new Normann

Tea Strainer by Böttcher Henssler Kayser, Nutcracker by Ding3000 and Peeler by Holmbäck-Nordentoft


With such a large number of people at the party last month for the relaunch of the Normann store in Copenhagen, it was a bit difficult to judge exactly how much had been changed. You could see the main alterations to the space but obviously it was difficult to see how and where furniture and so on would be displayed and impossible to get any sense if it would really feel like a different shop once the partygoers had left and it was all arranged for a more normal day.

So a trip back over to the store on a weekday was fascinating.


It has always been an unusual store because at one stage in its past the building was a cinema and that had been built immediately behind earlier shops on the street frontage. There is a relatively narrow and simple frontage from the street … simple in the sense that several shops along the street retain original or at least early fronts with heavy wood-framed windows and traditional display areas but Normann has large sheets of glass with minimal frames and a discrete name above. Inside there is a long and relatively narrow corridor running straight back into the building to get you to the main shop area in the old cinema. Until recently this corridor had a fair amount of display, in part to draw you into the store, but it is now much more dramatic with a solid and stark block of terrazzo forming a sale counter or reception just inside the doorway and some carefully-chosen items on display and then the corridor itself has been given a grey but glossy floor and the ceiling has ranks of neon strip lighting with the walls covered in large sheets of reflective metal. Along one side is a long long line of upholstered seating, rather like the Swell range from the company but squared off, less rounded, and, at the moment, along the side facing the seating is a long line of vases, the Nyhavn Vase, standing on the floor and all the same colour, so the effect is dramatic and sort of glamorous but glamour carefully restrained.


Just Chair from Iskos of Berlin with Slice Table by Hans Hornemann and the Onkel Sofa by Simon Legald

Ace Sofa by Hans Hornemann and Sumo Pouf by Simon Legald with Solid Table by  Lars Beller Fjetland


The large main shop space opens out at the end of the corridor and previously had a first part with a low ceiling, under an upper gallery that is an office and studio space, with steps and slopes down with parapet walls enclosing the area before the lower main display area and then at the far end there was a large raised area that was used in part for display and in part for meetings and exhibitions. The steps down are now the full width and in a dark terrazzo, so much more architectural, and the stage area has been removed completely to open up the space. Historic architectural features, including fairly grand and ornate arcading along each side, have been kept but given a sophisticated colour scheme in grey and white.

What was an open staircase in the centre to get down to a basement area has been in part covered over, again with the reflective metal sheet, and the stairs carpeted in pink. Clothes for men and women that were originally shown in that lower basement level have been moved up to the main floor and to glass wardrobe-like display/storage - that in part makes the items seem rather more special and even more carefully selected and in part these cabinets and other display features, taller and more solid than any previous display, divide up the area and enclose parts that suggest something much more like room settings for the furniture than was possible before.

Below, in the basement area, there is still some display but vaulted areas towards the back have been glazed in to create well-fitted meeting rooms and it is this that appears to be a key to the remodelling. It is just from observation rather than from talking to the team at the store but this all seems like a very careful move to take the whole brand up a level. For both the customer and the commercial buyers.


Nyhavn Vase designed by Simon Legald

Cap table lamp by the German design studio Kasch Kasch


The shop was always more a design store anyway rather than simply a main shop … most Normann furniture and design is sold through independent shops and department stores. So this means the Østerbrogade store is now the place to come for inspiration and not really the place to come to buy one more chair like the ones you bought last year although I’m sure they would be happy to sell it to you. 

Over the last five or ten years the main furniture and design companies in Denmark have ended up too much alike, too bunched together in the middle of the price band, trying to match each other in price and ending up matching each other in style too … the simple consequence of the consumer driven pressure for ‘value’. With the recent opening of a Fritz Hansen store in Copenhagen and the proposed merging of Hay with &Tradition and with Gubi still going very much it’s own way there seems to be a really healthy and new sense of divergence. 

At Normann, rather as with Muuto, what has always been interesting is that they have distinguished their designs by choosing very distinct ranges of colours. There really is a Normann style and although they would say, quite rightly, that their furniture appeals to a wide range of customers, this change to the store and the very character of the launch party itself would suggest that, at least here in Copenhagen, they are aiming for the 30 plus urban professional who has a real interest in fashion and design and this really does mark a move away from the pale wood and grey or muted colour palette normally associated with Scandinavian design and a move towards something still very sophisticated but maybe, as said, a bit more glamorous and a bit less clam. Minimal meets Art Deco revival … or is that me trying to be too clever?

normann Copenhagen, Østerbrogade 70, 2100 Copenhagen

the promotion of the new Form Collection from Normann Copenhagen

Normann Copenhagen has just released the full Form range with two chairs - a side or dining chair and a shell chair with raised sides - and a stool with two height options, all with high-quality moulded polypropylene shells in a choice of six colours and either wooden legs or powder-coated steel legs colour matched to the seats. There are also two tables in the collection, one square and the other a generous rectangle - both with curved sides and generous round corners and with wood legs. For a review and appreciation of the design see the post below

Here, in this post, what interests me is the way that the new collection has been promoted. 

