Design
Sit Back and Relax: This Easy Chair Looks Great Without Any Upholstery
Dedon's MBrace comes in three forms, three vibrant colors, and makes you feel like you're in a cocoon.
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“I always like to show a new perspective in my work, and I’m very interested in working with people,” says Sebastian Herkner, one of Europe’s most talked-about young design talents. For his collaboration with Dedon, the German company known for its luxury outdoor furniture, Herkner visits Dedon’s factory in Cebu, where the world’s best weavers handcraft the brand’s innovative pieces. Here Herkner takes an intimate look into the painstaking detail that is necessary for bringing his designs to life. “It’s very interesting to understand who is working, and the technique they work with. I find that it’s very important that pieces are crafted by hand because it creates a certain quality and depth of character. This is especially true with wickerwork, where you need time and patience to fashion something that is very precise.” Herkner, who studied Product Design at the Offenbach Design Academy, developed a particular liking for color, material, and their connection during his internship at Stella McCartney in London—a focus that is evident in his current Mbrace collection, which includes the use of teak and three vibrant colorways he conceived together with world renowned colorist Giulio Ridolfo. At the Dedon factory, where he sits amidst the curves and weaves of the prototypes for his next collection, Herkner is almost like a kid in a candy store. “This line will be shown in Milan next year, and this is the first time I’m seeing some of the pieces,” he admits. “It feels a little bit like Christmas.”

Designer Sebastian Herkner

Herkner’s hyperfocus when it comes to precision and design is counterbalanced with the ease in his manner, as well as the sheer delight he seems to exude when it comes to his creations, an attitude that is easily reflected in the shapes, textures, and spirit of Mbrace. One of the collection’s most distinctive features is an open, mesh-like triaxial weave. And along with its vivid colors (Spice, Pepper, and Atlantic) and teakwood bases, Mbrace brings a playful spin to barefoot living. As the collection’s name suggests, Mbrace invokes a feel that is as joyful as it is welcoming. “It’s about happiness and feeling safe and cocooned. It’s as beautiful as a very cozy hug,” Herkner explains. “Our wing chair, for instance, is extra wide, so it feels like you are enveloped in a shell. Our rocking chair is deep so you can sink into the soothing motion. And all our seats are designed so that they are comfortable with or without the upholstery.” The result is a take on outdoor furniture that goes beyond utility. “There’s a bigger sensibility involved. It’s not just based on what is practical or functional. For Dedon, I wanted something that was both beautiful and sensible, and we achieved this by bringing typologies typical for the indoors outside.”

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The MBrace chair in wingback form

With the hectic pace of modern living, spending time on one’s terrace, balcony, or poolside just to get away from it all becomes all the more important. And this migration to the outdoors creates a need for comfort and luxury that reaches beyond the confines of our walled spaces. “The outdoors have become more and more important for us as we need to relax and calm down after the stress of work and city living,” Herkner expounds. “I had the idea of taking pieces that are typical of a living room like the rocking and wing chairs, and designing them so that they would be suitable for the outdoors. I wanted the protective feeling of the arm of a wingchair, but I also wanted it to feel open. This was achieved with the mesh of the weave. It’s almost like we combined with nature. We wanted it to be a bit transparent so that you can feel the wind. It isn’t a solid wall, so you can hear the sounds of conversations around you. And because the designs can work without upholstery, it is entirely possible to relax in the chairs even after a rain shower, or a dip in the pool.”

The MBrace in its lounger option

On this visit to the Philippines, Herkner looks forward to finalizing his designs for his next Mbrace collection, which potentially includes a dining chair and a chaise longue. “I was very much drawn to working with Dedon because it is the most famous outdoor brand, one that is very established in Europe. When they first started 25 years ago, they developed their now iconic beige-gray fiber. About three years ago they started working with color. I think it’s very important to have this revolution—to mix colors and materials, to have this continuous reinvention.” As such he hopes to introduce even more color into the next season. “We are thinking of a new combination for next year. Perhaps aubergine or more green.” For Herkner, color is not just an aesthetic addition. It’s a form expression. “I think color is very important for our lifestyle, and the settings we create in our outdoor spaces. This is something very personal, like the way we dress ourselves. In the end, some people will still choose the more traditional browns or beiges for their outdoor furniture. But they can also create a mix of the classic and colorful. And these opportunities make it more individual statements. I live close to Frankfurt, where the first 20 residential towers have just been built. This is not at all typical of this city. But the new reality is that the landscape is changing, and more and more people will be living in penthouses with balconies. Our needs are now very different from what they were 20 years ago. These armchairs are quite small. They are made to fit in these smaller terraces. It’s a topic for the next decades really: How to design furniture for our smaller urban spaces. How to create colorful, decorative, and functional pieces that are not just for indoor living, but for our outdoor spaces as well.”

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And perhaps this is why Herkner’s Mbrace collection is as surprising as it feels is welcoming. It’s a breath of fresh air in the great outdoors, where expression and function can both come into play. And where the need to be distinct can be celebrated just as we are comforted in the extensions of our homes.

Living Innovations, Fort Victoria, 5th Avenue corner 23rd Street, Bonifacio Global City, 830.2230

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