Bringing galaxies down to earth with APTUM

Written by Tom | 4th August 2022

Contemporary design is changing, and few know this better than design duo APTUM. Made up of partners Tineke Beunders and Nathan Wierink, their celestial lighting designs have captured the imagination of those looking to bring a little magic into their own homes. With their stars firmly on the rise, we stopped by their studio to chat about how they’re trying to bring artisan wonder to everyone everywhere. 

How did you as a duo meet?


We fell in love during our studies. And it turned out we liked working together as well. During studying we already started making products, and in order to sell them, we had to start a company. We never really discussed this, we just did it. Actually all we do is based on intuition. 

So how did APTUM come into being?

We started our work as ‘Ontwerpduo’ in 2008, right after graduation. We graduated with four furniture designs, though as I mentioned, we were already selling previous smaller designs—such as bags, candles, tables, lamps—made in 35 different shops worldwide while we studied. 

From their studies to a thriving design business, the duo have gone from success to success

While we designed a number of collections with beautiful products, it was always the lamps that drew our attention. Our ‘Light forest’—now one of our most famous designs—was designed in 2010. It is an adjustable lighting system. With this system, we gained some experience in designing site specific products, production in house and installation on site. We loved this so much that in 2018, we decided to focus entirely on customised lighting. This we do under our ‘new’ name: APTUM. We now have 2 lighting systems in our collection: Light forest and Contour. Contour as a system was designed in 2018. But we design new objects with this system every week.

Ultimately you’re a design duo. How do your skills play off each other?

This works perfectly. We have known each other for over 20 years and we make great use of each other's differences in character. Nathan is more mathematic, technical. He is a maker. He does not only like to make the designs, he also loves to make the machines to make the designs. He has a great focus skill. Working on projects without distraction.

A match made in heaven—Nathan brings the technical expertise to APTUM, while Tineke oversees the creative direction

I have the overview, the direction we want to go. The contact with clients. Managing the projects. The design part that I do is the general look and feel, shapes, material, colour. 
But no design can come to life with only one of us. We really need each other in the process. And sometimes we switch roles. It is good to understand each other's skills and work.

Much of your work deals with the spectral—space, imagination, fantasy—what draws you to these concepts?

Galaxies, fairytales, imagination, evolution, nature. These themes cannot ever bore people. They are so big they remain mysterious, meaning you’ll always find inspiration in them. It’s very satisfying to bring that kind of wonder into peoples living rooms; into the entrance of a hotel; everywhere you live your ‘normal’ life. The two things can coexist. When people see our work, we want them to lose themselves in a dream, just for a bit. 

The duo look to the spectral and objects of wonder to inspire them

Storytelling is a major aspect of your work. Do you see this as important of a role for design as functionality is?

Yes. A design succeeds when people can be amazed by the beauty of the work, and at the same time be happy about the high level of functionality that it has. Both have to be in balance.

For design to succeed, it should be balanced: a little functionality and a little backstory

What kind of materials are you most drawn to?

That depends on two things: can we work with the material ourselves, in our own workshop? And is the material interesting for lighting? Most of the time we have an atmosphere in mind that we want to create. This contains colour and texture. We play with material and light, until we find an interesting image that we want to capture in lighting that fits different spaces.

How do you fit into the world of Dutch design and how is the landscape of Dutch design changing?

Because everything becomes more global, things like social media are increasingly determining the way design is done. Dutch design is influenced by design all over the world, and design all over the world is influenced by Dutch design. Our work is often described as more akin to Scandinavian, Japanese and Italian design. Depending on the product, we just create what we feel like.

APTUM are more often compared to Japanese and Scandinavian design among others, than Dutch

In terms of the work that we make, I wouldn’t say we fit into the world of Dutch design. Our work is dreamy, fairytale like. But how we work is much the same as how dutch design comes to life. We create, make, try it out, make it again, get it to work and start presenting. Start selling. Improve the design, make again, and repeat. It’s industrious, entrepreneurial even. 

How did you come to work within the world of online auctions and how has it impacted your work?

We make a lot of prototypes and try-outs. These are special. You need to find the one person that falls in love with your work. Catawiki helps us reach those people with their worldwide audience.

Their work might be inspired by another world, but their audience is firmly earthbound—and everywhere

We’re seeing a shift in consumer behaviour towards more crafted, artisan and special design. Why do you think this is and why would you encourage this?

Of course we encourage this! First of all, people in general feel happy when creating pieces/ products/ art. When making something. And people feel happy surrounding themselves with work that has been made with love and care. Second is that the overwhelming mass production of extremely cheap products is so out of hand that we need to reverse things. We need products that we love, cherish, use, repair and use again—for a lifetime and longer. 


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Discover more Design & Vintage | Contemporary Design

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