Blinkenbike

Nikolaj Blinkenberg Willadsen started his company Blinkenbike about 18 months ago and he has taken customer involvement in the design process a step further. He has used two nephews and two young nieces to test-ride the bikes at each stage and he took prototypes to the Trafiklegepladsen in Fælledparken … thats the Traffic School with child-size roads and round-a-bouts and small-scale traffic lights in the main park in the north part of the city where children in Copenhagen are taught to ride bikes on a safe simulation of the public roads …. and left them and walked away to watch from a distance how toddlers played with his bikes.

The results are pretty amazing. Children, watching the bikes being put together, engage with the whole process very quickly and at a much younger age than I would have anticipated … I think Nikolaj said that his nephew was just 14 months old.

There are very clever ideas here like the round, square and triangular slots in the cover to the ‘tool box’ on the cross bar which links to the standard shape-recognition toys nearly all young children have seen but that quickly develops to the next stage with a nut and spanner arrangement and a robust screw driver that is used for a wooden bolt with a wood screw thread that adjusts the height of the saddle. If you think about that, it is a very complex mental image, to try to work out how and why a screw thread works and it’s something that is hidden as you turn the top … many adults I know still struggle with remembering which way you turn a bolt or screw to tighten it or slacken it.

Again, as with the shelves from Wood Junkie, there are various accessories to customise the design and, that important word again, ‘engage’ the user.

Blinkenbike

'lifestyle' at Finderskeepers

 

Actually, I’m not very keen on the word lifestyle when preceded by the word designer as it smacks too much of advertising and too little of design but then it is too easy to think of design for the home as just being about furniture or lighting and tableware. There are many other things that deserve to be and are carefully designed and well made. 

There were several companies at Finderskeepers that produce leather goods including Silleknotte with their bags, key hangers, loop handles and shelves hung from leather straps and Ham/Lerche of Aarhus produce a range of leather boxes and desk tidies. It was someone on the Ham/Lerche stand who said, as I was looking carefully at their designs, “Go on … you can look with your fingers” … maybe an odd phrase but an extremely important idea as so much good design, particularly in wood or leather, doesn’t just look good but is tactile.

As well as tables and desks, Christoffer Jørgensen of Manufakture, makes linen-covered pin boards with frames in oak, ash or Oregan pine; matching black boards or chalk boards and a range of linen-covered boxes for papers and documents in sizes from A5 up to A1.

 

FINDERSKEEPERS at TAP1

 

FINDERSKEEPERS has been promoted as “an indoor market where innovative design meets luxury secondhand clothing.” 

The clothes are a mixture of retro/antique or good second-hand (neither term derogatory) along with hand-made clothing or clothes from a small-run by an independent producer. That was mostly in the back half of the huge hall and across the front half were crafts and design of all types and between the two a lively and really good food area. What’s not to like for a Saturday afternoon.

The venue itself, TAP1, is a large industrial building on the Carlsberg site - where the brewery was, to the west of the centre in Copenhagen, before it was moved out of the city in 2008. 

It was all pretty amazing and pretty inspiring. It’s a sort of alternative Northmodern and I hope that is taken in the way it was meant - as being very very positive about both.

Design included leatherwork, textiles, ceramics, some surprisingly substantial items of furniture (including armchairs and tables) along with lighting and all from small and young independent companies and craftsmen.

Ceramics from Tina Marie Copenhagen Handmade

Here again I come up against this slight problem I have with the term craftsmen. Maybe it’s an English sensibility because I've seen too many poor-quality craft “fairs” in the UK. The word I keep coming back to is makers but I really don’t know if that translates into Danish.

Here, at FINDERSKEEPERS, the maker or, to use the Danish term, kunsthåndværker … art handworker is the clumsy literal translation into English … is also an entrepreneur and again that is used in the most positive way. Talking to people and looking at the stalls, it made me realise that everyone, with usually a very small team of people, has to design and make packaging, design and maintain a web site, deal with the finance and business side, cope with marketing and spend their whole weekend at an event like this, working hard, and that's all on top of designing and making their work.

Looking at the internet site for the venue, this event was organised through TALL GROUP and their “vision is to create sustainable companies that thrive on a global market, achieving this by encouraging pioneer thinking, guts and a clear path away from mainstream alternatives.”

Really the main point to make is that although most of the work here was 'hand made' rather than being from a large-scale factory manufacturer there was an all-pervading sense of professionalism, real commitment and self belief with a clear sense that each designer is working towards a carefully-considered and distinct style that carries across all their products, and there was, overall, great presentation, packaging, labelling and graphics. Having lived in Copenhagen for over a year now, none of this comes as a surprise to me … I am simply spelling it out for anyone who is not fortunate enough to get to the event.

What is also important is the crowd that was queuing at the door to get in. These were mostly couples and groups of friends in their 20s and early 30s. The event was packed and people were buying so obviously there is a very serious demand for high-quality design that is slightly different, more unusual than what can be seen in a store. Of course, many of the companies here sell through conventional outlets as well as their own on-line sites but people coming to the event certainly seemed to be looking for something that says a lot about the person who made it and probably, they hope, quite a bit about the taste and interests of the person buying. 

