In the comfort zone
by Uta Abendroth
Feb 16, 2016

No-one really wants to hear the term “cocooning” anymore. Even if today kitting out your own four walls serves less to create some grand stage and tends rather in general to follow individual ideas of comfort. Architect Josef Frank also had this experience, emigrating in 1933 from Vienna to Stockholm where he became head designer at the local company of Svenskt Tenn. He was of the opinion that we should shape our environment as though it happened by chance and coined the sentence: “One can use everything that can be used.” He summarized his idea of design as “beauty for everyone”. This motto was adopted once again this year by the manufacturers at the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair, who presented wood as their continued favorite material, exhibited (in part highly colorful) textiles and luminaires that make short days cozier and brighter – and all that for the most part in a top-grade formal language and execution.

The use of natural materials is of course very much the rage at present and is helping put Scandinavian design on a wave of success similar to the high it experienced some 50 years ago. It is also hardly surprising in this context that designs from back then still slumbering in desk drawers are being dusted off and revived. The revered classics of yesterday are being brought into line with our current living habits.

News from the archive

A good example of this trend is the furniture designs of Hans J. Wegner, produced by Carl Hansen & Son. The influential Danish architect and designer had the ability to simplify the construction of wooden furniture to an extreme degree, and in fact dreamed up unique joining elements in the process. Now, a new edition of one of his early pieces has taken the stage in Stockholm, namely the chair “CH22” designed in 1950 with its striking backrest, light-colored wood and braided seat. The joins between the bent-plywood backrest and the frame have elongated oval coverings, a characteristic feature also found on the chair “CH26”. This chair, likewise designed in 1950, never went into production. In the newly presented version the design and the details are the same, but the seat has been raised two centimeters simply because the average person is now taller. Carl Hansen & Son has expanded its product portfolio to feature rugs by Naja Utzon Popov. “Woodlines” is the name of the collection for which the Danish designer and artist developed themes depicting abstract wood grain patterns. You can hardly find more Nordic rhetoric than that.

Swedese is celebrating the 60th birthday of Yngve Ekström’s “Lamino” with a special edition encompassing two versions of the chair: one with black-lacquered ash wood and black leather, and the other made of oiled oak with vegetable-tanned leather and bearing a leaf-print decoration on the backrest. So far, so classic. However, overall the new Creative Director of Swedese Monica Förster champions colorful and decidedly younger design. Indeed, with “Botanic” and “Konnekt” Roger Persson has created two stool elements that work just as well in the living room as they do in hotel lobbies or offices. The colors selected for the covers – various green and blue tones plus yellow – have both a balancing and an elegant effect and add to the comfort factor.

A wreathed basket was taken as their model by designers Jesper Ståhl and Karl Malmvall when making the shell for their “Wick Chair”, devised for Design House Stockholm. The chair, which claims to stand for both the artisanal heritage of Scandinavian design and its avant-garde, is available in ash and oak. For the base, a choice of wooden or steel legs or a swivel base is available.

The melding of home and office

The products of the younger labels of Scandinavian design, Muuto, Hay and Normann Copenhagen, are suitable for both the home and the office. Take “Nic Nac” by Nicholai Wiig Hansen for Normann Copenhagen, for example: The powder-coated-steel basket can be used to store office utensils, beauty products or kitchen utensils.

Stefan Diez’ system “New Order” dominated Hay’s stand and clearly illustrated once more that an office should look as little like an office as possible. Not because a classic office per se is unattractive, but because in short most people spend more time in the office than at home and should therefore simply feel entirely comfortable at the workplace. Line Depping and Jakob Jørgensen’s table “Frame” for Wrong for Hay is now extendable thanks to an inserted panel and also comes with a robust linoleum surface. So now there is nothing standing in the way of the home office at the dining table.

International Scandinavian design

However, what was abundantly clear at this year’s fair is that it has been a long time since Scandinavian design was created solely by Scandinavian designers. There was no dearth of international names: Inga Sempé for Wästberg, the Bouroullec brothers for Hay and Doshi Levien for Bolon were represented at the Stockholm fair. Jasper Morrison presented as many as three products at Fredericia’s stand: the simple rectangular oak table “Taro”, the coffee table “Pon”, available in various sizes, and the sofa “Kile”, reminiscent of a large ottoman. The young German designers Kaschkasch were represented by a further product at Karl Andersson & Söner, namely their “Cavetto” shelf system. The edges of the shelves are shaped such that rear and side walls can be inserted without the need for additional fastenings. The wooden “Cavetto” can stand freely in the space or against a wall and has a modern, sophisticated yet also timeless look.

The Norwegians Anderssen & Voll likewise create a link between past and present. Their inviting “Hector” settee for Erik Jørgensen has soft cushioning, perfect for relaxing. At the same time, however, the high backrest seems a tad severe. The couch blends into the Scandinavian home aesthetics, where the focus is not on spectacle, but on practical solutions and the right scale – quite simply furniture for “normal” homes with equally normal layouts, yet which can be furnished with the objects on offer without compromising on design.

Home soft-ware

In the Nordic countries, lighting understandably has a special position in furnishing concepts. One classic, yet whose possibilities are seemingly by no means exhausted, is “Caravaggio”. At the fair in Stockholm Lightyears presented the luminaire by Cecilie Manz as “Caravaggio Read”: a series of 12 table, floor and wall lamps that provide functional and directed light. Louis Poulsen presented “Patera” by Øivind Slaatto – a spherical suspended luminaire whose look oscillates between modern chandelier and discreet balloon. With so much poetry around “w164 Alto” by Wästberg seems almost brutally simple: Dirk Winkel designed the new uplight consisting of two steel tubes of different thicknesses and heights. The sophisticated LED technology enables even light distribution over almost 180 degrees and the top disk of the shorter and thicker tube functions as a dimming wheel with an integrated switch.

The luminaire also impressed the jury of the “Editors’ Choice Awards” at the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair, which dubbed “w164 Alto” the “Best Product” of the trade fair. The winners of the new awards, launched this year, were chosen by three chief editors – Adeline Seidel from Stylepark, Walter Bettens of DAMn Magazine and Marcus Fairs from Dezeen. In addition to “Best Product”, they also honored the best trade-fair booth (“Best Stand” category) and most promising young designer (“Rising Star” category). The booth masterminded by designer Pietro Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini won the gong for best “Best Stand” and Cecilia Xinyu Zhang and Sigrid Hägg from Studio BEY were named “Rising Stars”.

Last but not least, the Scandinavians’ penchant for textile accessories was in evidence at the Stockholm fair not only in armchairs and sofas or the numerous acoustic panels for ceilings, walls and tables, but also in a mind-blowing variety of rugs, plaids and pillows. After all, this “soft-ware” adds homeliness to any home. Particularly noteworthy was the pillow “Knot” by Ragnheiður Ösp Sigurðardóttir – arguably the most-touched object at the show. Just begging to be touched, the pillow makes a statement that touching and a feeling of comfort, the sense of touch and of being grounded cannot be separated. Which brings us back to our focal point: sensuality and comfort in the home. The Scandinavians certainly know how to do it.