“Our designs provide sustainable solutions to problems we ourselves have run into”
You two aren’t just a design duo – you’re also a couple. What are your lives like?
Thomas says, “A few years ago, we moved from the Randstad to the Nijmegen area in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Together with our two children, we now live next to a nature reserve, so our garden is full of trees, plants and flowers. There’s greenery everywhere you look. Sustainability has always played an important role in our lives and work. It’s how we came up with Waterworks, a natural irrigation system for plants. We also designed Flower Constellations, an accessory that lets the user create a beautiful bouquet with just a few flowers. Since 2013, House of Thol has been designing actual ready-to-use products. Our aim isn’t to make pieces that look like they belong in a museum – they’re products that actually make our lives easier. In fact, all our designs provide sustainable solutions to problems we’ve run into in our own lives.”
So do the two of you see design as a solution for a more sustainable world?
“Oh, absolutely,” says Jana. “Design plays a huge role. I mean, it’s the very first step in the production chain. If you set out to create something with sustainability in mind, the rest just follows automatically. We hope our designs will help change consumer behaviour. Take our Poma/Olera (Latin for ‘fruits and vegetables’) dish, for example – it comes with a leaflet explaining which fruits shouldn’t be stored next to each other willy-nilly in order to keep them fresher for longer. We feel it’s important to treat our food with care, just like the materials we use. Designers should be asking themselves, ‘Is what I’ve created truly sustainable?’ Obviously, it’s great if your product is made of biodegradable materials, but if it’s just another disposable, how do you hope to change people’s behaviour patterns?”
What is the Poma/Olera line made of?
Jana explains, “We opted to use partly porous terracotta in this series because we fire it at a lower temperature. And since the terracotta is double-walled, it produces a slight evaporative cooling effect. The inner dish is filled with cold water which seeps into the walls. Once it evaporates, energy – and, as a result, heat – is extracted from the environment. The effect is one of light, natural cooling.”
What do you think about ABN AMRO’s Game Changers Experience?
Jana says, “It’s such an honour that our idea was selected. But it’s also been a lot of hard work!” she laughs. “We started the research and concept stage at the beginning of July, and got the green light on that in August. Then it was really shoulders to wheels and noses to grindstones – 3D printing, making plaster moulds, and shaping and firing off our ceramic pieces. I think it’s safe to say we worked at least twice as hard as we normally do, but we’re so proud of the result and of being able to show off our prototypes at DDW19.”
Are these products now available for purchase?
“No, not just yet,” says Thomas. “Poma/Olera is a series, and we’re displaying a number of prototypes at DDW19. We’re really looking forward to hearing what the public think. After that, we’re going to try and locate a manufacturer and figure out how to market the Poma/Olera line. We’ll definitely be selling this line in our online shop and at a small number of retail outlets, but perhaps also via a partnership with, say, a supermarket chain, which would allow us to scale up production and availability. Plus we’ll certainly be relying on ABN AMRO’s help when it comes to scouting for partners who might be interested in Poma/Olera.”
What does your dream future look like?
Jana says, “Our whole house filled with House of Thol designs – lamps, cupboards, shelves, you name it – inside and out. And all fully reproducible, of course. It may seem like we create lots of very different designs, but at the end of the day, it’s all stuff we actually want to use ourselves – products which really do make the world a better place.”