If you follow along on Instagram, you may have noticed I was very lucky to join the #KezuDesignTour2017 in late May/ early June which saw a small group of us travel to The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain for a week of immersion in design excellence. I always feel incredibly fortunate when having the opportunity to experience brands in their home context, visiting production facilities, and witnessing furniture and various other pieces brought to life from the very beginning. To me, this is an enormous privilege not to be taken lightly, as most of us only ever get to experience products as pretty pictures in catalogues, in furniture showrooms, or at trade fairs – sometimes leaving us to judge the book by its cover. Being taken behind the scenes of various brands reveals their true DNA, and understanding how each piece of furniture comes to life puts the entire design process into perspective, enabling us to assess product in a way that’s more holistic and connected. For me, visits to factories demystify what good quality actually means, why furniture costs what it costs, why lead times are what they are etc, resulting in more informed choices.

The wall of fame at the showroom in Schijndel, showcasing some brilliant historical pieces from Artifort’s extensive collection, many of which were designed by Pierre Paulin in the 50s and 60s. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. The iconic Tulip Chairs by Pierre Paulin on the left, and Junior range of the classics on the right. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace Today I am sharing the experience of visiting the amazing Dutch brand Artifort and their two factories in Schijndel in The Netherlands and Lanaken in Belgium. Saying that I was incredibly excited about visiting Artifort would be an understatement. Not only is Artifort one of the oldest design brands in the world (the company was founded in 1890, which means its 127 years old – get your head around that for a second!), their collection is replete with extraordinary design classics most of us would be familiar with. Artifort stands for furniture that lasts a lifetime, the types of pieces that are passed down through generations, becoming family heirlooms. Despite all this, they aren’t the ones to rest on their laurels, and the company has been investing in original design and continuing on a contemporary path that remains true to its core values. Artifort’s production facility in Schijndel is meticulous and runs like clockwork. Image on the right shows large injection moulds used for producing Artifort’s signature complex curvy shapes. One chair can require multiple moulds, making for a very complex production process that’s highly involved. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. Left: Tables are hand finished in a spray painting chamber. Right: Chair frames welded by hand. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. Table production and table edging (one of my personal favourite images). Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. The upholstery factory in Lanaken, Belgium is possibly even more extraordinary. This is where Artifort’s mastery in upholstery really shines. Left: Laser cut leather hides. Right: Details from the factory where master upholsterers lovingly finish each piece of furniture by hand. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. Hand finished upholstery in progress. Image courtesy of Artifort. Rolls of textiles and matching colour threads. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. Zippers in colours of the rainbow – squeal! Artifort is seriously committed to colour, and all the textiles have a perfectly matching buddy, which, for a colour lover like me, was so exciting to see. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. The sawing floor at the upholstery factory in Lanaken. Image courtesy of Artifort. Left: Shark chair bare shells patiently waiting for their turn to be dressed in fabric. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. Left: Shark chair shells were individually hand finished by highly skilled upholsterers. Right: Bare shell of the classic Oyster chair. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace. It all began in 1890 when Jules Wagemans started a business as an upholsterer in Maastricht. Artifort’s breakthrough came in early 1930s when the company started to use Epeda springing for the upholstery. Up until then, straw, horsehair and kapok had been used in combination with iron springing, and the new approach resulted in superior furniture quality and faster production times. A great deal changed with the arrival of the interior and furniture designer Kho Lian Ie. His forward-looking attitude, great knowledge of design and impressive list of international contacts were the key factors in Artifort’s successes in the 60s and 70s, continuing to exert their influence up until this day. Artifort and Kho Liang Ie introduced talked-about designs and together ensured the brand