Max Fraser caught up with Simon in his studio and discussed the origins of the VTable and how it’s evolving into the launch of VWork.
He cut his teeth designing inhouse at Conran Design Group and Habitat. When British designer Simon Pengelly decided to become an independent furniture designer with his own studio in 1993, he was quite open to the various directions that might take him in. Little did he know that one of his first creations – the VTable – was going to evolve and endure more than twenty years later.
It was in 1996 when he first exhibited the handmade piece at 100% Design in London. At that moment, he was asking himself whether he was going to design for industry or take on the production and selling of his designs directly. He tested the water at the trade fair, exposing his work to a burgeoning contemporary design market.
The VTable is a sturdy dining table made from a solid construction of cross-joined timber legs and a V-shaped structural beam running its length. At the fair, Modus founders Jon Powell and Ed Richardson, also with a newly-formed business, approached Pengelly about this design and subsequently took on the production of it. The piece has remained a mainstay of the Modus collection ever since.
In 2019, the table is taking a turn by entering the workplace having mostly occupied domestic settings. This is hardly surprising to Pengelly who points out the ‘domestication’ of office environments in recent years; tactile surfaces, softer upholstery, softer lighting and semi-private zones are gaining traction. The new table plays into this shift, its construction in wood offering a warmth not typical of desking systems or meeting tables. The updated design provides all of the centralised cable management one expects and moveable partition sections for spontaneous and flexible reconfiguration.
Whilst he sees the system compatible with varying office types, Pengelly envisages it used in small to medium-sized creative studios rather like his own. He is a strong believer in the importance of staff having their own ‘real estate’ at the office – striking the right balance between openness and privacy. The designer emphasises the importance of close collaboration between colleagues using a desking system that is conducive to rapid verbal exchange as much as solo concentration, something he practices with his small studio team.
In a refreshing departure from so many overly complicated and component-heavy desk systems, Pengelly is proud of the fact that the VTable remains a robust and solid design that is intuitive in its function and visually expresses the way it is constructed. As he says, “I like its obviousness.”
The fact that the table is more than twenty years old stands as a testament to the longevity that imbues so much of Pengelly’s work, for Modus as well as his other clients. Despite ever-fleeting shifts in trends and gone-by-night fashions, this designer achieves timelessness and longevity as his enduring standard.