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Bart Vos (1969) is a true uome universale: architect, interior designer, furniture designer, and entrepreneur. With the Maupertuus building - designed in 1994 at the behest of his father Henk, patriarch of the Vos empire -, newly graduated Bart firmly planted his flag. Today, he is the creative director of Vos Interieur and responsible for design projects at home and abroad. Bart gives you an insight into his design process.

“I don’t want a signature style, where you immediately see ‘oh, that’s a Bart Vos’. Location, surroundings, client—these influences are visible in my designs. There is central thread, though: it has to be practical and feasible. And functional. Walking around the Milan furniture fair, sitting down in a chair that people have been working on for years, and finding it completely uncomfortable—I just don’t get that. Look at the HOOD, a cabinet I designed for LINTELOO. It consists of no more than three parts. And you can see how it’s made. The same goes for the buildings I design. When Maupertuus opened, people thought we had run out of money: no lowered ceilings, the construction in sight… Recently, one of my clients wanted a concrete wall plastered. I told him to wait a little while. The plastering never came about. A hint of Mies van der Rohe? Yes, indeed. I am not copying him, but a great example like Farnsworth House is simply there, at the back of your mind.

The homes I design arise from the brief, not from merely creating something that ‘looks good’. I don’t like those architectural erections. And I think of my clients as my co-architects. That is why I will spend a lot of time hand sketching. I enjoy the discussions, the adaptations, the tinkering. It is organic process. Sometimes, clients can be impatient, wanting to know exactly what it’s going to look like. That is when I remember garden designer Piet Oudolf, whom I have collaborated with. When a client asks what material he will use for a garden path, he will quite happily say ‘oh, I don’t know yet, we’ll see once the building is up’. That is how you create harmony.

This is important, also between architecture and interior. Of course, ideally you get to design all of it, as a Gesamtkunstwerk. That used to be more common in the old days, just think of Berlage. I am fortunate to have the sort of clients who are open to this. They see that I immerse myself into how you will be living in the building. In my head I walk through the design, not only with functionality but also aesthetics in mind. I am opening doors, turning corners. What will I see?

Sightlines are part of my vocabulary, just like the interplay of materials. This is definitely something I learned during my time in Japan. The locus is also important. I have been very lucky, with commissions on the water, along the Pieterpad, in the city. I am currently designing a contemporary farmhouse in the Frisian countryside, and a house on a country estate, surrounded by forest… A mountaintop is still on my wish list. Or in the heart of a major city. Of course, there are always limitations. But that’s okay. It challenges you to reach consensus because, honestly, ‘beauty’ is not always subjective. A client once said to one of my mentors, Peter Struycken, ‘what an ugly green colour’. He was so surprised. There are innumerable shades of green in the forest. And have you ever heard anyone say, ‘gee, what an ugly forest’?”

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Bart Vos

Talk about design being part of your genetic makeup: his father was renowned designer Henk Vos, one of his brothers is equally renowned designer Roderick Vos. As a matter of fact, Bart Vos is preceded by no less than three generations of furniture makers.

It was only a couple of years since Bart graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, when his father asked him—aged just 24 at the time—to design the ground-breaking Maupertuus building for the Vos emporium in Groningen.

Today, Bart is Vos Interieur’s creative director, responsible for interior design projects in the Netherlands and abroad. And he regularly turns his hand to furniture, for various international brands, including Linteloo. His awareness of and interest in ‘the real world’, outside the confines of a showroom or studio, shine through in his designs: extremely beautiful yet utterly useable.

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