/  2023.12.16.  /  

How can iconic works and styles be translated into contemporary form?

Interview with Attila Kiss, founder of The Up Design

The S/ALON BUDAPEST opening installations transported you to Surreal and Brutal worlds.

Traditionally, two autonomous spaces welcome visitors to the event as they enter the exhibition space. Last time, we prepared for the visitors more exciting installations than ever before, designed by Attila Kiss, founder of The Up Design, at our request.

This was not the first time Attila participated in S/ALON BUDAPEST. In 2021, The Up Design presented an independent interior, in 2022 he made his mark as one of the winners of the Hypnagogia design competition, and in 2023 he treated the public to two opening installations. In addition to interior design, in recent years he has turned his attention to film set design, creating breathtaking, fictional environments for large-scale, complex projects. This multifaceted experience and complex vision embodied in the installations: the Surreal Space on the right was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Delights, and the Brutal on the left by Brutalist architecture. In our interview, we not only dive into the concept of the two spaces, but also give you a closer look at one of our favorite designers.


What are your experiences with S/ALON BUDAPEST?

Each one was better than the last.

I first heard about the exhibition in 2019. I was an interior design student at the time, and my teachers recommended that we check out the exhibition. I went to the Budapest Arena on a Saturday. I was very impressed by the whole exhibition, especially the Marc Ange installation in the middle. I’d got to know his work a few months before, so it was a real sensation to see him there.

Marc Ange, 2019

The following year, I came across a design competition on Facebook. I had just set up my company, The Up Design, a few months before, so it seemed like a good opportunity to introduce myself to the industry at S/ALON BUDAPEST.

The Up Design, 2021

In the end, I didn’t appear in the design competition, but with a stand of my own, which fortunately was a great success. The following year, the theme of the competition was Hypnagogia, which I felt very close to, and that year I was one of the winners.

Hypnagogia, 2022

This gave it perhaps more visibility than the stand-alone interior design: as a featured theme, it drew more attention to the winners, making it an even more positive experience overall. At the end of the event, the organizers asked if I would be interested in collaborating on the design of next year’s opening installations. I was happy to accept, as this time I was able to realize the concepts for two autonomous spaces. I could see on people’s faces that I had achieved the "wow" effect I was going for.

Szürreális, 2023

How would you introduce the event in your own words to someone who hasn’t heard of it?

It is the only exhibition in Hungary that shows different areas of design in interiors - product design, interior design and decoration.

Although there are exhibitions dedicated to design, apart from S/ALON BUDAPEST, there is no other exhibition that focuses on the complex organization of space. It encourages collaboration, and along the partnerships, amazingly exciting stands can be created that are unique and unrepeatable spaces.


The autonomous spaces you designed were called Surreal and Brutal. Why were these chosen?

I was given complete freedom in the choice of theme and implementation, all the organizers asked was that it had to be punchy! The Flower Power 2023 theme has captured the imagination of many and has resulted in some exciting and beautiful spaces, but I didn’t want to add to the 12 design competition spaces that were already being created, or dedicate the two reception installations to the same theme.

The Surreal space was somewhat related to the floral theme. Here we had wire-framed, textile-covered plant installations, both designed and executed by me, but deliberately with a different approach.


Where did you get the inspiration for Surreal Space?

I was on a date at the Museum of Fine Arts, where Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights was on display. I’d had the pleasure of seeing it in person before, and experienced the overwhelming impact of the work. We were both moved by the painting, so it was decided on the spot to organize one of the spaces around it.

Hieronymus Bosch, Gyönyörök kertje, 1503–1515

Although it is not a surrealist painting, I was impressed by the motif system. The aim was to reinterpret surrealist forms, to transpose strange, abstract shapes into interiors and to present contemporary textile art, for which we made wire frame sculptures. The result was an abstract, surreal assemblage brought to life by light.

The main elements of the space are installations and artworks made mainly from recycled elements and materials, covered with different textiles used in interior design and furnishing. The installations, together with the design furniture, Murano glassware and phosphorescent elements, created a unified visual world, the aim of which was to allow visitors to step outside their usual boundaries and, freeing their imagination, to be inspired to try new things and trends.


What inspired Brutal Space?

Nowadays, mass production means that we often accumulate dozens of products, so that precious and special things get lost. Instead, I like to bring back architectural or artistic styles that have passed. In the last few months I’ve been preoccupied with brutalist architecture, monumental forms and exposed concrete. In my own work, I strive for the grandiosity that is characteristic of the style, so the idea came up to take that and put it into a contemporary interior. In contrast to decorative design, the focus here was on a minimalist look, raw materials and robust furniture.


The aim was to create spaces and effects that visitors would not expect, distinctly separate from the exhibition spaces of the event.

