Hallingdal and its successors
von Uta Abendroth | Nov 1, 2013
The stuff as dreams are made on is fabricated in a Kvadrat-owned factory in England. Photo © Joël Tettamanti

Kvadrat is one of the world’s most influential manufacturers of upholstery fabrics and textiles for the home. The planning for the company was complete in 1962, but it was not founded until 1968 in Ebeltoft, Denmark, by Poul Byriel, Erling Rasmussen and Bent Olsen (he left Kvadrat in 1977) – when it was able to ride the cusp of the successes by Nordic furniture in setting a worldwide trend. With designers such as Verner Panton causing a real stir with sofas, armchairs, and recliners, covered with inconceivably colorful fabrics.

Each year, Kvadrat catches the eye with extraordinary installations in its own showrooms or in cultural institutions such as London’s “Victoria & Albert Museum” or the “Serpentine Gallery”. And now Prestel Verlag is publishing the book “Interwoven – Kvadrat textile and design”, with essays, among others, by Peter Saville, Olafur Eliasson and Sevil Peach. It outlines the company’s history as it does the corporate commitment to interweaving fabrics with design, art and architecture at any number of levels.

The volume places a company often only known to insiders in the limelight. And nominally speaking, the label has to date been underrepresented, as Kvadrat fabrics are not something end consumers get to buy by the meter, and many customers do not realize that when they’re sitting on products made by Fritz Hansen, Moroso, Vitra, Thonet or other renowned manufacturers it is a textile from Ebeltoft that is underneath them. Perhaps this will all change with the launch of the “Ready Made Curtain” DIY kit by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec that went on show at the imm cologne this year and is the first Kvadrat product available from retailers.

Kvadrat played a major role in the success of Scandinavian furniture design back in the 1960s and ‘70s. Without the brash fabric colors the furniture created by Verner Panton would probably have made only half so big a splash. It was Nanna Ditzel who designed the “Hallingdal” textile series back in 1965 – it’s long since become a classic, and has been available in over 100 color variants. Just how clear the minds behind Kvadrat were about the influential impact of their textiles can be gauged from a quote from Poul Byriel that was printed in a Danish daily in 1981: “A piece of furniture isn’t merely the piece of furniture on its own and the fabric on its own. The furniture and its upholstery should rise to a higher level.”

The book, 264 pages thick, starts with an introduction from no less a pen than that of Peter Saville, then goes on to describe an art project by Olafur Eliasson and Günther Vogt on the Kvadrat grounds, before Denise Hagströmer outlines the company’s history to the present day. The essay is accompanied by photos, drawings and fabric samples from the beginnings right through to the current collection, visualizing the different currents that influenced Kvadrat along the path from Scandinavian textiles maker to an international label whose fabrics are now to be found in many of the world’s most famous buildings, such as the Reichstag in Berlin and the “Museum of Modern Art” in New York. The reader is familiarized with both the brand’s philosophy, which resembles that famous Renaissance model of close links between patron and artist, and the pioneering spirit that is to be felt in the cooperation between architects, designers and textile connoisseurs.

These sections are followed by a portfolio of Kvadrat fabrics – the designers range from Nanna Ditzel to Patricia Urquiola, from Ole Kortzau to Alfredo Häberli and from Nina Koppel to Tord Boontje. The photos are perfect, and the print quality reveals even the smallest of nuances – yet somehow the feel of the fabrics is lost, and many a reader would no doubt have liked samples to have been included, and not just the book cover. Unaffordable, of course…

Then there’s Jane Wither’s piece on the importance of colors, with pictures from the “Hallingdal 65” project that ran at Milan’s “Salone del Mobile 2012”, a piece by Hettie Judah on the ornamental element in Tord Boontje’s designs, and Zoë Ryan’s article on the Brother Bouroullec’s silent design revolution. The book is rounded out by images by Swiss photographer Joël Tettamanti, who has traveled the world for Kvadrat and documented the entire process, from wool collecting to spinning the garn to dying and weaving. Sevil Peach and Hettie Judah then address the growing significance of textiles in architecture. And there are portrayals of various Kvadrat design and art projects – until the book closes with an explanation of the textile produced specially for its covers.

In other words, “Interwoven – Kvadrat textile and design” spotlights the culturally significant sides to the company – which certainly defines itself by more than its products. For the fabrics that are made by machine in the process lose nothing of their artistic integrity. Perhaps what really goes to make the Danes’ artistic prowess is that they preserve their crafts/arts traditions while simultaneously adapting them regularly to new trends and requirements. The book certainly whets your appetite for fabrics and when browsing through the book you’ll no doubt wish there were more companies like Kvadrat.

Interwoven – Kvadrat textile and design
Violette Publications (ed.)
Prestel Verlag
Hardcover, 264 pages, some 200 illustrations, Texts in English
EUR 40


Mirror, mirror on the floor: “Your glacial expectations” is the title chosen for a reflective installation that artist Olafur Eliasson realized together with landscape architect Günter Vogt for the Kvadrat headquarters in Ebeltoft.
(10 August 2012)

Toying around with a classic: The “Hallingdal 65” exhibition by Kvadrat that was held in Jil Sander’s showroom during the Salone del Mobile presented conceptual designs by young designers created using a textile classic by Nanna Ditzel.
(12 May 2012)

“North Tiles” , textile tile systems by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Kvadrat. Photo © Kvadrat
“A higher level”: Patricia Urquiola and Giulio Ridolfi, „The dwelling lab“, cooperation with BMW at the Salone 2010. Photo © Kvadrat
That fits: “Textile Field” by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Installation at the Raphael Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2011. Photo © Kvadrat
Getting from the Kvadrat headquarter in Ebeltoft in the whole world – textiles like the classic “Hallingdal”, designed by Manna Ditzel. Photo © Annabel Elston
A dense connection: the Bouroullecs with Kvadrat, here „Cloud“, textile tiles, 2009. Photo © Kvadrat
The last clou of the Bouroullecs with the Danish textilists: “Ready Made Curtain”, 2013, presented at the Salone 2013. Photo © Kvadrat
“Hallingdal” and his parents: designer Nanna Ditzel and textile entrepreneur Percy Von Halling-Koch in the showroom of the Halling-Koch design center, 1965. Photo © Kvadrat
Celebrating Hallingdal: “Selvedge”, designed by London designstudio raw-edges. Photo © Kvadrat
“Heaven Scent” and “Wilderness” by Tord Boontje. Photo © Kvadrat
Not only attractive for the eyes but also fort he hands: „Interwoven – Kvadrat textile and design“. Photo © Kvadrat