Adrian Coen worked as a carpenter before going to university as a mature student.
What’s your background?
My grandparents were farmers. They were resourceful, creative people who were very practical and good at problem-solving.
I was lucky to spend lots of time with them when I was young. I think they inspired me indirectly in the field I’m working in now. I worked as a carpenter before going to university as a mature student.
I initially studied Furniture Craftsmanship in a UK university and then studied in a workshop-based design education at HDK Steneby, Gothenburg University in Sweden.
I graduated in 2010, and started working for myself and building up a design/make practice.
I like to diversify a lot, and apply my creativity to different briefs from small-scale architecture to furniture and toy design. I have also worked as an assistant lecturer for two years at HDK Steneby.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
I’m lucky to have quite a bit of variety in my ‘typical’ day. It would depend on what project I’m working on.
It varies from being on the computer, working on a design proposal or tender, creating 3D models, research, and developing ideas, to being in the workshop prototyping, machining wood, assembling, or oil finishing.
Tell us about a recent or favourite design or project that you have worked on?
I worked on a very exciting project last year. It was a collaboration with fellow furniture designer Simon Doyle.
We designed and made public space furniture for the Office of Public Works (OPW) in the Phoenix Park.
We reimagined the traditional picnic bench to create a more social space for picnickers to gather and interact, and provide universal access to people with reduced mobility.
The tables and benches were made in native oak from the park and have weathered well in the setting.
Another project I am really proud of is the ‘Harvest’ storage tool I have just launched. The original concept was to inspire people to cook and eat healthily, so it has been designed in a way that displays the natural beauty of fruit and vegetable forms, colours, and textures.
It has tempered glass dishes for your fruit and vegetables, which are height adjustable, and hessian bags to store onions and potatoes. The design of the hessian bags was a collaboration with my mother, Marie Coen, who is a dressmaker.
What’s your design style?
I don’t have a particular design style. For me, the form of an object emerges from the design process.
I like to work on a design problem from the inside out. By that I mean I identify the problem, research it, find solutions that are fit for purpose, analyse the function, and work with the qualities and strengths in the materials.
I aim for a combination of simplicity and smart workmanship. It’s hard work, but then again, pain is always going to be part of trying to create something beautiful. And it doesn’t always work!
What/who inspires your work?
I’m happy out in a woodland, so the natural world is always an inspiration for me, particularly the beauty and qualities in different woods like birch, oak, ash, and elm.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?
I’m a bit of a dinosaur and can’t keep up with trends. I find I’m more interested in a kind of classic beauty that doesn’t go out of fashion.
I got good advice from a teacher once about trends, he said: “Don’t follow trends, set them.”
Pioneering is at the heart of the design intention.
What’s your most treasured possession?
My amazing stone collection from various beaches around Ireland.
Who would be your favourite designer or style inspiration?
Eileen Gray, the Irish architect and furniture designer, stands out, as would many of the Danish and Scandinavian furniture designers. I travelled to Japan two years ago and was blown away with their woodworking and design traditions.
What would be a dream project/design to work on?
Designing and building a play space/structure for children. I have a lot of nephews and nieces and I get ideas and inspiration from being around them.
Any design tips for us?
Consider buying the locally made — research Ireland’s designer makers, and look for quality products with a longevity and a durable beauty that doesn’t go out of fashion.
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