What do you design for the man who doesn’t want anything? This was the problem facing Gwendolyn and Guillane Kerschbaumer, the sisters who make up Atelier Areti when they were paired with infamously minimalist British designer John Pawson for the American Hardwood Export Council's Wish List project.

‘I don’t like stuff,’ he said. ‘I’m a very difficult person to buy a present for. For me the definition of stuff is what you don’t really need’. Pawson decided that what he wanted was a series of functional architectural elements for a house that he has acquired in the country.

The AHEC's efforts promote awareness of American hardwoods and increase exports. Sir Terence, co-founder of Benchmark Furniture, instigated the Wish List project when he asked his designer friends: “What have you always wanted in your home, but never been able to find?” Under their mentorship, young up-and-coming names designed and produced the items, which were displayed as part of a London Design Festival. The pieces were crafted at Benchmark's studio and factory in Kintbury, West Berkshire in England.


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Pawson's architectural career includes everything from designing a bridge across a lake and a flagship store for Calvin Klein, to ballet sets, yacht interiors, a new Cistercian monastery in Bohemia and houses in Europe, the US and Asia. He is currently working on the remodelling of the former Commonwealth Institute in London. Studio Areti was founded in 2008 by sisters Gwendolyn and Guillane Kerschbaumer. Areti focuses on lighting, furniture and other interior and architecture related designs.

Pawson didn’t have a specific item in mind, but was interested in exploring the things you touch and use everyday - things that are moments, like switching on a light and opening a door. On his chioce to work with the Kerschbaumer sisters he says, ‘These things often come down to instinct, but I was interested in the breadth of training and experiences the two sisters bring to their design studio – from architecture and art history to product design. I believe strongly in the importance of providing talented people with interesting opportunities. For me it's a chance to see things through other eyes, to get a fresh perspective on familiar questions.’

Gwendolyn and Guillane are taking on the challenge: ‘John was particularly interested in built-in items for a room such as light switches, plugs, doorknobs, doors and doorframes.’ These discussions led them to a family of pieces – a triangular shelf, a slanted door and a hook. Inspired by the simplicity and intelligence of Pawson’s work, Studio Areti has set out to achieve, ‘a design that is calming because of its simplicity and strength, yet at the same time stimulating because of its beauty and character.’

‘I am amazed because it is something different,’ Pawson said. ‘They have got it to work and it is really elegant. I am thrilled that they have designed something that I really like.’ Speaking about the whole collection of objects, Pawson said, ‘I am rather jealous that I didn’t do them.’ From such a perfectionist, there could be no greater accolade.

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