THE DESIGN SUPERPOWER: DENMARK
Contemporary Danish brands are booming here in the UK. But why? And who do you need to know?
The Danish home’s air of natural, unstudied grace is not overly masculine or feminine, and thus embraces all tastes. It never looks like the owners have tried too hard because, for Danes, good design is not a luxury for the few, but an integral part of everyday life for all. Also Denmark, like the UK, has plenty of inclement weather, which forces people to spend a lot of time indoors, so wellbeing at home is important to them. All in all, it’s no wonder that the country’s signature style has caught on in a big way over here. These are the brands that should be on your radar.
Who’s behind the brand? It was established in 2015 by husband-and-wife team Kathrine and Per Gran Hartvigsen.
What does it sell? Taking an ‘expressive approach to Nordic design’, AYTM works a rich palette and plays with the contrast between matt and reflective surfaces. The new collection, from vases and poufs to side tables, has a sense of understated luxury that’s best summed up as Danish with an international outlook.
How does it define Danish style? ‘We chase light in the north, since it gets so dark in winter,’ says creative director Kathrine. ‘Danes love open and bright spaces with lots of windows and doors that help us feel connected to the outside. I also think our mentality and temperament are tuned in to simplicity and natural materials.’
Where can I buy it? Dopo Domani (dopo-domani.com) has a good selection and ships worldwide; in the UK, Couverture & The Garbstore (couvertureandthegarbstore.com) sells the brand’s accessories.
Who’s behind the brand? It was established in 2000 by Betina Stampe. An advocate of the joys of regularly switching up your surroundings, she aims to offer a wealth of choice so that you can curate your home in a way that makes you feel happy.
What does it sell? Each year Bloomingville releases two main collections, five smaller ones and a Christmas range covering accessories, lighting and furniture – it even caters for children and pets. A constant source of inspiration, this interiors powerhouse is especially skilled at reinterpreting the latest colour and material trends to fit with the natural simplicity of the Danish aesthetic.
How does it define Danish design? ‘It tends to be straightforward, yet capable of making a strong statement: that’s thanks to our appreciation of the small details, quality of materials and excellence of craftsmanship,’ says Stampe.
Where can I buy it? The top UK stockist is Amara (amara.com).
Who’s behind the brand? Though its look is highly contemporary, this company was set up in 1955 when Ulf Brøste, the son of a Danish salt merchant, gathered together a handful of craftsmen and commercialised the manufacture and export of their products.
What does it sell? The in-house team at Broste Copenhagen work with the natural character and colour of materials, creating clean-lined pieces that celebrate the simple Nordic way of life. The brand’s offering extends to furniture, lighting, textiles and art, but its tabletop edit is particularly strong.
How does it define Danish design? ‘Design is in the nation’s DNA,’ says Broste Copenhagen’s creative director Charlotte Thorhauge Bech. ‘We grew up with classic pieces and are surrounded by them every day. It’s raw and rustic, it uses natural materials, subtle colours and is both feminine and masculine.’
Where can I buy it? Nordic House (nordichouse.co.uk) and Graham & Green (grahamandgreen.co.uk).
Who’s behind the brand? Husband-and-wife duo Rolf and Mette Hay and businessman Troels Holch Povlsen set up Hay in 2002, with the aim of producing new Danish design classics that are accessibly priced. It now operates in 50 countries.
What does it sell? A colourful and covetable collection of furniture, accessories and textiles that reimagine 1950s and 60s Danish Modernism for a contemporary audience. Hay’s in-house team works with an impressive roster of international designers including Doshi Levien, Scholten & Baijings and the Bouroullec brothers. In 2016 the company also launched lighting label Wrong.London under the creative direction of British designer Sebastian Wrong. A collection with Ikea is set to be released later in 2017.
How does it define Danish design? ‘What Danish design can do is to carefully balance simplicity and warmth with functionality,’ says Rolf Hay.
Where can I buy it? The full range is available at the Hay store in Bath, while e-tailer Nest (nest.co.uk) also has a good selection.
Who’s behind the brand? After a decade working in the interiors industry, designer Louise Roe decided to go solo, setting up her eponymous label in 2010 with the aim of designing and manufacturing sophisticated pieces.
What does it sell? Elegant cushions, throws and rugs with a graphic slant, plus handsome homewares crafted from authentic materials – think cut-glass vases, enamel bowls, marble chopping boards and copper tea-light holders. Essentially, beautiful pieces with a purpose.
