Designer interview with
Floris Hovers

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Floris Hovers is one of the first designers to contribute a product to the collection of Vij5. This collaboration worked well, so well in fact that it continues to this day. It did not stop there, a series of designs by Floris' hand is available at Vij5. Curious about the story behind this creative journey and the inspiration behind his designs? Read on for an exclusive designer interview with Floris Hovers and find out how his unique vision has enriched the Vij5 collection.

April 2024

Text: Daniëlle van de Haterd(Staaldraad Tekstschrijver)
Photography: Vij5& Blickfanger

It was not his childhood dream to become a designer, yet through a small detour he ended up in this profession and it has made him happy for 20 years. Floris thought he wanted to be an architect, so he started MBO architecture after MAVO. He soon realized that the exact nature of the course made him unhappy. Through a fellow villager he came across Nimeto in Utrecht. 'At this creative education I had four fantastic years. A logical next step was the 'Academy for Industrial Design' (now Design Academy)'.

To play is to develop

At the academy, Floris noticed that working conceptually and theoretically wasn't quite his style; he much preferred a playful approach. 'I grew up in a rural area near Raamsdonksveer. In my younger years, I spent a lot of time playing alone because I didn't really live in the village. I was always busy building huts, tinkering with things, or translating my observations into Lego. That certainly shaped me; I see play as a beautiful way of developing.'

"I see play as a beautiful way of developing."

Floris Hovers

Simplicity and overview

So playfulness, that's what Floris' products radiate as well. He aims for simplicity that also evokes wonder. Each design tells its own story, so to speak. 'Clear communication is very important to me. I don't like over-designing and trying to be fancy; the world has become so complicated already. I think most people secretly prefer simplicity and clarity, so that's what I try to work towards.'

Clichés filtered

In his designs, Floris enjoys exploring clichés to offer a fresh perspective. 'A cliché is not without reason, there is truth and clarity behind it. What I essentially do is create a product that is instantly recognizable, but strip away all the unnecessary elements. This allows space for the user to unleash their own imagination on it.' A prime example of such a product is the Archetoys he designed in 2013.

"A cliché is cliché for a reason; there is truth and clarity behind it."

Floris Hovers

The design process

Actually, all design processes at Floris unfold in the same manner: playfully. He doesn't sketch, at least not on paper or a screen. He has an idea in his head and "sketches" it out with the final material. He refines that sketch until the product meets his satisfaction. Only when a design actually goes into production a construction drawing is made.

Wood as a favorite

Looking at Floris' portfolio, one sees predominantly two materials that come to mind; steel and wood. 'Wood is my absolute favorite. I think because it is very close to human beings. It represents a kind of naturalness, we all know how it originated. It's a matter of chopping down a tree and sawing it into pieces. Wood is very versatile, there are so many types, and it's nice to work with. For example, you can color it very easily and see results quickly.'

"Wood represents a kind of naturalness; we all know how it came to be."

Floris Hovers

Studio in concrete factory

Floris is true to his roots. His studio is located where he grew up - in his father's former concrete factory. 'When new construction came for the factory, my father kept the old site. I was looking for a bigger space to work in, so since then I've been renting one of my father's halls. It feels very familiar, as a child I used to play here and now it really has become my playground.'

Commissioned designs

In his early years as a designer, Floris worked a lot for clients, but in recent years the emphasis has shifted to his autonomous designs and art projects. 'I certainly still take on applied commissions, but only if I find it really interesting and largely get carte blanche. I have designed things commissioned by brands, but that didn't always end well. Nowadays I actually mostly turn it around; I design something and present it at fairs, if brands find it an interesting product we can see what we can do for each other.'

Autonomous Design

Although trained at the Design Academy in applied products, Floris is currently happiest with autonomous design. 'That's actually been a natural progression. I started out designing toys and from there, I transitioned to, among other things, the urban compositions I'm currently exhibiting. It's rewarding; people find the work attractive, it resonates with them, and it's sold in various galleries. Designing utilitarian products and pursuing autonomous design complement each other nicely and represent my way of working hand in hand.'

