Cover Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis (Photo: Valentina Vos)

A fascination with light and colour informs the work of Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis, who is known for combining innovative materials with playful forms

What do you see when sunlight is reflected off the glistening waves of the sea? Or when the sun casts mesmerising shadows in a forest? For Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis, such glimpses of nature’s beauty are a source of inspiration for new projects; she declares that she gets motivation from “absolutely anywhere”—whether during factory visits or even on a stroll through the woods.

Marcelis’ affinity for the natural environment is driven by her curious nature. “I soak up everything I experience; my engineer father cultivated my curiosity for how things are made and how the world works. I’m lucky enough to be able to earn a living exploring that and always creating,” she shares.

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Marcelis is known for her playful experiments with the various properties of light and colour, as well as cutting-edge technology; these create an intriguing dialogue throughout her impressive oeuvre, which ranges from product and spatial design to installations that bridge the realms of art and design.

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Her new collection, Mirage, represents her interest in light, material and colour perfectly. Comprising a table and two mirrors, the series was designed to celebrate the opening of Dubai’s Gallery Collectional, a purveyor of collectible, limited-edition designs.

Here, Marcelis tells us more about her creative process and recent projects.

Why does light and colour continue to play a huge role in your work?

Sabine Marcelis (SM):The fact that a static material can be activated by light is very inspiring and exciting to me. For example, a simple mirror can completely transform an environment once the sun hits it. Similarly, colour and light can completely transform an indoor space and the manner in which one perceives it emotionally. It’s very powerful.

Which materials are you most interested in right now and why?

SM: [I’m interested in] materials that can be manipulated in many ways, as well as those that have interesting interactions with light. Glass, for example, can be transparent or opaque, frosted or polished, mirrored or coloured; all these characteristics allow for endless design ideas.

It’s essential that we all shift to sustainable materials. My studio is currently focused on transitioning to working only with 100 per cent biodegradable resins, which is a difficult but doable task—this is my biggest goal.

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Tell us a little more about your new work for Gallery Collectional.

SM: As this was the first collection I would be showing in Dubai, I wanted to create a strong link to the city. The objects feature a colour treatment inspired by the desert sun; they are also based on Dubai’s unique points—the soft lines and warm glow of the desert in contrast to the city’s sharp architecture and myriad lights that appear in the evening. This duality of day and night is reflected in the table itself.

Meanwhile, the wall pieces are a new combination of reflective glass as well as sandblasted glass. This creates a soft diffusion [of colour] when you turn on the lights; and if the sun hits the reflective surface, there’s a strong reflection. The pieces are all about their interactions with light—both natural and artificial—and have an evolving presence as the day progresses into night.

Complete this sentence: You’ll never see a ___ in my home.


What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? 

SM: Problem-solving and making the impossible possible, whether that’s a production method or a deadline. I love to work towards a crazy goal and achieve it. 

Pattern play: yes or no? Why or why not? 

SM: I’m not a big pattern girl. I like to keep it simple with colour blocking, or letting colours fade into each other!

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What do you appreciate the most in your own home?

SM: All the artworks created by my friends—by having their creations in my home, it makes me feel surrounded by them. We also recently bought the most comfortable sofa ever; a big modular COR Trio sofa which can be transformed into a complete conversation pit, a long sofa, or anything in-between.

What are some exciting projects currently in the pipeline?  

SM: I have a new collection coming out with IKEA in October! The rest is all still confidential but there are lots of amazing and diverse projects ranging from big site-specific installations to objects and museum shows. 

What are decor pieces that you’ve been eyeing recently?  

1. Hem Boa pouf by Sabine Marcelis

SM: I’ve only recently got one for my own house, finally! I’ve also been looking for some cool kids' furniture but there are not a lot of options—maybe someone can recommend something to me!

2. USM shelving unit

SM: Their shelving units are a classic design that just never gets old! 

3. Artworks by Spanish painter Julio Rondo

SM: I’m currently saving up for some artworks by Spanish painter Julio Rondo.  

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