20 Minutes With: Lighting and Furniture Designer Tom Dixon
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20 Minutes With: Lighting and Furniture Designer Tom Dixon

Wed, Aug 3, 2022 10:42amGrey Clock 4 min

British designer Tom Dixon can’t be put into one box when it comes to product design. He is multi-talented, and widely recognised for his sci-fi lighting designs—many of which look like sculptures hanging from the ceiling—but that’s not where his talents end.

He also designs furniture, including lamps, chairs, and tables meant to brighten up drab interiors, often with a disco flair.

This year, Dixon celebrates 20 years of his namesake brand. Over the last two decades his brand has expanded to 90 countries, with showrooms in New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. The latest boutique opened in Beijing in 2020.

Dixon has won numerous awards, including the London Design Medal at the London Design Festival. In 2014, he received an Order of the British Empire from Her Majesty the Queen.

Dixon was born in 1959 in Sfax, Tunisia, as the son of an English teacher and a journalist for the BBC World Service. In 1972, he began studying art at Holland Park Comprehensive high school in London, specializing in pottery and life drawing, and in 1979, he began working creative odd jobs (one was painting at a cartoon film company, another was playing in a disco band called Funkapolitan).

The rise of punk in London at the time helped create space for the kind of freeform design ethos that Dixon adopted. It gave his generation “license to create—without certificates, university courses or parental approval,” he says. In 1983, he learned how to weld with the help of a friend who worked in an automotive shop. He made over 100 chairs by hand in his first year.

In 1986, Dixon designed the S-Chair, which became a hit with Italian manufacturers for its curvy, elegant design. “I have often been asked what the inspiration was behind the S-Chair, and, honestly, the only memory I have is of drawing a small doodle of a chicken and thinking that I could make a chair from it,” he laughs.

Today, Dixon’s studio is based in a 19th century factory called the Coal Office in King’s Cross. In June, he was the subject of a retrospective at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan this June.

From his second home on the south coast of England, Dixon, 63, spoke to Penta about his brand, fashion inspiration, and the future of sustainable design.

PENTA: Can you believe it has been 20 years?

Tom Dixon: I can’t believe it’s true. I’ve been doing this longer than 20 years, but it’s 20 years since this label. It’s ridiculous. When I started it, it was after working for Italian luxury companies, working in the corporate world at Habitat (which is the equivalent of Pottery Barn in the U.S.) as creative director, it was time for me to do my own thing again. I wanted to mimic how fashion designers operate—design but also take care of their distribution and communication, and they have their name over the door, too. As a rule, product designers typically work for other brands. I wanted to have a singular voice and hold my aesthetic ideas together under one roof.

What fashion designers have you looked up to?

I love the Japanese brands that came out of the 1980s, like Commes des Garcons and Issey Miyake, in terms of keeping a sense of integrity. I love Raf Simons’ own label, too. There are young English designers at the moment too, like Grace Wales Bonner.

Who are your design heroes?

I was fortunate to have met the living design legends of the 1950s and 1960s before they passed away. Designers like Ettore Sottsass, Achille Castiglioni, Verner Panton, and Enzo Mari, who for me really are amazing examples who really believed in design as a way of changing the world. It was postwar Europe. When I first started, I was mainly interested in sculpture and only learned about design after I fell into it.

What was Ettore Sottsass from the Memphis Group like?

Calm, friendly, and unassuming. He was great. There were also designers I was inspired to rebel against. I thought postmodernism was the ugliest thing, very pastel, geometric and patterned. Meanwhile I was making things out of rusty metal. I’ve grown to love the Memphis Group—Ettore was not only a prolific designer, but he organized a whole movement. He has that polymath attitude, like Buckminster Fuller or Isamu Noguchi.

What was your approach for The Manzoni (restaurant and showroom) in Milan? It’s like a concrete metal jungle with an abundance of lights.

It was an attempt to try to challenge the idea of having conventional showrooms. I’ve been interested in food for a long time, there’s a link between entertaining and design, in general. We managed to get our restaurant The Coal Office going well in King’s Cross, so we brought something to Italy.

My time in Italy was often tied around food, as meetings with manufacturers were based around lunchtime at their factory, many of which have canteens. I thought it would be better to spend the money on a restaurant with a small showroom attached. Rather than someone entering a design showroom every 20 years to buy a designer table, they might come every two weeks to have lunch and eat off our plates and drink from our glasses. It’s a way to engage people than to have a dusty old furniture store.

What’s next for you?

