One of many models for "The House" at imm cologne. Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
In Louise Campbell’s bed
by Adeline Seidel
Jan 5, 2014

Hardly a furniture, fashion or design magazine that does not strengthen the wish to have an infinite amount of living space. But the shots of interiors shown there have as little in common with reality as H&M ads do with the people who end up wearing the clothes. For not only are living quarters in the big cities in short supply, they tend to be constrained size-wise, too.
For example, Michael Bloomberg, when Mayor of New York City abolished the 1950s law protecting tenants and instead of 40 square meters the minimum size of a Big Apple apartment now need be only 20.4 square meters. Meaning that loft beds are back in fashion. Ever had sex in a loft bed – in your mid-30s? A highly dubious reincarnation of memories from years long past …

Things are pretty similar in most big cities: It’s specifically the fast-rowing group of single households for which there is insufficient living space available. And given high rents, even if you earn modestly well you’ll hardly be able to afford a larger pad. Whether you like it or not, if you want to live halfway downtown, you’ll need solutions for “small is beautiful”.

The trade fair’s still dreaming

Whereas people in New York City are pondering micro-apartments, for the third time in a row the imm cologne is focusing on the home as an important feel-good space. The trade fair describes its “The House – Interiors on Stage” format as a “spacious staging of a living setting”: as “Guest of Honour”, a selected designer can present his or her “ideas of good living” across 240 square meters of space. Yes, you read correctly, 240. Or, to quote the inventor of the format and the imm cologne’s creative director Dick Spierenburg in interview: “Across 240 square meters, ‘The House’ will showcase innovative living ideas for today’s world.”

This year, Danish designer Louise Campbell is the honorary guest. For those who don’t know her, it was she who created the “Prince Chair for Denmark’s Hay company. And a beautiful luminaire with “No Shit” as its working title for Danish lamp-makers Louise Poulsen. Her underlying premise for the latter was that all parts of it could be made in the company’s plants in Denmark. Assuring complete (quality) control and no “shit”. We can expect to see Campbell champion this stance in Cologne, too. Or so one can guess going by the models and studies in her studio in Copenhagen – she gave a press conference to present them.

A wall full of tools

Instead of masterminding a “living dream” featuring products by renowned manufacturers for the (potentially upper) middle classes, Louise Campbell has gone back to the basics. Meaning precisely those functions that are needed and used in any “home”. Campbell says all you need is “creativity” and “peace&quiet”. And sets to work toying with the proportions: An outsized table and a wall of tools stand for “creativity” in a living space. Be it repairing your bike, building your furniture or eating together – the table is a work bench and gathering place rolled into one. And the tool wall offers you all you need: a hammer, a pot, knives and all the other stuff a household requires.

free-and-easy living

Louise Campbell feels the most comfortable place is the bed. She recounts how she herself is forever changing her bed at home. Sometimes she sleeps in the one room, then again in another, or in her studio. The bed is the altar of real relaxation. Which is why Campbell is planning an extra-large bed for the installation at the Cologne furniture fair. It may well be 30 meters long, or less, or perhaps more. Her “house” is meant to challenge everyone to sleep and meet wherever they like.

In this way, Louise Campbell liberates living of furniture that are meant to satisfy needs you don’t notice until you start looking at the article in question. In other words, she frees us of some rigid notions of interiors and instructions on how to use living space. “99 percent of the design proposals for interiors pretty much carve positioning and uses in stone,” Campbell says. Highlighting what the basis of all living spaces must be, irrespective of whether you’ve got 240 or 20.4 square meters to go by: Peace&quiet, and creativity.

Logically, it’s not a mindset that will see her designing any more products for the “radically liberated apartment”. And whether she sticks with it remains to be seen – on the first day of the fair, when we’ll also learn whether a trade fair such as the imm cologne provides a platform for developments that don’t conform to some feisty-zeitgeisty trends.

A wall full of material samples, studies,… Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
…modells and sketches. Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
The spatial structure allows freedom of use. Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
Campbell works meticulously. Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
The area of creation: workbench and dining table. Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
Louise Campbell in her studio. Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse
Campbells amazing studio in Copenhagen. Photo © Andreas Körner, koelnmesse