Time and time again, necessity proves to be the mother of invention. That's certainly the case for Femke Furnée, founder of FEST Amsterdam. If you're already hip to the awesomeness that is this Dutch home goods company, you're definitely not alone, as the brand, in its four years of operation, has taken the design world by storm. But let's go back to the beginning here. Femke faced a situation that many of us have dealt with: attempting to decorate a too-small dorm room in the best way we can manage. "There was hardly enough space for a sofa but I wanted to decorate anyway," she recalls. "I didn't necessarily want to go to IKEA but I didn't have enough money to go high-end either; so I decided to do something about it."
Four years later with a mission to create quality, small-space furniture at a reasonable price, FEST is a buzzed about international design business. Along with their growing collection of colorful, modern furnishings, the brand can be found online (shipping worldwide) and in over 100 retail shops around the globe, including places such as Australia, Canada, and Japan (though sadly, no stateside locals yet). The progressive company is also comprised of mostly women: FEST is a team of 15 women and one male (two if you count Jeb the Shiba Inu)—a rare but refreshing international business model to say the least. "My team is young, ambitious, and creative." She says, "We all put our heart and soul into the brand—and we all love eating cheese." A winning combo, of course.
AT: We'll start with a (somewhat) easy one: What inspires you (and your brand) the most?
FF: A lot of things. I love going to museums and draw a lot of inspiration from the work of artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Kees van Dongen, Matisse and Brancusi. Film also inspires me. I just saw The Man Who Knew Infinity (about an Indian mathematician) and the colors of this movie really inspired the colors for our latest collection.
AT: You've had many gorgeous collections over the four years FEST has been in operation, but where did it all start?
FF: While furnishing my own home, I discovered that you don't have a lot of choices if you want original, well-designed furniture, but don't have big bucks to spend. I decided it was time to fill this gap.
AT: Sounds like filling that gap has really caused some buzz these days. What do you think it is about your products that have made them so popular consumers?
FF: I think it's a combination of aesthetics, comfort and price. We combine Dutch modesty/simplicity with some "festiveness": design with a twist and a pop of color, I like to say. Comfort and durability are also very important factors for us: What's the use of having a beautiful sofa if it isn't comfortable? It turns out a lot of people agree with us on this!
AT: Walk the readers through your creative process and how your products come to be.
FF: Whether we work with designers or design something in-house, we always start from a personal need. What is personally missing in our homes? What would we like to have? From there we come up with a product that fulfills this need, we search for inspiration, start designing, make samples, start testing and so on until it lands in our customers' homes.
AT: So you've had a super successful first few years, but where do you see FEST Amsterdam in another five years?
FF: I would like to see FEST Amsterdam as an internationally known design brand that collaborates with lots of renowned designers from around the globe. I'd also like to expand our furniture collection so that we are able to decorate a complete home, from living room to bedroom.
AT: Your products are likely like your children in that it's hard to pick your favorite, but we're going to make you anyway! What are the five best things, in your mind, that FEST offers?