Ljubljana, Slovenia – NIKA ZUPANC: I get up at 7 a.m. Generally speaking, I have two types of day: one is when I think up new things and need to focus on being creative. I like to be totally isolated from other people while I’m thinking. I have a big open studio in Ljubljana, but I tend to stay home on those days, sometimes even in my pyjamas. I’m in deep concentration for seven or eight hours. I try to work constantly on a project – a chair, a lamp, whatever – it needs my complete attention. I want to understand it. To break up the day, I go to the gym or take a walk. One of the reasons I’ve stayed in Ljubljana is due to a hill that’s part of my outdoor exercise. I find walking meditative. As for the gym, I had a small spinal injury, and the doctor said that only the gym could save me. I didn’t want to go, but it really helped and soon became an obsession. It’s all or nothing with me. The gym has been good for working out problems that I can’t solve sitting at the computer. Usually I design in my head, conceptualizing the design without making sketches. I often do that while walking or being away from my desk for other reasons. When I have a clear idea of what I want, I do 3D sketches on the computer. My assistants take over from there. They’re involved in the final geometry. Sometimes it’s like making a sculpture. I like to hear music while I’m working out the details. It can be just one song on repeat – another example of me being a bit obsessive. What I listen to varies, but I need a certain state of emotion that gets translated into the project.
3 p.m. After I’ve exercised, I have a light lunch before working for another few hours. I’m not a fan of tight schedules. Except for waking up, I don’t do things in a particular order. I like having the freedom to adapt and to set my own agenda. It’s nice to go with how I feel.
6 p.m. I finish. I used to work at night, but I don’t do that any more. I’m more creative in the morning and early afternoon now. I don’t go out much, so most evenings I’m at home. It’s so strange – living in Ljubljana without being closely connected to the city’s social life. On weekends we might go to Italy, Croatia or the Slovenian coast. Sometimes I ask myself whether I should move. After all, I don’t work for anybody here. My clients are all over the world. At the moment we’re working with brands from Korea, India, Japan, Holland and France. It wouldn’t make any difference if I was living in, say, Milan, because I’d still need to travel to distant places like Japan. Ljubljana isn’t far from Italy. I can take prototypes back and forth to Milan by car. For practical reasons, I like it here. It’s easy for work, but it’s also close to Belgrade, to Vienna, to Milan. There are many different influences within my reach. Ljubljana has hills, and it’s not far from the seaside. It offers a very high quality of life, which I think is necessary for creativity. I travel a lot, almost every week, but I’ve also brought a lot of production to Slovenia over the years. Sé, which used to have its furniture made in either France or Italy, now produces in Slovenia, thanks to relationships I developed with small manufacturing companies here. That’s great for me, of course. An important part of what I do happens in the factories that make my designs. I want to be present in the place where the details are decided. When I organize my week, I schedule days for visiting companies and days for staying home – days when I don’t have to go anywhere besides the hill or the gym.
7 p.m. We eat dinner. I follow my gym-and-food routine, which means low carbs, high protein and plenty of vegetables. Dinner is important. Among other things, I love fish. Sometimes I go out, but not often on weekdays. I’m really boring.
11 p.m. I go to bed. I’m proud of myself for getting enough sleep nowadays. It’s completely different to how I was just four years ago. It’s better for me, but it took a long time to realize it.