Amid the mundane, lurking in plain sight, are objects that possess surprising versatility, going beyond the purposes they are originally designed for, transcending their intended functions towards limitless possibilities. Can seemingly mono-purpose artefacts or items reshape perceptions of their utility and reignite curiosities in the same reign? Turning the sweat-inducing grind of gymming into a whimsical, homely experience like no other Chef Deco, a young Stockholm-based brand led by Cora Hamilton and Emilie Florin, who create home décor items that double up as pleasant-looking workout equipment that do not necessarily need to be stashed away after use. Their ongoing series of durable, sustainable designs, Objects with a Hidden Agenda, is as quirky as resourceful. "The work’s title Objects with a Hidden Agenda describes the concept best. The idea came from a desire to create objects that do not need to be hidden away. Functional objects that are turned into beautiful art pieces, for instance, a dumbbell that is actually a sculpture; weights which when stacked, become a colourful vase, and more. A sculpture is often heavy, so we thought, why not lift it?” questions the Swedish artist duo crafting functional objects.
These multifunctional designs (read: camouflaged workout equipment) are sensible, artsy, and peculiar, almost like an eight-year-old’s drawing of fudgy animals fused with their favourite fruit. These sculptural objects can be put to immediate use, for instance, the ‘Dumbbell Vase,’ where colourful, lacquered metal weights in amoeba shapes stack to become, as the name suggests, an outlandish flower jar. The translucent ‘Kettlebell’ made from handblown solid glass can be used for short sessions of curling biceps while watching TV. The ‘Vat Workout Box’ made in Swedish Masur birch is a coffee table that can be used for moderate stretching and exercising, all of these sculptural pieces serve as aesthetic reminders to move your body. Chasing this uncompromising, unadulterated fun and beauty through objects is what gives this series (and its creators) an edge, warming its way into the everyday home décor setting tinged with play and joy.
The solid glass sculptures in the design series are made meticulously in collaboration with professional glass blowers and steelworkers, where the piece’s bespoke joints ensure their strength, combating the fragile nature of the material as we all perceive it to be. “With that said, it is glass, and glass can break, but it is not as fragile as a wine glass,” advocates Hamilton.
“These are solid heavy pieces and as the glassblower told us, glass is much stronger than you think, and a lot of its strength is derived from the way it is treated. That is another aspect we like and enjoy—to make an object that looks a bit fragile but is the opposite. It instantly makes one curious, and makes you want to touch it, pick it up, and put it to use. Our objects are mainly made for home workouts, so it is not supposed to be for intense training anyway. Look at it more as a sculpture that you can use, not an actual kettlebell you drop to train,” adds Florin.
These sculptural designs are also created with sustainability in mind, merging function with a long-lasting life, akin to an art piece or beloved piece of furniture that will last years, according to the products’ designers. “Almost all our objects are made after being ordered—we refrain from making anything that won’t be sold—except for the glass objects that we make in batches (approximately 10-12 glass designs per batch and sold on Instagram). Everything else is simply made to order so that there is no surplus production or wastage,” shares Hamilton.
For now, Objects with a Hidden Agenda comprises eight different products and categories, with varying versions, made creating a plethora of materials including textile (wool), leather, wood, Swedish Masur birch, metal, and glass. Collaborating with specialists also ensured their experimentations to test the boundaries of the materials they employed for the collection. Since both artists have backgrounds in textiles, the collection also includes whimsical rug designs that can belong on a wall, tabletop, and floor alike, as functional, or aesthetic décor pieces, creating pockets bursting with bold colours and warmth.
The Sweden-based artist duo also expound on their brand’s moniker—"Chef Deco is a vessel for the two of us to create objects, not particularly client of brief-based, but solely based on ideas that pop up in our heads that beckon to be executed! Our mission with our work and objects is simply, to have fun, to find pockets of joy in life, nourish and let them grow organically, and generate a creative space without a hardcore, specific business plan,” relay Florin and Hamilton, beaming with delight and pride.
Hamilton and Florin, as is apparent with this contemporary design collection, are a curious bunch. With Objects with a Hidden Agenda, the whimsical and joyful find pathways of function, manifested in unexpected materiality. “The way we work is to give ourselves some frames to work within. For this collection, camouflaged workout equipment was the frame, also objects with a hidden agenda and that agenda is function. There are a lot of ideas right now, that we need to delve into properly. We will add some objects, patterns, and colour combinations to this existing collection as well. Besides that, our desire to create exactly what we feel like is our main thing, underlined by a curiosity to try out new things, experiment with new materials and tinker around with forms and their typical functions, and explore new collaborations,” the product designers conclude.