Simon Pengelly's award-winning shelving system for Modus continues to wow in Milan this year

Meta was Simon Pengelly's first piece of furniture for Modus and the first UK design the brand manufactured in 2001, marking a significant milestone for both parties.

Meta provided Modus with a distinct part of its heritage as the product took the company in a completely new direction; pared back, practical, British designed and British made. The launch of Meta raised Modus' profile and enabled the company to collaborate with other UK designers such as PearsonLloyd, Michael Sodeau and Michael Marriott. Modus later went on to attract the best international talent to its designer roster including names like Arik Levy, Patrick Norguet, Christophe Pillet and Swedish architectural trio Claesson Koivisto Rune. Parallels can undoubtedly be drawn between the success of both Modus and Pengelly since the launch of Meta.

The relationship between the two first began to flourish after Pengelly visited Modus' headquarters and heard about the company’s plans for launching the brand. "I designed Meta because at the time I was fascinated with metal folding,” Pengelly says. “I wanted to produce something that noted the process of making it. It deliberately didn't have any fittings."
A straightforward approach was adopted when it came to both the materials and construction. Meta used pre-coated steel, which meant that each component did not require post finishing, and patterns and textures and colours could be achieved that are normally impossible. The aluminium paint finish mimics etched and anodised aluminium perfectly, and is in itself more durable.

It is this background of simplicity, underpinned with intelligent use of materials and a process-led approach to problem solving, that gives Pengelly's products their trademark timeless appeal. His pragmatic approach to design also dovetails nicely with Modus' no-nonsense attitude to manufacturing.

"Quietness, possibly above all else, is a quality the best products possess in that they don’t follow trend,” he says. “Rather, they possess a character born of thoughtful regard to function, materiality, environment, intuitiveness and familiarity."

Since its launch in the early noughties, Meta has won multiple awards and has been specified around the world as storage for a range of contract applications. But more than a decade on from its original conception, Pengelly and Modus felt it was time to revisit the product now that both designer and manufacturer have really made their mark in the industry and achieved that much longed for respect and longevity.

Despite being considered a noteworthy product and one of the best designed items in the Modus back catalogue, Pengelly was still not quite satisfied with the original Meta design: "It was possibly slightly compromised in terms of how the pieces were stored and shipped. There was a lot of dead space and it couldn't flat pack. We looked at reengineering it to deal with this problem and the complexity in terms of assembly."

The version of Meta is therefore far more flexible in terms of what it can store. The modular components can now accommodate larger or taller items such as storage boxes. "It was essential for us to have an upright for just this purpose," Pengelly explains. "Because the shelving is more adjustable, there are probably more places it can be used. For example, it's now more suitable for domestic spaces." Meta can now have shelves in wood or metal and it is this mix of textures and range of powder coated finishes that gives the product yet wider appeal. In 2013, Meta still has Pengelly’s unmistakable signature style which gives him plenty to be proud of. "There are few things more exciting and interesting to us than being able to make our mark with quiet design,” he says.