Tord Boontje: Swarovski chandeliers and Ikea furniture

We catch up with Danish designer Tord Boontje to talk about his Balenciaga inspiration, Victorian interiors and all things lighting

Tord Boontje Swarovski chandelier Luminous Reflections

From his iconic metal Garland light for Habitat to his rotating chairs which can be seen on the River Thames at Nine Elms, Tord Boontje’s innovative designs are now known the world over.

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Born in Holland, he came to London in 1992 to study at the Royal College of Art, and then never left. For the past 15 years he has been reinventing the chandelier. His new collection Luminous Reflections is at Swarovski Crystal Palace and is about the interplay between light and water.

Sarah Beeny profile Rise Hall

What inspired Luminous Reflections?

Light, and the magical way it dances across a lake or shines through a misty snowscape. Swarovski gave me free rein to design my own components for the collection, which are softer and not as sparkly as they normally are. This gives a gentler quality of light into the home.

Can you tell us about the Lustrous Aura chandelier?

The Aura was inspired by a hair piece made of gold rings welded together with diamonds from the 1920s, while the Shimmering Jewel was inspired by a Balenciaga bracelet I saw in the Swarovski archive. I always think of chandeliers as jewellery for space.

Any tips on lighting?

Try to avoid overhead lighting in the evenings and go for side lighting, whether it is in the form of wall or table lights. It creates a much more comfortable atmosphere.

Why is it important to bring romance into your work?

I am very much reacting against the cold masculine aspect of the design world. I am interested in stories. For example, when I designed the public benches at Nine Elms on the South Bank of the Thames, I was inspired when I heard the painter Turner used to come to this spot to paint at sunrise and sunset. The benches are rotating and the idea is that you can turn them towards the view.

Tord Boontje Luminous Reflections Swarovski Crystal Palace
Tord Boontje’s ‘Luminous Reflections’ at Swarovski Crystal Palace.

Much of your work is inspired by nature. Why?

I grew up in small village in the east of Holland. We were always outside camping and spent our summers in the countryside in Sweden as my mother was Swedish. So nature is part of my DNA.

Did you always want to be a designer?

No, my mother trained as a textile designer and my father worked in transport. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a forester. So, I suppose I’ve brought that passion into my work.

What do you enjoy most?

I do have a real passion for lighting and even other products that are not lighting but have a reference to light or shadow: my paper curtains (for Artecnica) for instance are about making a shadow on the floor.

What is your home like?

My house here is modern, although we still have an old stone house in France, and the furnishings are a mixture of things made by myself or friends, inherited pieces or stuff we have bought at Ikea.

What does home mean to you?

A place where I can relax and feel comfortable.

Is the kitchen an important place for you?

Kitchens can be very boring places visually but I see them as very lively places, the hub of the home. We have a big room, with a kitchen on one side and the music system on the other. I love that. In summer we open the doors and the outside becomes part of the whole space.

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Tord Boontje Rotating chairs Nine Elms Thames
Tord Boontje’s ‘Rotating chairs’ on the Thames at Nine Elms, London

Who has inspired your career?

I greatly admired Alexander McQueen. We shared an interest in crafts, materials and the Victorian era. He was driven and had no boundaries. If he believed in something, he would go for it 100 per cent. He wouldn’t follow trends; he would make trends.