Breaking Boundaries with Tiles

Designers are constantly pushing the limits and one of our favourite trends right now is seeing how they reimagine traditional surface materials in to everyday objects such as tables and chairs. 

We chatted to Jean-Denis Sacre from INperfect Design, who has recently created a range of furniture using our patterned concrete tiles by Popham Design.

What is the history behind INperfect?

INperfect starts with me being able to leave everything behind and focus on only what is essential. Having designed projects in diverse places around the world, I want to continue using my experience and knowledge wherever I am. Coming to South Africa has also helped to come back to the essentials – bold forms and raw materials – how they work together in function and at the service of the object. The furniture designs are therefore rudimentary, pure and minimalistic. They remain imperfect like man or concepts like love – yet both have a perfection of their own..

What is the concept behind your creations?

The desire to see objects that don’t only have one function. We’re not talking about a television or vacuum cleaner that has a specific function, with a beginning and end. An object for living must inspire more than one function. There is nothing sadder than seeing an object that has exhausted its potential. I spend a lot of time researching even simple daily objects. Research and development is what keeps us alive. It’s the job of the designer to inspire people.

This process continues after the object is made and takes on a new life in a home. As long as the object is moving, it is living. Each person interprets the object in their own way – it’s up to them to play with it. In design, the form is always derived from the materials. Each material calls for a technique. The designer designs according to these techniques or has fun creating new techniques or comparing techniques and materials. Pure forms are based on circles, squares, they never lose their potential. Free forms, curves are difficult to interpret, except with rules or strict composition. Beauty is everywhere in all its imperfections, as reflected in the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, which is an aesthetic and worldview that is based on accepting transience and imperfection.

Intention is also key. You can never underestimate how much furniture structures and creates your space and thus your well-being. To put an object or piece of furniture in a space is never innocent.

I find inspiration in natural beauty, the wabi sabi philosophy, minimalism and classic styles and I am passionate about pure materials: wood, concrete, steel, tissues, leather and others. As a previously art gallery owner I also integrate art in my concepts.

Tell us a bit about your ethical design approach?

It is all about having respect for the materials and the people who work skilfully with them. Eventually the hope is that this would translate into respect for the object itself and the way the owner uses it.

Three words that best describe your work

Sharing, happiness and well-being.

Most memorable moment in your career?

Having had the strength and confidence to leave success and security behind in order to re-question oneself and restart with nothing except knowledge and experience.

Top three influences behind your creations

Travel, curiosity and research.

Favorite words you live by?

Risk, let go, do rather than talk.

Best career or design advice you have been given

Never create just to decorate or make something pretty. Never be arrogant enough to think you can improve on nature. While we may think we can do better, we miss the point – we miss the essence.

What is the most challenging part of designing furniture?

Having many ideas and forcing myself to eliminate most of them. Also not allowing myself to be distracted, and always returning to the essential. Constantly striving towards honesty, elegance and modesty.

My strength is to restructure spaces for better use and for well-being.

What is your production process?

My approach is to continually evolve. On the initial design, I work until the drawing is beautiful, balanced, proportioned in that moment, while recognising that the ideal design never ends.

I like to find crafts people who are looking for a challenge, and are skilful in using certain materials, whether it be wood, concrete, leather, steel or zinc. Mostly I’m working with skilled artisans in the Salt River andWoodstock manufacturing area, visiting them most days and getting to know them. I’m not interested in what they are doing already, I’m interested in working together to apply their knowledge. I work on a relationship of trust and two way communication; I like to have fun, find the game in the interplay.  With an environment of mutual respect, anything is possible. After the first prototype has been made, I return to the drawing. Can the design be played with by 1cm? Can I flirt with the materials, the space into which the piece it will go. Often one creation will induce another.

What are is your favourite design trend

Minimalism – it allows for nature to enter into the design. The most terrible thing is to see an interior and find that the nature outside is more beautiful.


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About Jean-Denis Sacre

Jean-Denis has worked as an interior & architectural designer and creator of furniture since 1996. He has designed and delivered tailor-made projects, including renovations and specially designed houses, restaurants and hotels in diverse settings, including Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Mauritius, Netherlands, and Spain. Over the years, Jean-Denis has built an extensive knowledge and understanding of contemporary building materials, while specialising in furniture made from steel, concrete, iron, wood and even leather.

He always looks at what is locally available and ecologically sustainable, and brings a wealth of ideas and international experience combined with a unique style that brings a personal touch to any project. 

Jean-Denis carefully listens to clients to understand their needs and aspirations, then proposes a range of concepts and ideas, from conceptualising spaces and colour selections to appropriate furniture and signature pieces. He then manages the full project cycle, having the necessary skills to do the technical drawings, budgeting and administrative follow-up, on-site implementation, management and delivery.

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Ghizlaine Menebhi