Strolling down the streets of Berlin, as the hustle and bustle of tourists disperses and the beauty of the city is exposed, lies the furniture showroom of Johanenlies. Adorned with wrought iron bars in perfect vertical lines, painted black and set in a way that makes you stop to investigate what’s behind them, the glimpse into the Johanenlies showroom gives away no hints as to what you might find inside.
Once you enter, you are greeted by beautiful pieces of furniture, consisting of sleek lines and pops of colour. The design and inspiration behind these pieces was conceptualized by Mike Raaijmakers in 2015. With such a strong ethos and a firm belief in good design, it’s no wonder that Johanenlies is going from strength to strength.
Originally from the Netherlands, Mike Raaijmakers (founder of Johanenlies) and Coco Prange (Creative Director) are clear on their design vision. Combining their appreciation for Dutch craftsmanship and adding an industrial twist, Mike explains that his experimental approach was honed at an early age. “I have enjoyed beautiful things from an early age. First and foremost in relation to fashion, which I later studied, but also tried it out again and again in my children’s room. I’ve tried a lot and committed some serious styling sins, but that’s exactly how I found my own style, which is now very consistent. I would describe it as a purist avant-garde with subtle opulence”.
In addition to beautiful design with an industrial twist, Johanenlies pride themselves in using recycled materials as much as possible. With each piece being handcrafted in their workshop, regionality and environmental impact are two key concepts in Johanenlies philosophy.
Defining Good Design
As well as designing each piece collaboratively, Mike and Coco focus on understanding and implementing good design into each and every piece. Speaking on good design, they say “Good design inspires at first sight – not necessarily through artificial elements but much more through the coherence and harmony that the product exudes, both in its form and at least in its function”.
Combining good design with pre-manufactured materials is no easy feat. Repurposing old timber into a new industrial style piece of furniture takes a lot of vision and craftsmanship, but the results speak for themselves. For example, the CELESTE MINI in Patina Green combines a stunning steel frame with recycled timber doors and shelves. Not content in repurposing the materials, this sideboard has been treated and powder coated to ensure the longevity of both its lifetime and its timeless design.
With such dedication to reviving existing materials, it’s no surprise that Johanenlies’ philosophy gives sustainability such importance. In a world where resources are diminishing and our own personal levels of consumption need to be addressed, Johanenlies provides us with a way to furnish our homes with beautiful items that are both sustainable and long-lasting. The creators of the brand say, “Our designs are very puristic in their appearance. Through the use of recycled materials, they subtly reveal the signs of the time. In short, the recycled materials give character and life to minimalist designs”.
With nearly 100 curated and crafted design pieces available, inspiration for such carefully considered items must be abundant in Mike’s world. “First of all, I absorb a lot and collect everything that appeals to me aesthetically – art, nature, design or architecture. I also let Instagram and Pinterest sprinkle me a little.”
But with each piece, Mike and Coco also understand the art of selecting materials whose previous purpose is still evident and recreating them into a new life. This level of design ingenuity shines through as antique oak planks are transformed into modern industrial shelving units.
The Future of Design
As you cast your eye over the Johanenlies showroom, it’s clear to see that each piece is a timeless classic. Tables that hint at their previous life as floorboards, sideboards that combine antique materials with an industrial style – every one of Johanenlies items could be installed into any room scheme and fit in nicely. But with this timeless element in mind, where does Johanenlies as a brand see the future of design going?
“Circular design. Even if I’m a little tired of the word, sustainability is essential for our future and it starts with the design. It’s no longer just about function and aesthetics, but much more about creating a product that can be used for a long time, ideally even shared, repaired and ultimately recycled with high quality. A sensible choice of material, avoiding substances that are harmful to people and the environment, designing strategies for dismantling it again so that material can be salvaged in the same quality – all of this has to be considered so that there is no waste in the end. Just like the origins of the materials and the production conditions, in order to also take into account the effects on distant regions”.
It’s clear that good design, longevity and sustainability are at the very core of the Johanenlies ethos. With such timeless, classic pieces that are built to last a lifetime, we have no doubt that the echoes of Mike Raaijmakers work with Coco Prange's direction will be heard for centuries to come.