Down a backstreet behind an industrial garage door, a quiet energy permeates. Michael Anastassiades and his team are about to move out. The following week, the basement will be excavated to make space for a model-making studio, allowing the current workspace to serve as a showroom for his expanding collection. It’s a key moment for the designer, who set up his own lighting company in 2007 because he didn’t think super-brands would be willing to invest in his ideas.
However, soon after establishing his own firm Anastassiades ended up embarking on a decade-long relationship with lighting brand Flos, and four years ago he moved into furniture and product design, working with brands such as Herman Miller and Bang and Olufsen.
After successfully launching and designing products for your own company, what was it like to work for other brands?
MA There was actually more freedom in some ways. Freedom from all those challenges that I was facing as a designer, entrepreneur and manufacturer, and having to do things on such a small scale. Flos had so much knowledge; all of a sudden there was this technical expertise and support that was offered to me, and which freed me up to challenge and push things in an extreme way. The same happened with Molteni&C.
How did your collaboration with Molteni&C come about?
MA They gave me an open invitation and I said: “I have this table, what do you think?” They immediately got it. They took it on and in a few weeks we had the first prototype. It was so fast – they do everything inhouse and they’re incredible at knowing what they can achieve technically.
Can you talk us through your design?
MA It’s an aluminium table. The legs and the frame sections are made from triangular extrusions and they slot into a joint – a very beautiful detail that requires a lot of precision to make. It is prismatic, but because all the sections are triangular, once everything fits together it looks like a cube. This is how we got the name of the table: Half a Square. A triangle of course is just half a square and what’s nice about it is that because all of the parts are separate, you can have different materials and finishes for the legs and tabletop: it allows for a lot of play with colour.
So much of the character of this table stems from the joint?
MA Yes, my work is very much related to geometry. If you look at all the different sections of this table, they’re really simple geometries, but the way they are attached and somehow held together is very complex. This fascinates me. It’s like some magic happens – it almost looks impossible.
To create this “magic” requires someone who is good at maths. Before you studied design you studied engineering at Imperial College London. But you’ve often said that you don’t use these skills in your work at all?
MA I ran away from engineering as much as I possibly could. But yes, it lurks.
How does designing furniture differ from working in lighting?
MA Lighting is complex because for 80 per cent of a light’s life it is off – it needs to work sculpturally as an object in the way that it occupies the space around it. Then, when you turn it on, something completely different happens. It becomes a functional object, but the space that it occupies also changes physically. Furniture is more direct. You need to find different ways of engaging intellectually with it.
How do you do this?
MA By making things that are timeless. This isn’t just achieved through engineering, it’s also in the way you experience a piece of furniture, in the materials that you use. The notion of balance is especially important to me.
What do you mean by balance?
MA Things need to be in equilibrium – perhaps they are suspended in an interesting way or look like they are hovering, like this tabletop which almost hovers over the four legs.
Is this an interest that goes beyond objects? Looking at your mobile chandelier series, for example, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve been a yoga teacher.
MA Yes, I guess this is a philosophy; it’s not something you can pin down and identify. But I think in life everything you do has an influence on the way that you see the world, in the way that you respond to the world – and then eventually in the things that you create.
Does this ethos help you achieve things that you feel are timeless? This is also a difficult concept to identify and pin down.
MA I guess overall I have a very reduced approach to designing objects. I just find it overwhelming to be confronted with too much information, so I try to take away as much as possible from an object to leave just what is needed. I think this approach leads to things that are timeless.