Plastic fantastic: The Joseph brothers reveal their top interiors shops, markets and websites
Kate Watson-Smyth asks the funky design duo to share their interior design secrets
Wednesday 20 May 2009
Twin brothers Antony and Richard Joseph, 34, launched Joseph Joseph in 2002 selling innovative and stylish kitchenware. Their clever folding ChopPot board and Nest, a set of stacking bowls including a colander, sieve and juicer, take everyday objects and somehow make them better in ways that you wouldn't have thought necessary – until you use one. Their marriage of form and function has won them numerous awards and the collection, which began with glass worktop savers, has expanded to include a set of indexed chopping boards for different foods, a colander that folds flat for easy storage and a rolling pin that measures the thickness of the dough.
Antony says: "My father and grandfather had industrial glass manufacturing businesses. My grandfather made shelves for fridges and other industrial components and, about 15 years ago, my father bought a company making traditional glass worktop savers. After finishing my degree at Central St Martins, I started doing some contemporary designs for these, while Rich was doing a postgraduate degree in business and design at Cambridge.
"The worktop savers sold well but I kept up my other jobs for a while, making perfume bottles and designing products for the drinks industry, and then when Rich finished his course, we decided to go for it full time. We started off with a glass dish and some glass clocks. It was all decorative rather than useful and wasn't selling particularly well, except for the worktop savers which were popular in both the US and Europe."We decided to try and focus on more functional items and consider using other materials and it was while Rich was in New York that the Eureka moment happened.
"He was in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and he saw, in a glass case, a plastic folding chopping board that he thought was so brilliant he rushed outside and rang me from the street to tell me about it. We tracked down the designer, who lived in Windsor, who told us that he had made a few for an American company but that it had been cancelled.
"We immediately wanted to start manufacturing it again and to offer it in a range of colours not just white. We changed the name from the No Spill Board to Chop to Pot and improved the handle. We've now sold around 1.5m of them. We are excited by products that are beautiful but extremely functional. But it's not rocket science – it's about taking something simple and improving how it works. The key is that you don't have to explain what it does - it should be apparent."
Richard says simply: "If you have to read the packaging it's no good."
The twins name ChopPot as their favourite product because that's where it all started. And when it comes to a product that they wish they'd invented, they are, again, in agreement although for different reasons.
"The Kenwood mixer," they say in unison. Richard, the business brain, extols it as a timeless classic. "I love the fact that it was so well designed it will never need to be updated. It's robust and you can pass it down the generations."
Antony, the creative one, adds: "And it's sold 50 million units."
Here, the brothers, who admit that they agree 90 per cent of the time and that their houses are broadly similar, pick their favourite shops and websites.
"I love coming here at the weekends or even browsing online. I bought the oak shelves for my kitchen from here. My kitchen is a mix of wooden units and stainless steel worktops. It's quite an industrial look and I have about five of our products in there. Any more and there would be too much colour and it wouldn't go. I'm a fan of all salvage yards and this one is tucked away and it feels like a special find which appeals to me.
2a Ravensworth Road, Kensal Green
This company has a British and a German site and I think the German one has the edge, but it won't ship internationally so you will have to make friends with someone living there. They do very utilitarian products that don't feel as if they have been styled, but are just reminiscent of the past while still being completely relevant today. I am particularly keen on the big aluminium barbecue tongs and the rotating soap holder. I bought an old toaster from here – one of the ones with the fold down sides which I love although I don't think you can buy them in Britain – they probably aren't safe to use.
Surely no kitchenware designer could fail to include this place on a list of favourite shops. I am not a particularly good chef (Rich says we're both rubbish, actually) but I am fascinated by the products. When we decide to design something new we buy several and test them all out to find the flaws. That means we come here a lot. This is where we were inspired for the Index chopping board which is currently one of our bestsellers. We saw that the catering trade uses large different coloured boards for different foods and we just wondered why you couldn't get something similar and smaller for the domestic kitchen. It's not rocket science. We are now looking at doing another version with a space for the knives at the back. This is a good place to come for inexpensive cutlery that is sold to restaurants and you can buy it without the mark-up.
121 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WCH
This isn't really a place for shopping but more for finding out about all things design. It has all the news on it and keeps you up to date on new products and what is happening in the design and packaging world. We both look at this one a lot, despite the fact that some of the blogs have been quite rude about us. This is where I found the Mooi Cluster Light by a Dutch Designer, Joel Degermark, and I have just bought two for my sitting room. It's a fairly simple fitting but you can put different bulbs in it to change the feel and atmosphere.
Labour and Wait
I love the East End. I love coming on a Saturday, from where I live in Wandsworth, wandering around the flower market at Columbia Road, and visiting the little vintage shops round the edges and finally popping into Labour and Wait for a browse. I've just bought a black enamel dustpan with a wooden brush which really appealed to me because it is functional but so simple in design that it's really elegant as well. For me that's what it's all about. Of course, it has to be functional but it must look nice as well. That means it will last longer and you will use it more and it gives more pleasure. Sometimes a thing that is purely functional is just something awful. I like to think that our products can all be given as gifts even though they are useful kitchen tools.
18 Cheshire Street, London, E2; www.labourandwait.co.uk
These guys are neighbours of ours in the Oxo Tower but I just love what they have done with Pantone. They started off with the mug and they didn't try to improve it or stylise it, they just made the mug with the Pantone colours on and it was immediately an iconic product. It's a huge seller internationally, which is also really interesting because the mug is a truly British product. The Europeans and the Japanese, and even the Americans, tend to drink out of cups not mugs, so for them to have made this and also turned it into such a huge international product is amazing. It just shows the power of something that is simple and functional.
2.01/02 Oxo Tower, Wharf Barge House Street, London, SE1;
Unto this Last
This is such a cool shop. The furniture is made from ply and looks rather craft-based but then at the back of the shop you can see it being made by computer and it's actually really hi-tech. I've only bought a trivet here but I do like their furniture and would love to have more. It's so interesting that it's worth visiting just to see how it works if you are ever in this part of town.
230 Brick Lane, London,E2; www.untothislast.co.uk
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