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Interior Design in Focus: An Interview with Raf Dauwe

Belgian-born Raf Dauwe has been creating innovative and unconventional designs at OOS since 2018. As a member of the management team, he heads up the interior design department. In an interview, he shares insights into current and key issues in interior design.

Where do you see the greatest challenges and potential in interior design in the future?

We have a major influence on how our clients and users experience their new spaces: they should feel good! Built environments are becoming increasingly distant from the nature that was once our habitat. This makes it all the more important to create spaces that are cosy, exciting and aesthetically pleasing.

Light, air, temperature, acoustics, haptics, form and colour, but also honesty, surprise and integrity characterise the space. A good balance is important. At OOS, we are constantly trying to redefine and optimise the recipe, always with an eye on the ecological footprint of the building.

How do you deal with the need for flexible and adaptable interiors in a rapidly changing world?

That is an important topic. I think longevity is still one of the most important prerequisites for sustainability. We always try to consider the issue of flexibility in our designs. Today more than ever, we are also looking at recyclability and the circular economy.

But you also have to look at the design itself. Good design that is based on strong and meaningful concepts and engages with its context and users will always survive longer than the fashionable, superficial or generic.

The current discourse is strongly characterised by ecological aspects. What sustainability principles does OOS pursue with Clever Interiors?

The biggest lever is probably mass. We try to create an impact with the best possible ideas, not necessarily with grand gestures that take up a lot of material and space. On the other hand, we also try to define the requirements for spaces as sensibly as possible.

We come from a time when everything was always “better” because we could afford it. Now comes the time when we should critically scrutinise everything: Does it really need it? Does it have to be so well insulated? Do we need to replace it? Do we need comfort ventilation or can we just open the window? Everyone has to think about this, not just the planners, but also the building owners, users and authorities.

We also try to use materials in their natural appearance, to design details that are as simple as possible and to install elements in such a way that they can be separated again later.

What role do aesthetics and design innovations play? And how is the right balance found with functional requirements?

Every design is created in a context, has a good reason and certain users. These factors are always part of our work. We also always try to scrutinise and possibly rethink the benefits. This is how innovative solutions are created. We want to tell a story with our designs, a defining concept that usually also determines the aesthetics or can at least serve as a good reference.

There is no need to weigh things up. We should always fulfil the functional requirements as far as we consider them useful. We are not artists. We design spaces that are used intensively and are intended to function. Conceptual and aesthetically sophisticated design is very important to us. But when you realise that you are becoming a slave to your own concept, you have to be able to break with it from time to time. This creates the unexpected. That can be very refreshing. I’m also a fan of a certain amount of pragmatism. A simple, obvious solution, lovingly formulated and detailed, often works very well.

What distinguishes OOS from a traditional interior design firm?

Our work is very wide-ranging, from interior design to urban planning. Our internal processes are subject to close dialogue and we have a very holistic approach. Our interior design is strongly influenced by architecture and vice versa. I think this is an added value that should not be underestimated.

The size of the office and the diversity in the team offer advantages and opportunities that we are happy to utilise. We not only have a broad range of knowledge, but also technologies such as CAD, BIM, visualisation and VR, 3D printing, lighting design, etc. are available to us and are being further developed at a high level. We make intensive use of all these possibilities in the design and planning process. This allows us to scrutinise our designs and discuss them at eye level with everyone involved in the project. This integration gives our interior design a high priority in every project, even if the architecture has already been finalised.

Finally, a personal question: Which project still inspires you years later?

Without naming specific rooms, I have always been very inspired by Barragán’s architecture, for example. He interpreted modernism and minimalism in a very humane and tactile way, which was not very common at the time. His work is still relevant today.

Rem Koolhaas was also always a role model. He has processed the architectural history of the last century in his very own way. As a master in telling exciting stories, he uses clever analogies and references.

But there are also many exciting things happening today. For example, De Vylder Vinck Taillieu , who are completely rethinking the way we deal with existing buildings and the demands placed on space. Or Muller Van Severen, whose furniture attempts to blur the boundary between art and design.