 

BLINKENBIKE ApS

 

Finderskeepers opened on 26th September 2015 and continues on the 27th

TAP1

FINDERSKEEPERS has photographs and links to the internet sites of the designers. Note that Finderskeepers hold comparable events in Aarhus and Odense so see their internet site for dates.

northmodern … August 2015

 

To round off a series of posts here about northmodern at the Bella Center this month it seemed appropriate to include a few photographs of the venue and to discuss, briefly, the organisation of the design fair.

The part of the Bella Center used for the fair has three large halls, the central area top lit, and with generous entrance areas, with space for demonstrations of work, and of course there are restaurants, a cafe and there is an open-air terrace or courtyard and areas for the press and an area upstairs for exhibitors to escape to. 

Generally, the stands are organised between main sections that cover clear themes: this year the large main hall was defined as The Room, for the main furniture design; the large central top-lit hall was The Gallery and included a diverse range of displays and the third hall was primarily the smaller manufactured goods and food - I suppose what might be more broadly described as the life style section and not generally covered in reviews on this site. It was, slightly curiously, called Slow Living with ‘Eclectic Atelier’ ‘Wellness’ and ‘Nude Elegance’ although this area included some impressive and well-established design companies such as Playtype.

Again, as in January, there was a full programme of lectures or talks over the three days and a number of other events so a phenomenal amount of organisation.

The official booklet/guide for the fair also includes a section about plans for the general development of the area south of the Bella Center where there will be a new Copenhagen neighbourhood with housing and office buildings and shops and cafes around a number of pedestrian areas. “The basic premise behind Bellakvarter will set it apart from other exhibition venues, by combining a conference centre with a city environment.” 

Back in January there were some suggestions that this new quarter might include workshops and studios for artists and designers so it will be extremely interesting to see how the area develops and evolves over the coming years and how this influences or effects northmodern as it becomes a firmly-established design fair for the region.

 

Paustian at northmodern

Paustian design store has a superb location on Nordhavn that looks across the marina towards the Svanemølle power station.  The company was founded in 1964 and their building on Kalkbrænderiløbskaj was designed by Jorn Urtzon and completed in 1987.

They produce furniture themselves, particularly for offices and commercial contracts, but have a World-wide reputation for the collection of international design that is shown in Copenhagen. They are exclusive distributors here for Herman Miller and for Vitra and therefore for furniture from Artek but show a wide range of international brands including Asplund, Cappelini, Moooi and Thonet. 

For their stand at northmodern they emphasised this international aspect of their collection with a line of desks covered with art and architecture books, magazines, artefacts and small sculptures and with classic chairs from their collection pulled up on either side. It was the study or studio dreamed about by anyone obsessed by design. 

Paustian

northmodern ... wood

walnut table top from Noyer

 

Noyer

Noyer made by hand, with Janus Larsen and Nikolaj Hviid, are a very new company and this was their first time at northmodern but they create furniture with real confidence and with a very strong distinct style, cutting the thick walnut of their table tops with angles and sharp chamfers and then supporting the weight on thin, angled, inverted tripods that give the pieces quite some drama. 

Along with the table, the collection includes substantial walnut chopping boards and bread boards with knives and the same American walnut is used for the arms of a wall light and a floor-standing lamp.

It was impossible to take the right photographs of the main conference table to do it justice, given the lighting and the number of people that were looking at the display, so I have arranged to go out to their workshops north of the city to talk to them about their work and, hopefully, to take some better photographs to post here.

Noyer made by hand

 

InaCircle

The FrejaChair by Henrik Frederiksen, in Danish ash with a soaped finish, has thirteen parts that fit together without fixtures or screws and it is the weight of the person sitting on the round plywood seat that pushes the structure together. 

FrejaChair from InaCircle and in its the packaging for shipping

 

Self-assembly means shipping and delivery is easier and cheaper but then packaging becomes an important part of the total design and of course instructions for assembly. There is a clever and attractive animated video that shows the sequence for putting together the chair.

 

 

On their stand at northmodern, the chair was also used to create a striking display which, I guess, in an art gallery would be described as a multiple.

 

InaCircle

 

Manufakture

The work table and pin boards from Manufakture were shown at northmodern alongside wire chairs from Overgaard & Dyrman.

Christoffer Jørgensen formed Manufakture in 2011 and has workshops in Copenhagen.

The table is available in ash, mahogany, oak or Oregon pine and the same woods are used for the frames of his range of linen-covered pin boards.

Manufakture

 

linen-covered boxes for papers and documents from Manufakture

 

Nordic Appeal and Foto Factory

Maria-Louisa Rosendahl and Martin Bray were at northmodern again with their range of stands and holders for iPads and Apple computers and screens. These are all beautifully made in plywood and are very cleverly designed to set the screen up at the right height or to set the keyboard or the laptop at the optimum angle.

There is a version for a lap top so that you can latch the support over wooden knobs fixed into the wall to create a small work station, they call a standing desk, and a variation is about to be launched for your tablet computer which should be about the best way there is to keep it up off the work surface and away from food if you are one of the growing number of people who keep and use recipes digitally.

