Kevin Seitz and Rob van Wyen launched Studio Seitz in 2019 with the mission of regenerating declining specialist craft businesses, especially those they had first-hand knowledge of. “We had this desire to keep these niche but dying crafts alive, working with individual artisans,” says Seitz, who comes from generations of Swiss makers in Berneck, known for its ceramics.
Designed by necessity, built to last
“Creating things out of necessity,” they say, is the centerpiece of their range of furniture and lighting, which includes a wooden bench, stool, chest of drawers, brass sconces, desk lamp in mouth-blown etched glass and more. Their new “Wall Mirror” references a traditional Alpine milking bucket. The carving of the wooden frame is done by Reto Mösli – one of only four experts in the world who still carve using this technique, according to Seitz.
‘Stabellenstuhl’ by Studio Seitz, bedside table and wall mirror. “The sculpted details and hand-stamped metal are inspired by the traditional attire of Swiss farmers, who took cattle to the mountains in the spring and brought them back in the fall,” says Kevin Seitz.
Understated and uncluttered, Studio Seitz designs are shaped by purpose. “We place a high value on cultural objects that may be ubiquitous or often overlooked,” says Seitz. “The greatest reward for us is finding a way to redefine the way we can look at a seemingly mundane and sometimes dying tradition – by reinvigorating its purpose and appreciation.”
Nevertheless, the minimal aesthetic belies a deep consideration. The couple’s teapot, for example, was an evolution of Seitz’s university thesis, which he wrote about third-culture children: children who grow up outside of their parents’ culture. Seitz, who has a Swiss father and a Malaysian mother, was born in Spain and lived in Manchester before moving to the United States at the age of ten. ‘For me, being Swiss-German and Chinese Malaysian is like a very big part of who I am. I wanted to create a physical object that represents the conceptual space of in-between, dual cultures that are usually at opposite ends. It was therefore a question of marrying the Chinese customs of tea and the ceramics of my grandfather.
Kevin Seitz comes from a long line of ceramists. The artisan teapot is inspired by Chinese tea customs as well as its Swiss heritage
Collaboration with the Swiss maker community is at the heart of Studio Seitz’s work. “A lot of people we work with are actually family members, friends, or people who have worked with our family before,” says Seitz, whose great-grandfather was a noted ceramist. Those who are not blood relatives have become family through the collaboration of their work, sharing their particular techniques honed over the years, even generations.
Adalbert Fässler, a sixth-generation metalworker, hand stamps the ornate brass handles of the chest of drawers and bedside table; fourth-generation master carpenter Urs Mätzler (“his craftsmanship is the benchmark by which all other craftsmen are judged – honesty infused with passion and care that can never be duplicated in mass manufacture”, say Seitz and van Wyen) creates much of the carpentry; The family workshop of fifth-generation craftsman Thomas Seitz produces the candle holder, pendant lamp, desk and table lamp and hardware for the chest of drawers and bedside table.
The duo held a photoshoot at a house in Ghent designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. “It was very brutalist, all concrete,” van Wyen says. “Architecturally it was very simple and clean, but also welcoming and warm with lots of wood”
Reflecting the simple mountain life led by the original Swiss makers, Seitz and van Wyen use only locally available natural materials, often doing away with nails and screws (their popular ‘Stabellenbank’ stable bench is designed to be maintained only by the position of his feet and his own weight). They favor solid European ash, grown nearby in eastern Switzerland. “They are very strict in Switzerland when it comes to regulations, especially with the laws on cutting down trees and things like that. For us to be certified “Swiss Made”, it took six months,” explains van Wyen. “They interview everyone we work with, they track every piece of hardware you use.”
Seitz agrees: “We only use solid wood. We want to make legacies. The idea is that something lasts forever and you pass it on.
A new location in Williamsburg for Studio Seitz
This summer, the duo will open their first showroom: a 120 m² former babka factory, built in 1912, which they themselves have renovated with ambition and meticulousness over the past five years. The space, which is also their home, will provide an environment to show how their creations fit into everyday life. Every detail is thought out, like the stainless steel ramp that echoes the kitchen cabinets.
The space will also house a collection of design elements from Swiss and Danish brands with which they have an affinity, including Finn Juhl ceramics, Reform kitchen and cupboards, pieces by Vipp, Ferm Living, Sonnhild Kestler textiles and craftsmanship from Appenzeller.
Studio Seitz co-founders Kevin Seitz (left) and Rob van Wyen (right) are married. They live and work together in their Williamsburg home and showroom, a renovated 1912 babka factory, which will open this summer
While some of the popular pieces, such as the bench, are in regular production, each piece is made to order. This allows the pair to administer design modifications, such as creating a different size or finish. Proponents of slow living, they operate the same way they want their furniture to be appreciated.
“We like to take our time. As if something didn’t quite work out at the time, we would just wait to find the right person, the right thing, the right vibe,” they say. “We don’t want to do things for the sake of doing things. Every piece should be special and we want to make every person happy.
The solid ash chest of drawers with hand-stamped metal handles and hand-blown frosted glass desk lamp
The ‘Stabellenbank’ stable bench is inspired by the traditional simple benches found in taverns and alpine farms. Four hand-turned legs are designed to exist without screws or nails, the bench being held together solely by its own design and weight
The solid ash ‘Stabellenstuhl’ is compact and versatile, ideal for use at the table, as a side table, or in the bedroom or bathroom
“We only use solid wood. We want to make legacies. The idea is that something lasts forever and you pass it on,” says Kevin Seitz
“I think there are only four families left in Switzerland, in the world, who do this type of carving,” says van Wyen, of the intricate strip of wood that surrounds the “Wall Mirror.”