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Vincent Van Duysen’s Pastoe Totem

Way back in the early days (two years ago, to be precise), fellow 3ringer Joseph Starr profiled a haphazard tower of drawers with the unlikely name of Schubladenstapel. The Swiss-designed piece had a spontaneous aspect that gave new meaning to the idea of “shabby chic,” in that it appeared it could topple into a formless heap at any moment. I like to think of Vincent Van Duysen’s Pastoe Totem as the staid Belgian response to Schubladenstapel’s sense of whimsy. Like the former, Van Duysen’s free-standing cabinetry has a genial modular aspect, implying ease of assembly and transport; unlike its dark-toned, rougher-hewn counterpart, however, Pastoe Totem is all straight lines and neat verticality.

Totem. Designed by Vincent Van Duysen for Pastoe.

Van Duysen built his reputation as an architect with “modest buildings with clear forms and subtle contrasts… solid concrete wall are given large windows, which make the structure appear fragile. Soft materials like timber and textile are mixed with robust natural stone.” A similar aesthetic is certainly on display with Pastoe Totem. In fact, the linear aspect of the piece references commercial architecture, while the high, wide openings and slender sidewalls recall Van Duysen’s penchant for opening up the solid walls of his structures with oversized windows. Of Course, all that negative space is purely utilitarian with Pastoe Totem, since the niches beg to be filled with the personal items that make a good design one’s own.

Pastoe Totem’s broad choice of colors and finishes enables further personalization in this regard. The modular, stackable aspect of the piece contributes here as well. As Van Duysen remarks, layouts can be conceived, assembled, and taken down, all within a matter of minutes. The free-standing nature of the cabinet is also noteworthy. Designed to take “an autonomous place in the interior,” Pastoe Totem is—like its namesake—a potent and highly-visible structure in the domestic landscape: “Just like a building in a city, you can look at it from all sides and walk around it.” And keep your clothes in it to boot!

Posted March 10th, 2010 by Alicita Rodriguez


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