Bright Ideas From Ilfari Lighting

Eccentric elegance from an offbeat designer

Famous for lighting that’s simply the last word in contemporary stylish luxury, Ilfari was founded in 2001 in Holland by designer Coen Munsters, who instills his pieces with a whimsical, wonderfully eccentric feel that owes its off-beat elegance to…dance music!
ILFARI LIGHTING - KalkhovenHow did you get started? 
I come from Erp, a little village in southern Holland. As a young boy, I wanted be an architect, and my hobby was designing beautiful private residences. Later, my studies took me in another direction: design and marketing. 

Describe the first item you designed. 
My first commercial design was a table lamp. At Ilfari, our first design was called ‘Illia’, an extraordinary metal lighting fixture made completely by hand, consisting of two wings that meet each other. 

What motivates you? 
Working with my colleagues and making beautiful lighting. 

Describe your preferred design style. Where do you get your inspiration? 
Our style is modern with a classical touch, although not in a conservative way. It’s an unusual combination—sometimes a slightly eccentric artistic expression, but always commercial enough to suit interiors or other designated areas of a building. My inspiration comes from dance music—it has a lot in common with my style of design, and it informs our collection. The last piece of music I downloaded was dance music from DJ Max Graham and Stan Kolev.

When you are designing, do you have a particular set pattern, or creative ritual, that you use to ‘switch on’ the creative process? Describe it. 
Yes, more or less: I work alone, and the first thing I do is gather together all my notes and drawings. It’s also important to feel that you actually want to design; you can’t sit and think: Okay, I have to design now. In other words, you need to like the process of designing—but not on command. And I always work to nice music.

Who or what inspired you to start using Swarovski crystals? How long have you been working with Swarovski? Can you explain the psychology of crystal? 
I was showing my designs at the Milan fair, including one called ‘Sprankling Disk’, which caught the attention of some visitors from Swarovski. They asked why I didn’t use Swarovski crystals. Of course I knew about Swarovski and its high-quality crystals, but at that time we were a very young, growing business, so I didn’t feel like approaching such a big established company. Anyway, we exchanged contact details at the fair, and we’ve enjoyed a successful co-operation with Swarovski ever since. That was eleven years ago; last year, I designed Frozen Eyes as tribute to our decade of working together. Crystal is like fire and water: it plays with the imagination; every time you look at it, it changes. Fabulous crystals are like diamonds—and Swarovski undoubtedly makes them.

What event or achievement do you regard as your finest moment, creatively? 
Our spectacular 500-square-metre Ilfari Inspiration Center in Holland, where we show our complete collection in a stunning way. 

Assuming that you travel a lot, where is your favorite place on earth—is it somewhere that inspires you? 
If you mean cities, then it’s Moscow, with its impressive style, culture and architecture, both modern as classical. If you ask me which country, then it’s Italy. Amazing architecture! 

Was there ever a chance that you might have pursued a different career? 
Yes, architecture—I draw a lot of inspiration from it. 

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you, who encouraged you in your career? 
Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? 
Not a mentor, as such, but there is one designer who inspires me, who is an icon in the design world, and a combination of perfect design and perfect marketing: Karl Lagerfeld.