Buy less, buy better, buy used. We believe that products should last, because they have been designed to be timeless. We therefore choose to eliminate unnecessary decorative elements that are short lived or trendy.
EQ3 is a Canadian design house that firmly focuses on making furniture and homewares that are timeless and long-lasting with a collaborative and transparent approach. We had the pleasure to speak to EQ3’s Senior Director of Product Development Nils Vik and VP of Product Development Enri Tielmann to discuss what it means to produce good design, their collaboration wish-list, what they have learned from their customers, and what it means to be adaptable to modern living.
You state that you have a uniquely Canadian approach to design. What does that mean exactly?
Enri: That’s a great question. Due to the fact that Canada is a relatively young country with an extremely diverse population, our design sensibilities as a nation are not particularly codified beyond stereotypes of Canadian culture (plaid, hockey sticks, moose antlers, beaver motifs). We simply don’t have a deeply ingrained design history in Canada which we can reflect upon, reject, or evolve, as Canada’s history is still being written to a certain degree.
Nils: To define Canadian design as an easily digestible aesthetic is simply a fruitless pursuit. Because of the celebrated diversity of the landscape and peoples that make up Canada, we look to a set of values that guide our design process, which is rooted deeply in the values we believe to be inherent in Canadian culture: inclusivity, pragmatism, modesty, restraint, empathy and thoughtfulness. These principles are top of mind when working with our manufacturing partners, in-house design, and R&D team—and ultimately the consumer. Our thinking is that if we embed these Canadian values into the process of design and manufacturing, hopefully the notion of “Canadian design” will be legible in the end product.
What does good design mean to you? And what measures do you take to ensure your brand represents good design?
Enri: Good design is inherently not disposable in quality, function, or design. There are an abundance of designed objects in this world, and unfortunately, the speed of consumption and consumer preference has meant that for decades, companies have produced disposable products. When we can design long-lasting products that are not overpriced, but rather made available to many, we can have a positive impact on reducing waste. An example would be EQ3’s Ban Table, made of solid oak or walnut. I will be able to pass it on to my daughter, and she may one day pass it on to her children. It is a nice thought that the Ban table will last longer than it takes for an Oak tree to grow. Therefore one good product, equals many products of lesser quality not consumed.
Is there a designer you would love to collaborate with in the future?
Enri: There are many designers we admire for the thoughtful work they have put out. The most rewarding experience is when there is a truly collaborative connection with a design partner, as it allows us to elevate ideas and create unique products worth putting out into the world. We have just initiated a new collaboration with Anderssen & Voll based out of Norway, which we are very excited about.
I also have personally been a big admirer of Piero Lissoni and Antonio Citerio’s work in the upholstery field.
Nils: For myself, the opportunity to collaborate with Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa would be a massive privilege—I believe that their understated design sensibilities are brilliant in the way that they seek for their work to fade into the background.
As consumers we need to be more conscious, we shouldn’t be buying anything just for the sake of it—are you seeing careful buying behaviour from your customers? How much do you engage with them?
Enri: We see that our customers appreciate the well designed and curated product range we offer. We strive to make our products accessible, but also something that people want to keep for a long time. As a retailer with a dedicated customer care team, we learn and hear from what matters to our customers. It is evident that quality, origin, and sustainable practices are increasingly points of interest. It further boosts our ambition to always strive to be a better company, and do what we can to have a positive impact wherever we operate.
Nils: Having 18 retail stores across Canada and the U.S. and a robust wholesale network offers countless opportunities for receiving feedback from our customers. Compared to when I first began working in product development at EQ3 in 2009, I would say there has been a marked change in consumer behaviour in the conversations surrounding quality and the notion of heirlooms being a solution for the future of our environment.
As our lives change, so do the demands on our homes. What does EQ3 offer in terms of adaptability with its furniture options?
