Michael Anastassiades lives as he works, in a paredback, deeply considered manner, a way of life reduced to its essence. Home is a platform for the designer to understand how to create an environment. It’s largely furnished with pieces he’s created specifically for the three-storeyed space above a former clothing shop in Waterloo in central London, where he’s lived for the past 22 years. Best known for lights, Anastassiades also designs furniture and objects like the polished brass coffee mill he uses every day. One benefit of the lockdown earlier this year was that the time spent sequestered at home was a perfect contemplative period to test and reconsider his designs. Not just by using an object but, as he says, by “living with it physically, seeing it and reading it”. Some are prototypes or early versions of a stool or a light, others are exhibition pieces and there are new production pieces such as the Vertigo lamp hanging above his solid walnut dining table desk.
On the rare occasions Anastassiades brings home something he hasn’t designed, he calls it “hosting” another designer’s work and spends inordinate amounts of time carefully selecting it to ensure the scale and proportion relate perfectly to its intended space. In his inner sanctuary on the top storey where he retreats to read, he has three pieces by Kaare Klint, the founding father of Danish modern design. The pair of Addition sofas and footstool were a “gift to myself ”, says Anastassiades, who saved for and bought them in 2010 to mark his 40th birthday three years before.
“I love those pieces so much; it gives me so much joy to look at them. The scale is so right, everything is perfect, the colour, the whole patina of the leather and how it changes over the years are incredible.” He bought the mahogany and Niger leather-upholstered pieces from the legendary Danish cabinetmaker Rud. Rasmussen just before the business was sold in 2011. He’d haunted the workshop of the family-owned business since the early 2000s, amazed to find such a place in the heart of Nørrebro in central Copenhagen where it had been making furniture since 1875. “I remember visiting the wooden storage where they kept all the wood and the leather upholstery space; it was a gem, like the most precious thing I had ever seen.”
A Cypriot, Anastassiades trained as a civil engineer at Imperial College London before taking a masters in industrial design at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1993. The next year he founded his studio and started working with a joiner in Suffolk with whom he still collaborates. “Every single piece made out of wood in my own home is made by him,” he says. That sort of relationship was fundamental to the Danish design canon he has long admired. Cabinetmakers such as Rud. Rasmussen collaborated with creators such as Klint and their products were credited to both.
Ever since he became critically aware of design, Anastassiades has been a huge fan of the Danish movement and it’s a strong reference in his work. He says he’s attracted to an apparent simplicity that is underpinned by a sophisticated understanding of how an object can be reduced. Primarily though, he’s interested in how the great Danish designers or architects, as he prefers to describe Klint, used historical references as their starting point rather than claiming what they were presenting was completely new. “The idea that somebody comes and says this is something new, I don’t believe it’s true,” he says emphatically.
Klint (1888-1954) set up the department of furniture design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, mentoring a generation of students to take an analytical approach to furniture design that drew on history and diverse cultures to create modern functional pieces.