Plain Tiger Spotlight: Studio Stirling

Life In Suspense: Experiential interior design

By Renee Fortune

Before I encountered Joanina Pastoll, I thought I was the only human who has an unexplainable fascination with hanging chairs. Think about it – it’s the only type of furniture that can sweep you off your feet. 

Introducing Joanina Pastoll. To learn about her history as a designer is to watch an unfolding – an artistic evolution. Because her story didn’t begin in the world of interiors, amongst steel and springs and swivels. It started in the world of advertising, where she racked up an entourage of coveted industry accolades for her accomplishments as a graphic designer. Later she went on to sit on the judging panels of prestigious awards ceremonies including the Cannes Advertising Festival and the London International Awards. 

For a long time, the trajectory of her career seemed set in stone. Until one fateful day in 2014, when she was renovating a small cottage and suddenly thought, “a hanging chair would look perfect here.”

That’s really where it all began. Because her search for the perfect hanging chair turned up empty, or at the door of mass-manufacturers who compromised on quality and didn’t have an eye for the beautiful. So she did what all true creatives do: she created. 

Her invention was a locally manufactured hanging chair that was designed according to ergonomic principles, imbued the level of comfort you’d need to snuggle up with a good book, and above all, looked beautiful. She also considered aspects such as airflow, durability and sustainability in terms of material and production process. The final result; which got multiple thumbs up from her interior designer friends, was the beginning of Studio Stirling. 

Today, Studio Stirling is a South African-based interior design house specialising in hanging furniture. Its collection of swing chairs, hanging pendant chairs and pet beds have crossed the seas to countries throughout Europe and various other regions around the world.

Some of Studio Stirling’s designs are decidedly minimalist, sans any bells and whistles that could clash with other features in a space. Others appeal to geometric tastes, with linear steel structures that curve gently upwards and around to provide comfortable seating. There are also hanging chairs with structures that resemble the veins of leaves and flowering plants, which resonate strongly with Joanina’s love of the natural world and the organic forms of trees, twigs, and plants. 
And as you’ll discover, Joanina is no radical functionalist. The way in which people experience Studio Stirling’s furniture is just as important as its utilitarian value. Expanding on the centrality of human emotion in her design process, she says:

“We are inspired by the idea that all humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with each other, with nature and with other sentient forms. We design our chairs in a way that caters to this need.

For example, each chair includes a specially tensioned spring that allows for a subtle range of soft motion. This suspended movement affects our vestibular system, the complex anatomical structures and neural pathways which contribute to our sense of equilibrium and sensory integration. Our designs are therefore capable of eliciting both a physical and emotional response. They are experiential objects that encourage reconnection, meditation and conversation.”

The common feature of everything you’ll find in the Studio Stirling collection is a sturdy, robust steel frame. As one of the most sustainable industrial materials in the world, more steel is recycled each year than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined. Not only is it an environmentally sound choice of material, it’s also the most economically viable way to build something that is durable and long-lasting. 

For Joanina, these are crucial factors to consider in building a brand that exists outside of quantity-trumps-quality culture and promotes; as a lifestyle philosophy, an approach to design that prioritises longevity and ethical production. 

Upon close examination of any of the hanging chairs you’ll find in the range, you’ll most likely be struck by how obvious it is that each chair is handmade. It can be quite arresting to see and touch a product that you know has been crafted by another pair of human hands – every fold in the fabric, every curve in the steel, every rope and fixture and structural component, it all marks a return to the most fundamental design principles: aesthetic, comfort and emotion. 

As she explains: “In a world of homogenized mass production, slower designed, handmade products require less energy than mass-produced items and often last longer, reducing the cycle of waste in our ‘throw-away’ culture.”

Touching on the archetypal Studio Stirling customer and what they hold dear, Joanina puts it perfectly: 

“It comes down to the discernment of the individual. Our customers understand and embrace our values. You will always have someone who would prefer to have two very beautiful, well-crafted pairs of shoes than ten ordinary pairs.

The two-pair person is the one who will choose Studio Stirling every time.”

$3,400.00 USD