Split & Store by RENS

© Aisha Zeijpveld

Colors as the starting point

Using a research-based design approach, Stefanie van Keijsteren and Renee Mennen design unexpected versions of well-known objects, such as the Split & Store room divider made out of PLEXIGLAS®.

“We don’t start out with a fixed goal in mind,” says Stefanie van Keijsteren. “For example, we never say: we want to design a chair right now.” Instead van Keijsteren and Renee Mennen spend a lot of time researching and experimenting before they develop an idea of where they are heading. The two Dutch women, known as RENS design duo, have dabbled in fashion design, porcelain and carpets – and now also furniture made of PLEXIGLAS®.

See what happens

Practically every project starts with color for the Eindhoven design duo as was the case for their first joint project as RENS in 2008. “At the time, we wanted to investigate the properties of a certain color and had no sound concept of where that would lead us,” says van Keijsteren. They decided on red and began dyeing clothing. “From a single color pigment, we were able to create countless new shades of red – from dark to really light. It was simply fascinating,” remembers van Keijsteren. How small the nuances between colors can be was the topic that the duo then researched with the BLACK project, during which they shaped objects from various black materials.

Mixing shades

With Split & Store, their latest creation, which will first be presented to the international public at Milan Design Week 2017, the designers are now taking a conceptual step forward: “We wanted to create something where different colors mix and mutually alter each other,” explains van Keijsteren. “The initial idea was to create something from various layers.” In their research, the designers made patterns out of tracing paper, placed the materials on top of each other and held them in front of light sources. The effect was pleasing – and thus van Keijsteren and Mennen went on the hunt for a material which would create the same effect as the tracing paper.

High-quality materials are very important to us, as their quality is crucial for how the finished design works.

Stefanie van Keijsteren
Studio RENS

Satin surface

At ThyssenKrupp Plastics Netherlands, they were finally able to find their solution: “The distributor showed us PLEXIGLAS® Satinice and we were fascinated right away,” says van Keijsteren. “We knew of the material before, but were only familiar with the colorless, transparent version.” PLEXIGLAS® Satinice, on the other hand, has a satin surface. So it still lets light through but is not completely transparent. At the same time, the double-sided velvety surface looks warm and soft, making it seem high-quality and classy. Moreover, the material does not show traces of wear and can be obtained in many different colors. “That was really exciting, mainly because of the contrast to the current prevailing trend in interior design. We wanted to show that there are other paths to go down than the usual white, black and gray,” explains van Keijsteren.

Something in between a shelf and a room divider

Split & Store at Milan Design Week 2017

Studio RENS goes Milan (April 4 – 9, 2017) – and you’re invited! Split & Store is presented at Salone Satellite, Hall. 22/24, stand A15, Fiera Milano Rho (metro stop Rho). Opening hours: daily 09:30 – 18.30 h.

After landing on the material, the duo took their development further – which object should be created from this effect? “It was clear to us right away: The PLEXIGLAS® sheets should create their own effect in this concept instead of just being lit up,” says van Keijsteren.“ So we needed an application which light falls onto and not something standing against the wall. However, we still wanted something that had a function and wasn’t purely decorative”. From the idea of mixing colors, came the plan to then create a novel and colorful combination between a shelf and room divider. “Room dividers are usually meant to be discreet and not really noticeable,” explains van Keijsteren. “We’ve gone in the exact opposite direction: Spilt & Store can shape the design of a room.”