Designer interview: Maarten Baptist

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Maarten Baptist, designer of interior items, is pretty much part of the interior of Vij5 himself by now. Already since 2014 one of his products, the 'Coatrack by the Meter', is part of the Vij5 collection and it has been a bestseller ever since. After eight years of success, it is time for a sequel. Instead of just a horizontal, there is now also a vertical version. This adds a new dimension to the creativity that can be unleashed on the system.

Text: Daniëlle van de Haterd (Steel Wire Text Writer)
Photography: Vij5

Not obviously a designer

Maarten grew up with parents who owned a tool store. It was only natural that he could often be found there, so he was brought up with the idea of creating. Yet it was not a matter of course for him to become a designer of interior items, coincidences on his path brought him to that profession.

"I make what I like and do what I enjoy."

Maarten Baptist

Becoming a window dresser

'I was always busy in my parents' store and eventually went to trade school. Then I did a window dresser training and wanted to start my own business in that field, I had even thought of the name for that. My window dressing business was going to be called 'Netraam'; a reference to a window display* but also my first name spelled backward, I thought that was a funny joke.

* ('raam' means 'window' in Dutch)

to Design Academy

The window-dressing business never materialized, and there is a good reason for that. Maarten wanted to take another step up the ladder of education and applied to the Design Academy. He was accepted and this was the beginning of the career that still makes him happy every day.

Successful cutlery

Maarten graduated with a sink, a seat, and cutlery. The latter in particular was very well received and to this day it is an important 'cash cow' for him. 'Because my cutlery runs so well, I have a fairly stable income stream, this allows me to play around with other products. I make what I like and do what I enjoy.'

From sketch to product

For Maarten, a design begins in his sketchbook. In it, the initial impetus and all subsequent steps are drawn in black and white. When he is satisfied with his manual sketches, Maarten switches to the computer. Using Adobe Illustrator he creates a version that he prints and assembles, this gives him an image of the object in space. With that in hand, he links up with a 3-d illustrator who elaborates the design further. Maarten does not do the actual manufacturing of the product himself, for this, he works with a regular group of producers and craftsmen.

"When I see a paving stone, I don't just take it for granted."

Maarten Baptist

Naturally curious

By nature, Maarten is a curious person. 'Inspiration is actually everywhere. When I see a paving stone, I don't just take it for granted. I think about the process that preceded it before that tile was there.' So you could say that Maarten has an enormous eye for detail, but he himself sees it differently 'My wife designs jewelry and when I compare my look to hers, I still stand out a little sloppy.'

"Sometimes there are just little presents in the production process."

Maarten Baptist

Making concessions

'I am a designer who daydreams a lot. An idea in itself is almost never a problem. The difficulty lies more in developing it into a product that can actually be manufactured. That requires a lot of effort and it can easily mean that it takes seven years before a chair is producible. The search for possibilities and impossibilities is very interesting, it is a constant weighing up of which concessions I am willing to make. I am very clear about that; I only make adjustments if the product improves. Sometimes there are just little presents in the production process.

"You won't see me making anything with a decorative print anytime soon."

Maarten Baptist

Little jokes in designs

In his designs, Maarten likes to hide little jokes; for example, the two-hook 'Coatrack by the Meter' is exactly 19.76 centimeters instead of 20. This has to do with his date of birth. A further characteristic of Maarten's style is that he makes the way something is made visible. 'You won't easily see me making something with a decorative print, it is precisely the process of making that I use as a decorative addition.'

Timeless is durable

For Maarten, a design is successful when consumers want to buy it at retail price, but especially when he himself is happy with it. 'The condition for my products is that they must not become boring. They have to remain interesting and clean, timeless in other words. Somehow that is of course a sustainable way of working, I try to take that theme into account as much as possible, but it is not the starting point of my designs.'

Coatrack by the meter

The 'Coatrack by the Meter' is a nice example of how Maarten's designs can originate. 'I marveled at how laboriously the elongated coatracks in schools and locker rooms were made. Usually, they consist of a plate with hooks attached separately. I thought about how this could be made simpler and approached a coatrack manufacturer. They didn't like my idea, but I stuck with it. That's who I am; I'm good at understanding possibilities.'

Collaboration with Vij5

At a trade fair in Moscow, Maarten got to know Arjan and and Anieke better. Over lots of coffee, a snack and a vodka, a friendship developed that eventually blossomed into a working relationship. It was precisely the coatrack rejected by the 'mainstream manufacturer' that sealed the cooperation between Maarten and Vij5 in 2014. 'I put it on the table and it was received with tremendous enthusiasm by Arjan and Anieke. The only thing we changed was the colours, then we put it on the market and it became a success.'

Vij5 has good contacts

The reason for cooperating with Vij5 is that Maarten wants to be able to really focus on designing. 'As an independent designer, it is a lot of work to sell your own products as well. Besides, I prefer to create, that's what I like. Once something is on the shelf, I'm already working on the next thing. But of course, it's not my intention that it stays on the shelf, it has to be sold. Arjan and Anieke are very good at that, they have many contacts in the world of architecture.'

Vertical coatrack

And now it's time for a new member of the coatrack family. Whether the vertical version is a full brother to the original horizontal version has been a point of discussion. 'It is actually quite a different product, but there are also many similarities. Of course, the two can be combined, which is why we have chosen to call this one 'Coatrack by the Meter' as well. We discuss and decide these things together, so it's a real collaboration.'

“I let myself be surprised by the creativity of users.”

Maarten Baptist

Creativity of others

When Maarten releases a new product, he is curious about how a consumer will use it. 'As for the vertical coatrack, I now envision it being used on narrow sections of wall or creating a section for moms and dads and a section for children. But maybe it's going to be used in completely different ways, I let myself be surprised by the creativity of users.'

Production process vertical coatrack

Whereas production processes of new designs sometimes present a huge challenge, this was not the case with the vertical version of the 'Coatrack by the Meter'. Like the original horizontal version, it was cut with a 3-d laser. 'Of course, the brackets had to be bent out in a slightly different way, but this proved to be even easier.'


When Maarten dreams about his future, he sees a house with a garden in the middle of the city where he lives with his wife and dogs. Professionally, he is already very happy with where he is now, and he hopes to keep it that way. I want to remain a designer for another twenty years, I am very happy that I am doing this for myself and not for someone else. If I had to change anything, it would perhaps be to take up a few more points of sale and enter into more collaborations like the one I have now with Vij5 . That way sales keep going even when I'm not there myself.'

Products by Maarten Baptist in the Vij5 collection