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A designer with aura

Sebastian Herkner designs objects of intrepid character that seem to hover in their lightness

Words Rahel Ueding
Photography Evelyn Dragan, Studio Sebastian Herkner

An online search for Sebastian Herkner will tell you that he is a decidedly earnest young man. Yet the 34-year old designer is anything but humourless. Maybe somewhat cautious or reserved. “I simply don’t do small talk”, he explains modestly. However, this does not impede his success in a sector, which according to popular belief thrives on networking. Herkner has been rapidly climbing the success ladder for eight years now. “I always knew what I wanted to do, even as a child.” He was equally as resolute when he ventured out on his own when still a student, establishing contacts and seizing every opportunity to exhibit his designs at trade fairs and at other key events on the design scene.

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Sebastian Herkner’s Bell Table made of glass and brass comes across as confident, courageous and having its own unique aura

The number of employees working in his charming studio situated in a rear courtyard in Offenbach varies between three and five. The designer makes sure to bring together different doctrines when choosing his staff. The resulting diversity of perspectives and approaches enriches the work on his projects, which range primarily from expressive furniture and accessories to confident designs with an almost classical aura and audacious nature. His initial shyness also vanishes when it comes to his projects. They are Sebastian Herkner’s passion. This is his territory. And for a long number of years, almost his only purpose in life. It was only after fourteen years had passed that he even allowed himself his first, albeit brief, holiday after a doctor had pondered if he lived in a cave owing to his poor vitamin D levels! The beaches in Thailand should replenish the tank again. “It was awful”, admits Herkner. “I had no idea what to do with myself for the first three days.”

Whether small or large objects: everything the designer creates oozes character

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Sebastian Herkner has reached a turning point. The years of tough and dedicated work are beginning to pay off. He is now able to turn down orders – if he does not see eye to eye with management or cannot relate to a company’s manufacturing methods. The good thing is namely: Sebastian Herkner has principles. His head is not turned by the strong demand and he does not allow his principles to be compromised. “Obviously it’s fantastic to be able to work on an equal footing with the heroes of my study days”, he says “but I have a responsibility first and foremost as a designer”.

Is it like what you see in the pictures? Sebastian Herkner wants to create designs – affordably – for those who appreciate and understand them. But social considerations are also important to him in his designs. For example, jobs are being safeguarded in a small German glass-blowing workshop owing to the strong sales of one of his first successes, the Bell Table.

Sebastian Herkner understands how to create wonderful designs and unique products of delicate lightness thanks to his sense of responsibility, his earnestness. And this sense of lightness is achieved not only because the designer sets about his work with a tremendous love for detail. “I design some products in my head for up to six months before I ever draw anything.” But lightness also because of the sense of being surrounded not just by beautiful but also practical objects.

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Much of the furniture that Herkner designs in his Offenbach studio seems almost classical and yet has a delicate lightness

It is no wonder his interpretation of “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage” at the forthcoming Cologne furnishing fair, imm Cologne, is so eagerly awaited. There has never been such a young “Guest of Honour” in attendance. And this naturally motivates the high-flyer to excel. His concept is a typical Herkner: the designer wants to send a signal of openness against the backdrop of recent political events. “There will be no rigid walls. It will be very colourful, very sensuous, extremely personal.” He plans to exhibit ten new products at imm Cologne, including chairs, a bed, carpets. What’s more, a visit should not just be a feast for the eyes but also for the palate. That’s because Herkner plans to cook. Together with some of his designer colleagues. “This is much better than small talk”, he says as he finally allows himself a grin.

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