How to Make It
How hettler.tüllmann’s minimal designs deliver maximum impact
In this excerpt from the Miami Design District Magazine (Spring 2021), writer Benji Goldman spotlights the practice of Berlin-Miami design studio hettler.tüllmann. Photography by Christina Raue.
Collectible design today is enlaced with personal meaning, often by the creator’s own hand, drawing inspiration from his or her personal culture, background, and passions. This is where the work of designer Katja Hettler and architect Jula Tüllmann, the duo behind the studio hettler.tüllmann, stands out. Their humble-looking furniture—hammocks woven from rattan, screens assembled from painted wooden sticks—is made mostly from natural materials and can appear at first glance to be pure craft. Instead, the work is an example of the power of product design and the role designers play in creating a better world.
The duo prefers to not define their work as organic. “We actually have a rather minimal design aesthetic,” they say. “But we do pay a lot of attention to the materials we work with, as we believe their use plays an important environmental role. Apart from that, we feel that each material brings a distinct personality into any interior.”
Hettler and Tüllmann had separate careers before joining forces in 2005; the former worked with brands like Celine and Louis Vuitton, and the latter trained under Maya Lin and at MoMA. Within a year of their launch, they started an accessories brand, redmaloo, that made phone and tablet cases using felt produced locally in Germany.
While their startup was a success, they eventually decided to shift gears away from running a company and toward designing furniture and interior spaces. Their fascination with sourcing materials informed their burgeoning furniture and interior design practice, and for the past four years they’ve worked between Miami and Berlin collaborating with NGOs and cooperatives—frequently in developing nations—around the globe to fabricate their works.
While hettler.tüllmann’s model is hardly new, their process takes a different track. “We try to push the limitations of the materials we work with,” says Jula, pointing to their Paper Plant series, which includes a chair made from only a simple wire frame and a seat woven by hand with rope made entirely from recycled paper.
One of their projects involved creating prototypes to support artisan communities in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, which follow a holistic approach where co-ops do everything from spin their own cotton yarn to weave and bring textiles to market. “The inclusion of all generations in their process really impressed us,” Hettler says. “Every part of the community had a part in the workplace, from the toddler to the grandmother.” Similarly, for a recent piece sold through Mindy Solomon Gallery, the Maroque Suspended Chair, the multicolored seat was handwoven by women of the Atlas mountain region of Morocco.
For hettler.tüllmann, each design is unique. “Our focus is not only on the products’ form and function, but also on the collaboration with entirely different culture contexts.” In other words, “flexibility, instead of planned perfection” is the goal. “Our concept is to be minimal, traditional, and modern all at the same time.” ◆
Hettler.tüllmann's work for Mindy Solomon Gallery is available in Design Miami/ Shop here.