STUDIOKHACHATRYAN – Further From Design

Since its inception, Studiokhachatryan has been turning design into art.
Fueled by the idea of going « Further from function », this furniture collection is an ode to abstraction and angular shapes that challenges our perception of space and the objects within.

Since 2010, Studiokhachatryan founder Noro Khachatryan has been displaying his art in various places, creating interiors, architectural elements for public spaces, and shape-shifting objects that change depending on where you are when you look at them.

With his experimental approach, Noro Khachatryan has been going beyond the « down-to-earth » functional aspect, and transcending furniture’s innate qualities. The Armenian designer marries together textures and natural materials (woods, stones and metals), mixing elements from the past and the present to create poetic objects, turning design into a broader experience.

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How did you get into design?

I moved to Belgium when I was 17 to study architecture. I couldn’t start school right away, so I worked in a very nice carpenter and furniture maker’s workshop. It was meant to be a temporary job but I stayed two years, as a companion. As I got to learn the language, I actually considered studying design rather than architecture: I was interested in making objects. So I got into Saint-Luc School, in Brussels and graduated, before studying architecture, if only to make my wish come true. I also started working as a freelance designer, which proved to be complicated to manage. In the end, I never quite completed my Master’s degree in architecture.

Your approach is very graphic and minimalist. When do you know when to stop, in your work?

It depends on the project. When it comes to assignments, per se, everything is decided in advance. You just design and develop the project itself. There might be additional requirements now and then, but it’s easy to find the ending line because you’re in a dialogue with your client. When an architect asks me to design installations for residential projects, or when I’m doing limited editions for the industry, I know what my goal is.
Things get more complicated when it comes to free work, personal work. You start somewhere, with an idea, which you don’t know how to develop and you don’t know where to stop. The key is to take your time and not project any goal. As an example, I sketched a collection of seven tables which took me two years to develop and realize.
Had those tables been a commission, such freedom would’ve been impossible to obtain. Minimal things are sometimes the hardest to explore.

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Do you use any specific techniques?

I don’t know what might be specific or not. For me, it’s all about finding the right way to achieve your work.
Take this collection, for exemple… I didn’t know which materials I’d be working with. I kept changing the materials, even until the very last moment.
I don’t use materials for their innate « innovative » qualities. I like to have a long-term view, which is probably why I always come back to natural materials. The techniques used depend directly on the materials chosen. And, sometimes, the level of mastery of the technique is more important than the technique itself.

Do you have a very specific process or is it intuitive?

It’s a combination between a conceptual and a narrative designing process. Creative changes and experimentations go together. I also have a very analytical approach, like an architect, so everything I discover from day to day is the result of a natural process. I try to not be surprised by new things I discover. I don’t like to be surprised.

What are your main inspirations?

Our everyday life, travelling and discovering new impulses are all inspirations, but art is important to me, especially temporary art and modern design. I think there’s more happening in art than design, even though they often cross. I have a feeling that today what is considered as « beautiful » has to do with not just the esthetic but with an atmosphere surrounding the esthetic. Maybe that’s why I like to see art so much.
The scales are different, but I’d rather be a good designer than a bad artist.

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What do you expect people to feel when they see your pieces?

I want them to criticize my work, even negatively.
When I was younger, it was very important for me that people like my work or, at least, understand it. Now, I try to put things into perspective. One vision is different from someone else’s, and I cannot enjoy them anymore if they are only positive.
Nowadays, it’s all about the hype and less about a level of achievement. I’m really missing « the how and the why ». I hope one day there will be more professional critiques in the design world, and not just reasons why you should buy a specific item rather than another.

Do you have an a-ha moment you’d like to share with us?

As a matter of fact, I do! In April 2015, I had two appointments with design editors during which I presented two projects. The feedback I received was about rational and economic aspects, which is normal of course – at the end of the day, your projects must be profitable. But, even if I understand the industrial production philosophy, I realized, that day, that I wouldn’t be able to satisfy the demand with my work. I realized I had to make things just to support myself, even if it meant producing between two or five items. Before that, doing those limited editions was only a « niche » for me, an opportunity to experiment. These two appointments led me to believe otherwise.

How did your work arrive at Leclaireur?

I was visiting a friend in Paris, sometime in September 2015. He saw a preview of my new collection – all black pieces, mostly minimalized coat hangers. He made the connection with fashion in his mind, and suggested I visit Leclaireur. I went straight to the Herold store and was impressed with the crossover between fashion and design. I met Armand Hadida after a few months, to show him sketches of future projects, and he opened the door for potential collaborations. I feel comfortable working with Leclaireur because they are not looking for hype or commercials projects. They see creation as something that arouses the imagination.

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If you had to give a definition of design…

I don’t think there’s a definition for Design. It’s all around the world. This collection, for exemple, is about functional objects and the mystery surrounding their own typology. Look at what Leclaireur is doing, the commercial aspects, the buying experience of their approach, it’s about artistic products more than anything. You’re not buying a chair, but a story. It’s very conceptual.

How do you think design will evolve in the future?

I feel something interesting is happening. In my 8 years working in design, I’ve already seen so much change happen. Everything more or less has to do with « design » now. And the story behind design these days always has to do with art. I don’t systematically compare design to art, because they have two different purposes, but what I mean is, we don’t want to make random chairs or random tables anymore, we want to operate from other perspectives, and make a difference.

What’s your personal motto?

« Do what you’re best at ». I don’t believe I could be better at anything else than design.