became a runaway success internationally. In 1959, Kho Liang Ie recruited French designer Pierre Paulin, who introduced new shapes and construction techniques to Artifort. Paulin’s designs were fresh and innovative. His striking, brightly coloured seating sculptures raised eyebrows at home and abroad. Right up to today, they are considered as the face of the Artifort collection, with Paulin eventually spending 50 of his 60 professional years as a designer working with Artifort. In the beginning of the 1960s, Artifort began to focus on the international contract market. English designer Geoffrey Harcourt designed an extensive collection of contract furniture, resulting in enormous sales growth internationally in a short space time. In the 1990’s Artifort worked with designers such as Jasper Morrison, Wolfgang Mezger, René Holten and Jan Pesman who all added their stamp to the collection. Big Mushroom designed by Pierre Paulin (1960). C683 designed by Kho Liang Ie (1968). Groovy is the darling of the avant-garde, designed by Pierre Paulin in 1973. Left: Butterfly by Pierre Paulin (1954). Right: C69 by Artifort Design Group (1987). Left: F142 Chair by Geoffrey D. Harcourt (1967). Right: Mood Chair by René Holten (2014). Moulin chair by Pierre Paulin (1954) is a beautiful, old-school chair (a personal favourite), previously in the collection of Thonet France. Contemporary versions of the Tulip Chair designed by Pierre Paulin (1965). Tulip chair has a shape reminiscent of half-open flower petals. Left: Orange Slice. Right: Tulip Chair. The Flower Power is strong in these images! Paulin’s Oyster Chair was in the Artifort collection until 1979 and by request it was brought back into the collection in 1999. Epic vintage image of the Ribbon chair. BOOOOOM! Left: Ribbon Chair designed by Pierre Paulin (1966). Right: Tongue Chair designed by Pierre Paulin (1967). A personal favourite from Arifort collection is the stunning F444 Chair, designed by Pierre Paulin (1963). A true design icon. F444 Chair in Stainless Steel frame and saddle leather. So great! I WANT ONE! In 1998, Lande Group breathed fresh life into the brand. New factories opened in Schijndel, The Netherlands and Lanaken in Belgium where know-how in furniture construction is now perfectly combined with the art of upholstery. In 2014, long time Artifort designer, Khodi Feiz, was appointed as Art-Director to help guide the brand into the future, with new collections added by celebrated international designers such as Claesson Koivisto Rune, Ilse Crawford and Luca Nichetto. So you see, after reading all these facts, it really should come as no surprise I was that excited to visit Artifort. And just like one would expect, behind the scenes Artifort is an incredible operation – super-efficient, with a rigorous production process that’s complemented with the art of master upholsterers who lovingly finish each piece by hand. The entire process was remarkable and inspiring to witness in person. Seeing how Aritfort brings furniture to life means to truly understand quality. I left Artifort’s two factories feeling totally inspired, and also in urgent need of a new piece of furniture which I am currently in the process of ordering with KE-ZU. Gee, thanks guys. How come you sent me on this trip for work, and now I’m the one who’s spending the money? Pffftttt. Anyway, serves me right for falling in love with Artifort. So y’all better be really careful now… ;-) Artifort is available in Australia exclusively through KE-ZU. Balans Tables designed by Khodi Feiz (2015). Niloo Chair designed by Khodi Feiz (2016) was one of my favourite releases in Milan last year. Niloo chair celebrities two elements that seamlessly fit together. Pala is a fully upholstered armchair on a pedestal & footstool by Italian designer Luca Nichetto. This is Nichetto’s first product for Artifort, which launched earlier this year in Milan. Palladio Table Collection by Claesson Koivisto Rune launched last year in Milan, and let me tell you something – this is one super cool table collection that I’ve loved from the first moment I saw it. Palladios are light, well priced, highly customisable tables that come in a huge range of excellent finished and colours. The love is major. Palladio Console. Palladio Collection has been expanded in to the range of super fun shelves which launched this year in Milan. Perching Stools by Studioilse (2016) is a family of comfortable stools for flexible use. Hand-stitched leather saddles over a simple wire frame, made for friendly, helpful companions to any occasional seated situation. Zuma High & Low Back Armchair by French designer Patrick Norguet (2017). One of the sexiest office chairs I ever did see. So nice it is, in fact, it would work equally well at home. [Images courtesy of Artifort & KE-ZU. Photography © Dana Tomic Hughes/ Yellowtrace.] This post was originally posted on Yellowtrace by Dana Tomic Hughes. Visit the article here: https://www.yellowtrace.com.au/art-of-design-artifort-factory-visit/