Design Anthology - Asia Pacific Edition

Tracing Time

- How did you end up living and working in Stockholm? When and why did you decide to start your own studio? What was the design inspiratio­n behind the Afteroom chairs for MENU? Where does the name Afteroom come from? What benefits are there to being based

Taiwanese designers Hung-Ming Chen and Chen-Yen Wei moved from Taipei to Stockholm in 2006, establishi­ng their studio Afteroom in 2011. We spoke with the duo about their journey, which includes

a long-standing collaborat­ion with Danish design brand MENU

As told to

Suzy Annetta

Chen and Wei: We met fifteen years ago, when we were both working in Taipei. Hung-Ming was an industrial designer in the electronic­s field and Chen-Yen was an assistant fashion designer. Though our companies had nothing in common, our offices were in the same industrial zone. Our mutual friends, a newlywed couple who were our respective colleagues at the time, introduced us in 2004. That’s where our story began.

We moved to Sweden in 2006, when we were in our mid-twenties. The main reason we came here was so Hung-Ming could study at Konstfack. We thought of it as a sort of two-year honeymoon. We were actually quite naive and didn’t think too much about it at the time, which was probably a good way to do it otherwise we wouldn’t have done anything. We didn’t plan to stay this long, but we’ve begun a new adventure — we’re both excited and uneasy, but we’re gradually adapting to a different culture and lifestyle.

We started Afteroom in mid-2011. In the beginning, we wanted to produce our own pieces, so we called on factories, tea farms, OEM bicycle manufactur­ers and clothing factories to make the products we’d design. We eventually finished prototypin­g and manufactur­ing enough items to form our first product line. It was an exciting and fun time — all we wanted to do was give our ideas a try, so we just did it without any hesitation. In 2013, we showed our work at Stockholm Furniture Fair to gauge the market reaction. That was also the first time we met Danish brand MENU. They liked our work and were interested in collaborat­ing with us, and the opportunit­y motivated us to take them up on it. We gradually shifted our focus to design services, and our furniture series has been one of MENU’s top sellers. We’re also expanding our collaborat­ions and working with other great clients.

The Afteroom chair series is an homage to Bauhaus and functional­ism, which is based on the concept of keeping materials to a minimum and pushing the aesthetic appearance to the maximum. We embraced the challenge of designing a clean-lined, minimalist piece without compromisi­ng on comfort. In that sense, we looked towards classic Scandinavi­an designs for inspiratio­n.

We value the relationsh­ip between time and space, so we created the word ‘Afteroom’ to reflect the transforma­tion of a space over a long period of time. The driving principle behind Afteroom is that we want to be ‘advocates of the traces of time’, and all our designs share that spirit. We aim to create pieces that people won’t tire of, things they’d like to use now and keep for the next generation. We believe that life is short and we should achieve what we really want to do; this concept deeply matches our personalit­ies. Every time we start a new project, we examine it together first and see if it’s worth pursuing.

Over time, we’ve gradually got used to this slower pace of life and found that we have more time to explore our ideas. But we could live anywhere as long as our family is together; the best place is where you can be with your loved ones.

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