 

 

They were at northmodern to promote their other company Foto Factory with beautiful photographs of landscapes and sea and harbour views. Their first prints came from trips to Scotland and around England … Denmark has most things you could ever want except mountains … but back here in Denmark Martin is creating an amazing portfolio of photographs of the coastal scenery and woodlands and forests and the estuaries, creeks and harbours of the very beautiful natural scenery here.

Nordic Appeal  

Foto Factory

Reform at northmodern

Reform was set up in 2014 by Michael Andersen, an engineer who was formerly employed at Bjarke Ingels’s architectural firm BIG, and Jeppe Christensen who comes from an education in marketing and economics but also has a background in carpentry and design.

They identified a need for well designed kitchens and a reasonable price point and came up with the idea to use the base or carcase of the IKEA kitchen range but to add customised work tops and drawer and cupboard fronts … customers plan the kitchen they want and order the cabinets from their local IKEA store and the fronts and tops from Reform.

 

They designed their first Reform make-over kit that they have called Basis (above) with clean, straightforward lines in white with either slot-shaped or round holes for drawer pulls and a very clean, sharp-looking dark green top but the really clever move was to also commission further designs from major Danish architectural firms including BIG, Henning Larsen Architects and Norm Architects and further designs are on the way.

 

 

The kitchen from BIG has a slim dark composite top or that can be in plain steel and there is a choice of white or oak for cupboards and drawer fronts with simple but striking handles formed with a loop of black webbing used for car seat belts.

From Henning Larsen Architects the design comes with oak veneer for the top and ends and fronts with either oak and a band of copper or white with a band of steel.

 

 

A fiber concrete top for the design from Norm Architects can be combined with either a bronze-like front called Tombac or with sawn oak or a very dark smoked oak that brings out the grain of the wood. As with other work from Norm, the design appears at first to be very sharp and industrial but it is designed to soften and wear in with use. The concrete top shown at northmodern had an integral concrete sink … great style.

northmodern

a late train back

 

Just a quick nudge - a reminder that northmodern, the design trade fair at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, is this week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday - on the 13th, 14th and 15th August.

They have a clear, simple and clean-looking on-line site with all the information that you need with travel directions to the venue, times of opening,  a list of the brands and designers who are exhibiting this time and a good guide for things to see and do and places to stay and eat in Copenhagen … that’s if your visit is part of a longer trip or you have energy left to hit the town after a long day looking at design.

 

northmodern

For reviews on this site in January 2015 follow my links to northmodern

August for design in Copenhagen

 

It looks as if August will be a busy month for art, crafts and design in Copenhagen. 

Biennalen for Kunsthåndværk og Design

Carlsberg Byen, Bryggernes Plads 11, floor 6, 1799 Copenhagen V

1 - 30 August, daily 11 to 6pm

A major exhibition of works by leading Danish makers and designers from the national association of craft - Danske Kunsthåndværkere & Designere

www.biennalen.dk

Copenhagen Fashion Week

5 - 9 August

Key shows are at the Bella Center and at the Forum but there will be a press launch in the town hall square and events held in showrooms all over the city. Revolver, an independent trade fair, will be at Øksnehallen, Tietgensgade 65, Copenhagen V - on the edge of the Meatpacking area. 

www.copenhagenfashionweek.com

Jægersborggade Street Festival

Saturday 8 August 12 to 10pm

northmodern

13 - 15 August

The major Design Trade Show for design from the Nordic region at the Bella Center - held in January and in August

www.northmodern.com

Kunsthåndværker Markedet - the open-air craft market

13 - 15 August, Frue Plads, Copenhagen

A major open-air market on the square on the north side of Vor Frue Kirke - the cathedral

There will be over 120 stalls around the square with craftspeople from all over Denmark including potters, glassmakers, textile designers and basket makers. The fair is an annual event organised by the Danish association of craftspeople and designers - Danske Kunsthåndværkere & Designere

craftsfair.dk

Copenhagen Art Week

21 - 30 August

Events at galleries and museums throughout the city and the Copenhagen region

copenhagenartweek.dk

Chart Art Fair

21 - 23 August for Contemporary Art at the Charlottenborg Palace on Kongens Nytorv with an extensive programme of concerts, talks, performances and an architecture competition to design and build a pavilion or an installation. There will also be pop-up restaurants in the courtyard

www.chartartfair.com

Copenhagen Cooking Festival

21 - 30 August 

Including the Risotto World Championship

www.copenhagencooking.com

SMK Friday

21 August

At the Royal Cast Collection 4pm - 10pm

At the warehouse on the harbour. Organised by Statens Museum for Kunst -  the National Gallery - with street food, artists and a sound stage

www.smk.dk

Helsingborg Art and Antiques Fair

 

The annual Helsingborg Art and Antiques Fair is held over the next few days at the Helsingborg Arena which is up on the hill, above the centre of the town, beyond the castle on Mellersta Stenbocksgatan and is open from the 23rd to the 26th July 2015.

