My Visit To Piet Hein Eek
I can't wait to tell you about Piet Hein Eek but first, a little story so you can better understand my connection to Piet and his work.
I've had the pleasure and privilege during the span of 12 years in the design industry to meet and see some of the most inspiring people and places. I consistently feel lucky to have these experiences and despite how some may begin to feel comfortable doing so many fancy things, even expect them, I remain grounded and always fight against my "ego" - I guess it's something I learned from my father. No matter how high he climbed in his career, he still ate lunch with the guys in the trenches, who worked in the "guts" of the company, and he always helped people in need, and gave jobs to those who worked hard and were intelligent, not to his friends or to people who just looked great on paper. I liked his personality and respected him so much for this. I remember how actively he worked to hire minorities and how angry he'd get when someone would look down on race, gender or sexual orientation. He believed and valued equality and human rights, and felt everyone was the same and that there are no differences, just different personalities.
Today, despite how I exist within an industry that can sometimes be all about brands and names and prominence, I still somehow find others like me who are grounded and "normal" in spite of their enormous success and blessings in life. I am drawn to talent, personality, and people that possess a keen emotional intelligence. However, they need to have a keen business sense too and be very strong-minded who are true pioneers and go-getters. To me, these types of people are really the most captivating and make me feel inspired and excited.
One person who stands out in the design world is Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek.
You may or may not know him. If you are American, most likely you aren't so familiar as maybe you are with Kelly Wearstler or Jonathan Adler. But in Europe, he is known if you are in the design world. Piet is rather iconic even and has achieved quite a lot at such a young age - he only recently crossed over into this 50s, yet has so much success and status it's inspiring, really.
Piet studied at the Dutch Design Academy in Eindhoven and his graduation project, nearly 30 years ago, was a scrapwood cabinet. Today, you can find this cabinet in his work "compound" (shown throughout this story) and the cabinet travels with him to trade fairs - because it tells his story as a student who started with a love of recycling, making something new, and using wood - a material he clearly loves most. Piet is an artist at heart, I could see that I explored his multiple spaces at the Piet Hein Eek factory.
In fact, in Eindhoven, you can visit a very special space too - in fact, I encourage you to go to Eindhoven JUST to see this space because it's worth spending a day there - the Piet Hein Eek Factory and Store.
On location, there is a large cafe with delicious food, his factory in the center where everything is made from furniture to custom jobs for clients, a concept store on two floors, workshops you can attend, a special art space on the top floor, and a few other areas for pop-up shops and dining (those open full swing during Dutch Design Week each October when the whole city visit Piet to see the artists and designers he's welcomed to his massive space to show their work). In the next few years, if all goes according to plan, Piet will create an on-site boutique design hotel. For now though, you can rent his gorgeous guest homes in France here.
I took a tour and spent time with Piet to get to know him better and he's quite nice and easy going, while also being very much a "boss" and a go-getter. We had a meal together. I met his wife and one of his lovely daughters. At Piet Hein Eek, it's a family first business in spite of how busy he is. You can see he cares about his family (they work with him) and his employees, in fact he treats his hired staff like family. I liked watching him interact with his staff, there was this genuine admiration and respect, a "dad" that everyone ultimately looks up to.
When it comes to design, I admire how quickly he spots something and can spin it into so much more - he has a clever eye and that eye has brought him into the world of ceramic making, building and space design, metalwork, art installations, and the making of beautiful, custom lighting too in which he takes vintage pieces and modern elements to create pendants, table lights, and chandeliers.
Throughout this post, you can see some impressions of his factory and the space around it - to get a better sense of how massive it is. Also, he has recently teamed up with IKEA to create a line for them, you can find more on that here and see the products here.
If you follow me on Instagram @decor8, I'm sure you saw lots of Piet Hein Eek and his store while I was there a few months ago. If not, here are some more iPhone photos for you to enjoy below to get a sense of the space.
Thank you Piet for your conversation, dinner, your book and the welcome you gave me. I'll never forget it.
(Photos: Holly Becker for decor8)