My core interest remains the same. I love manufacturing techniques, materials, whether it’s industry or craft, we have a close relationship with the people who make the pieces. We have to be conscious and aware of our impact on the planet.

There are a few experiments in thinking through what sustainability looks like for a furniture company and how we can be more thoughtful about what we put into the world. That’s what our future is rotating around. We have to constantly rethink what we’ve done and how to pave the way for the future.

What is your approach to sustainable design?

Sustainability isn’t a single thing, it’s a huge host of actions. The most sustainable thing would be not to make anything at all. There’s a seaside plant called eel grass, which is collected in Denmark to create roofing material, and we’re experimenting with it as an upholstery material. Like many other people, we’re experimenting with mycelium, a type of fungi to make furniture. We’re also doing a conceptual project where we’re growing chairs underwater.

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: Aug 1, 2022.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Anger Does a Lot More Damage to Your Body Than You Realise

We all get mad now and then. But too much anger can cause problems.

Fri, May 24, 2024 3 min

Anger is bad for your health in more ways than you think.

Getting angry doesn’t just hurt our mental health , it’s also damaging to our hearts, brains and gastrointestinal systems, according to doctors and recent research. Of course, it’s a normal emotion that everyone feels—few of us stay serene when a driver cuts us off or a boss makes us stay late. But getting mad too often or for too long can cause problems.

There are ways to keep your anger from doing too much damage. Techniques like meditation can help, as can learning to express your anger in healthier ways.

One recent study looked at anger’s effects on the heart. It found that anger can raise the risk of heart attacks because it impairs the functioning of blood vessels, according to a May study in the Journal of the American Heart Association .

Researchers examined the impact of three different emotions on the heart: anger, anxiety and sadness. One participant group did a task that made them angry, another did a task that made them anxious, while a third did an exercise designed to induce sadness.

The scientists then tested the functioning of the blood vessels in each participant, using a blood pressure cuff to squeeze and release the blood flow in the arm. Those in the angry group had worse blood flow than those in the others; their blood vessels didn’t dilate as much.

“We speculate over time if you’re getting these chronic insults to your arteries because you get angry a lot, that will leave you at risk for having heart disease ,” says Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a professor of medicine at Columbia University and lead author of the study.

Your gastrointestinal system

Doctors are also gaining a better understanding of how anger affects your GI system.

When someone becomes angry, the body produces numerous proteins and hormones that increase inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can raise your risk of many diseases.

The body’s sympathetic nervous system—or “fight or flight” system—is also activated, which shunts blood away from the gut to major muscles, says Stephen Lupe, director of behavioural medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s department of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition. This slows down movement in the GI tract, which can lead to problems like constipation.

In addition, the space in between cells in the lining of the intestines opens up, which allows more food and waste to go in those gaps, creating more inflammation that can fuel symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating or constipation.

Your brain

Anger can harm our cognitive functioning, says Joyce Tam, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. It involves the nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex, the front area of our brain that can affect attention, cognitive control and our ability to regulate emotions.

Anger can trigger the body to release stress hormones into the bloodstream. High levels of stress hormones can damage nerve cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, says Tam.

Damage in the prefrontal cortex can affect decision-making, attention and executive function, she adds.

The hippocampus, meanwhile, is the main part of the brain used in memory. So when neurons are damaged, that can disrupt the ability to learn and retain information, says Tam.

What you can do about it

First, figure out if you’re angry too much or too often. There’s no hard and fast rule. But you may have cause for concern if you’re angry for more days than not, or for large portions of the day, says Antonia Seligowski, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who studies the brain-heart connection.

Getting mad briefly is different than experiencing chronic anger, she says.

“If you have an angry conversation every now and again or you get upset every now and again, that’s within the normal human experience,” she says. “When a negative emotion is prolonged, when you’re really having a lot more of it and maybe more intensely, that’s where it’s bad for your health.”

Try mental-health exercises. Her group is looking at whether mental-health treatments, like certain types of talk therapy or breathing exercises, may also be able to improve some of the physical problems caused by anger.

Other doctors recommend anger-management strategies. Hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness can help, says the Cleveland Clinic’s Lupe. So too can changing the way you respond to anger.

Slow down your reactions. Try to notice how you feel and slow down your response, and then learn to express it. You also want to make sure you’re not suppressing the feeling, as that can backfire and exacerbate the emotion.

Instead of yelling at a family member when you’re angry or slamming something down, say, “I am angry because X, Y and Z, and therefore I don’t feel like eating with you or I need a hug or support,” suggests Lupe.

“Slow the process down,” he says.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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