LOCATION: Brabant, The Netherlands / BEST-KNOWN PROJECT: ArcheToys / BIGGEST CREATIVE INSPIRATIONS: Jean Prouvé, Sixten Sason, Louis Kalf / GOAL FOR THE YEAR 2020: To be 43 years old and still designing / TITLE OF IMAGINARY MONOGRAPH: Industrial Handcraft / WOULD RATHER DIE THAN DESIGN: A toy with batteries
Asked what inspired ArcheToys, his line of brilliantly brutish miniature automobiles, Floris Hovers, 31, tells the kind of story that compels earnest, hard-working designers to curse the Muses’ fickle favor and start drinking whisky. “It started as a joke. I wanted to make something for my little cousin to play with, which became the Ambulance,” the 2004 Eindhoven graduate recounts. “Then I realized I could take these forms from the 1950s and ’60s and add colors for a full line of recognizable vehicles.”
And with that, perhaps the most covetable automobile toys since the original Matchbox series were born. Introduced at the 2007 Dutch Design Show, ArcheToys includes 39 models of hand-cut, hand-painted tubular steel on nylon wheels. In addition to the ambulance, collectors can order a Routemaster-red double-decker bus, a farm combine, an army tank, a milk truck, a satellite-news van, and a boxy ice-cream truck with pastel cone decals. ArcheToys’ charm, however, comes not with a Pop Art wink, but with a minimalist wallop: The funeral hearse exudes a hot rod’s cool menace, with a long snout and chopped roofline that would palpate Herman Munster’s undead heart.
A funeral hearse? The collection isn’t specifically made or intended for children, Hovers points out. And a touch of morbidity doesn’t appear to keep the buyers at bay. In fact, ArcheToys’ success has already forced the designer to re-envision his busy shop in the south of the Netherlands, which he opened in 2006 intending to focus on furniture with strong mid-century overtones. If the ArcheToy bulldozer blazes a path leading consumers back to Hovers’ Prouvé-like wood and knotted-cord Fixed chairs, all the better. “I’m trying to achieve a readable way of designing that’s not complicated,” he says. “I don’t see what’s so interesting about complicating things. Grown-up people don’t play enough as it is, anyway.”