Getting students excited

Floris enjoys passing on his knowledge and passion for his work to others. Teaching came his way by chance, and he did it for many years with great pleasure. "I was asked to teach at Sint Joost, and after some hesitation, I decided to take the plunge. I taught there for about five years and enjoyed it a lot, but eventually, I got so busy with my own work that I had to stop. Years later, my old teacher, who taught 'color' at the Design Academy, retired, and I was asked to fill his position. I actually enjoyed teaching again, so I accepted the offer. However, I stopped doing it last year because my weeks became too full, and I wasn't enjoying all the administrative aspects of education anymore. I still love to inspire students about the field, so I occasionally give guest lectures in various places.'

Meeting with Vij5

Vij5 came on Floris' path when he had only recently graduated. He presented his "Wrapped" stool at Dutch Design Week. 'Back then, that was a very different, much less commercial event than now. We were in Strijp S, crammed together, as if it were some kind of flea market. My stand was next to Arjan and Anieke's, they were there with their 'FlexVase'. We got talking and it immediately clicked really well, this is where our first collaboration started.'

"Arjan and Anieke have a nice, critical eye for products."

Floris Hovers

Friendship and cooperation

A friendship developed between Floris and Arjan and Anieke, but they also stayed on each other's paths professionally. 'What I really like is that I have witnessed all the developments from Vij5. Not only have I submitted several of my own designs to their label, I have also contributed to projects initiated by them. 'Newspaperwood' is an example of this.'

'What I really appreciate about collaborating with Vij5 is that it's truly a collaboration. Arjan and Anieke have a great, critical eye for products. They consider how something reflects the Vij5 feel and how to make it producible, but it still remains a genuine Floris Hovers design. It's always enjoyable processes, with a lot of mutual respect.'

Simplicity with a surprising twist

A great example of a product that is all Floris and all Vij5, is the Fixum candle holder. 'It is not a standard approach to a candle holder, but actually a kind of collage. It is a very simple product with a surprising twist, which is why it fits very well with Vij5 . Within my own collection, the holder again fits very well with products housed by other brands, so it has a clear Floris Hovers signature.'

Invitation to a narrative

Prominent items from Floris in the Vij5 collection include the 'Chair 18×36' and 'Table 18×54', not least because of their names. A seemingly simple product description, but as with all of Floris' designs, there's a thought behind it. You read it and think 'huh, a chair named like that'. That triggers and invites a story. That story is about size and proportion. The chair and table consist of slats all with the same dimensions. 'That's the limitation and challenge I imposed on myself in the design. By working with just one size, I had to approach the construction in a creative way. It felt very playful, in terms of constraints and possibilities, it's actually similar to building with Lego.'

Because the construction of the 'Chair 18×36' and 'Table 18×54' is waterproof glued, this furniture is also suitable for use in the garden. 'Although oak can, of course, be used outside in its basic form, weather and wind remain tricky. As extra protection, we therefore opted for a final finish with natural linseed oil, to which a fungicide has been added.'

"When you don't confine yourself to rigid frameworks, one thing leads to another, and you keep inventing new things."

Floris Hovers

Acting from a spirit of playfulness

Defined future dreams or goals aren't Floris's style. He prefers to let things unfold, guided by playfulness.
'I'm very grateful and happy to have reached where I am now, to have built a certain reputation. I know I matter, and I can make a living from my work. Looking back, there have been successes and products that didn't work out, but overall, I'm content. I find that things naturally come your way; you don't have to force them. Right now, I don't strongly feel the need to pursue something specific, which leaves room for surprising opportunities. When you don't confine yourself to rigid frameworks, one thing leads to another, and you keep inventing new things. In the future, I hope to continue in this manner and be increasingly appreciated for my work.'

Floris products in the Vij5 collection