Many furniture designers hold a special place in their creative hearts for Scandinavia. The unique design philosophy of Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway have been shaping modern tastes for over a century, and its influence has never been more prevalent than today. We asked four designers we collaborate with how the Nordic style has inspired their own aesthetic and why we can’t - and shouldn’t - live without it.
James Harrison, the creative brains behind our Lars chair and sofa bed, took inspiration from Finnish designer Alvar Aalto. “I researched him a lot when I was studying. That is partly where my passion for wood comes from. Alto was very foward-thinking in the use of it. In his time the Bauhaus aesthetic was the mainstream, with lots of metal work and tubular metal. But he was a big believer that wood was a much more human material – warmer to touch. He pioneered new techniques in how to bend and laminate wood; the result being a thin yet strong material."
Unsurprising then, that Aalto kindled James Harrison’s passion for wood: “It has a natural beauty and warmth like no other material. No two pieces are alike. The grain is always unique and tells a story.” Lighting designer James Burgess, the creator of our Zoom lighting range, also shares this passion for the Nordic use of wood. “It enriches a room by bringing the outdoors in. Apart from the practical and functional side, it's honest and heavily inspired by nature which creates warmth.”
Native Swede Cate Högdahl, who runs design studio Cate & Nelson with her partner Nelson Ruiz-Acal, believes that the unique interplay of climate, geography and landscape have helped Scandinavian design thrive: “Sweden is a big country in terms of size, with lots of wild nature. Nelson, who's from Spain, sometimes feels intimidated by the emptiness and darkness, but us Swedes like it.” These conditions, Cate is convinced, have led people to think more about their interiors.
South Korean designer Moon Kim is also inspired by a connection to nature. Co-founder of KIMXGENSAPA and creator of our Cairn bedside table, she cites it as the parallel between Far Eastern and Scandinavian design: “Even though we share different types of landscapes, our designs are both born from looking at the curves of the mountains, the colours of forests and the lakes."
When visiting Scandinavia, James Burgess noticed a special attitude towards interior design: “In Denmark, spaces are highly functional, filled with pragmatic objects that enrich beauty and simplicity. They pay homage to the warmth of nature.” These values of Nordic design are ones he has adopted as his own: “Simple, clean lines. Minimalistic, nature-inspired design. Honest, highly functional and high quality. They’re all attributes that I focus on with every design I create.”
Nelson Ruiz-Acal from Cate & Nelson, who designed our Wes sofa, also appreciates the Nordic approach when it comes to lighting: “The temperature of light should be warm, not cold. That’s very, very important. In Spain the artificial light there is horrible. So cold and blue. Scandinavians use the light not only to see but to create an environment. In an open room, you can create different spaces using light.” “You need more lighting sources,” Cate added. “Not just one or two. It’s better to have a lot of smaller lights rather than one strong one.”
When it comes to Nordic design philosophy, Cate sums it up perfectly: “I think it’s very straightforward and easy to understand. It’s honest and doesn’t try to hide anything. It’s simplicity and usefulness. It’s about clean shapes and a balance of proportions.” And Nelson agrees: “When it comes to simplicity, there’s a very Scandinavian way of thinking. Let’s create something in the most simple way and let’s make it as beautiful as possible.”
It’s clear that the Nordic trend isn’t going anywhere, and Moon Kim tells us why: “We’re living in a time when people all over the world share similar tastes. People are going back to basics. They’re living a timeless, natural, healthy lifestyle, which could be one of the reasons Scandinavian design is back in trend.”
For James Harrison this is part of our Zeitgeist: "People value their homes and the time they spend there more. Some people invest in technology, but I think in general people want to relax in a beautiful environment. And Scandinavian style achieves that in a very low-tech way.” And Cate agrees: "It can bring some calm to our mind, I believe that’s why it fits our modern lives. It calms not only the room but also the people.”
Moon Kim believes colour says a lot about you: “A room without colour is like a dish without flavour. It’s what defines the ambience in a room and eventually the person who lives in it.” The Lars chair creator adds: “I think the minimal look with fresh, lighter colours, especially soft hues and pastels, is here to stay. But we will see more caramels and soft oranges and maybe a slightly darker red.”
“I think Scandinavian design appeals to so many because it's so clean and minimal.” said James Harrison. “We buy so many things we don’t necessarily need but it feels good to live in a clean and minimal home. I think decluttering and keeping things simple creates a relaxing environment.” Which is a common belief with all of our designers. Moon Kim mentions that “Scandinavian design has its own style. It’s not minimal but it dosen’t add unnecessarily. We’d call it practical, neat and zero fat design.”
Article written by: Marius Thies
Photography by: Marius Rua (Header image)