Step 1 of 2
Join Our Mailing List
Effetto is the marketplace connecting interior designers and collectors with curated selections of high-end furniture and collectibles from the world’s best dealers.

To ensure you get the most relevant news please let us know if you are:
Please select an option to proceed

Between reality and imagination: the thought-provoking work of Felix Schwake

Award-winning German designer Felix Schwake is fascinated by the way design can go beyond its physical experience to unlock experiences and memories within the mind.

Imagine taking a walk through a forest – dappled light dancing over moss and foliage, dramatic pockets of light and dark, sculptural trunks twisting and branching upward – and now imagine experiencing this forest walk high above the streets of New York City. This was the experience that German designer and architect Felix Schwake wanted to evoke when creating statement furniture and an interior scheme for the highest apartment in the United States, a sprawling penthouse in Central Park Tower overlooking Manhattan from Billionaire’s Row. This poetic idea of a walk through a forest is a common theme in Schwake’s practice, and is the driving inspiration behind a recent body of work titled Forest Walk.

“In Forest Walk, I aim to materialise my experience of a forest walk in marble,” says Schwake. “The spatial experience includes vastness and freedom, as well as tightness and security. Naturalness, authenticity, and a deep connection with the place are all part of it.”

The furniture used in the Central Park Tower apartment – from both Schwake’s Forest Walk collection and earlier collections – had to be adapted to fit into the elevator and meet the static weight requirements.

Schwake began his creative journey as an architect, driven by a desire to shape his own physical environment and a class in construction he undertook during his time at the Mies van der Rohe School in Aachen. “Our teacher told us, ‘Don’t study architecture when you graduate, Germany is full of architects’,” he recalls. “I didn’t listen.”

When he finished his architecture studies at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Dortmund in 2010, he was faced with a decision – to pursue architecture in the conventional sense or branch out into a related field. Motivated by the furniture he had crafted in the university workshop during his studies, he entered the Interior Innovation Award, a prestigious awards programme held as part of German trade fair IMM Cologne. He submitted a multi-media table with integrated storage and, to his surprise, was recognised as a winner. “It was a great moment for me,” he says. “I decided to give furniture and interior design a shot and, step by step, I was commissioned for bigger projects.”

Designer Felix Schwake at one of the quarries where he sources marble. “I like to work with long-lasting materials, like marble and brass,” he says. “To do this, I need to work with artisans, and when you find someone like-minded, who can bring a vision to production, that is amazing.”

After several years, during which he worked with clients such as BMW Motorsport and media company Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Schwake found himself at another crossroads – whether to continue down the traditional path of a furniture and interior designer, or to pursue a more art-driven creative vision at the risk of out-pricing his clients. It turned out to be a risk worth taking, and since pivoting his eponymous studio into a more experimental direction, he has found increasing success. 

Schwake refers to his work as “functional art” and it exists in the mind as much as it exists in the physical world. “We experience physical space with all our senses, and psychological space through the intellect,” he explains. “I read The Poetics of Space by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard at university and it introduced me to the idea of psychological space. I like to go beyond the obvious and give people the possibility to see more in the work than the physical.”

FS190 is a dramatic dining table from the Forest Walk collection, crafted from enormous slabs of marble.

Collection II Forest Walk, for example, is not a literal representation of a forest but evokes the experience. The veining of the marble echos branching trees; the monolithic forms appear to shift when viewed from different angles; and the dynamic use of positive and negative space within each piece alludes to the way space in a forest can be both open and compressed as you move through it. 

Beyond these visual cues, the Forest Walk collection also prompts consideration of larger issues of sustainability – most notably through the way Schwake designs for longevity and embraces natural materials that will develop a rich patina as they age. In acquiring the marks of their use, he believes they only increase in value.

“Products become waste when their use finishes, but what happens if there is no end of usage?” he poses. “I always say that the production time for these pieces is the 250 million years that it takes to form marble – and this production doesn’t end with delivery. Traces of wear are part of the narrative over generations, making each piece truly personal. I like the idea of a piece that doesn’t get broken or damaged but ages with dignity. Too often, we only think about the energy used to create a product, but I believe there is another perspective” 

Schwake exploring a marble quarry, where he sources the material for many of his works.

To produce these epic works, Schwake develops the designs from his studio in the German city of Bochum, where he employs two assistants, and then collaborates with a network of artisans and producers. This approach not only allows him to work with experts in their field who have dedicated a lifetime to their particular craft, but also to experiment with different materials and processes. While recent functional art work has been focused on marble, he has also created furniture pieces crafted from metal and finished in piano lacquer, cashmere wool, and leather. 

The X Chair is a new design by Schwake that utilises thin sheets of intersecting steel to create an angular form that appears to occupy space in different ways, depending on where it is viewed from. For the designer, this kind of playful approach challenges conventional distinctions between architecture and design, questioning the elements that shape the interior space.

Seamlessly integrated technology is another signature of Schwake’s work, and the seemingly simple forms often conceal power sockets, invisible cable management, and hidden monitors. In this way, Schwake creates furniture that bridges the desire for aesthetically clean, design-driven forms and a need for our furnishings to accommodate modern life – a rare feat in the design world, where style is all too often prioritised over usability. 

A desk by Felix Schwake that appears to be a simple assembly of luxurious materials, including marble and leather – but actually has highly functional features, such as concealed sockets and cable storage, integrated.

It’s this understanding of human behaviours and psychology that really defines Schwake’s work, and elevates it beyond the decorative. It’s an approach that is apparent in whatever creative medium he turns his hand to, from the evocative paintings that adorn the walls of his studio, to his furniture, functional art, and interiors. It’s perhaps these interior projects where disciplines melt into each other where this expertise is most apparent. Take, for example, the Paris apartment that won a DNA Paris Design Award in 2023, or the retail space of the Bauhaus Museum Weimar. 

“I had never done retail design before but the director was convinced the result would be awesome,” says Schwake of the Bauhaus Museum commission. “I have learned that there is no strict archetype of a job description like architect or designer, however. When you break it down, it’s all about space. Everything is connected and it’s an ongoing evolution.”

6 sculptural pieces by Felix Schwake

Read more: Gallerists | Interiors | Design | Architecture | Germany | Effetto | Felix Schwake