At 36, Sebastian Herkner is one of the youngest designers on AVENUE ROAD's roster. He’s also an obvious choice for the fast-growing company, given his talent for combining cutting-edge technique with traditional craftsmanship.
“My work is about curiosity, openness, communication. It’s so interesting to spend time with artisans from other cultures"
Herkner hails from Offenbach, Germany, an industrial city turned tech hub on the outskirts of Frankfurt. (He affectionately calls it “the Brooklyn of Frankfurt.”) It is here that he earned his degree at the Offenbach University of Art and Design, opened his own studio in 2006, and has since garnered international recognition, including the 2011 German Design Award for Best Newcomer and the Red Dot Design Award for his Bell table—a sculptural yet functional accent table, manufactured by ClassiCon and made of tinted, hand-blown glass that elegantly morphs into a solid brass top. That these two materials appear to merge seamlessly and without effort is what caught Stephan Weishaupt’s attention: “The Bell table was the starting point."
Bell Tables & Bell Lights by Sebastian Herkner
Pas Tiles for KAUFMAN by Sebastian Herkner
ODA lamps by Sebastian Herkner
“The purpose of design is not just to do nice things. We are just as responsible for societal behavior as anyone else. Design sets our parameters for life"
Soon after they met, Weishaupt invited Herkner to Toronto to check out Avenue Road’s showroom, which presents a sophisticated mix of European and American style. Merging cultural contexts is one of Avenue Road’s strong suits—a skill that attracted Herkner to the company, and one that he’s now beginning to master himself.
“My work is about curiosity, openness, communication. It’s so interesting to spend time with artisans from other cultures,” Herkner says. Encouraged by Avenue Road to travel for design, Herkner is currently developing new collections in Bogotá, Colombia, following recent trips to Zimbabwe and rural Japan. Much like Weishaupt, Herkner travels the world mindfully—seeking new sources of inspiration in objects that are personal and distinctive, rather than trendy or common. Herkner also believes that timelessness is a tenet of good design, and has felt validated in recent years at fairs such as Salone del Mobile in Milan and Maison&Objet in Paris, which represent the top of today’s market. Here, his contemporaries are using brass, marble, and hand-carved woods to reimagine traditional furniture typologies: the classic room divider screen, luxurious chaise lounges. Little is plastic, and almost everything lasts decades. “Nowadays, so much of our industry is reduced to appliances. But we really crave tactile permanence,” he says. “The purpose of design is not just to do nice things. We are just as responsible for societal behavior as anyone else. Design sets our parameters for life."
Words by Jennifer Parker