Jorre van Ast

It needs to "click"

At Dutch manufactory Arco almost everything revolves around tables. What makes the new model, called "Trestle", so special? Jorre van Ast, designer and MD of the family-owned company, explains – in interview with Uta Abendroth.

Jorre van Ast is not just a designer, but also managing director of a family-owned company. Arco was founded in 1904 by Jorre van Ast’s great-grandfather in Winterswijk in Holland, and is specialized in particular in making tables, although it also produces chairs, benches, and consoles. Arco’s design approach: reduced, but always with that certain added something, simple, but never boring. This is definitely true of the latest member of the "Local Wood" collection: the height-adjustable "Trestle" table, which combines van Ast’s insistence that natural materials be used with his desire to create a new table type. A piece of furniture that once again slightly extends the spectrum of what is possible. Uta Abendroth took a closer look at the table and asked Jorre van Ast to elaborate on why it constitutes a new type of table.

Jorre van Ast, why is Arco all about tables?

Jorre van Ast: Tables are central to us people, and they play a key role, be it in the home or at work. Which is why we resolved to concentrate on tables, and on objects that go with them.

What is the concept behind your "Trestle" table?

Jorre van Ast: We often receive requests from clients who want the one table to be one or two centimeters lower or the other to be a few centimeters higher. We repeatedly face a situation where you want to adjust the height of the table top to the chairs you already have at home, but simply can’t. And then there’s the fact that people are of different heights. It is not ideal to offer the same standardized table height for everybody.

Solid triple: "Trestle" is available in four lengths between 2.40 and 3.60 meters.

And that’s why "Trestle" is height-adjustable?

Jorre van Ast: Yes. We devised the table such that the height can be manually adjusted across a range of seven centimeters, from 71 to 78 centimeters. This does not mean that it can be turned into a lectern. But owners are more flexible. And it’s a simple mechanism. There are threaded rods inside the two three-legged table trestles made of cast aluminum on which the table tops rest, and the rods lock into the underside of the table at three points for each trestle. They’re easy to turn using a thin peg, so you don’t even need to remove the table top.

You have opted for a two-section table top. Why?

Jorre van Ast: The wood is very heavy, as it’s 4.3 centimeters thick, after all. Irrespective of which variant you choose, and we offer four lengths between 2.40 and 3.60 meters, that’s quite a lot of weight. It’s easier not just for clients to move a table constructed in this way, but the logistics for us as a company are simpler, as the table top sections weight less for transport.

How are the two sections connected?

Jorre van Ast: There are metal pins between the planks and notches are milled lengthwise into the respective underside of the tops. Precisely fitted metal connectors are positioned here to hold the tops together. Both types of connections hold the planks together and also prevent the wood from warping. Which shouldn’t happen anyway, as they dry for years before being processed; but in the long term moisture in the air and other factors can cause the wood to “work”.

"Trestle" can be manually adjusted in height by seven centimeters. The table top consists of two parts, which facilitates transport and orientation in the room.

Where does the oak come from and how is the surfaced finished?

Jorre van Ast: "Trestle" is part of our "Local Wood" collection, which relies on wood from the vicinity of Winterswijk. We don’t have that many forests in Holland and therefore have to import wood. Which we also do, primarily from Germany and France. But of course we also ask ourselves why you have to get wood from such remote places. We try as far as possible to act sustainably and buy wood regionally, to have it cut at local sawmills and then process it ourselves. The wood for the tops is oiled and there is also a dark, smoked version.

What’s your favorite?

Jorre van Ast: Well I like the oiled tops best. The wood becomes ever more beautiful with time. And if something happens it’s easy to give the top a new lease of life.

So how does that sit with the somewhat technical trestles?

Jorre van Ast: I really like the contrast, the industrial look. The table looks as if it came straight from a workshop. It’s a little technical, but also very functional and it can be used anywhere. I didn’t want to make yet another round, square or extendible table, but to create a new type. And extend the limits of table design a little bit further.

Have you achieved that before?

Jorre van Ast: Yes, with "Slim". The table has a top that is only 2.8 centimeters thick although it’s almost three meters long. It’s only possible thanks to a metal core underneath the wooden veneer. It was designed by Bertjan Pot and has been in the collection for ten years now and is our most important product.

The Arco booth at the Salone del Mobile in Milan.

Your tables seem to appeal the whole world over, they’re even to be found in the Apple Headquarters …

Jorre van Ast: That’s right, and it’s great for us. We’ve been working on a project for Apple for three years now, using items from our collection and purpose-developing others. At the end of the day, what counts is for it to "click". We really enjoy working with the Apple guys, in their own way they really egged us on. We are now making things in our factory which we would never have dreamed we’d be able to. For us, it’s a great project as we learn an awful lot in all sorts of ways.

How do you guys see outdoor furniture? The market is truly exploding at the moment.

Jorre van Ast: We’ve had a lot of enquiries for outdoor versions, above all for the "Local Wood" collection. Perhaps we’ll do some at some point, but to date our vocation is indoor furniture.

"Trestle" is part of the "Local Wood" collection, for which the wood is sourced regionally.
The high-quality tables of the family company have been produced in Winterswijk for more than 100 years.