Roon & Rahn


Nicki van Roon and René Hansen are based in Aarhus and their designs were produced to solve a specific problem … they couldn’t find what they really wanted for their own apartment.

In fact, that seems to have become a key feature of their work … it’s problem led or do I mean solution driven? That’s a good starting point for any design … identify a problem - don’t just accept that something is and should be like that because it has always been like that and try to come at a problem from a different direction, a different viewpoint, to find a different solution.

Roon & Rahn also have a strong interest in graphics and they exploit engineering for the precision they want in manufacturing their designs.



Pieces in production include a bench and a round stool with three legs in wood; a rack for storing shoes; lighting and a wall hanging system called Moodboard and in development there is a very clever spice rack.

That might not sound like an extensive catalogue but Roon & Rahn are a young company and they are sensibly taking their time to add the right new designs. Moodboard took a year to develop, to come up with exactly what they wanted - the right design - and that is obvious in the quality of the finished product and in the clever way their system works. In fact, I liked the design so much that later in the Autumn, after seeing their work first at Northmodern, I tracked them down at Designer Space in Copenhagen to buy a Moodboard for my new apartment and then ended up buying a couple of their lights as well.



The pendant lights are interesting. They are simple with a large globe bulb hanging from a cable that runs through a brass stem but turned wood that drops over the bulb holder was made from timber salvaged from old recycled furniture. They use twisted flex in a natural linen colour that was chosen to give the lights a less clinical, less hard and less technical quality, as, over time, the brass will gain a patina.

R&R have a keen interest in the materials they use - the brass stems for the lights are made by them and we talked for quite a long time about sourcing good timber and about fuming or smoking oak. Again this is not about just designing at a drawing board but about working with materials and trying out ideas in the workshop to discover what a material can do or might do. The clear perspex used for the Moodboard is another good example because they had to experiment and had to work out how they could use laser cutting to get the precision and finish that they wanted. 

From talking to Nicki and René, it was clear that in Aarhus there are local craftsmen, workshops and designers who together provide a mutual support group … so if they don’t know exactly how to do something then they know someone who does. 

Packaging for their products is good. They use simple unbleached cardboard but again that disguises just how carefully thought out and stylish it all is … pictograms they designed for instructions for mounting the Moodboard on the wall are particularly good. These graphics are actually a step up from a pictogram but are still simple illustrations and are used instead of detailed written instructions … important when aiming for an international market. That same preference for good clear but sophisticated graphics can be seen in the design of their printed catalogue as well as the layout for their web site. 



In the catalogue they use white lettering on a warm grey background … all simple but stylish and all very carefully thought through, as you would expect. A non-standard ampersand and their logo with interlocked Rs is interesting, one R inverted, so together they look like a bolt or screw head. 

Roon & Rahn show yet again just why Danish design is so strong and why so many young designers and new companies are so successful … it’s not just about drive and ambition … they certainly have that … but about imaginative new solutions to old problems, with a clear sense of style, high standards for manufacturing with good, high-quality materials and the understanding that every detail really does matter.



Moodboard by Roon & Rahn


The basic idea of the Moodboard is simple … a plain wood board that is mounted on the wall and has a series of holes in either a single line or in two parallel lines and with several different styles of wooden peg that can be arranged, as the buyer wants, to store and to display things like keys or glasses but the pegs are more than strong enough to take coats and even much heavier things … Nikki van Roon told me that he has a guitar and a snowboard hanging from Moodboards. 

There are different types of wooden peg of different lengths and a very neat key holder. With a choice of oiled oak or smoked oak for the board itself and, with the same options of light or smoked wood for the pegs, it means quite a few possible permutations, to give the buyer an interesting number of options.

More and more designers are trying to develop and extend options for customers to personalise what they buy. We discussed this at Northmodern and agreed that it’s difficult to get the balance right. Along with trying to give some of the background story for a company or for a product, personalisation can give the customer what is now, I think, called emotional ownership - an odd phrase that must have been thought up by a marketing man rather than a designer - but the idea itself is fine. However, it is necessary to limit options in order to manage expectations and prevent people from selecting a combination that does not work well or putting together a combination which they tire of quickly which obviously they would blame on the designer… that’s the down side of ‘consumer choice’ … the customer rarely chooses to accept the blame. And of course too many options can create problems for manufacturing and with packaging.

There is an engineered character to the design. Not just in the quality of finish but also the clean precision of the laser-cut Perspex and the fixing bolts are matt black, tightened with an allen key, and they project forward of the board to hold the perspex and it is that gap that supports the pegs and in a very simple way stops them from dropping out or being pulled downwards by the weight of whatever is hung from the peg.  

A bold chamfer undercutting the edge of the board itself makes it look thinner but also has the effect of making the board appear to stand slightly forward of the wall because of a line of shadow. Very clever.

Finally, perhaps the most important feature … a metal back plate to the board and small strong magnets in each peg hold them firmly in place and if you swap them around they are almost sucked back into their sockets in a very satisfying way and with a nice clunk sound as well. What’s not to like?