Eddie Redmayne talks tech, time and Wallpaper* Design Awards 2016

'Pillow + Ball' is Lucy Hardcastle's latest adventure in her unique brand of tactile design

Eddie Redmayne
One of our six Judges, Eddie Redmayne lends his support to the Bouroullec brothers, whose designs, like this ‘Belleville’ chair for Vitra - pictured here, ‘are things with personality and soul’, he says
(Image credit: Photography: Jan Lehner)

He talks of all-night shoots, leaving Leavesden studios, in Hertfordshire, in the morning for the airport, hopping aboard a jet to LA, walking the red carpet, returning to the airport, reboarding the same plane and going straight back to Leavesden for another all-nighter. It’s a suspended version of reality, made more surreal by his time spent wielding a wand in the wizarding world.

When we sit down to discuss Wallpaper’s Design Awards – and Redmayne’s votes in our 11 Judges’ Awards categories – over a burger in London’s Soho, I begin by asking how he remains sane when so much of his time at the moment belongs to other people. He’s quick to acknowledge his luck: ‘For all of the mad hours, the travel and the tiredness, I remind myself constantly how fortunate I am to be working at this level,’ he says. ‘I put my all into it because I love it, and I’m a firm believer that the effort and time you put into something is rewarded by what you get out of it.’ 

However, Redmayne talks about his increasing appreciation of the moments when he can slow down. ‘I find life noisy,’ he says. ‘With the benefits of being more connected comes the danger of being sucked into a world of more noise, where we are constantly switched on. Living in the moment feels more difficult than ever, and more valuable.’

We talk about what design means in his life. He is cultured and thoughtful. He speaks of growing up in London in the early 1990s near the UK’s first Muji store and being fascinated by the compelling simplicity of the brand’s everyday objects. ‘I spent an unhealthy amount of money on stationery as a teenager,’ he says. ‘Today, I suppose I see good design as not being just about beautiful things, but about things that work; things that work well for me and how I live. Good design, in my opinion, is something that makes life easier, that reduces friction and brings pleasure at the same time.’

With this in mind, we turn to Redmayne’s take on the nominees for our Judges’ Awards and he singles out the Bouroullec brothers’ ‘Serif’ TV for Samsung (Best Domestic Design). ‘It’s a strange hangover of the digital age that so much technology still looks techie,’ he says. ‘As much as I love television, I’ve always hated how ugly TVs are. You spend so much time and effort making your living room beautiful only to throw a great black box in the corner. This is a thing of beauty in its own right, from every angle. It looks like something out of a Patrick Caulfield painting. I love the simplicity of the single flex. Wires and cables are not my friends.’

The Bouroullecs also get Redmayne’s nod in the Best Designers category. ‘There’s a pleasing combination of poetry and function,’ he says. ‘I like that drawing is such an important part of their process. You can see and feel the presence of the human hand in the finished designs. It gives their work a distinct character. These are things with personality and soul.’

Copenhagen as Best City is an easy win for Redmayne, and not just out of loyalty to Lili Elbe, his character in The Danish Girl. ‘It’s a city that feels good, and that’s not something you can say about many cities today,’ he says. ‘The Danes get it right on so many levels. Copenhagen has a vibrancy to it. The food culture is extraordinary and life seems easy, uncomplicated and fun. Who wouldn’t want to live in a city where you can swim in the harbour?’

Among our Best Fashion Collection A/W 2015 nominees, Redmayne favours Prada menswear and Gucci womenswear. ‘According to Hannah, my wife, Alessandro Michele has done an incredible job with Gucci in his first year [as creative director],’ he says, adding that for him, ‘the clean precision and wearability of Prada is impressively consistent.’

As for Life Enhancer of the Year, we debate the merits of Jasper Morrison’s ‘MP 01’ mobile phone for Punkt and come back to the topic of slowing down. ‘At the start of the year, I tried switching back to a simple, old-fashioned handset in place of a smartphone,’ Redmayne says. ‘It was a reaction against being glued permanently to my iPhone during waking hours. The deluge of emails was constant and I found myself trying to keep up in real time, at the expense of living in the moment. I love the idea of the more analogue phone in theory,’ he reflects. ‘During the day I felt far more alive. But it meant I was tied to my laptop answering emails for two hours first thing every morning and last thing at night instead, which was a different kind of intrusion. I wasn’t very popular with Hannah, so today I’m back on my iPhone and trying to master a healthier relationship with it.’

Still considering Life Enhancer nominees, Redmayne homes in on Ron Johnson’s Enjoy gadget-store concept, which has tech experts deliver and teach you how to use your purchases. ‘I need this in my life desperately,’ he says. ‘I am a severe manual-phobe and feel horribly inadequate when it comes to making my tech work. I’m also sure I’m not alone in feeling defeated by the knowledge that I use about one per cent of the capability of every gadget I own. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for Mr Johnson’s expansion [outside the US].’

We acknowledge that slowing down is not so much about opting out of the realities of modern life, but more about learning how to better deal with them. ‘We could all do with a lot more simplicity in our lives,’ Redmayne says. This is certainly the theme behind his award votes. ‘Indeed,’ he says, ‘if good design is about making life easier, then the simpler it is the better. I wonder if in 50 years’ time we’ll have come full circle and I’ll be sitting at home with nothing but a pad of paper and my Muji stationery?’

As originally featured in the February 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*203)


(Image credit: Photography: Jan Lehner)

See the Design Awards 2016 in full – including our extra-special Judges' Awards - here

Eddie Redmayne with the Bouroullecs' 'Serif' TV for Samsung, which won our Best Domestic Design award

Eddie Redmayne with the Bouroullecs' 'Serif' TV for Samsung, which won our Best Domestic Design award

(Image credit: Photography: Jan Lehner)

Eddie Redmayne

‘I find life noisy,’ he says. ‘With the benefits of being more connected comes the danger of being sucked into a world of more noise, where we are constantly switched on. Living in the moment feels more difficult than ever, and more valuable’

(Image credit: Photography: Jan Lehner)


Photography: Jan Lehner