This is one of the largest antique fairs in the region and the dealers are from all parts of Scandinavia.  They cover a huge range of periods through to the late 20th century; styles from farmhouse Swedish to International modern and objects from paintings to coins. It is a really good opportunity to see extremely fine examples of furniture from the mid 20th century and art glass, ceramics, cutlery, some textiles from the same period.

 

a chance to compare and contrast

Looking around the showrooms and studios that were open for 3daysofdesign - the event held in Copenhagen at the end of last month - it was easy see why the Danish furniture and design industry is so strong. 

For a start, Denmark has a well-established and well-deserved reputation for designing and making some of the best furniture in the World. Presumably that means that companies here have loyal customers and a head start in attracting new customers.  

And because there are so many manufacturers and designers in Copenhagen there does appear to be strength in numbers: attending various events last month it was obvious that although there is healthy rivalry there is also a very strong and a very positive feeling that there really is a design community in the city.

If young designers can say that they were trained in Denmark and work here then they have credibility … even if, actually, they themselves feel that the downside is having to compete in a crowded market place.

Looking at this concentration of design talent - going to the showrooms of top manufacturers and visiting high-end design stores and looking at so many companies over just a few days - you realise just how broad and how diverse the design industry in Denmark is … from small companies that were started recently by one or two enthusiastic and talented people through to large companies with a long-established reputation for the style and quality of their furniture. In some cases that reputation stretches back more than a century.

For companies to have a distinct style is, or at least should be, a major asset - that is having a defined brand image and a core market to aim at - to use the jargon - but this is probably one of the most difficult aspects of the design industry to get across to people outside the design industry so to the buying customer who is, after all, the ultimate target for all these amazing things. 

Generally, customers will see new designs in a large design store where the style of the piece may well be difficult to appreciate in the melee, however well laid out the furniture in a store is, so there will be either oddly juxtaposed pieces from different companies or there may be some distance and possibly a gap of some time between searches in different stores. That is why catalogues or at least some sort of image in publicity material is still important despite this being the age of on-line images and mobile phones for taking your own pictures.

Anyway, compare and contrast exercises are not easy so I thought it might be interesting to look at three different design companies in Copenhagen - companies that were chosen because they are not small - not the one designer and a lot of drive and energy type company - but nor are they the large long-established design names.

I was able to spend a fair bit of time at the Gubi showroom at Nordhavn and at the Muuto studio and headquarters in the centre of the city and also at the showrooms and headquarters of &Tradition on Paper Island on the south side of the main harbour. *

What the three companies have in common is that the core work of all three is that they produce and sell both furniture and lighting. Design work is either in house, in the case of Muuto, or a mixture of in house and designs commissioned from independent designers and both Gubi and &Tradition also produce a number of older pieces - mid 20th-century classic designs under licence. 

In terms of the style of their products and, I suspect, in their business plans and long-term aims, the three companies could not be more different. 

Looking at their products in design stores or in adverts or magazines, the differences are more difficult to isolate - but visiting the showrooms, the differences are much more obvious.

 

 

Gubi

Of the three companies, Gubi has been established the longest - founded in 1967 by Gubi and Lisbeth Olsen. And of the three it is probably the least obviously Scandinavian in style. Softer and rounded, less solid shapes for chairs and sofas and the use of richer and stronger colours and the use of pattern might suggest, on first glance, that the designs are French or Italian. In fact some of the designers used by the company are French or Italian, including Jacques Adnet, Paul Leroy, Mathieu Matégot and GamFratesi - although the partnership of Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi are actually based in Cologne. However, Gubi do also produce works from many Scandinavian designers including the Swedish designer Greta Grossman, designs from Jens Quistgaard, the Y tables by Henning Larsen and the Semi Collection of lighting from Claus Bonderup and Tursten Thorup.

A GUBI store was opened in Godthåbsvej in Frederiksberg in the early 1990s and a large new store was opened at Møntergade 19 in the centre of Copenhagen in December 2014. The main showroom, head office and studio are at Pakhus in Nordhavn in Copenhagen.

Lighting is a very important part of the Gubi Collection. From 1988 Gubi became a distributor for the Bestlite, first produced in England in the 1930s, and they now hold the licence to produce that lighting world-wide and are adding new designs to the range. They also produce the distinct Gräshoppa and Cobra lights by Greta Grossman.

Gubi have their own design of shell chair - The Gubi Collection - designed by Komplot Design in 2003. The shell appears to be flatter and wider than comparable designs, so somewhat shallower, but probably has the most complex 3D shape. Like the chairs from other companies the shell can be combined with a number of different base units including thin, splayed metal legs with, unusually, diagonally crossed stretchers; a so-called sledge frame; a swivel base and a wood base with curved and tapering legs that look almost like an inverted hand, elegant finger tips pointing down.

Metal as a surface rather than as simply a construction material has a more prominent role than with other Scandinavian design companies where wood predominates and metal is used for tables, trolleys and shelving including the Matégot Trolley and the Dedal and Demon book shelves also by Mathieau Matégot and his Kangorou tables with their pierced metal tops.

The eclectic collection, with works by current and classic designers, and with the less-common sense of central and southern European taste is acknowledged in the catalogues of Gubi that have the tag line “icons, memories and stories”.

