Design Story: Splat Side Tables
Designer and furniture maker Sophie Collé shares the evolution of her first design for Areaware, Splat Side Tables.
Left: Joan Miro, Femme et oiseau (Woman and Bird), 1944, Photo: SF MoMA / Right: Alvar Aalto stools for Artek, Photo: aaltousa.com
From 2018 to 2020, between working at a contemporary art museum and an interior design firm, I was always very inspired by fine art and the decorative nature of eccentric interiors. I became really obsessed with amorphous germy shapes, specifically, those found organically in the natural world but also those seen in the art of greats like Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, and Joan Miró, and the often outrageous pieces seen in the Memphis Milano movement.
I’m also a lover of minimalism, so I wanted to create a piece that could simultaneously be as whimsical and simple as possible, all the while speaking back to familiar forms and colors that people love. I aim for my pieces to be as timeless and effortless as Charlotte Perriand’s and Alvar Aalto's iconic pieces. I have always loved Alma Buscher and other women of the Bauhaus who specialized in Children’s design or toys. Some of the most fantastic developments in education and learning relate back to their work.
I first started building them when I was still quarantining with my parents in Maryland, so many of the first splat tables were built without a proper studio or anything like that! My dad, who is a research scientist, and my mom, who is a fine art painter, were huge inspirations in pursuing these amoeba forms in highly saturated colors. My mom did her thesis in part on Yves Klein and the built environment, and taught me the true primary color way before I could appreciate color theory. I also always admired and loved the beautiful forms that came out of my dad's work, whether it be the flow charts he made with the most intricate detail, or the funky looking erlenmeyer flasks and graduated cylinders in our home when I was growing up.
A lot of my early “Splat” pieces were designed specifically for plants or sometimes doubled as animal or natural creations themselves, slathered in cow print or cloud print. Other artists like Martha Schwartz, Maya Lin, and Isamu Noguchi, and their love of landscapes, were also a huge inspiration to me and really guided my notion of designing something that could come right out of a playful garden.
The Splats represent a lot of different elements of life, and hopefully many people can relate to them! They had a lot of character back then and have only evolved since, whether it be building them at different scales, or finishing them with new color ways and functions. I love how versatile and playful of a piece it is, like physically stacking or nesting them, mixing and matching, etc!