Sketchbook: Piet Hein Eek

Piet Hein Eek is a Dutch designer who makes new furniture, art and household products such as lamps, using waste materials. The designer describes his fondness for ruins, where repairs connect the past and future. His company has grown from a one-man start-up, to a thriving business employing 80 or more people. A single piece of furniture is made from start to finish by one worker (as opposed to an assembly line approach).

His UK dealer, Sheridan Coakley says that Eek’s philosophy is “… quality in the labour not in the materials”.  Sounds rather like cooking, where a delicious meal can be made with some simple ingredients!

This month’s Craft Magazine (September/October 2016) has a feature on his work including these two pieces of scrap wood furniture that I particularly like:-

Above Left: Piet Hein Eek, Classic Cupboard in Scrap Wood, 1990

Above Right: Piet Hein Eek, Beam Cabinet, current work

Source:- Crafts magazine, September/October 2016, pp 53-61

Things I like about this work are:-

  • the simple, functional designs;
  • the use of recycled materials;
  • the patchwork look of the pieces;
  • the way the previous finishes and patina of the materials are retained and turned into a design feature;
  • the way the designer has aimed at a ‘higher end’ market, retaining control over his design and construction processes. (Although, he is also branching out into collaborations with IKEA!)

Implications and inspirations for my own work, are a shared interest in reusing ‘waste’ materials (for me: textiles, found items, yarns, threads and embellishments). This designer has come up with some iconic designs, which he continues to produce over the long-term, together with new lines inspired by the waste he comes across. This suggests that ideas can be stimulated from the material itself, rather than producing a design and going out to find the requisite supplies. Knowing the properties, potential and constraints of working with a particular material therefore become of importance. Also, a good deal of experimentation must be required.

I would very much like to design functional items and art works incorporating recycled materials (or rather, continue to do so, since I have already made a start in that direction!). Coming up with classical designs that are stylish, popular, repeatable (with variations), and not too time-consuming to make is key. A good maker’s ‘story’ (always of interest to journalists and customers); and finding suitable markets seem to be the next step in building a customer base, and lasting business.

Eek’s designs have clean, uncluttered lines, that let the beauty of the aged materials shine through. Incorporating the wear and tear on found materials into a design may be something to ponder, however, that strikes me as being more suitable for art works rather than functional pieces, where textiles are concerned.


Nicolas, D. (2016) ‘Piet Hein Eek: Waste Not Want Not’, Crafts (September/October), pp. 53–61.

Websites: (Accessed: 4 September 2016).

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