In the small town in northeast Switzerland where designer Kevin Seitz grew up, the legacy of regional craftsmanship seemed universal. He recalls living with a set of furniture handed down to his grandparents in the 1950s that still felt pristine and sturdy, even after generations of use. Seitz’s ancestors were well-established craftspeople whose work has influenced handicraft industries across the country’s northern reaches for more than two centuries—and it’s likely that their influence strongly influenced Seitz’s own trajectory as well.
Seitz hopes to usher the legacy of Swiss craftsmanship into a new era. Last year at ICFF, Studio Seitz, the new studio he launched with his work-and-life partner Rob van Wyen, drew attention for its debut collection of five pieces, including an ebonized European ash bench and a dresser adorned with Baroque-inspired brass drawer pulls. Now, Seitz is expanding its Heritage Collection with an array of new offerings such as a nightstand, candleholders, and a table lamp with traditional Swiss provenance that still feels contemporary. Below, Seitz and van Wyen share their thinking behind the new launches.
How does the expanded Heritage Collection uphold Swiss craftsmanship traditions?
We’ve always built on tradition; ours craftsmen hail from a long lineage of family-led craft. Metal stamping, which has been practiced in Appenzell since the 1800s, is a prime example of these art forms. For hundreds of years, they’ve been creating belts from cowhide and ornamented with handmade metal fittings that portray motifs of processions and alpine pastures. The century-old craft inspired us to reimagine its application for the brass pulls found on our new Bedside Table and the Kommode. We derived the pattern from baroque-style scrolls found inside the Catholic Church of Berneck. It’s hand-cut from a thin sheet of brass and individually stamped by a sixth-generation craftsman, which lends a touch of traditional ornamentation.
Kevin grew up with furniture his grandparents received in the 1950s as their dowry, and the pieces still work as well as when they were first made. This idea of heirloom-quality furniture underscores our design principles. We want to create long-lasting objects, so we partnered with the same family-run workshop that produced those heritage pieces. Everything is made from 100 percent solid wood using traditional and handmade joinery methods for function and beauty, and undergoes a rigorous process to ensure quality that mass manufacturing can’t guarantee.
How do the materials contribute to the longevity of each piece?
Most of our products are made within the cantons of Sankt Gallen and Appenzell in Switzerland. We locally source raw and sustainable materials whenever possible. Our current collection is derived from five main materials: solid European ash, anodized aluminum, glazed stoneware, polished solid brass and frosted glass.
We like to work with a limited palette—simplicity appeals to us—so we picked materials for their durability and how they age. Every material has a natural finish to preserve their attributes and make them easy to clean without harsh chemicals. Each piece also accounts for everyday use—in some pieces, we created spacing for the solid wood to expand with the seasons and account for heating and air conditioning. It’s important to think about how furniture lives with us over time. We find that using traditional methods and durable materials lets our furniture thrive.
Which do you think is the most experimental piece?
Definitely the lighting. The Seitz family comes from a lineage of potters who, in the late 1800s, applied unique patterns to bowls, plates, and terrines with a Malhörnchen (cow horn). This was a common ancient technique used on all earthenware across the ceramic regions in Europe. We reimagined the application of these family patterns and rebuilt them using 3-D layers to create new patterns from pre-existing elements. Our lighting features five concentric frosted glass shades that are individually cut with these different patterns. When each cut glass layer overlaps, it creates reflective shadow play. We went through endless prototypes to achieve the right frosting and transparent levels; it took three years to find the right recipe.
What did expanding the Heritage Collection teach you?
We were thinking about details that would work well in dialogue with our existing collections. One idea was to apply existing “Swiss” patterns and techniques in interesting new ways.
What’s your favorite aspect of Swiss design?
The Swiss have a tradition of precision craftsmanship and demand reliability in everything. They are problem solvers and never compromise on quality; they don’t sleep until they find a solution.
What are the challenges of attaining Swiss Made certification?
It’s a lengthy process. The Swiss Label, founded in 1917, protects the trademark of Swiss-made products under the Swiss Civil Code. They vet everyone involved in the making of each product to ensure they follow strict Swiss regulations. Seventy percent of each product must be made in Switzerland using Swiss labour. They’re very thorough—it took us six months to get certified.
What evolution does this launch suggest for Studio Seitz?
We always intended on exploring Swiss craft and expertise—there’s so much to learn. It’s imperative to keep the foundations of our family’s past intact so we can preserve local Swiss techniques and evolve them in line with contemporary living.