclement weather in both the UK and Melbourne, coupled with working in a studio bereft of natural light.

Render by Anthony Devine

“I was exploring this idea of a light therapy lamp - we use them in the UK and just have them on the desk to boost your energy,” explains Dean. “It’s a pure white light that heightens your mood, similar to when you’re in the sun.” Unlike the utilitarian light boxes that serve as therapy lamps of today, Daylight takes on a minimalist sculptural form, with frosted glass plates playing host to a floating full spectrum globe that mimics the natural light of the sun. “I wanted to create something that I would find useful, but would also feel like a piece of art.”

Render by Spot Studio

To learn more about Dean Norton and view his latest designs, visit his ArchiPro profile here.

Words by Tanisha Angel

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