In manufacturing the “Miracle Chips” Anastassiades teamed up with Henraux, a manufacturing company in Tuscany, and consciously pushed the boundaries of what is possible in marble processing. Photo © Michael Anastassiades
Sun, moon and marble
by Martina Metzner
Jun 9, 2014

Michael Anastassiades has been a familiar figure on the design scene for quite some time now. The London-based master designer, who originally hails from Cyprus, has earned a reputation not only for his elegant luminaires, but also for other objects such as tables, chairs, mirrors, and jewelry. Some of his output has even made it into the arts scene, where it can be admired in the permanent exhibitions of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and in Vienna’s MAK. Even so, it was not until last year, when during the Salone del Mobile he unveiled the “Miracle Chips” for the “Wallpaper Handmade” exhibition, that his name was introduced to a wider audience. The response was genuine amazement at these marble disks of 80 centimeters in diameter, some of which bent outward like open, drum-like bowls, while others curved inward like supersized potato chips. In manufacturing the “Miracle Chips” Anastassiades teamed up with Henraux, a venerable manufacturing company based in Tuscany, and consciously pushed the boundaries of what is possible in marble processing. With his formal design, Anastassiades infuses the material, which we tend to associate with sculptures not only from the Renaissance period and which exudes a cool solidity that is animated within itself, with a playful lightness. And in doing so he has apparently blocked any nascent attempts at defining a place or a category for it. In conversation Anastassiades explains that he intends his “Miracle Chips” to be an homage to this unusual stone which – countering all economic crises – is currently enjoying a revival above all in European design. That said, the 47-year-old is entirely unfazed by such trends: “What is important for me is the material, to be able to bring out its genuine quality, to emphasize its beauty.”

Michael Anastassiades’ main focus is on luminaire design. In his work he combines simple geometric forms with the same precision and elegance that we last witnessed in the lighting objects of the Art Déco period, albeit with a hearty measure of minimalism thrown in. Take “Tip of the Tongue”, for example: The small tabletop luminaire is a marriage of sphere and cylinder. His ceiling luminaire system “String Lights” for Flos introduces clear and straight lines into its surroundings, while his “Mobile Chandelier”, which has come to be the queen of all “mobile” luminaires, serves to accentuate individual axes. Anastassiades lavishly combines his objects with high-quality materials, including opal and blown glass, metals such as copper and brass, or stones such as onyx and marble. This synergy of form and material works to produce a perfect balance that communicates a sense of utmost harmony to the beholder. “I believe in quality, in the quality of the materials, the quality of the work that produces these goods. I also believe in simplicity and timelessness,” says Anastassiades, illustrating his maxim – and adds: “I do not wish to shock people with my designs.”

But what is the secret of such unadorned harmony? Where does Anastassiades discover the sources that inspire him? Does he find inspiration in nature, as some reports seek to convince us in analogy to the names he gives his luminaires? “No, not exactly,” Anastassiades says. Nature is not the fundamental source of inspiration for his creations, even if the names of the objects appear to suggest otherwise, for example “Tree in the moonlight”. The luminaire is composed of an illuminated sphere that is elevated by three crossing bars, calling to mind not only similarities in the title but also symbolic with a piece by Meret Oppenheim. It is this play with spatial perception, Anastassiades claims.

In 1993, just having completed his civil engineering degree in London, Michael Anastassiades changed tack and decided to embark on a career in product design instead. The first object he made was the “Message Cup”, a wooden receptacle into which messages could be spoken. These were stored electronically and could be retrieved again simply by turning the cup upside down. Today the “Message Cup” is a firm fixture in the permanent exhibition of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Admittedly, making the leap from civil engineering to design was quite a risk, but Anastassiades formulated a clear strategy for himself, which meant that he would not only design objects, but also distribute them. This freedom has always been paramount for the designer – and prompted him to establish the Michael Anastassiades brand in 2007. The main revenue of his studio, which he runs together with five employees and which is located in his private home on Lower Marsh Street in London’s Waterloo district, is generated from selling his output. Anastassiades uses small artisan workshops mainly in Europe, including the Czech Republic and the UK, to produce his objects. If we take this into account, the prices for these luminaires – 615 pounds (755 euros) for “Ball Lights” or 780 pounds (957 euros) for “Tip of the Tongue” – are not as high as we might expect. Only sometimes the master of elegant lighting design makes an exception and concedes to join forces with manufacturers – the latest collaboration was with Flos for “String”, his first luminaire to be fitted with LEDs. Another was with Puiforcat, a Paris-based cutlery manufacturer, for which he has masterminded a wine sommelier set that is due to be launched in the near future.

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“String Lights“ by Michael Anastassiades for Flos. Photo © Flos
Michael Anastassiades. Photo © Michael Anastassiades
Queen of all “mobile” luminaires : “Mobile Chandelier 3” by Michael Anastassiades.
Photo © Michael Anastassiades
“What is important for me is the material, to be able to bring out its genuine quality”:
“Copper Mirror 1” by Michael Anastassiades. Photo © Michael Anastassiades
”Tree in the Moonlight” is inspired by a painting by Meret Oppenheim.
Photo © Michael Anastassiades
“Lit Lines 2” by Michael Anastassiades in satin or patinated brass.
Photo © Michael Anastassiades
“Strip Light” by Michael Anastassiades. Photo © Michael Anastassiades
Play with geometry: “Tip of the Tongue” by Michael Anastassiades.
Photo © Michael Anastassiades
“Faceted Table” is the dining table of Michael Anastassiades. Photo © Michael Anastassiades