I am in a kind of Ikea showroom, sitting on a triple bed. Around me I see a triple clothes rack, three sinks, and a triangular table that is covered for three people, as if a romantic dinner could be served. But not just for two, but for three people who are in love. Because they too, of course, sometimes want their dinner by candlelight.
That is also the whole idea of this furniture store, which could be seen at the Temporary Art Center in Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week. The project is called His, His & Hers, and is the work of Chris Cooper, Dasha Tsapenko and Timothy Liu, three designers who until recently had a relationship with each other. In their work they ask how you could design the world that it also connects with people who have a somewhat less traditional relationship, because according to them, that sometimes is lacking. Whether you are talking about home design, a hotel room or the average dating app - almost everything is based on relationships between two people. "While there are many more different ideas about what love is and what kind of relationships there are," Chris says in the showroom.
Chris, Dasha and Timothy (who unfortunately could not be there today) met themselves years ago at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, where they all graduated in 2017. They did not have a relationship at that time. In fact, they did not have it until they had already started this project. In the first instance their triangular relationship was fictional: they were curious about what practical problems you would encounter if you were to live a life like any other couple, but with one extra person. So, they lived together for a while as an experiment, and slept in the same bed. But that experiment got a bit out of hand.
They all fell in love with each other and had a relationship for a few months. "It may sound weird, but it felt just right," says Dasha. "We really felt attracted to each other." After a while they ended their relationship, because it turned out to be very difficult to maintain. Because of the logistics, for example - Chris moved to Berlin, Dasha to Maastricht and Timothy still lives in Eindhoven. The design project however, continued.
They based the products in the exhibition on their own experiences when they lived together. At the same time, you can also take it as criticism, says Dasha. A criticism against anyone who maintains the classic image that relationships can only consist of two people. Like the Ikea, in this case. "When you read the catalog, you mainly see traditional families with two parents," she says. "As a result, you see that as 'normal'. If you add more diversity to that, it will also be accepted more quickly that there are other forms. "
What they have done with the furniture is basically quite simple: they have taken them apart and put them back in another way. They cut off the side of a bed and attached an extra part to it, for example, and glued three separate clothing racks together. "With the table, many people think we just bought it like that," says Chris. "But there are not even so many triangular tables out there. This was originally just a square."
We sit on the bed, which is so big that you could also just sleep in it with six people. I am sitting in the middle when I want to put my camera on one of the side tables, but then I notice there aren’t any. And if they would have been there, I would not have been able to put it on them at all – that’s still a difficult part of such a wide bed. "We still have to come up with something for that," says Dasha. "When we were living together I was always in the middle. I never had a bedside lamp either. "
The exhibition they now show in Eindhoven is part of a series, and the next one will hopefully being shown at the next Dutch Design Week. Where this mainly concerns the products you use when you simply have a relationship, it will then have to do with all things you need when you get married. Three wedding rings, for example, an extra-large wedding cake, but also a whole new choreography for the opening dance. Because then you cannot really speak of a 'dance couple' anymore.
That is to say: according to Dutch law, you can only marry one person at a time, so actually that wedding might not even be possible. And if you have children, it is also the question which of the three will become the legal parents, because officially that may only be two.
This first exhibition is called The third end of the spaghetti, because the original plan was to serve spaghetti in the exhibition, but with spaghetti twines that have a third end. So that, just like Lady and the Tramp, all three 'accidentally' pick the same twine on their fork and have to bend forward to eat it together. But in this exhibition space, it turned out to be a bit unfeasible to serve spaghetti on such a large scale, so that’s something for a next time.
Luckily, Chris, Dasha and Timothy were allowed to bring an ice bar, that contains water ice creams with three wooden sticks attached - so you first have to pull them apart before you can eat them with the three of you. For the occasion, Chris and Dasha get one from the freezer. Somewhere it is also good that Timothy is not there today: now we can share one with the three of us. It tastes like raspberry and thyme. I'm lucky, because if we break it, mine turned out to be the biggest. Unlike laying in the triple bed, it is really advantageous to be the middle one.
By Yoran Custers, editor at Creators | Vice