After travelling around the world and moving to California, the designer Olaf Recht has returned to his home country of Luxembourg. The man who sees design as a calling rather than a career (he always wanted to be a designer) gave up his time to discuss his trade.
Given the distressing situation surrounding the global COVID pandemic, how are you?
Despite what’s happening, I can’t complain. Things are OK in Luxembourg although I’m a little disappointed with how the government has handled things. I under- stand they’re doing a lot to support the economy but we had to set up a group and put pressure on them to help out designers, and freelancers in general. Design tends to bring a lot of business to the country so it would be a shame to forget that during these difficult times (smiles)…
How have you been continuing your work since the lockdown began?
Clearly, everything slowed down or stopped. I thought I’d have time to focus on incomplete projects or new pieces but with kids in the house, I soon realised that not much would happen in that regard (laughs).
You started out in the US. How is their approach to design different to the European outlook?
Anything is possible. Thinking outside the box is pretty much the norm in the US. They take more risks and try all sorts of things: like in the new technology and auto- mobile sectors. That said, Europe is more advanced when it comes to homeware design mainly because of our long and deeply rooted culture and lifestyle vision.
You’ve designed very different projects: how do you choose them?
My diverse experience makes me relatively flexible and I think any project is worthwhile. I’ve not had many industrial or strategic design projects since I’ve been in Luxembourg. I’ve moved into the furniture and interior design sector, although I do get other projects such as electric toothbrushes for Braun. Start-up projects come to nothing in Luxembourg because they don’t realise what’s involved in designing a product from nothing. It’s a coun- try of services. There’s no production.
How much of a role do ethics play in your specifications?
Ethics have influenced many areas. The Church of Scientology often approached us to design weapons and other items. We always turned them down although there was a lot of money at stake. Sometimes you think you’re doing something good and, in reality, money is the main issue. I’ve also thought about working with local, renewable materials and using local resources. We soon end up with items that can’t be sold in Luxembourg because of their price. Maybe this crisis will spark a new way of thinking in terms of local production. Overconsumption worries me too, I often wonder whether we really need a new product. But that’s my job and it’s a vicious circle (smiles)! It’s up to us to create timeless pieces.
What are your plans?
As soon as business picks up again, I hope to complete the restaurant in Bonnevoie that I was working on, as well as finish my other furniture and kitchen projects. I was also working on my first house that I created and designed myself. It’s currently under construction in Germany but I can’t go to monitor progress anymore. I can’t wait to be able to do that again (laughs)!
More information: olafrecht.com