The renowned lighting designer shares the creative inspiration behind his products and reveals why it pays to experiment..
Michael Anastassiades has designed not only for his eponymous brand, which he launched in 2007, but for a host of prestigious names including Herman Miller, Lobmeyr, Ilse Crawford, Svenskt Tenn, Nilufar Gallery and Salvatori.
Famed for his lighting creations, his extensive portfolio also includes furniture and tabletop objects, as well as a speaker and a drinking fountain, and his products are shown in permanent collections at both The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Born in Cyprus, Anastassiades spent his early childhood in South Africa before returning with his parents to his home country at the age of five. He moved to England to study before being drawn into the world of design. Here he unpicks the inspiration behind his work…
Before moving into design, you studied for a degree in civil engineering – why didn’t you follow that up?
Halfway through the engineering course, I discovered the Royal College of Art. Really, I wanted to do something creative so I decided to explore another route. When I graduated, I freelanced for a little while, which gave me the freedom to develop my own ideas. I launched my own studio in 1994.
You’re best known for lighting designs. Was lighting something you focused on right from the beginning?
No. I was designing more interactive and electronic products, and the lighting didn’t come until later on when I got my own place and needed lights. I couldn’t find anything I liked, so I decided to make them myself. It was very experimental because at the time I didn’t know that I wanted to set up on my own or manufacture these pieces.
Why did you then decide to start your business?
I got an incredible response from various different people – architects and individuals – who loved the lights and wanted to buy them. Slowly, I put the collection together and it made sense to start my own brand. Even to this day there are pieces in the current collection that originated from then.
How do you approach design?
I like the idea that visual information is subtracted until you reach a point where the bare essence of the product is retained. Inspiration is different for every product, as some solve bigger problems, while others are more spontaneous.
You have an ongoing relationship with Italian lighting company Flos. How did that come about?
It began in 2011. I was working on String Lights as my own project when I met Piero Gandini, the CEO. I showed him the ideas and he was completely sold. The latest collection is a modular design called Arrangements; you buy individual elements and link them up. It’s very much like jewellery and I like that parallel.
You’ve recently worked with audio manufacturer Bang & Olufsen; can you tell us about that project?
Bang & Olufsen’s products are timeless and I design with the same goal. After many conversations, we decided we should create a speaker. Not having designed anything like that before gives you a really fresh approach.
It’s a very unusual design…
I liked the idea of trying to incorporate movement into the function. There are no buttons, so you control the volume by rolling the piece backwards and forwards, which was an incredible challenge for Bang & Olufsen. They had never done anything like that before and I don’t think any other company had either, so it’s quite unique.
What else have you been working on recently?
I’ve designed some taps for Aboutwater, which is a partnership between Boffi and Fantini, and a sommelier collection for Puiforcat.
I also created a bronze drinking fountain at the V&A for the London Design Festival, so things have been quite diverse.
Where do you live and what is your own home like?
I live on Lower Marsh, which is a little street right behind Waterloo station and I’ve been there for 20 years. It’s a terraced house and, because it’s a market street, most of the buildings have a shop on the ground floor. I use mine as a gallery space. I also use my home as a place to showcase my work and as an environment for me to live with my own designs, which is always a good exercise.
What have you got coming up next?
We’re getting ready for Euroluce at the Milan Furniture Fair in April and I’ve designed a whole collection for my own brand.