How does it define Danish design? ‘Danish style is characterised by simplicity, matching colours, light tones, quality craftsmanship and an awareness of our country’s rich design legacy,’ says Roe. ‘The Danish way of decorating a home is about creating “the whole expression”. Everything fits together and nothing is left to chance. Danish people are quite house proud and often invite friends and family over for dinner, and we want our homes to reflect our personal sense of style and personality.’
Where can I buy it? Royaldesign.co.uk has a well-rounded selection of the brand’s pieces, while edits are available from Couverture & The Garbstore (couvertureandthegarbstore.com) and Made Modern (mademodern.co.uk).
Who’s behind the brand? Flemming Hussak, Jannie Krüger and Daniel Henriksen founded the company in 2010 to bring something new to the market – namely, pieces that are simple and functional but not overly minimalistic. In six years, the Hübsch catalogue has swelled from 400 to around 2,500 products.
What does it sell? Blond wood and wicker furniture forms the foundation of its range, while jewel-toned glassware, soft-hued ceramics and sculptural lighting provide the accents. Krüger’s background as a fashion designer is evidenced in the brand’s textiles, which are experimental with pattern and colour.
How does it define Danish design?‘Lightness and simplicity are key features,’ says Henriksen. ‘Lightness in colour and in the sense of products not appearing too heavy. I believe that this applies to product design as well as the Danish way of decorating a home.’
Where can I buy it? It’s available online from Holly’s House (hollys-house.com), Graham & Green (grahamandgreen.co.uk) and Rockett St George (rockettstgeorge.co.uk).
Who’s behind the brand? Founded by Pernille Stoltz and Peter Bundgaard in 1997, its name is inspired by the formal way in which locals would address Pernille as she travelled around India, the country she calls her second home.
What does it sell? India, as well as Stoltz’s picturesque home island of Bornholm, where the company is now based, inform an aesthetic that she calls ‘Nordic nomad’. This translates into lots of woven and knotted pieces such as macramé plant hangers, jute rugs and wicker baskets, which are balanced with industrial-style storage and artisanal ceramics. Half of the products are designed by Stoltz, the rest she sources and tweaks to fit with the collection.
How does it define Danish design? ‘Big designers such as Arne Jacobsen and Poul Kjærholm inspired the Danish way of living a great deal,’ says Stoltz. ‘Nearly everyone has a classic piece of furniture in their home and they build from there, adding old and new things to make it feel personal.’
Where can I buy it? Rockett St George (rockettstgeorge.co.uk), Rose & Grey (roseandgrey.co.uk) and OVO Home (ovohome.com).
THE SECRET GARDEN
This elegant Milanese apartment brings the beauty and comfort of the countryside right into the heart of the city
Stroll through Milan’s artistic and upmarket Brera district and you will likely spot the beautifully grand 19th-century façade of the home of banker-turned-chef Antonella Grampa and her husband Angelo, a physicist working in software development. The couple live in the building’s airy top-floor apartment, which has views of the city’s famous cathedral.
‘We were drawn to its high ceilings,’ says Angelo. ‘However, the space facing the inner courtyard was dark and divided into small rooms: it had to be completely rethought.’ The couple entrusted the renovation work to architects Corinna Cappa and Stefania Martinelli, who spent two years revising the 250-square-metre home. ‘We wanted to increase the usefulness of the main living areas by connecting them in a continuous circular layout,’ explains Stefania. As such, the kitchen, dining room, lounge, study and bedroom now flow one into the next, each accessed via large double doors that slide into the walls and out of sight, albeit the doors usually sit open, framing the view of the balcony garden.
Landscape architect Gianluigi Cristiano was commissioned to create ‘a small, wild piece of countryside’ on the balcony. The result is a verdant miniature paradise that instils a sense of being far from the city. ‘The daylight peeks through the flowers and plants into the rooms beyond, producing a magical atmosphere that reminds me of a 19th-century greenhouse,’ says Antonella.
Numerous houseplants bring the beauty of the balcony indoors, as if the wild garden has spread to quiet reading corners and along tabletops. The architects also added botanically themed artworks and an occasional piece of garden furniture (see the metal bistro-style chairs in the kitchen and the vintage garden table used in the living room) to enhance the indoor/outdoor feel.
A neutral backdrop of reclaimed wood parquet floor and soft grey walls flows throughout, helping to tie the look of the interior together. ‘We wanted to create continuity and emphasise the simplicity of the house,’ says Stefania. Classic designs, such as the cream-coloured ‘Neowall’ sofas by Piero Lissoni for Living Divani, are skilfully mixed with family heirlooms and a number of standout pieces, including a Steinway & Sons piano and a bespoke Corian-topped dining table, to lend the apartment its sophisticated feel. ‘This home is our modern interpretation of comfortable elegance,’ says Stefania.
