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Designer Tom Dixon on Millennial Pink, Working With Mud and His Rock Star Career

There's more to the multi-hyphenate than the S-Chair.

tom dixon portrait Photo by Pylon

Two years ago, Tom Dixon surprised everyone by opening a restaurant beside his London HQ. Dubbed the Coal Office, it’s entirely shoppable: Guests can buy the Tom Dixon plates right off their table. While the 61-year-old Brit (who was once in a disco-funk band that toured with the Clash!) creates products known for their sleek lines, his own path has been more of a zigzag, from creating the futuristic RockStar suites aboard Virgin Voyages’ inaugural cruise ship to a brutalist mansion—architecture, interiors and all—in Monaco. His latest accessories collection debuts this month. “The difficult thing is being minimal but still being recognizably us,” he says of the creation process.

What was the first thing you designed?

In school, it was the process of turning clay into decorative and useful artifacts that made me understand my passion for transforming. Clay is mud, really—one of the ugliest and least appealing materials. It doesn’t have any form or any structure until you shape it and cook it. There was a realization that I could make things that people found appealing—I mean at the time it was only my mum, but that’s a starting point—and that those things could actually be used.

What problem does design still need to solve?

A lot of the PPE that’s being thrown away is making mountains of plastic.

tom dixon accessories

The Fog gift set has Dixon’s classic streamlined look.  Courtesy of Tom Dixon

How has your work changed as a result of the pandemic?

I’ve forced myself off the computer screen and the Zoom meeting and into what I liked about design in the first place, which is the mud. It’s been more sculpture than design so far, but it’s great to go back to something I enjoy.

What object in your own home could you not live without?

The more you make, the less attached you become. I like tools and instruments for making stuff—my welding kit, for example.

What’s your favorite museum?

I’m keen on the Musée Bourdelle in Paris. Antoine Bourdelle was an Art Deco sculptor who worked in the 1920s, and the museum includes a sculpture garden as well as his apartment and his converted studio.

Name one interiors trend you wish would die.

Millennial pink. I actually quite like it, so I’m not going to denigrate it. But it’s been kind of a long time that everyone’s been doing everything in it. It’s time to move on.

tom dixon glasses

The Puck glassware line has modern, minimal appeal.  Courtesy of Tom Dixon

A vehicle that you adore for its design?

I’ve just been lent the Ösa electric motorcycle by a company called Cake, and I’ve been whizzing around on it. The nice thing is that it’s not really trying to look like a motorcycle. It’s modular, designed for multiple configurations of attachments. It’s really cleverly constructed.

What designer do you admire and why?

The people I like tend to not be in the field I’m in. Rei Kawakubo has made a real impact in fashion and has created brilliant retail environments. I find that exciting and interesting.

Maximalist or minimalist?

Minimal expressionist. Minimalists try and remove everything from the object, and I like the object to have an expression of its function. I want things to be very clearly what they are. So, for example, a light looks like a light. It doesn’t hide that fact.

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