For the background of this collection, Normann was established by Jan Andersen and Poul Madsen in 1999. In 2002 they launched their first in-house product and by 2007 this had increased to 38 pieces. In 2005 they moved from their original store in Strandboulevarden in Copenhagen to a new flagship store in a former cinema in Østerbro.

Simon Legald, the designer of the Form collection, graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2012. He had already completed an internship at Normann and then, on finishing at university, he joined their design studio. The design for the Form chair was apparently started as part of a university project and the whole full range has taken three years to refine and bring to commercial production. The effort involved and the care that has gone into the design and its refinement is clear in the finished designs and is obviously something that the team can be justifiably proud about. 


At the northmodern design fair in Copenhagen, in January, Normann not only had a large stand where they exhibited their full range of furniture and household items but they also had a separate and major exhibition on one side of the entrance hall to launch Form. There were information panels explaining the concept, a panel showing the parts of the chair separated out, posters reproducing some of the design drawings and a beautifully produced catalogue.



In the store on Østerbrogade, the long entrance hall has become a display space for the range with clever ideas such as a table top split in two with half sticking out from the wall with two of the legs but the back half turned up through 90 degrees to run up the wall to show the amazing colour. There are also display cases on the walls with the knuckle joints of the metal and plastic covered pieces that fix the legs to the underside of the table … set out like art to emphasise, again quite justifiably, the design as a beautiful piece of engineering.

Again, understandably, visitors can see just how proud the team is of the design but it also shows a very necessary piece of promotion to explain to potential customers just how and exactly why this is good design and why that makes the chairs, stools and tables stand out from the work of close competitors. I have said in several posts that I am concerned that the furniture industry is being forced into the seasonal hype and marketing methods of the fashion industry but the idea of putting the spotlight on a new design that must have required very considerable investment and commitment and bringing to the fore a major young designer is here a necessary step and one that has been done with considerable style and confidence. 

normann Copenhagen

Form from Normann Copenhagen

FORM at northmodern in january


The Form range designed by Simon Legald has just been launched by Normann Copenhagen. There are two chair designs in moulded plastic - a straightforward side chair or dining chair and a shell chair - and bar stools in two heights. There are two tables - one square and one a large rectangle and both with linoleum tops.

Stated factually like that the reaction might be “so what?” 

Well then you start adding in the variables or the options available.

All the chairs and stools are made in a choice of six colours and, as with all products from Normann, the colours are striking, very very carefully chosen and, again as with so many Normann ranges now, work well together so, for instance, if you had a set of matched chairs around a kitchen or dining-room table but chose a different colour for kitchen stools and occasionally brought in a chair from another room, say a desk chair, in a different colour, for an extra guest it still all seems to work. And here what is really important is that seats, fittings and table tops all match … almost the same colour is not good enough for Normann.

Then you start looking at the various options for the legs. Tables and chairs and stools all come with either beautifully made and sensibly robust wood legs … and by robust I don’t mean clunky but solid enough to suggest both quality and strength ... or metal legs. In wood there is also a choice between oak or walnut … so picking up on a growing preference for darker timbers for furniture. As chairs and stools can also have legs in powder-coated steel, colour-matched to the seats, if my maths is right, there are 36 possible options for a chair. For the stools with six colours, there are actually two heights offered (65cm and 75cm) so with either steel legs or oak or walnut legs that again makes 36 different possible combinations for colour, height and legs.



In the space of the show room, which tends to distort scale, the square table looks as if it would serve well as a kitchen table or for a small dining room but actually at 120cm x 120cm it is a good and quite generous and comfortable size and would be a very good main dining table for four. The rectangular table is 95cm wide and 200 long so again generous.

It is as you begin to look at the details of the furniture that you can begin to appreciate the quality of both the design and the manufacture. There are clever metal housings for the legs that fix to the underside of the seats of the stools and chairs or, in a different form but using the same principle, to the underside of the table that are then covered with a plastic sleeve matching the colour of the seat or the table top. The sleeve on the chairs is a curved inverted cone so reduces down to the exact diameter of the top of the leg. It almost appears as if the wooden legs are emerging from the plastic housing and curiously seems much more satisfactory than where, in other plastic chairs, a wood leg fits flush with the underside of the seat using a hidden fitting or using a metal plate that is screwed to the top of the leg and then fixed to the underside of the seat.

The wood legs, are solid and set at an angle, splayed slightly out, so that reinforces the impression of stability but also gives the tables their very elegant profile.

