Last week we met up with Julien Renault, designer of the Log Table and Punched Collection at Hem, to visit his studio in Brussels, talk about life and his personal journey into design.
Photography: David De Vleeschauwer and Nicolas Delaroche
— Tell us how you got into design in the first place?
I always enjoyed working with my father who was a painter. Not an ‘artist’ painter but a house painter. We did a lot of work at home together and when I was young I would spend the weekends helping him to build. So, I think it really came from him — making things with my hands. When I was 19 I moved from my home village outside Paris to study at Reims art school — it was really artistic, practical design. It wasn’t industrial design, so that’s when I did an Erasmus at ÉCAL in Switzerland where I stayed for one and a half years — another kind of design, more realistic and…
— More Swiss?
More Swiss! Obviously.
— And then what happened?
I did a lot of jobs. When I left ECAL in 2009 I moved to Brussels because my girlfriend was from there. I worked as an assistant for Sylvain Willenz and even before ÉCAL I was an intern at the Bouroullec Studio. I was very young — 22 or 23. I worked for an antique dealer here in Brussels after Sylvain. I was also an assistant for Alain Berteau, the owner of the brand Objekten. It has been a long process for me to have my own products on the market because I worked a lot for other people, I started by learning.
— How would you describe your design style?
I like finding inspiration in something, in an object. That could be an industrial standard or an artform. I always begin with a reference to something — a material or a technique or a found object — an anonymous subject. If you take the Punched Metal Hook I designed for Hem, that was inspired by standardized parts that I found in a shop for industrial pieces like steel plates, arms and tubes. There were some mixed parts in varying diameters and when I saw the shape of the object I loved it. My feeling was that there was no design to change on this thing and we can supply this product all over the world, that it could be the starting point for a new industrial object. I can find inspiration and beauty in anything.
— Tell us about the Log Table.
The Log Table was an old project, in fact. It was a collection of other furniture made in recycled plastic. Hem loved the design and simplicity of it. The idea was to make a table that can fit with any chair, any design. I like this process of simplifying. In the end we have a table that is completely generic. My ambition is to work with Hem for a long time. Not for one product but to have a close relationship with them, making and growing and also for the Log Family to grow.
— And what about you personally? What do you see for yourself?
What I hope for is long relationships with my customers, trusted ones. And I’m trying to open my collaborations more, to extend my work. But doing it slowly. I’m also doing a lot of photography, so I’m working a lot for other people. I like this kind of approach, less focus on myself. And in my private life I mainly focus about improving life for my family and friends and travelling as much as I can.
Shop Julien's Collection
Punched Candle Holder