Enri: There are many ways in which to cater to this question. A specific example is the Reva Sleeper Sofa. Its careful proportions and the use of high quality visco foam lends an extraordinary comfort—one of the biggest challenges when creating sofa beds, given the hidden bed mechanism. This flexibility allows it to live in the living room, office, or guest room. It is available as a sectional with storage function and designed in a way that the sectional can be mirrored or reduced to a sofa, which allows Reva to move and fit perfectly into a new environment.
Nils: I believe meeting people’s direct needs lies at the core of all design (or it should, at least). Keeping people at the centre of our objectives, we must be mindful that life in 2020 looks a lot different than life in 2000 or 2010, even—as such, our products need to be more mindful of the spaces we inhabit and will potentially inhabit in years to come.
You recently opened an EQ3 showroom in New York housed in a simple grid-like structure—a beautiful juxtaposition to its surroundings. What was your intention with this architectural design, and what have you learned since?
Nils: Our former Creative Director, Thom Fougere, designed our NYC building with the intention of creating a simple, and unpretentious framing device—framing vignettes of furniture and living spaces meant to invite interpretation and unplanned discoveries. This modestly simple steel and glass facade is particularly striking amidst the brick high rises in Chelsea. Its success, in my opinion, is based on its particular context of the site—this solution cannot simply be dropped just anywhere. Our internal modesty was a tricky character to embed in NYC where one must yell to be noticed, and I think Thom let this contrast do the shouting on our behalf.
How do you want people to feel when they see and experience your showroom?
Nils: What a lovely question. More than anything, I want people to feel welcome and comfortable, and to engage at their own pace. At the same time, I hope they are delighted and pleasantly surprised by what is waiting for them around each corner. To me, spaces are one element in the goal of great hospitality, and setting the stage for calm is part of that.
Do you plan on opening any other showrooms around the world?
Nils: Despite our roots being in the humble prairies of Canada, we are entrepreneurial at heart, and have big ambitions. We think that our product offering resonates with many regions—we can’t divulge much at this time, but we are definitely excited to continue engaging with new areas in 2021 and beyond.
What does slow living mean to you? How can slowing down our lives affect our shopping habits?
Enri: Buy less, buy better, buy used. We believe that products should last, because they have been designed to be timeless. We therefore choose to eliminate unnecessary decorative elements that are short lived or “trendy”. Therefore, there would be no need to frequently replace your “décor” (which we think should not even be part of the design vernacular). Furniture should rather be something that can grow and age gracefully along with its human counterparts—cared for, cherished, appreciated, and one day passed on. This is our product philosophy, and when combined with an accessible price point, our products can have the most positive impact.
Nils: To me, slow living means taking the time to understand and enjoy our current state, surroundings, and community—this time allows one to be deliberate, but also the opportunity to take on the unexpected. When we truly take the time to reflect upon what is important, I think our shopping habits can then be guided by the notion that what we buy should be used to better facilitate our needs and passions—rather than blindly consume, we should consume deliberately and intentionally. Slowing down ultimately reduces the need to prioritise convenience, which comes at a cost on many levels.
If there was one product that represents what EQ3 stands for, which would that be?
Enri: Tough one. I personally like the Ban Table, it is flat packed and therefore doesn’t ship unnecessary air, and it is made of solid Oak or Walnut, and will last for ages. It has integrated trays that make the product versatile and invited to invite people. It celebrates the craftsmen, materiality, and design intent.
Nils: The Replay Sofa. This reinterpretation of one of EQ3’s first sofas from 2001 is one of my favourite pieces, as it is a testament to our belief in longevity and the desire to continuously improve—the back frame detail that allows one’s arm to sink into the back to facilitate side to side relaxed conversation is such a great example of the thoughtful design thinking that goes into our team’s work. In many ways, custom upholstery is the foundation of our company, and the customisation aspect of this sofa speaks to our desire to empower customers to choose a fabric or leather of their choice. We are not here to be prescriptive, but rather we are honoured to be part of the individual process of defining our customers’ own spaces. My five year old daughter decided our own Replay sofa should be purple—a decision that she is proud of to this day.