Cristina Esposito How did you start out in furniture design?
Max Lamb Growing up I spent summer holidays on my grandfather's farm converting a shed into a cottage. I also made a table and my interest developed from there.
Cristina Esposito So why furniture over architecture?
Max Lamb I'm interested in scale - furniture to me seems more human because there's that contact and involvement. I see a human and an object and I think about how they interact. It's the furniture I think of as creating space; for example, using shelving to act as a room divider rather than walls.
Cristina Esposito How do you come up with ideas for your designs?
Max Lamb Graphic content comes through function. The 'dip' design for the Bookend shelf came from looking at the pattern of books on a shelf. It's an expression of function - to stop books sliding. All I did was exploit an inherent tendency.
Cristina Esposito What's the most difficult challenge you've faced so far?
Max Lamb My experiences have been inspiring, but I've quickly wised up. I've had to learn how to combine creative thought and commercial viability. I sold a small number of Bookends at a show in Milan, but haven't found anyone who's willing to pick up the design and run with it. It seems retailers want you to do all the work then buy it up at cut price. It just isn't viable.
Cristina Esposito How have you tackled that?
Max Lamb By learning quickly! For the Poise coat stand it was all about making it as cheap to produce as possible without sacrificing design and functionality.
I wanted a modern architectural piece that would be easy to pack and assemble. Hopefully, it takes the negative connotations out of 'flatpack'.
It's since been adopted by Pureform, after I met Stefan Bench at the Design UK exhibition and he chose to put it into production. There's now a stainless-steel version that comes in lots of colours.
Cristina Esposito What projects are you working on at the moment?
Max Lamb I'm working on a birch-ply bookshelf made with very few materials at the lowest cost possible - again I'm endeavouring to give flatpack a better name!
It's incredibly simple, held together by slots and a ú2.99 ratchet strap. I think it has integrity and honesty and a slightly retro appeal - it could be a Pop piece. I'm also developing the Y Series table range with Tom Price, who I met through Furniture Works, and continuing my studies.
Cristina Esposito You talk a lot about simplicity in design. Do you think your furniture has mass appeal?
Max Lamb I'm not really interested in creating pieces at a massive global level. Of course, you'd be flattered if Ikea wanted to take one of your designs and mass-produce it because there are so many good designers out there to choose from. But I just don't think it's possible to satisfy every culture - furniture should relate to the user on a personal level, that's the value.
Cristina Esposito What advice would you give to young designers?
Max Lamb You have to have a strong business attitude, otherwise it's easy to get trodden on. I admire Tom Dixon because he's taken something he loves and turned it into a successful business. It makes me think: 'There is a way.'