Alberto Sánchez and Eduardo Villalón with the model of their "Haus"

Open for everything

The young studio MUT Design from Valencia has designed “Das Haus” for imm cologne 2020. It is inspired by the fair’s focal topic of “Indoors and Outdoors”.
by Fabian Peters | 1/7/2020

On a day in January in Cologne nothing would seem farther from anyone’s mind than outdoor life. And when the international furniture and interiors trade fair imm cologne opens its door to kick off the year in terms of design events visitors are typically relieved that they can spend their time inside warm halls rather than facing the snow and rain waiting outside. Despite this in recent years the imm has become a hotspot for outdoor furniture. And meanwhile just about every reputable manufacturer has discovered the topic of furniture for garden and patios – and set about fielding such products. Long gone are the days when the big players of the furnishing sector left the segment to specialists. These days enormous sums of money are invested in outdoor equipment. Products range from seating areas for a mid five-figure sum via professional outdoor kitchens through to outdoor bathrooms complete with showers and whirlpool.

So, it is hardly surprising that at imm 2020 “Das Haus” – a large-scale scale installation of a living situation designed every year by a different young design studio has set its sights on the future and explored the topic “outdoor living”. This time it was designed by Spanish studio MUT. Thanks to their long-standing collaboration with furniture manufacturer Expormim the Valencia-based designers can draw on ample outdoor experience. For example, their hanging seat “Nautica” for Expormim garnered several international prizes. In designing “Das Haus” they were primarily inspired by the traditional lifestyle of their native city: “Here in the evenings the old people sit on the street in front of their houses and at the weekend families travel to their little house in the country. Then they make the famous Valencian paella on a wood-fired outdoor stove,” says Alberto Sanchez, designer and founder of MUT Design by way of describing the feeling “Das Haus” is meant to convey.

The designers consistently developed their “House” from room units in which there are flowing transitions between indoors and outdoors. Four semi-circular screens that taper conically downwards form the structure’s basic elements. Set up back to back in a circle each of the screens defines a room. The round, conical forms are unmistakably elaborated from the formal language typical for MUT Design products. Their version of “Das Haus” is an ingenious translation of this language into an architecture that explores the topic of “indoors and outdoors”. After all, with their screens they create spaces that are neither clearly in the interior of the house nor clearly in the outdoor area. At the center of the structure behind the four screens the designers have installed a small patio. “In Spanish houses the patio is the main public space. Here instead it becomes the most private place,” says Alberto Sanchez in explaining the designers’ concept.

A rectangular roof on four pillars tops the installation “Das Haus”. The designers used large, circular cut-outs to open it above the four rooms. So how to present the connection between their generously open “House” and nature within the confines of the trade-fair halls? They decided to install an artificial stretch of water around the building and christened it “Albufera” after the lagoon by the same name just outside Valencia. Indeed, the city and its architectural culture play an important role for the design. For example, the screens are clad with the tiles so typical for local architecture. Especially for their take on “Das Haus” the designers came up with a wall tile whose design was inspired by Valencian roof tiles. It was produced by ceramic manufacturer Harmony, for whom MUT Design has already developed several tile series. A further reference to the designers’ origins is the white lime plaster known as encalado, which is widespread in Spain. But as it is not possible to use traditional limewash in the fair architecture MUT Design resorted instead to a special plaster rendering courtesy of Detale CPH, which the designer used to produce the impression of encalado in the kitchen of their “House”. The heart of the kitchen is an enormous wood-fired stove like those often used outdoors in Valencia to prepare paella. In the bedroom MUT Design opted in favor of a hammock rather than a traditional bed. It was made to the designers’ specifications and style by Spanish carpet producer GAN, who also supplies a suitable rug for the room. In interpreting the bathroom as a hammam the designers cite the Moorish influence on Spanish culture. In all MUT Design came up with twelve new products for this year’s “Das Haus” at imm cologne collaborating with firms such as Expormim, Diabla and Preciosa Lighting. The furnishings were conceived as a mixture of outdoor- and indoor furniture. Only the patio in the innermost part of the house remains unfurnished. As the only completely private space it destined to be a place of retreat where the visitor can experience intimacy and relaxation. Here it is not a matter of the house opening up to the visitor, but rather the visitor being able to open their own minds.

"The House" by MUT Design at imm cologne (January 13 through to 19, 2020, Koelnmesse):
Hall 3.1