The steel legs for the chairs and stools are obviously thinner but equally well made to form a well-proportioned frame and these give the chairs a very different character ... not worse or better but simply different. The style with metal legs tunes into the interest in designs from the 1960s and 70s and also gives an option that is more minimalist ... more structured and more like an engineered design. The version of the side chair in white with a white steel leg frame is absolutely stunning for a stark, sharp, architectural interior and the soft grey colour combination is pretty stylish. In fact the problem would actually be trying to decide which colour combination you didn't like. This is not hyperbole ... this range of colours and the way they modify the appearance and style of the chair makes it an incredibly flexible piece. That is actually one huge strength with Danish design ... there is a very long tradition of mixing and matching styles and periods within Danish homes. Modern pieces can be used as a point of contrast or as a discussion piece within a traditional, historic room setting, for instance a room with old panelling, or the same piece can be used in an uncompromisingly modern and spot-on-the-minute interior set against glass, steel and concrete. Or anything in between.

Cross bars or cross rails in both the wood option and the steel leg system are at the same height and in the same configuration giving both chairs a strong visual link that makes them clear siblings - variations on a theme.

Plastic for the shells of the seats of the Form chairs and stools is polypropylene and appears to be of an extremely high quality both in the moulding and the finish - all lugs and seams from the moulding process are removed - and the seats are surprisingly thick and reassuringly heavy but with an appropriate flexibility to make them comfortable … there is nothing more uncomfortable or disconcerting than plonking down onto a seat that stolidly refuses to give a millimetre. This flexing, in the Form seats, is achieved by carefully modifying the thickness of the plastic in certain areas - thinner plastic having obviously more flexibility and thicker parts of the shell providing rigidity where it is needed.

Look at the dining chair from above or the shell chair from the side and you will see that the edges of the seat and the profile are beautifully curved - is this technically a compound curve?Whatever it is in terms of geometry, the shape is very beautiful and I don't think I've ever said that about a plastic chair before. And the shell chair has generous proportions so you don’t feel wedged into the seat. The back of the stool curves up to provide an element of support. Well actually, I don't mean support. To be less polite I actually mean that the up-stand stops your backside sliding back to overhang the seat and the upper body slouching forward ... or is that just me that ends up like that on a bar stool?

The tables have cross rails just below the top, so not acting as a frame, and again this makes the profile of the tables much more sophisticated. Presumably this is only possible because of the strength and quality of the engineering of the knuckle joint at the top of the legs. The weaker this joint the further down the cross rails would have to be to stop the legs moving outwards when weight is put on the top.

On the rectangular tables, the rail on the long sides is broken by a central support with the same colour of plastic for the sleeve. Again this actually seems clever and well thought through as it not only gives intermediate support and strength but marks, in a subtle way, the likely place-settings with two people on each long side. As with the chairs, the sides of the table tops, in plan, are a beautifully-constructed gentle curve with generous rounded corners … rather than being straight and angular. Some modern tables look mean and sharp with tightly curved corners and thin table tops but not the Form table.



The top of the table is covered with linoleum in the same range of colours as the chair shells but the edge is wood and here carefully given an ovolo moulding rather than a crude basic chamfer.

Here I guess is my only criticism of the design … and it is nit picking ... but more than anything I’m just curious about this particular design decision. When you look at the ends of the rectangular table or two opposing ‘ends’ of the square table top you see a series of end grains or blocks along the table edge, all properly moulded and finished, which implies that the whole table top is in block board. In fact it is medium density fibre board with a wooden lip. At the final fence this is, for me, a slight stumble. This is not actually, in design terms, honest - all that form follows function theory stuff - but for me, just for this small detail the integrity of the design is undermined. A fibre-board top is perfectly acceptable … in fact in most ways better than a block-board top … and a wood edge is reasonable and right but why not take the same side grain all the way round?

While you are crouched down, looking at the underside of the table, take a look at the way the leg units are carefully recessed into the underside of the top and not just screwed to the face of the board. Again quality of design and quality of execution.

Publicity material states that the design and development of this range took Simon Legald and the Normann team three years of hard work and focused effort. That effort has achieved results that really do deserve to succeed and the Form Collection certainly sets a new and very very high standard for this type of dining room furniture.


the return of the kitchenette

At the recent Furniture Fair in Milan, Normann of Copenhagen showed their new and recent designs and on seeing photographs I realised that there has been a shift in the design of dining tables and chairs … from more formal and traditional styles to smaller or compact tables and lighter chairs, many in plastic or with moulded seats and metal or wood legs.

Shown above, and now in production, My Table was designed by Nicholai Wigg Hansen from Copenhagen and the Bop Chairs by Jordi Pla, whose studio is in Barcelona, was designed for 2013. From the photograph the shape and form of the legs on the chairs might suggest plastic but in fact these chairs are in ash that has been lacquered. The legs of the chairs are housed into an X of cross struts which supports the seat and means that there is no frame to the seat, making the chair appear slimmer and lighter.

Simon Legald graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2012 and has designed the Form collection for Normann. Note the way the moulded shell of the seat has integral protruding fixings or sockets (if you can have such a thing as a protruding socket) on the underside to take the legs that can be either wood or metal. 

These tables are also different … square and compact for a smaller space rather than rectangular or an extended oval for a larger number of people in a more formal dining room. For the small home this is a return to the idea of a kitchenette or dinette. To make my point, I couldn’t resist including a photograph of a classic American kitchenette or dinette set - this one from Daystrom and dating from about 1953.