Growing up in a house chock full of ornate 19th century art, Maximilian Eicke, whose father was an art and antiques dealer, hardly seemed destined to become a contemporary furniture visionary. Yet, the renowned Falckenberg Collection in Hamburg, Germany—a modern art mecca—has one of his coffee tables in its permanent collection. This 27-year-old designer has his main showroom in Bridgehampton where he sells his Modernist-inspired work. He certainly hasn’t wasted his youth on his young life. Born in Germany and raised in Sag Harbor, he started his company, Max ID NY, when he was just 20, but he’d been producing (and selling) handmade lighting designs and prototypes as a hobby since he was a teenager.
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You started at such a young age, how have your designs changed over time?
I was always drawn to designing…not specifically furniture but just the art and idea of creating things that people would hopefully desire for both functional purposes as much as aesthetic purposes. When I launched my first collection, I was predominantly thinking of designing things that my New York clients could afford and that would maximize their space. The more collections I launched the more I felt comfortable experimenting, pushing the boundaries of my personal design capabilities and that of my manufacturers as well as the scale of the products.
Most of your pieces are distinctly minimal and angular. What attracts you to that particular aesthetic?
I always liked to joke that my design evolved as a subconscious rebellion toward my surroundings and upbringing. Yet I have the most incredible appreciation for the craftsmanship, materials and finishing that was possible during the 18th and 19th century. I really try to convey my appreciation for materials and handcraft in all my designs. For example, in my Koala dining table, I use a solid 3.5-inch thick reclaimed teak top connected via large dovetail joints with a solid marble hoop hand hewn from a single block.
How does your peripatetic life, including spending part of the year in Indonesia where your manufacturing plant is located, affect your choice of materials and your designs?
Having been very fortunate to have grown up living and moving from place to place it was always quite memorable to see what products and materials were on display in galleries, museums and clients’ homes. Of course I would love to work with plastics for the sheer creative freedom it allows, but there is just something about wood, stone and solid natural materials that will always carry a deep history and intrinsic value. When it came to producing my pieces I was very fortunate to find manufacturers that excel with these materials while being able to push their boundaries to make them work with my minimalist design and form.
What gravitates you toward teak, mahogany and other exotic hardwoods?
The predominant factor is the accessibility my manufacturers have to these materials. In most of these countries, teak is their gold standard and selling to the markets that I do this is the best option I can provide that both offers the quality but also an aesthetic level. In addition, it is an incredibly versatile material. I use it on a lot of my indoor designs and for outdoor purposes like my Setta and Zoo chairs.
Tell us about the bold move in the material choice for the Panther table.
The Panther table came about through a very specific creative process and unusual circumstances. A few years after having completed my metal apprenticeship at a factory in Germany, I returned to inquire about doing some limited edition designs through them, as their craftsmanship has always been something I yearned for but couldn’t afford.
After showing them some of the designs I was considering, they immediately recommended that instead of doing them out of metal, which would have been fantastic on a sculptural level but would have been cumbersome for all other reasons, I sit down with one of their collaborating companies that work predominately with carbon fiber and fiberglass.
After a meeting that felt much like I was brought into a Willy Wonka-esque factory of endless possibilities, my mind started to spin and we agreed on doing a collaboration where I would design a table with a real emphasis on exploring the unique strengths of producing with an incredible and versatile material such as carbon fiber. Within one day I went from planning on launching a sculptural metal collection to being given the opportunity to experiment with a material I could have never dreamt of.
Your BA Grind dining table appears lean and simple when in fact, a great deal of engineering and design elements went into it. Can you discuss this piece?
The table actually evolved out of an inquiry for a commissioned dining table. In the development of the design, I had been forced to face several challenges I had to overcome.
The idea sprouted out of the requirement to come up with an oversized round glass conference table that could be craned into a townhouse in New York City, while following the strict guidelines of fitting through a specific set of doors much narrower than the original table size allowed for. In addition, the metal base had to be produced in one single piece to safely support the weight of the 1,500-pound glass top, all while giving the illusion of lightness, which was achieved using high polished stainless steel at various angles to almost cause a kaleidoscope effect when looked at.
In order to get the glass through the door we came up with a design using four semicircles that are designed in such a way that you can still carry them into the building through any standard doors, but assembled in such a way to not use any structure but that of the glass itself to give an almost seamless appearance. The end result is a table that is 9.5 feet in diameter and 2.25-inch thick glass, and a high polished stainless steel base that in total weighs about 2,700 pounds.
Your unconventional bookcase, Q, seems to defy anyone’s idea of a piece of furniture to shelve books.
The inspiration for this was actually a simple ode to childhood memories of playing on a seesaw that I remember out front of our apartment in Germany. I have always loved the idea of taking something that we all have seen before and associated with a different function to try and turn the concept slightly on its head, and through a simple use of materials can be used for entirely different purposes.
In some of your works, including the T side table, you seem to delight in the ability to stack different elements to produce a multifunctional piece of furniture. What do you find most appealing about multifunctional furniture?
There is still this childish joy that I experience when I come across an item that has a hidden secret or something simple with a twist. And even more so when there is no physical transformation required in order to make it work. It allows for the utter simplicity of the design to shine through, which was the case when designing the T table.
Your Elfenbein and Twins stools are quite innovative in terms of their silhouette. What were you seeking to achieve with these? What influenced your designs?
Probably the biggest influence for this was the Zig-Zag chair from Gerrit Rietveld, my favorite designer. His designs have inspired quite a few pieces in my collection. But what it was about the Zig-Zag chair was that it was such a simple design with a single main material and such a simple profile that I felt the desire to try and come up with my interpretation of the concept while giving it my twist, which is where the stack-ability of the chair, bench and stool version evolved from.
What new pieces are you unveiling this year?
I am launching a new collection of predominantly sculptural designs this summer out of my studio in Bridgehampton. As well as a few new color editions of my Elfenbein chair, which I am very excited about as this has become my most iconic product, alongside the sloth chair. I am also currently working on an architectural compound in Bali that will be launching around February 2018. The details are still very under wraps, but it’s something I’ve been working on for almost two years and is in the final stages of completion.