Q+A and Images by blad for Between 10and5:
They work together, live together, and raise a rabbit together. They’re the ideal husband-and-wife-team who will tell you most things you want to know about design and probably everything you didn’t know. Meet Qz and Bruce and the space in which they love to be themselves.
blad: Where is your space?
Qz Zhang-Cowie: We are popping up from place to place now. Next time you look, we might just be right around the corner.
Bruce Cowie: For the past year and a bit, our studio and showroom has been based at 44 Stanley in Milpark. However, we are closing our current store at the end of March to focus on some new interior design projects and try locate a more suitable space for our store.
b: what was the idea behind the design of the space?
Qz: Bruce did the design.
Bruce: The idea was to create some kind of ‘inside out’ space that would be inviting and friendly and make our customers feel as though they were in some kind of surreal outdoor space. A lot of the products we stock are focused on recycling and environmentaly friendly ideas, so the look of the shop with grass floors and trees on the walls tied in well with that.
b: What do you love about it?
Qz: It’s a very comfortable space, because the space always puts a smile on people’s faces.
Bruce: We love the way some of our more open minded customers have reacted to the space, and the fact that it has inspired people to try quirky, creative ideas in their own spaces and homes.
b: What’s the most inspiring corner and why?
Qz: I personally love the bookshelves right next to the entrance. I used to work for a coffee table book publishing company, so they have a special place in my heart.
Bruce: For me, the most inspiring corner is our selection of MUJI products from Japan. It’s a very very small selection of their endless range of clever goods, but I love what they do.
b: What’s the most vital component in a creative space?
Qz: I would say being surrounded by really cool things like, like the Woofer speakers or the Recycled Cardboard chair.
Bruce: The right people, decent music, pleasant neighbours and an open mind.
b: Who would you happily allow into your space?
Qz: Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Anderson, the singer of Fever Ray and The Knife. I love her. Anyone curious enough to step inside. We’ve never understood why some people stand at our entrance marveling at how interesting the space is, but then never actually come inside.
Also, if he was still alive, Stanley Kubrick would be more than welcome and I’d have a billion questions to ask him. In the living world I’d have to say Marcel Wanders, because he’s my favourite interior/product designer. Jonathan Ive (Apple), Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), Michael C. Place (Build), and Ian Anderson (The Designers Republic) are all also welcome anytime.
b: What’s the most inspiring font?
Qz: The obvious answer is Helvetica, but my personal favorite is Century Gothic.
Bruce: I’ve always had a big thing for Helvetica, because it is the only font I can think of that has evolved to the point that it can no longer be classified as a ‘font’. It is so generic and common that it requires a lot of finesse and work to make it look special, and because it has
no specific ‘personality’, it can be used for almost anything if it is used in the right way.
b: What will your creative space never see?
Qz: One thing you’ll never see is something that is boring and meaningless here.
Bruce: Bad design.
b: What are you working on?
Qz: Aside from working with my husband to design spaces and other projects, I’ve been focusing on my photography.
Bruce: A very big, top secret interior design project involving several different spaces and a lot of hard work. My wife and I also have a partnership with a Hong Kong based designer called Hilton Qiu, who we work with on various one-off products, pieces of furniture, etc.
b: Why is design a good idea?
Qz: Gosh, that is a very long answer. We live in a world where everything is designed, from doorknobs to toothbrushes. Good design will make you happier, and make your life easier; for example, why would anyone buy a chair that is uncomfortable? The importance of design lies within our lives every second of everyday either you like it or you don’t. Isn’t that a good idea?
Bruce: Without ‘design’ everything would just be a chaotic mess.