 

Muuto

In contrast, Muuto was started about 2006 by Peter Bonnén and Kristian Byrge with the clearly-stated aim to ‘cultivate’ new Nordic design talent. The name of the company comes from the word muutos … Finnish for new perspective.

The large design studio and main showroom is in light and open attic spaces above the walking street in Copenhagen. It has a very good feeling - welcoming and open - light and friendly - with an open plan running round through offices to an entertainment space where food can be provided for staff and commercial clients and extends up on to a large open roof terrace looking across the roof tops of the city. Unlike Hay or Normann, Danish design companies of comparable size, Muuto does not have it’s own store but sells through distributors.

One key to the style of the company can be seen in the upholstered sofas and low chairs they produce that are rounded, full, covered with bold strong plain colours. Neither the Connect Sofa by Anderssen and Voll nor the Soft Block range designed by Petter Skogstad have either exposed frames or legs or feet and are deliberately sculptural - be it soft sculpture. Even the Rest Sofa - also by Anderssen and Voll - which has a low oak sub frame - has generous rounded cushions and solid well-stuffed upholstered arms. The interesting detail with the fabric covering of this range is the folded under or tucked in covers that give the sofas the suggestion of being formed with bedding. And no, that is not a snide criticism.

The Oslo Series, also by Anderssen and Voll, is slightly different with thin metal legs supporting what look almost like old-fashioned car seats that gives the range a 1950s or 60s feel.

As with Gubi, shell chairs for dining and for use as desk or side chairs are an important section of the current catalogue. The two main ranges are the Visu Chair by Mika Tolvanen in formpressed veneer giving a simple profile with generous rounded corners and the new deeper and enclosing shell shape of the Fiber Chair by Iskos-Berlin with a high wood fibre content that gives the shell a softer slightly textured look and a softer feel. As with the Gubi chairs, and as of course with the new Normann range, the chairs come with a number of options for the bases. The colours are muted and fairly dark with a grey toned red, a grey toned green and so on. These are again close to what must be considered to be the current fashionable colours because they are similar to the colour options for Normann, &Tradition and Gubi. Of all the chairs currently offered by all the Danish companies, only the new colour range for the Series 7 Chair from Fritz Hansen stands out as distinctly different with the colours selected by the artist Tal R being sharper and darker but somehow cleaner.

Muuto has a number of tables in their collection. The Adaptable Table by TAF combines wood with plastic joining knuckles, rather like the new Form range from Normann. The 70/70 Table, also by TAF, has an elegant frame in cast aluminium that forms a floor-level runner linking the legs across the short end to give the table stability without having to add cross rails or long supports down the length. The Split Table designed by Staffan Holm is even more distinct with oak legs forming what appears to be an inverted V shape angled outwards at each end but actually also splits out to support the table so, if this makes sense, like an inverted Y with the stem split and flattened out under the table top.

The Stacked range of boxes designed by Julien de Smedt can be combined to form very flexible and easily extended wall and free-standing storage. Made from MDF and with veneer or coloured finish this is a good alternative to the Montana range or the classic wood system of bookcases and shelving from Rud. Rasmussen.

As with Gubi, lighting is important, with a wide range of slightly quirky or at least different lamps from the large, industrial-looking, Unfold Pendant, which is actually in soft silicon rubber, and the Wood Lamp by TAF that looks like something produced with a child’s construction set to the minimalist and sophisticated shape of the UP Table Lamp by Mattias Ståhlbom or the blown-glass Cosy Lamps by the Finnish designer Harri Koskinen.

Muuto, more than Gubi or &Tradition have a wide range of accessories and tablewares including the relatively new Push coffee pot by Mette Duedahl, glassware, wood kitchenware and the Restore range of felt containers by Mika Tolvanen. In the extent of it’s range Muuto is probably the closest of the three to what is now often called a life-style store. I hate the phrase but, with no new alternative term, it is certainly not used disparagingly here. Far from it. Looking at the clean, bright interior of the showroom it is obvious that if furnishing from scratch a new home owner could do much worse than doing a one-stop, buy-all purchase from Muuto.

 

&Tradition

&Tradition was founded in 2010 and is very different again from Gubi and Muuto. To some extent the company has grown out of the design brand Menu and, like Menu, they have employed the Danish design and architecture partnership Norm to design products but the architects have also been responsible for the interior of the new showroom on Paper Island on the south side of the main harbour in Copenhagen. The huge, high industrial warehouse space has been divided up with simple, bold white walls to form what is described as a village … a series of simple and flexible but interlinked spaces that can be used for different displays and room settings.

As with Gubi, the collection includes a number of classic mid 20th-century designs, including pieces by Verner Panton, Arne Jacobsen and Flemming Lassen, and a growing range of newly-commissioned designs. Unlike Muuto but as with Gubi. &Tradition have looked beyond Scandinavia with designs by Lex Pott from Eindhoven, the Italian designer Luca Nichetto and Jaime Hayon with his studio in Barcelona.

