This Sweet Retro-Futuristic Tech Is Gonna Set You Back
Caption: The Shrine – Hultén’s The Shrine – Hultén’s
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Caption: Sputnik Kluster: Star projector / mood lamp LOVE HULTEN
Caption: The Brix System: A collection of modular devices. LOVE HULTEN
Caption: Kosmos: Computer / Media center LOVE HULTEN
Caption: AMPC: Computer / Media center. LOVE HULTEN
Caption: 700: Two-player arcade / MAME machine. LOVE HULTEN
Caption: Carrier: Hard case for the R-Kaid-R unit. LOVE HULTENAdvertisement
If Jules Verne had an entertainment center, it would feature wall-to-wall components designed by Love Hultén. From his studio in Gothenburg, Sweden, Hultén designs and handcrafts limited-run game machines, computers, and other electronic devices out of materials like walnut, brass, steel, and leather.
The results are stunning, fully functional retro-futuristic gadgets—ones that combine tech and aesthetics from two different eras. Hultén, 31, says his projects often start with an aesthetic trigger, and then he works to figure out how modern-day technical components can work with that hardware inspiration.
“My designs are usually based on something I’ve come across recently—an interesting object, a simple shape, or a graphic illustration—anything that sparks my imagination,” Hultén told WIRED. “I then scour my mind for a function… When I find a satisfactory mix between usability and aesthetics, it’s a go.”
He counts Swedish illustrators John Bauer and Jan Lööf as sources of inspiration, saying he appreciates their style of creating “objects of mystique”—an apt description for Hultén’s “The Shrine” computer and “Sputnik Kluster” star projector. Other projects put a modern spin on designs rooted in the late 1940s and 1950s. Hultén’s “Kosmos” computer echoes the design of early circular-screen television sets, with a planetarium motif in place of the picture tube. His two-player “700” MAME console references the Telechron/General Electric Electrolarm clock from the late 1920s—with a body constructed of ash and brass instead of Bakelite.The Shrine – Hultén’s The Shrine – Hultén’s
His latest design, the Pixelkabinett 42, is a two-player arcade cabinet with a flip-up screen. Within its ash and walnut case is your choice of customizable electronic innards: A jamma-board or computer with full joysticks, buttons, and old-school switches and knobs. It’s straight out of the Jetsons, a stand-up arcade machine with Googie-inspired feet, planetarium-themed front, and Saturn-themed speaker grille.Hultén
“What is affecting product design negatively today, in my opinion, is the industry itself and the throwaway excess products it keeps churning out,” Hultén says. “I don’t know what’s missing, a sense of time maybe. Not long ago, trends ran over decades. Today, there’s something new every day, trends passing by so fast even the most restless minds fail to keep track.”
Despite his throwback designs, Hultén says he isn’t entirely driven by a sense of nostalgia. Instead, it’s all about using elements from different eras of design and human-device interaction, then putting them in a blender to create something new.
“I’m quite inspired by mid-20th century concepts, when we had a different view on quality and craftsmanship,” Hultén says. “The smashed-up references in my work have a triggering effect on the viewer/customer, I guess … Nostalgia is involved to a certain extent, yes, but it’s not looking backwards. It’s taking steps in different directions simultaneously by using fragments from both past and today, creating unique and balanced objects.”
Aesthetically, many of Hultén’s projects are rooted in the 1950s or earlier. However, one of his coolest concept pieces comes from the late 1970s to late 1980s, a collection of pieces inspired by Lego’s “Legoland Space” bricks from that era. Using ash, acrylics, and electronic components, Hultén’s “Brix System” consists of oversized (6:1 scale), fully functional space gadgets. They range from phones to computers to waveform music devices to controllers—and because they’re based on Lego bricks, they’re modular.
Hultén’s studio is a one-man show wherein everything is hand-made, which limits his output. Everything is made to order, both commissioned works and limited-run pieces like the Pixelkabinett.
“I don’t produce unless I have an order, and I don’t keep stock,” Hultén says. “This way, I can have a good dialogue with my customers, making custom products to suit personal needs… I work on several concepts at once, all the time. Keeps me from getting stuck and prolongs my elation.”
As you’d expect from hand-crafted, limited-run objects of mystique, Hultén’s pieces sell for a hefty price. The Pixelkabinett starts at around $4,000, with pricier options depending on the arcade PCB board you choose, a subwoofer option, and custom button layouts. The R-Kaid-R, a little wooden box that flips open to reveal a portable arcade machine, starts at around $2,700. Hultén currently sells all his products exclusively through his website, but he’s looking for ways to expand his reach.
“It’s hard work being a one-man-studio, but I can’t complain,” Hultén says. I’m very fortunate being able to do what I love… But I will soon have to expand, and approaching some retailers is on my to-do list.”Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.