We all know that Scandinavian design is becoming increasingly popular in this country, but this is not the first time.
We recently found a rather interesting article in the Guardian illustrating this happy phenomenon: ‘The rebirth of Nordic design’ by Kate Treggiden.
‘Scandinavia is creeping into every corner of British life. First, it came through television in the shape of Nordic noir. It entered our wardrobes, with Acne, & Other Stories and Cos all opening shops in the UK. Restaurant magazine’s World’s 50 Best voted Copenhagen’s Noma in the top spot four times in five years, sparking a trend for all things fresh and foraged. And now Scandi style is finding its way into our living rooms.
Or, rather, it’s finding its way back into our living rooms. We’re familiar with classic 1950s and 1960s Scandinavian chairs: Eero Aarnio’s Ball, Arne Jacobsen’s Egg, Eero Saarinen’s Tulip… the list is long. But design fans are as excited about the scene today as they were when the Egg first rolled off the production line 57 years ago. In February this year, more than 40,000 people visited the Stockholm Furniture Fair.
So what drew them? Furniture from the Nordic nations has a quiet, understated aesthetic. Perhaps as a result of a cultural mind-set that values the collective over the individual, Scandinavia has a particular flair for affordable, functional furniture, made using natural materials and traditional craftsmanship.
“Scandinavian design has been on the radar in the UK for a while,” says Christina Schmidt, co-founder of Skandium, “at first, among an initiated crowd of architects, designers and aficionados, but increasingly with the wider public, too.”
This growing interest is partly due to big-name brands rejuvenating their product lines, pushing the possibilities of materials and technology, forming creative collaborations and reinterpreting their heritage for a contemporary audience.
Finnish glassware manufacturer Iittala, the brand behind Alvar Aalto’s 1936 Savoy vase, has launched Ruutu, a collection of diamond-shaped vases, each of which takes seven craftsmen 24 hours to produce. Meanwhile, Marimekko has collaborated with Finnair to immerse passengers in Finnish design from the moment they board the plane. Specially designed napkins, tableware, textiles and even aircraft livery reference the view of Finland’s unspoilt countryside below.
Danish-British designer Ilse Crawford’s collection for Danish brand Georg Jensen was partly inspired by Nordic noir. “The combination of silver and yellow metals is very much part of Danish culture,” she says. “It was about bringing that together with something like the TV show The Bridge. It’s a shadowy world, so the idea of having glowing moments in the shadows really appealed to me.”
It’s not just the heritage brands making waves. Nordic countries now boast some of the best design schools in the world, such as the Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Norway, Finland’s Aalto University and Konstfack University in Sweden. Investment in education (higher education is free in all three countries) is clearly paying off.
“Interest in Scandinavian design has grown due to a new wave of creative energy from young Nordic designers,” says Nina Bruun, designer and product developer for Muuto. “Their designs are innovative, yet continue Scandinavian traditions: functional, honest and produced to the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship, combined with an egalitarian aim of affordability.” The Danish brand’s latest release is the Fiber Chair: designed by Copenhagen-based Iskos-Berlin, its typically Scandinavian pared-back form is made from a wood-fibre composite and is completely recyclable.
Simon Legald’s Form Chair, for Normann Copenhagen, features classic Nordic curves, but challenges traditional construction. Initially conceived as Legald’s graduate project at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, it has taken three years and 20 prototypes to develop, and as a result of a new fixing system, the legs seem almost to grow out of the underside of the seat (see previous page).
Young Danish brand Hay has opened a shop in Bath and a concession in Liberty, and created a sub-brand, Wrong For Hay, with UK designer Sebastian Wrong. Recent launches include a reversible patchwork bedspread by Danish studio All The Way To Paris and the Cloche Lamp, by Norwegian designer Lars Beller Fjetland.
It may have taken half a century, but Scandinavian designers are finally taking on the legendary reputations of their predecessors, exploring, building upon and even challenging the conventions of their legacy. The newfound global appetite for their work is making it increasingly likely that, 50 years from now, the world will speak of Legald or Beller Fjetland in the same reverent tones currently reserved for Saarinen and Jacobsen.’