The catch phrase here is “Craft meets Art. Function meets Form. Material Meets Potential” and of the three companies discussed here this is possibly the most cerebral … if Gubi is experimenting and pushing the boundaries of style and Muuto are exploring and playing with the possibilities of Scandinavian design then &Tradition are trying to be experiment more with shape and with the dramatic combination of dark and shadow. They are probably furthest from having a distinct identifiable style but that might simply be that they are the youngest company of the three. 

The Fly Sofa by Space has spindles forming the back of the seat that makes this the Danish equivalent of contemporary designs from Sweden from GAD or Norrgavel; the Catch Chair from 2014 by Jaime Hayon with its enclosing arms plays with silhouette and weight … a distinct profile balanced on thin spidery legs … and the chairs In Between by Sami Kallio have cut-out and bent shapes for the seat back that, again, play with silhouette and shadow and profile. It is not surprising that the chairs and tables from the range in the increasingly fashionable dark stains are the best selling.

Cloud, upholstered seating with a choice of one, two or three seats, by Luca Nichetto is again a clever and again a successful and distinctive design with metal legs but a sophisticated and elegant design with the legs set out at a slight angle and with the back legs continuing just half way up the back … almost like giving a gentle helping hand to support the wrap around and upholstered panel … there is a short thin fin running inwards under the seat from the legs that again give just an impression of support but no clues to the underlying structure. The cushions, without boxed sides or pimore like over-filled pillows, are again distinctly different to current Scandinavian upholstery that is either sharply tailored and buttoned and piped or is rounded but solidly and almost over filled. 

Table NA2 and Stool NA3 from Norm are again clever and ostensibly stripped down to a minimal form but are very very sophisticated and clever in the details of their construction. The tables actually have three legs at each end … the corner legs angled outwards and a leg in the centre of the end angled in to form a trestle … and the stools with a rounded broom-stick like leg that is again angled for stability but is not housed directly into the seat but has a narrow stem … making it like an inverted bullrush … and the cross rails are actually a T-bar so curiously the circular stools have a front - with space for both feet raised off the ground - and that puts the single leg at the centre under the back pushing the sitter to use the stool in the most stable orientation. As I say … clever playing with what initially seems to be a stripped down minimal design.

There is a surprisingly broad range of lighting design from the simple exposed bulb and marble block of Marble Light by Studio Vit; a slightly salvaged-from-a-factory look of Light Forest from Ontwerpduo and the elegant metal shade and elegant metal grab and knurled fixing bolts of the Copenhagen Pendant from 2014 by Space of Copenhagen. &Tradition are also producing the Flowerpot lights by Verner Panton from 1968 in new colours and their equivalent of the wood lamp from Muuto is a table lamp by Victor Vetterlein in paper pulp called Trash Me that looks like a lamp from the Pixar movie that has lost a fight with a porridge/paint mix.

 

So!

Well all three companies focus on the major furniture items - chairs, tables and sofas - along with a broad range of lighting and some additional furniture such as trolleys and shelving.  As to style … well, as always, it is invidious to talk about style without sounding as if you are either condemning or praising. Perhaps the opt out is to say that after visiting the three show rooms over just a couple of days, I can see that Gubi are focusing on a slightly less conventional style for Scandinavia along with carefully controlled quality aiming at the upper end of the market. Muuto are pushing and playing with more conventional Scandinavian style to produce something light and open and friendly … perhaps a style that is aimed more at young couples or young families. &Tradition look as if they are moving towards drama and pieces that will stimulate comments. If you put a chair from each company side by side then you would be hard pressed to separate them in terms of quality or style or functionality. You would have to go into a careful description of technical details to distinguish them. On the other hand, be dropped from space into any of the three showrooms and it would be impossible to mix them up.

 

* I am very grateful to the staff at all three companies, to Michael, Jesper and Elizabeth, who gave me so much of their time to answer questions and to discuss wider design issues as well as allowing me to take photographs. 

Gubi

Muuto

&Tradition

3daysofdesign - the importance of contract catalogues

SP34 in Copenhagen - the bar and reception area of the hotel with a set of chairs, the CH88 designed by Hans Wegner in 1955 for Carl Hansen, around a table by Nanna Ditzel and the Heritage Chair designed by Frits Henningsen in 1930 and still in production by Carl Hansen

 

3daysofdesign was, primarily, a trade fair in and around Copenhagen to show the products of some forty designers and manufacturers: lecturers and receptions were clearly aimed at people working within the industry or buying for independent stores or on a contract basis for commercial interior design or furnishing projects although these open days were an opportunity for the public to look around showrooms that are usually open by appointment or normally only visited by trade buyers. 

Presumably, few customers, walking into a furniture store to buy a chair or a table or a sofa, ever give a second thought to the contract catalogue of the manufacturer although, either directly or subliminally, that may well be what has influenced their choice.

Of course a contract to supply furniture to a hotel or a new restaurant is important income for the turnover of a company but it can also mean high public exposure for designs that are a long-term and ongoing advert that can consolidate the reputation of both the designer and the manufacturer.

