Designer Spotlight: Jimmie Martin

Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihlmar are the award winning design duo behind Jimmie Martin and are known for their decadent, urban furniture designs. Their award winning work is sought after by private and high-profile clients including Madonna. Here Martin reveals what inspires their designs and why they are envious of Philippe Starck.

Jimmie and Martin

What is your background and how did you come to be in your current career?

Neither Jimmie nor I have a degree in design. Jimmie studied art briefly at an early age but decided to drop out as he didn’t feel there was any room to create the things he wanted to. Personally, my background is as far from design as it can be with Marketing and Management Studies. We always had a common interest which was liking the slightly more unusual pieces and designs. As we lived together at the time we started picking up items from auctions and markets, sometimes for next to nothing as they were items that people simply didn’t want – something that is still the case when you look at the sideboards and cabinets that we create. They are mostly old pieces that we then redo. We started by simply playing around with ideas and we furnished our own flat. By coincidence a neighbour spotted a couple of chairs we had done when we were moving flat and asked where we got them from. When he found out we had made them he offered to sell them via a local chandelier store in Muswell Hill. After that we decided to start up the company. A friend then asked us if we would be willing to do her window display for her salon in Soho, which in turn resulted in us being recommended to enter the Design & Decoration Awards. This was in June 2005 and from not having sold any of our pieces we ended up winning the Best New Designer in Practice in the UK. Since then we have been working pretty much non-stop.

What inspires your work?

Anything and nothing. Friends, art, movies, the streets.  We don’t follow any rules so it’s hard to define a source of inspiration.

Any designers or artists that you look to for inspiration?

Philippe Starck usually gets a mention when this question comes up. Both Jimmie and I admire and sometimes envy his talent and eye for cool design.

What is your favourite piece that you have created and why?

It is so difficult to say but some of our earlier pieces simply because they got us where we are today. Then some of the new designs and ideas we are playing with at the moment are some of my favourites to date.

What has been the highlight of your career?

It’s got to be seeing Madonna’s reveal at the Super Bowl half time performance with her sitting in our chair/throne. It was hard to describe – surreal yet I knew she would be on it as we had been working frantically on it for a month. I think it will be difficult to top that in terms of famous people we have ever made a piece for. It’s a nice feeling to be able to say, ‘I made that.’

Favourite animal and why?

Cats, because they are what they are. Although I would love to have a dog.

Fashion item you couldn’t live without?

I like a nice pair of shoes and suit jacket but Jimmie is the fashion conscious one. The number of trainers he’s got… crazy!!

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