In conversation with Niels Maier

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Photography by Cafeine

In our series of conversations with people who help us to understand our relationship with spaces, we talk with Niels Maier, the interior and product designer, in his Maastricht studio.

Niels Maier studio (former Studio Niels) is located in the center of Maastricht, Netherlands and develops interior concepts, ranging from corporate spaces to private interiors, with a huge respect for craftsmanship.

Niels, you’re known for creating incredibly atmospheric spaces. Do you have a process that you follow to achieve this?

It always starts with the people. I have to take time to get to know them, understand them and their lifestyle – how they approach and use the space. It’s then my job to filter that and to add layers to their ideas. Then, of course, every location and context is different. For example, the relationship between indoors and outdoors. So it all plays into the process.

 

How do you work towards a design solution with your clients?

I keep an open mind, always. Otherwise it’s difficult to create anything authentic, whether that’s a room, a whole house or an object. I listen at first and then go with them on the journey. That’s what achieves the best result and it is totally different each time. It has to be a close relationship in order to work.

 

Do you find that there are similarities in projects?

At first, they can seem similar. But as soon as you start to go a bit deeper, you find that every person and project is individual. For me, that journey is essential and I have to cut a path through the surfaces to get there. Today, we live in such a visual age with social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram offering us ideas so I need to make sure that it isn’t superficial.

And do you find that people are gravitating towards a particular style of space?

Certainly open space living as a concept is very important. And flexibility too. Spaces where people can enjoy time to themselves as well as together. But most of all, people are looking for something that is natural so that they feel more connected to the earth. That’s why honesty of materials and craftsmanship is so important.

Also, sustainability has been a hot topic for a while now – for me, it’s always been on the agenda. It’s easier to be sustainable if you’re using the best quality materials, especially from nature, as they have longevity built-in. In terms of colour trends and things like that, I don’t really follow them. Every scheme is led by authenticity, to create a naturally warm atmosphere with materials like brass, wood and stone.

You’re also known for your passion for craftsmanship and original materials. Does that stem from somewhere?

Craft is about authenticity and that’s what a lot of people want. It helps to make a human connection. Also, with craft there is always some form of learning to be had and knowledge to be developed. That is the basis of what I do, for interiors and also designing objects. For example, if it’s brass, you have to learn about the unique qualities and character of that material in order to do it justice.

 

You’ve used VOLA in quite a lot of your projects. What appeals to you about the products?

From day one, I’ve been a true fan of VOLA! The design is timeless, the materials are the highest quality and the products have so much potential to be used across all sorts of applications. I actually only use VOLA – they’re amazing.

Where do you get your creative inspiration from? Many designers tend to cite artists or architects, is that the case with you?

It’s rather difficult to talk about architects and designers, because so many of them do such amazing things. Also, I always want to stay open-minded and follow my own path. So of course I’m inspired by others who’ve paved the way, but in the end it’s about being inspired by people and places. And I’m a big user of Google!

 

There must have been some memorable journeys you’ve made with your clients. Anything that really stands out?

I will never forget working on the restaurant Brut172. It was set up by a famous chef from Maastricht who sold up in the city and bought a farm in the woods, which we transformed into a high end restaurant. It opened in April 2020 and now has two Michelin stars.

What would be your dream project, if you haven’t had it already?

A house by the ocean, with an incredible view. It doesn’t matter where in the world it is but it would

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