Photography: Peter Guenzel
Words: Laura Houseley

The second of our limited-edition decorative accessories is a playful and whimsical object — The Incredible House of Cards. We go behind the scenes in Bertjan Pot’s Rotterdam studio to find out about its invention.

“Never working, never not working” is an adage frequently used by Dutch designer Bertjan Pot to describe his attitude to design. It suggests a way of working that is unhurried but constantly curious, an inquisitiveness for how things function or are constructed, and a special affection for unexpected and irreverent raw materials, such as ribbon, rope, beads, felt tip pens. These are subjected to impulsive experimentation at Pot’s own hands in his studio – a space that is a veritable playground of exciting materials and sensory overload. Long periods of tinkering and exploration result in extraordinary bodies of work; ranging from industrially produced furniture and textiles to unique artworks. What unites Pot’s designs is an exuberance, an unmistakable idiosyncratic charm and decorative appeal.

Pot approached the brief of a decorative accessory for Hem with characteristic irreverence. His contemplation of what a decorative accessory is led to the conclusion that it can be anything, so why not choose a seemingly arbitrary object and turn it into an ornament? “When I was asked to think about a decorative accessory for this project my mind settled on the house of cards; like almost all decorative accessories, the house of cards fills space and is pleasing to look at and ponder and yet, in essence, it doesn't mean anything. My Incredible House of Cards for Hem is a cheats version; an easy-to-assemble kit that makes for an accessible, playful, decorative accessory."

The Incredible House of Cards consists of 17 individual cardboard pieces that fit together to make a sculpture. Although seemingly simple, the original modular design is complex (the structure works even if pieces are flipped). Its clever connectivity perhaps owes something to Pot’s ongoing preoccupations with woven structures. The graphic pyramid-shaped object resembles a classic house of cards; the childhood game that is a test of balance and patience. It is a form that Pot often comes back to; "The classic house of cards has been a recurring motif throughout my career; I've built them and used them as decorative elements in exhibitions, as a graphic icon applied to stickers, I even once turned one into a hat. The appeal of the house of cards is that it is both structural and sculptural but at the same time arbitrary and familiar.”

The Incredible House of Cards for Hem is made from a duplexed cardboard by Britain's foremost paper maker and merchant; G.F Smith and is an object designed to have longevity and stability, in direct comparison to the fragility of its classic namesake. The limited-edition consists of 100 unique signed kits with each Incredible House of Cards having an entirely unique colourway. These colours and their positioning give the sculpture an optical illusion quality: it seems to change colour as you move around it. By prioritising different colours when building the sculpture the customer can achieve different effects with four variations possible with each. The ambition was always, says Pot, to make an unpretentious and fun decorative accessory that is accessible and universal “I’d like to see them in many, many different kinds of interiors. They are the perfect accessory; something and nothing at the same time.”


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Incredible House of Cards
by Bertjan Pot