One example of a Danish company that produces clearly commercial furniture alongside high-quality furniture for the home is Getama who make seating for theatres and auditoriums, including the Royal Danish Playhouse and the Nørrebro Theatre in Copenhagen, and beds for Danish Embassies, the Danish Army and numerous hotels. Although, presumably, few in the audience leaving the theatre will think that what they really need for their apartment is a theatre seat, a reputation for making such heavily used and robust but stylish furniture contributes enormously to the reputation of the company and their furniture.

OneCollection have produced furniture from designs by Finn Juhl for the Danish House in Paris and furniture for the Danish embassy in Washington and, of course, new seating for the recent refurbishment of the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN building in New York that was designed by Juhl in 1951 - all high profile and prestigious projects that have contributed to the rapidly-growing international reputation of the company.

Furniture for fashionable hotels and restaurants give designers and furniture manufacturers important and ongoing exposure … NOMA in Copenhagen was refurbished in 2012 with dining chairs from J L Møller that were designed in 1962 but are combined with new tables designed specifically for the restaurant and with new, low, armed chairs, the Ren Chair, designed by Space of Copenhagen for Stellarworks

Furniture, including Beetle Chairs and bar stools from Gubi have been used for the Standard on the harbour front in Copenhagen and their Masculo Chairs, designed by GamFratesi, are used at the prestigious restaurant Amass.

For many people their first chance to actually sit in or use a design piece may well be in a restaurant or in a hotel room and this can mean that some are tempted to buy the designs for their own homes. Certainly, new ideas tried in hotels do transfer across to the domestic market ... so, for instance, the demand for en-suite bathrooms and the increasing fashion for wet rooms in homes in England must surely be driven by a wish to imitate something enjoyed in a stay at a hotel. And, of course, advertisements for the hotel or restaurant and reviews in newspapers will also show off well the furniture. Many hotels and restaurants are also used as sets for photo shoots for ads for glossy fashion magazines, again making readers of those fashion magazines familiar with good recent furniture designs or with possible new trends in interior design.

But well-designed furniture does not just have an influence when used in expensive places to stay or eat. Muuto have ensured that their chairs comply with high standards required for contract use in hospitals and schools which should reassure customers that they are robust and easy to maintain.

Even good, well-designed furniture used in schools can have a long-term influence - at the very least teaching children to appreciate good design. At the beginning of the year at Northmodern, the design fair at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, I was talking to a manager from the Paustian furniture store in Copenhagen. As a child he had been to a school in Copenhagen that was designed by Arne Jacobsen - presumably Munkegårdsskolen - and it was only after leaving school that he found out, much to his surprise, that not all children had Jacobsen furniture in the classroom. I wonder how much his choice of career was influenced by the furniture he sat on in school for all those years?

3daysofdesign - the apartment by Republic of Fritz Hansen

For the Milan furniture fair this year Republic of Fritz Hansen furnished an apartment styled by Christine Rudolph to present new colours or new pieces from the Fritz Hansen range. The concept of an apartment that looks lived in was taken back to Copenhagen, and recreated at the Pakhus showroom for the 3daysofdesign event. 

There an upper space of the showroom has been fitted out as a dining room, a large sitting room, a study and a bedroom.

The Sammen dining chairs, upholstered in a dusky pink and the large Analog table, both designed by Jaime Hayón, were repeated from Milan as was the Essay table used as a large desk and the distinctive plan chest in the study area.

Danish homes often mix old and new … old family pieces of furniture with new designs or new designs of furniture against historic panelling and the apartment here was set out to show a mixture of different styles from the Fritz Hansen range … formal dining room/informal, almost rustic bedroom, stylish study area/comfortable sitting room showing the move towards big comfortable high-backed chairs rather than sofas.

3daysofdesign: graphics and publications

use of detailed graphics in the show room of Arper in Nordhavn

 

3daysofdesign was a major event that included many of the most well-established design companies in Denmark so, perhaps, it might seem odd to talk about the graphic design of publications and posters seen at the various venues … of course everyone expects well-designed graphics and beautiful catalogues from furniture companies … surely it goes without saying? … surely it would only be worth a comment if catalogues or lettering in the showroom or information leaflets were badly designed or badly printed?

Well no. Just because everyone assumes it will be good and just because the graphics were actually good throughout, it is even more important to make a few points about this aspect of the work of the furniture industry. 

In general, people outside the professional design world … so obviously the majority of customers … assume that graphics with high-quality photographs, eye-catching layout and high quality paper are all simply what should be expected. They take it for granted. After all, computers with a huge number of fonts and any template you could wish for for a layout, high definition images, even from a mobile phone, and high quality printing are all available from personal systems in most homes … what can possibly be so hard in producing a nice (free) catalogue? And of course we are all greedy - voracious - for images, gloss, entertainment, facts, information and commentary with little time spent on thinking about how much it has actually cost to produce in terms of professional skill, mental stress, time and money. And last years catalogue or last years campaign are not good enough. We want, need and expect something new.

What was clear across the board at 3daysofdesign is that companies do and do have to invest a huge amount of time, thought and money in the right style of advertising and the best possible publications with information about and for their products.