There are a lot of Brutalist buildings or works of art that I like, but none that stand out. However, there are artists whose approach and work inspired me in the design of the space. Clemens Gritl, a German-born architect originally trained as an architect, but instead of designing buildings for implementation, he creates 3D utopian buildings and urban neighborhoods inspired by brutalism. He reimagines an old era, putting his own imagination and creativity into it.

Clemens Gritl

How did these spaces come about and what did visitors see in the installations?

The installations are the result of super collaborations.

Many of the partners had worked with me on my previous two shows, and we had worked together elsewhere, so it was a smooth collaboration. Everyone put their full effort into the project.

The Surreal Space wire-frame sculpture-like installations of plants were realized by the Munkács Salon in Fót. I first met them two years ago at the exhibition, plus we collaborated on my last film project, which is where the idea of working together on the sculptural installations for the reception came up. We took the plunge, there were some challenges, but it was great working together, they are a very skilful team.


From TK Walldekor, Tamás and his team also put in a great effort. The background wall was originally going to be wallpapered, but instead we decided to paint it, creating an iridescent wall.

The team at Concrazy realised the flowing, phosphorescent concrete table in the Surreal space, as well as the concrete panels in the Brutal space. It was a great experience to work with them.


It is a great pleasure to have been able to request Judit Rabóczki’s sculptures for the event. I saw her exhibition two or three years ago and her impressive work. I sought her out on Instagram, and fortunately she was very open to collaboration, so I was able to include artworks in the installation, which raised the standard and the visual impact even more.


We also got a lot of beautiful things from Artcore, like iconic Brutalist furniture. The range of designer furniture that Zsuzsa has is fantastic. She brings in original furniture from Paris, Milan, and then has it restored and distributed. This also ties in with the philosophy behind the installations: it’s worthwhile to find and reuse old treasures.


In addition, Nuovo Walldesign would like to thank Ágnes Kálmán, San Marco Hungary, Kare Hungary, Remodel Studio, Indagroup, Woodelier and Rábalux.


Your work is characterized by a reinterpretation of cultural and historical periods. How is it worth "touching" these works, themes and traditions when we want to transpose them into a modern context?

For me, I am inspired by the Baroque and Rococo, for example, walking along the streets or in the car at a red light, I am constantly looking upwards, my imagination is often triggered by the sight of a particular building, stucco or sculpture. Often a detail from a particular period will catch me - a motif, a building, a color, the use of materials, or indeed anything. However, they are by no means to be imitated. Obviously, it cannot work the same a hundred or two hundred years later, but it is not worth forgetting the quality of the old.

A practical example: two or three years ago, I was working on the interior design of a family house in Óbuda. The house itself was modern, but the lady had antiques, including a beautiful tasseled sideboard, which she insisted on keeping. The kitchen and the dining room were in the same space, so we had to find a way to make the two parts work together.

In the otherwise modern kitchen cabinetry, elements of the tasseled style appeared in the curved rounding of the glass cabinets and the tasseled decoration in the form of curved copper etchings, which was paired with a granite niche in one part of the kitchen.


How did you find your calling, what are your favorite projects to work on these days?

I loved Legos when I was little, but I didn’t build cars, I built houses, and the most important thing was usually how they were furnished. However, that’s not the career I started out in, first as a cook and then as a protocol administrator. I moved to Budapest 10 years ago, I worked at il Bacio di Stile, and soon became a visual artist, where I started working in creative work. For a few years I worked in retail, designing luxury buildings in several countries, and in the meantime I started to study interior design.


I wanted to set up my own company, which I finally founded before my first S/ALON BUDAPEST launch in 2019. After that I got into the film industry, which is how set design and visual design came into the picture. Now I feel it’s something I can really fulfill myself in. It’s a place where you can create grandiose things, whereas an interior design project is much more constrained.

Visual design, set design and interior design is a fascinating field for me.

That’s why I liked the two reception areas, because it was a chance to design a set-like installation, not to present concrete products. I feel I am now on the path I want to follow.


What is it worth knowing about The Up Design brand: what does the name mean and what does the future hold?

The Up Design is a creative design company. Originally focused on interior design, it now focuses on visual and decorative design and creative design alongside interior design. I also do event identity design, event and magazine styling.

The name is a reference to the spirit and grandiosity that I embrace and that has been mentioned before. There are always ups and downs, there can always be more special outcomes. This is what the word Up refers to:

Let’s make the simple things really special.

I’m also looking to start a new brand in the near future that will focus on product design. The aim is to design, manufacture and distribute lamps, accessories, textiles and furniture internationally, with plans to have a more citizen-friendly and more inclusive line.


Join us at the next S/ALON BUDAPEST 2024, 20-22 September at the Budapest Arena, where we will be waiting for you with beautiful interiors, contemporary and classic pieces and unique furniture designs! In the meantime, stay up to date with the latest news from the design scene by subscribing to our newsletter, joining our Facebook event and following us on Instagram!



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