When future generations look back on today’s design, what will they see? Will our age be renowned as one in which mobile phone handsets were constantly superseded – growing bigger and then smaller and then inching once more up the scale? Will we be remembered for our reusable takeaway coffee cups and our fancy refillable drink bottles, the first signs of an industry scrambling to adapt to sustainability concerns? Or will our chapter in design canon be punctuated by something more banal?
Looking back on the last century and a half, the designs that have withstood the test of time are amongst the most humble: the pencil, the knife and fork, the paperclip. Used, or at least known, around the world, these objects have endured through fads and waves of technology with little, if any, change to their design, and still work as well as ever. Arguably, the best design- to which age is the kindest- is the simplest, the silent stalwart that is kept always within arm’s reach. Timeless design enters our lives unheralded by bells and whistles so that we’re never quite sure when it arrived, but find ourselves unable to imagine life before or without it.
A true embodiment of the Modernist edict “form follows function”, paperclips are perhaps one of the most timeless, future-proof designs of all. For as long as there are printed documents, there will be a need for paperclips. Their minimal, vital lines lend themselves to a satisfying reliability: so reliable is the paperclip that for years, an anthropomorphised version was synonymous with Microsoft Word’s help function. Over the decades, the paperclip family has expanded to feature different colours and novelty shapes, but the standard silver, elliptical form remains the most common, gracing the upper left hand of documents around the world.
Paying homage to this blend of sleek design and unwavering efficiency is Seaton McKeon’s Paperclip range of outdoor furniture, made and distributed exclusively by Stylecraft. Like its namesake, the range marries clean, sinuous design lines with a pragmatic, unpretentious sense of functionality that lends itself effortlessly to homes and commercial spaces. Sydney designer McKeon responds deftly to the unique character of the Australian outdoors, twisting zinc-primed, powdercoated mild steel to form the linear frames of a lounge, chair, and three stools at different heights. With this astute design sensibility, it is not difficult to see why McKeon was in 2015 the inaugural winner of the Australian Furniture Design Awards.
At once casual and unselfconsciously, undeniably chic, Paperclip seating is perfectly at home by the pool, in a restaurant courtyard, or in the haze of a sizzling barbecue. Its languid design lines capture the relaxed Australian spirit perfectly; the materiality and form of the chair, lounge, and stools strike the perfect balance between light and airy and robust in a manner idiosyncratic of this sunburnt country. But the benefits of local design and manufacture are evident not only in the range’s spot-on embodiment of Australian backyard culture past and present. The Paperclip’s stylish minimalism beguiles its high level of durability, with its powdercoated steel specifically designed to endure years of scorching Australian summers and wet winters without drama.
This lack of drama and absence of elaborate design flourishes characterises the range, which is stripped down to the bare minimum. Sparing use of Merbau timber rounds out a no-nonsense material palette otherwise consisting of lasercut perforated sheet metal and 5mm gauge wire. The colour palette, which is also kept simple, echoes this restraint: monochrome is complemented by cool shades of green, a deep ocean blue, and a burn, reddish umber.
In today’s hyper-saturated design industry that sees designers and products vying aggressively for the centre of attention, the McKeon’s Paperclip is a breath of fresh air. Clean, contemporary, and confident in its own style and functionality, the range exudes a rare sense of timelessness that catches the eye without trying too hard: it simply sits.
Available just in time for summer, Seaton McKeon’s Paperclip Outdoor Range is made and distributed in Australia by Stylecraft.