Maarten van Severen's modus operandi was to take the Modern legacy of strict geometry and use of industrial materials to its logical conclusion. The results were often severe, minimalist objects of great presence and form.
Trained in architecture at the Ghent Art School, van Severen continued the tradition of architect-designed furniture with his first steel and aluminum tables. Van Severen approached the design of his suite of furniture – tables, credenzas, shelvings, chairs – as he did a building, so although they are simple in appearance, details of his pieces require a technical complexity worthy of a large building. Van Severen extended the palette of his materials to include both solid wood and plywood, leather, glass and polycarbonates. Although most of his designs were custom-made for individual clients, for major manufacturers like Vitra and Bulo, he adapted his technical feats for mass-production without loss of form or integrity of structure.
Van Severen often collaborated with architects, most notably Rem Koolhaas, for whom van Severen designed the metal stairs for the Villa d'Ava in Paris and the kitchen and infamous elevator/room at the House in Bordeaux.