While design inspirations in the digital age tend to be drawn from the likes of Pinterest and Instagram, our friends at District Eight—a Vietnam-based furniture brand—went many centuries back to build their latest range, the Cyrus collection.
The Vietnamese brand’s latest collection fuses two materials from opposite ends of the spectrum—light, soft velvet and raw, bold metal, like steel and brass. We spoke to one of the range’s designers, Vo Ngoc Nguyen, to understand how the District Eight team approached the concept for the Cyrus range and how the starting point for the design was an ancient artifact dating back to the Persian Empire.
Tell us more about District Eight’s Cyrus collection. How did the collection begin from such an unusual starting point?
The Cyrus collection includes the Cyrus chair and Cyrus sofa. The concept behind this range initially came from an ancient artifact—a Babylonian clay cylinder called The Cyrus Cylinder. The text on the Cylinder praises the Persian king Cyrus the Great and lays out his genealogy, while also describing him as a king of kings. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia in the late 1800s. Today the artifact sits in the British Museum in London.
Using the cylinder as the core feature for the Cyrus chair, our design team had to figure out how to create a proper steel frame that integrates well with the shape of the chair’s backrest. The measurements of the backrest, the seat height and bevel are all calculated and manufactured for ergonomic comfort in order to create functional, well-designed seating.
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What’s the process like when ideating a new collection?
We designed the Cyrus range based on the creative direction of Darren Chew’s brief. Any District Eight collection is developed over time and often starts with just one design—the Cyrus range is no exception to this process. Based on the initial model, we then consider whether the concept has potential to develop into a full range. For example, this collection started with the Cyrus chair and went on to include the Cyrus sofa. Both pieces feature the cylinder-shaped backrest.
Another example, that shares a similar design theme to the Cyrus pieces, is the Akron collection. For the Akron range, the brass detailing feature became one of the centerpieces. The very first item in this collection was the Akron stool. Soon after we took elements from the first design and created the Akron counter stool with backrest, Akron bar stool, Akron desk chair, and the Akron dining chair.
What’s one surprising feature of the collection people may not know?
As with all District Eight products, most people would be surprised to learn that almost all the production is done by hand. The Cyrus collection’s fusing of materials involves a lengthy and detailed handcrafted process that we’re very proud of.
There are softer materials and industrial materials being used in a single item. How were you able to fuse those together?
The way District Eight fuses those materials is based on a rule in which there’s one primary, one secondary, and one tertiary material. An overuse of any one material makes the design become redundant. For the Cyrus chair, we use leather or fabric as the main, or primary, material. The steel tube frame is secondary and the tertiary brass section material is for decoration. It also connects the pieces together.
As we work to find the middle ground between industrial and contemporary styles, which use simple shapes and new materials that are easy to mix and match, we also put a strong focus on product functionality. The Cyrus chair, for example, uses a steel tube frame—a bold design element that’s not used too often in furniture design because it can easily dominate with its pitch-black, weighty look. In the case of the Cyrus, however, the element is tempered and juxtaposed with the flowing velvet and radiant bronze elements. The cylindrical backrest that gives the piece its name is what truly allows the design to maintain both form and function.
Who do you see as a typical Cyrus customer? What kind of places are we most likely to see the Cyrus collection?
The Cyrus collection customer is one who looks for simplicity and functionality in design. They are aware of, or attracted to, the minimalist contemporary aesthetic. It’s an ideal fit for spaces such as a lounge room or veranda. We can see the Cyrus chair pairing perfectly with a side table in a flexible, comfortable space. It’s a solid piece of furniture for any office, hotel, or home.