A few weeks back I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour of Limburg, Belgium to scout out some designers, makers and brands that haven’t yet crossed my path. There may be many more posts to come from this trip, but today I’m introducing you to Kuppers & Wuytens.
Jan Kuppers and Karen Wuytens are a duo with a talent of making leather the star of any piece they craft. Unfiltered and elegant, whether they are making bags, cardholders or the interior of a restaurant, their work eliminates excess and focuses on the raw materials.
Photo courtesy of Magis
Their work for restaurant Magis in Tongeren, Belgium is an example of this pure design ethos. Waxed oak, steel and leather combined in a simple palette to allow the food to be the star. As owners Dimitry Lysens and Aagje Moens tell us in the film below, the project started with a chair design for the restaurant, featuring a leather seat pad against the waxed oak. However, Kuppers & Wuytens wanted to take this a step further and created the interior concept for the restaurant with walls adorned with leather, and the table to complement the bespoke chair design.
Video courtesy of Comosie
Kuppers & Wuytens are like no other design duo I’ve met before; they are reserved and bashful about their talent, leaving it to the viewer to explain why it works, why it is good and how they experience it. Perhaps this is a Belgen trait, as was often inferred, and it is refreshing to experience first hand although it requires the viewer to understand design, to understand that frivolity is not necessary to market a product or to make it ‘good’.
With the Magis table, Kuppers & Wuytens reimagined the experience of the diner by adding a drawer underneath the oak tabletop filled with the cutlery required for each course and for diners afterwards. Why clutter the table with objects when you can eliminate excess, serve food on simple white plates and quietly shine a spotlight on what you are about to consume.
Tucking the chair under the table, nestling the legs neatly in to the cutouts of the steel base, providing a measurement across the restaurant for where each chair should sit in relation to the table.
Details like these are what make Kuppers & Wuytens good designers. Perhaps this is natural to them, perhaps they work hard to reduce noise, but whatever their approach might be it works beautifully.
Photo courtesy of Renaat Nijs.
From left to right: Daniel Nelson (me), Karen Wuytens, Desirée Groenendal, Jan Kuppers, Sarah Van Peteghem, Em Fexeus and Ferry Voorneveld
During our studio visit with Kuppers & Wuytens we managed to get hands-on with the leather they use with their projects and make our own cardholders. Starting life stiff and untouched, regular use builds the patina that builds the character of the piece. This is true of all pieces by Kuppers & Wuytens including retaurant Magis which is made to last and age gracefully adding more warmth to the products created.
Not many restaurants consider this life of their interior, which is precisely why these designers are quietly brilliant.