Double Dutch: Inside the Brilliant Universe of Scholten & Baijings

Inga Powilleit

As anyone who has visited a showroom can attest, pink, orange, and chartreuse are not colorst hat are readily accepted into the home. But it’s exactly that electric palette that has propelled the Amsterdam-based duo of Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings—partners in work and life, recalling the convention-busting visionaries Charles and Ray Eames—into the highest stratospheres of the design world. 

Instead of imagining wild forms and better-mousetrap concepts, Scholten & Baijings has quietly amassed an impressive portfolio of candy-colored objects for international brands that includes housewares for cultish Danish label Hay that became available Stateside through the MoMA Design Store last month, a sofa for the Italian furniture brand Moroso, and even a concept car for BMW’s Mini line. What might sound simple—tweaking the everyday with color—is anything but, with an execution that’s hard to put into words, even for the designers themselves, despite their 15-year history. “We formulate our own grammar of color,” says Scholten about their unorthodox hues, “and then violate it entirely.”

Baijings, 42, was born in Indonesia, and Scholten, 43, was born in Rotterdam, but in 1999 they gravitated to the city and to each other—at a lounge that Scholten designed above a church—and, according to Baijings, they soon fell in love. Scholten studied at Holland’s Design Academy Eindhoven and Baijings worked as a director, making commercials for companies such as Coca-Cola, before joining her amour in his pursuit of design. “He’s from the centimeter and I’m from the millimeter,” says Baijings, referring to their macro-microapproach. Scholten’s role is as the big-picture guy, while Baijings attendsto the details. Their daily lives revolve around an office that overlooks the Ij River, where they tinker with models, materials, and artisan techniques.

“Their work is very Dutch, including their Mondrianesque use of line and geometry,” says Matilda McQuaid, deputy curatorial director and head of textiles at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, about the latest iteration of their ongoing Blocks & Grids textile collection for Maharam, which will be expanded next month. “The almost-30-foot repeat means that no two furniture pieces look alike,” says McQuaid, who acquired the collection for the museum.

At this April’s Salone del Mobile, in Milan, the globe-trotting couple debuted multiple products: a geometric wool-and-silk rug for ABC Italia, neon pendants for Moooi, a grappa flask for Nonino, and a sofa for Moroso. Inspired by the Ottoman Empire, the seat was designed to take advantage of Blocks & Grids’ colors and patterns. The two designs merge nicely on the aptly named Ottoman, which Baijings insists that—even in pink—will be a classic in 20 years’ time. “The French love it,” she says. 

Photo Credit: Inga Powilleit