Erwan Bouroullec: Kvadrat had already been playing with the idea of this kind of product for quite some time. We ourselves first came into contact with the project about four years ago. Then, just under two years ago, Kvadrat entered a partnership with Coulisse, a Dutch company specializing in louver systems. This was, strictly speaking, the start of Kvadrat Shade.
What is your part in this joint venture?
Erwan Bouroullec: Even if we ourselves do not put it that way, our job profile is more or less that of art directors. This kind of cooperation project is a whole new ballgame for us. Normally, we design products for existing companies, companies with an established range of products. With Kvadrat Shade, the situation was different. There was nothing already in place – no organization, no products, no orientation. We had to and still have to create everything from scratch.
How challenging is it to design the kind of product that, ideally, people hardly even notice?
Erwan Bouroullec: I do believe that it puts us in the same league as colleagues such as Jasper Morrison; in fact, nowadays it gives us a great deal of pleasure to design everyday items. In such cases, a blind is perhaps similar to a door handle. Something crucial to both of the latter is the fact that they both possess a highly mechanical quality, one that stands up to intensive use. Also, both are important to pleasant surroundings. Incidentally, I wouldn’t say that a blind system should be invisible but rather that it needs to speak the same language as the architecture.
Where did the challenge lie when designing the system?
Erwan Bouroullec: Our focus is on two aspects. Firstly, the placement of the roll onto which the textile is rolled up – here, we wanted the customer to have the choice between different options. The roll can lie open, boast a Closed cassette or be housed in a Semi-open cassette. To date, the latter solution has been used only seldom. At the same time, it has the advantage that the textile is protected from above but that even when rolled up the blind provides a splash of color.
What was the second important aspect?
Erwan Bouroullec: Something that was also extremely important to us was the mechanism for opening and closing the blinds. Here too, there is now a choice of different systems – the classic option with a chain, something known as the "Twin Pull" system which is particularly child-safe and the motorized version. For all these versions it was necessary to find a convincing solution without neglecting the unity of the system’s formal vocabulary.
How did you achieve this?
Erwan Bouroullec: One of the central features of the system we have come up with is its interfaces which hold the roll at both ends. It is in these square end pieces that the mechanism which allow the blinds to be opened and closed is housed. In the versions with a Semi-open or Closed cassette the interfaces form the side panels. In the version where the roll lies open these end pieces simultaneously serve to mount the blind.
For your design for the interfaces you opted for muted tones.
Erwan Bouroullec: Yes, we did. In the closed version there is a cover between the front panel and the interfaces which, viewed from the front, is visible as a narrow strip and can be executed in a contrasting color. In the version where the roll lies open, this strip runs through the middle of the interface. Incidentally, unlike the situation with the covers, the interfaces are not made of aluminum but of zamak alloy, a material that allows them to be shaped more precisely – a visible quality which was very important to us, precisely because it means that the quality of the mechanism inside remains hidden.
Something else that distinguishes Kvadrat Shade is the coating on its textiles.
Erwan Bouroullec: Kvadrat Shade can rely on the technology of Verosol, a Dutch company recently acquired by Kvadrat. This company has at its disposal a unique technique which coats the side of the blind fabric facing the window with a microscopically thin layer of aluminum. This allows the fabric to reflect light and heat back outwards instead of absorbing them – an extraordinarily effective way of cooling rooms during the summer.
You yourselves have repeatedly designed textiles. Doesn’t the idea of designing fabrics for Kvadrat Shade appeal to you as well?
Erwan Bouroullec: We really are thinking about the idea and would like to start by working with textile printing, particularly with black printing. In fact, it is interestingly the case that it is easy to look through a very dark curtain fabric out into the light, with the fabric acting like sunglasses. By contrast, white fabric allows a great deal of light into a room and is, at the same time, very opaque. We have had the idea of a very black fabric that lets the light through, particularly colored light, and still allows people to look out.