There is a popular story among early-Wallpaper* reminiscences, and it is about the then-similarly nascent London design studio Barber Osgerby. Now a prolific, multidisciplinary design practice with clients ranging from Vitra and Emeco to Flos and Rimowa (and a spin-off architecture practice, Universal Design Studio), the collaboration of Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby began in 1996 (the same year Wallpaper* magazine was launched by founding editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé), after meeting as architecture students at London’s Royal College of Art.
One of their early designs was the ‘Loop’ table; originally developed for an architectural project and designed as a low table with built-in storage, its silhouette evolved from an experiment with folded and slotted cardboard. The design, its creators state, ‘combines a modernist emphasis on clean lines and the restrained use of materials, with a clear contemporary sensibility’.
Barber Osgerby’s ‘Loop’ table: a Wallpaper* story
The table made its official debut via Wallpaper*: ‘In 1997, as young, enthusiastic designers, we were keen to showcase our work, so when Tyler Brûlé asked if he could publish a picture of the “Loop” table in his new lifestyle magazine, we suggested that we could design an exhibition stand for the magazine at, what was then 100% Design,’ recall the designers.
‘The stand would include the “Loop” table, alongside other design classics. We even created a wallpaper made from a repeated pattern of the magazine's front cover. The “Loop” table became the focal point of the stand, where it was spotted by Giulio Cappellini. The relationship forged with Cappellini has been hugely important to us, introducing us to the Italian furniture industry and allowing us to establish relationships with some of the best brands in the industry, that we still continue to work with today. At this early stage in our careers, we were honoured to be working with both Isokon and Cappellini – two of the most renowned manufacturers in the UK and Europe.’
‘Loop’ table Anniversary Edition by Isokon Plus
To celebrate the table’s 25th anniversary, the designers have created a special edition with a blue-stained finish. The new version was created in close collaboration with Isokon Plus, whose team helped the designers develop the piece in a new blue colour. To achieve the transparent colour effect, the blue stain is hand-sprayed onto the table before the finishing coat, allowing the wood grain to remain visible.
An iconic design from Barber Osgerby’s portfolio, the table is part of permanent collections of the V&A, London, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The design features a storage space formed by a loop, intersected by two panels that serve as the table’s legs. Modernist yet contemporary, the ‘Loop’ table hasn’t lost any of its appeal 25 years on.
For the original edition, achieving the table’s simplicity was the biggest manufacturing challenge, and that's how the designers connected with Isokon Plus back in the 1990s. As they researched a fitting manufacturer for their design, Barber and Osgerby met Chris McCourt, owner of plywood furniture maker Windmill Furniture. At the time, McCourt was also custodian of Isokon, and became the first manufacturer to work with the duo’s studio. ‘Collaborating with Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby was brilliant and incredibly satisfying for me, because they are so respectful and understanding of both process and structure. Their products always sit well – they don’t ignore gravity; they engage with it both physically and visually – and I think that is one of the reasons their work fits so well alongside the classic stuff,’ says McCourt.
Ed Carpenter and Andre Klauser's Very Good & Proper acquired Isokon Plus in 2019, and the collaboration with Barber Osgerby has continued with this new edition. ‘Our aim as makers of furniture is to bring our skills and experience of making to the table. We want to help realise a design as closely as possible and help this evolve through making and prototyping along the way,’ says Carpenter, who worked on the revival of a number of Isokon Plus furniture pieces includes a design reissue (opens in new tab) of Marcel Breuer tables in 2020. ‘Edward and Jay meticulously refine things with us until we have a product that is the best it can be, and we have been doing this together for 25 years now. The anniversary edition of the “Loop” table is a celebration of this long lasting collaboration.’
Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.
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