Catalogues, advertisements, information booklets, online sites and so on have to tell the story of the company; explain the development of the design; introduce the designer, if they are young or new to the company; explain the way the design evolved - everyone loves a good story - give information about the manufacturing process, promote green credentials, of course, and, often, give after-sales care advice as well. And good graphics, as everyone knows, can create a brand image and customer awareness of, recognition of and loyalty to a company or even to a specific design. Chair 7 by Arne Jacobsen, Stool 60 from Artek and the PH5 light are all the obvious examples of the ongoing commercial value of recognition and loyalty.

The Series 7 chair is actually a very good example. It will be the subject of a separate post but it is of relevance in this post just because it is still the best-selling piece in the Fritz Hansen catalogue but it has just reached a milestone anniversary - the chair was designed in 1955 - and Fritz Hansen are in the middle of a major campaign to ‘relaunch’ the chair in new colours to ensure that it remains a design that has a place in the homes of young and future generations of buyers. So publicity material, and advertising and the way the chair is shown in displays now, are crucial to its future success. The strap line of the present campaign is Colours in Perfect Shape.

With a completely new range or a novel design it may even be necessary to give advice about how the piece might best be set in the context of it’s new home. It is actually quite difficult to explain to a customer, who is dissatisfied because, maybe, their new purchase doesn’t look quite as good in their home as it did in the show room or in the catalogue, that in fact they have bought the wrong thing for their existing house and existing life style. The new piece itself is amazing … it’s just that really their room/your room should possibly/could maybe/definitely ought to be a different colour and much of the rest of the furniture should be replaced. But the shop can’t say that. Better to start a bit of gentle advice - sow the seeds of a few ideas and suggestions in the catalogue or in the display in the shop.

The good small catalogue for the event itself and the graphic material for Re-Framing Danish Design were well designed and distinct … presumably they were aware of the added problem of having to avoid any resemblance to the brand styles of any of the companies taking part. 

Arper and Muuto had elaborate graphics on the walls of their show rooms to explain or identify their designs and several companies including Fritz Hansen, OneCollection and Gubi include in their catalogues extensive articles on major designers from the classic period of Danish design to put designs, that might be 50 or more years old, into their wider historic context. The Gubi catalogue is called a design booklet and is, significantly, titled ‘Icons, Memories and Stories.’ It is necessary to explain to a new generation of buyers when and why the pieces were designed; state why they were important designs or why they were admired when they were first manufactured, and why they have relevance now and and why they should still be in production. Basically why a design was amazing then and why it is amazing now.

It is also necessary to explain to a new buyer why an old design might not be exactly like the earliest examples of a design that they have seen in a museum. Designs can evolve in terms of the materials used, for instance in upholstery, and manufacturing techniques change or some aspects of machine manufacturing have improved since the original pieces were made. Again managing expectations and nurturing customers who might have admired a design long ago but are, only now, getting around to buying it.

Innovations for new designs, particularly new materials or new methods of production, have to be explained to potential customers and can become what are called unique selling points to distinguish the designs from one company from the works from their rivals. Muuto have launched a new shell chair that is moulded from a recyclable material that includes wood fibre … deliberately described as ‘pinewood fibers.’ This material has a softer and matt look and a slight texture which has to be explained to the customer and work with the material has also led to interesting developments in producing an optional upholstered interior to the shell. New material often require changes to fixings and supports or an appropriate rethink and here, with Muuto, this means that the shell of this chair can have four different supports: thin, elegant, metal legs; a ’sled’ like metal frame; a wooden base with a frame below the seat and a metal swivel base. These distinguish the chair from rivals but the developments and the differences have to be pointed out to the customer and this has to be done through advertising and through catalogues and brochures … not least because this choice of base and choice of upholstery along with choices of colour, in the case of the new Muuto chair, gives 41 different permutations … a potential problem for the customer in making that choice and potential problems with manufacture and the supply system that can be made easier by appropriate publications for information. I believe this is called managing expectations.

Frama and Please Wait to be Seated both produced information that unfolded to poster size and several companies, including Frama, used reproductions of hand-drawn line work, rather than digital computer-generated drawings, to show something of the various early stages of the design process as designers play with a number of ideas and take a particular form forward.

 
 

Personally, I really like the small, folded and stapled A4, cloth-bound catalogue from Flos for their String Lights and IC Lights by Michael Anastassiades with quotes from the designer, talking about inspiration for the design, but with studio photographs combined with hand-drawn sketches to explain how that arrangement of the lights were set up along with a surprising amount of technical information. 

The small catalogue for Parentesit from Arper has an interesting look that somehow hints at the 1930s and Bauhaus style. Good graphic design can hint at sources of inspiration.

For its ‘case study’ series, Frama uses thick board that is coated on one side but unbleached on the back and with a single brass screw link at one corner - so playing a very clever game with period and style - hard-tech mechanics contrasted with soft-tech almost retro style that you see in their furniture as well with incredibly sharp, clean industrial-character designs presented in the elaborate and dramatic interior of their show room - formerly a chemist shop with amazing fittings that date back to about 1900.

Graphics from MA/U Studio were as thin and as elegant and as distinctive as their furniture with the clever use of simple outline human figures to give drawings of shelving easily-understood scale.