E8 Table by Mathias Hahn for Zeitraum


19 January 2013

Mathias Hahn's refectory table for Zeitraum is a design preoccupied by history. Designed to accentuate its own natural wear and ageing, the E8 Table was inspired by a makeshift school canteen table found in a flea market.

"The inspiration for the table came from my old kitchen table that I bought years ago from some market in Stoke Newington," says Hahn, a London-based designer who graduated from the RCA in 2006. "It was a dark, really old table that was a canteen table in a school. I was curious, because it was a strange-looking table so eventually looked at the frame and found some marks on the inside of the frame."

Hahn discovered that the piece was not original and that instead a tabletop had simply been bolted on to a 1940s daybed base. "I assume that a school just needed a table for its canteen and assembled one from the material lying around. They took the longest slats of timber they could get and used it as the table top. They weren't really thinking about proportion. But using it for a couple of years went well, so I thought a table based on it would be nice to do too."

Launched at IMM Cologne for the German wooden furniture brand Zeitraum, the E8 table is inspired by the length and narrowness of its predecessor, its long oak tabletop stretching out over a thin base. The table is intended to seat 12 and to be flexible as both a dining space and comfortable place to eat.

Hahn's use of untreated wood and the E8's quiet, simple design are tied to Zeitraum's preference for "practical, adaptable and unobtrusive" forms. But the E8 also introduces a more vibrant edge to Zeitraum's collection, using a method of colour staining that allows for the table's surfaces to be inked with rich colour. "Most people just spraypaint or lacquer surfaces, but then it looks strange as the colour wears off," explains Hahn. "This type of staining lets the timber age naturally, which is much nicer."

The only part of the design not to be colour stained is the tabletop. It is a design decision that leads this part of the object to age more quickly than the rest, and to display its scratches, gouges, spills and chips more obviously. "When you have a family and are living with a table every day when you live with it, it doesn’t matter if it scratches," says Hahn. "I wanted to make an everyday table that could wear out nicely over years."

The finished design is intended as a record of its own use, its aesthetic changing as it is used. It's visual connection to the original makeshift canteen table that inspired it is less straightforward however.

"The E8 looks completely different from the original table, which was really weird with odd straight legs," says Hahn. "It was a strange creature." Fortunately the E8 is rather more beautiful.