After her studies and several years of work experience in the fashion and textile industry, it was the first passion for interior design that once again took the upper hand in Annemie Van de Casteele’s life. Now, with her design studio, she creates unique digital prints for numerous companies and designers at home and abroad.
It's a sport to start from an idea and make something beautiful out of it, Annemie Van de Casteele tells us. As a 'surface designer' she works for printers, engravers and manufacturers of floors, doors, wallpaper, fabrics, splash walls, kitchen worktops, wall or furniture panels and even car dashboards. Ultimately, her creations end up in private homes, hotels, restaurants, offices, etc. and so she supplies a number of top architects and designers from many different countries. But her job is her passion and she takes on every new assignment and every challenge with great pleasure. Although she is not a digital native, Annemie says she is a real ‘diginerd’. She is proud of the special software, calibrated monitors, various printers and other technical gadgets with which she does her job every day. Her function in the design world is not one that comes up often, but it can ultimately have a major impact on a space. We are therefore happy to let her explain to us and our readers what it is she does exactly and how she contributes to the creation of inspiring interiors.
A unique function that contributes to the creation of extremely special interiors.
Have you always wanted to work with interiors?
“My mom loves interior design magazines just as much as I do, and she's super creative. During my fashion design studies, we spent hours together, day and night, making collection pieces with intricate materials and handmade knits. I really got that creativeness from her, and I got my drawing talent from my father. Even though I first made a detour along the fashion and textile sector, gradually interior came back to take in the number 1 position. At my parents' house I was always redecorating my room, it drove them crazy. I always moved from room to room and then I redid basically everything. And it was always all painted in my favourite colour: white (laughs)! Cupboards, walls, floors, chairs, tables... everything had to be white because I get tired of colour too quickly. I still have that. I've been working with colour day in and day out for years and when I come home or work in my studio, I want everything around me to be white, it brings peace to my head. A painting and books bring colour, for the rest everything else has to be calm and relaxing.” You also used to work in the textile industry, what exactly was your job here?
“Over the course of several years, I had different jobs such as technical manager, designer for collections and catalogues and sales manager graphic software. In 2000 I started working as an independent digital graphic consultant. I worked for various (Belgian) clothing and furniture fabric brands. I was not always able to put enough creativity in a permanent job and very quickly got tired of the kind of work I had to do. As a self-employed person I have always worked on a consulting or project basis. That gave me more variety, more freedom.”
So how did you finally become a surface designer?
“That was in 2017. I no longer felt creative enough in those long-term consulting assignments. It also involved a lot of administrative work, meetings, reports, planning, production follow-up, ... It became too repetitive; I didn't have enough challenges. Today I work from my studio by the sea. That gives me the opportunity to work in a more creative, productive and flexible way. My job is now really my passion. It's never boring, it's so versatile, every day a new challenge. It's a sport to start from an idea and then make something beautiful out of it. The materials I work with bring surprises every time. The combination of craftsmanship, analogue and digital work are the perfect match for me. I like to work with my hands but also digitally.” And what exactly does this job involve?
“I work mostly on a project basis in my studio. Mood boards, designing, digitising, layouts, colour studies... It's something different every day. I like to be challenged by the client, to come up with something new every time, to tackle obstacles, to solve technical problems. Sometimes I do short on-site consulting assignments, but only for a few months at the most, two days a week. Usually I help with the start-up of digital printing at production level. As soon as everything runs smoothly, I move on to the next assignment. Because I know the entire development process and can carry out everything myself, I can be called in at any stage, which is of course very practical for the client. I like every link in the process and I have worked very hard for years to get the hang of it. I have a fascinating job with a lot of variation and creativity, day after day.”
‘Personalisation and co-creation are very important.’
How does your collaboration with a customer work?
“I always work on a client's request. Personalisation and co-creation are very important. This means I don't have a ready-made collection to choose from. That has advantages for both sides: the customer is involved in the entire development process, everything is made exclusively for that one customer. He gets exactly what he wants and I don't get left behind with unused work. Usually we start from my material tests, which I use to trigger the customer, give inspiration or show a technical possibility. Sometimes the customer gives me an idea: a page from a magazine, a photo, a theme from a trend book, a mood board, ... I get to work on that and then a completely new design emerges. I don't copy and don't want to repeat my designs, but rather opt for innovation.” Where do you get your inspiration?
“I find inspiration everywhere: on the beach, on the street, around me, in the attic, at flea markets, during distant travels and city trips, exhibitions, design happenings, trade fairs, trend lectures and workshops. I take pictures with my phone anytime, anywhere. With those photos I then make inspiration books, which I take with me to the client. Sometimes my head is so full of inspiration, there's not enough time to work everything out. We live by the sea, a very inspiring environment. If I want to clear my head, I first write everything down and if it still gnaws at me, I go into the sea, with my surfboard.”
Describe your creation process.
“That starts with creating a mood board as a guide. Based on those colours, textures, materials, mood images, etc. I make exclusive artisanal customizations. These designs consist of clay, paper, wood, fabric, paint and even earth or coffee. Everything can be used to make a new design. I re-use materials, I give materials a second life. It’s 'upcycling' in its purest form, this gives the design character and imperfection and from that the most beautiful developments flow. I then have the best samples digitised on full-size and these scans are used or processed on the computer. Further in the process there are also colour separations, digital colour studies and making renders. The latter is especially interesting because brands (in function of sales, marketing, publicity) can work ahead in this way and they don't have to wait to see the result in an interior until the material is effectively produced.” Finally, how do you deal with trends?
“Many customers work with trend agencies and trend books from which they select a few trend themes per season that are closest to their products and style. If I get a briefing on a specific theme, I have to stay within that theme with my designs and take into account certain colours or materials. There are also clients who stay completely on their own course and are trendsetters, then I only have to take the client's corporate identity into account when designing.”
We found it very interesting to be able to discover this side of the big interior world and to bring it here. There is indeed much more behind it than you would sometimes think to create a unique and inspiring whole.
This interview was originally published in the issue Imagicasa Spring 2020. You can still order is through our webshop. All images courtesy of Annemie Van de Casteele