MODERN BY DESIGN
This striking Italian villa features a bold mixture of materials – from charred wood to stone – and stylish furnishings by design icons old and new
This modern, elegant villa in Canali, a neighbourhood on the south side of the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, sits in the shadow of the Apennine Mountains. The province is home to a 13th-century castle belonging to the Maramotti family, owners of the Max Mara fashion group – a noteworthy fact because this is one of the brands that homeowner Christopher Goldman Ward, an architect who specialises in retail projects, has worked with.
Christopher shares Casa Ward (as it has been christened) with his wife Alessandra Bigi and their two children, Maria Vittoria (10) and Gregorio Christopher (seven). The family purchased the land from Alessandra’s father in 2012 and spent the next few years building their home. The resulting three-storey property, which includes three bedrooms and four bathrooms, is inspired by high-end Brazilian and Californian architecture, particularly the work of John Lautner. ‘I wanted to create something simple yet sophisticated,’ says Christopher. ‘To play with modest architecture, but clad it in rich and warm materials.’
The first of these materials to catch the eye is the traditional-looking stone of the façade. It’s actually Geopietra, a pre-cut stone veneer that’s simply glued in place. It is used on the veranda and on the wall in the living area, which has a mid-century modern feel. Wood is the dominant texture in the double-height dining space. A continuous flow of American walnut begins at the bottom of the spiral staircase, covering most of the ceiling and culminating in a wood-clad bathroom upstairs.
This considered use of materials reduces the need for further architectural ornamentation. Pieces that Christopher created for the property, including the wall-to-wall shelving unit and fireplace in the living room, mingle comfortably with an enviable catalogue of designer pieces, including ‘Eloro’ seating by Rodolfo Dordoni for Cassina, Eames and Panton chairs by Vitra and a ‘Superarchimoon’ floor light by Flos. ‘A house needs to fit like a tailored suit in terms of layout, materials and furniture,’ Christopher says. ‘This villa wasn’t designed to follow any traditional concept – it’s simply my vision of how a home should be.’
Homeowner Christopher discusses the finishes
The mix I wanted to play with the contrast between natural warm materials and cooler contemporary ones. The exterior of the house is a combination of Geopietra stone veneer, American walnut, charred wood and Metropolis ‘Factor’ resin, which is thick and water-repellent [available from Aliva UK; alivauk.com]. Inside, I’ve used Kerakoll ‘Cementocrudo’ resin, which has a smooth tadelakt-style plaster texture, across the floors on the ground level [kerakolldesignhouse.com]. Both resins come in a range of colours and are durable, but also quite beautiful.
The detail When it came to the bronzed front door, I wanted it to be different from the rest of the façade, in order to highlight the entrance. The same burnished iron also appears in the interior – in the living area’s two big sliding doors and on the fireplace.
The quality I like to experiment, but it’s more important to work with the best materials on the market. Any money saved in the beginning always ends up costing you eventually. I’ve always loved natural materials: for me, they are the best expression of luxury, and they bring warmth and comfort to a house.
Copper is having something of a moment. Its naturally warm tones and ability to endure are resonating with our renewed appreciation for honest, humble materials. Here are four ways in which it’s being reimagined for use in the home
1 Pipe dreams Copper has long been a popular choice for piping, but here it’s stepped out from beneath the sink and is being used as a striking storage solution for everyday kitchenalia. Plus, as these pipes are not plumbed in, it’s a look that’s remarkably easy to achieve. You can buy copper piping from DIY stores such as Wickes (wickes.co.uk) or Screwfix (screwfix.com) then get a local welder (source one via findacraftsmen.com) to shape your design before fixing it to the wall.
2 To the wall Whether your home is contemporary or traditional, copper’s industrial feel and warm tones mean it’s well suited to almost any setting. In this instance, it’s been used as cladding, transforming a new cupboard into a modern feature that works in harmony with this house’s original wooden floorboards and pressed tin wainscoting. Speak to a builder about creating a similar look – find one via the Federation of Master Builders (fmb.org.uk/fab).
3 Cook off The patina of copper only improves with age and wear, making it the perfect material choice for surfaces that need to withstand a bit of use and abuse. It’s particularly well suited to kitchens where it can be coordinated across everything from cookware to cupboards and splashbacks, as shown. This copper leaf design is by American brand Artistic Tile, which is available from De Ferranti in the UK (deferranti.com).
4 Light brigade If you like the look of copper but don’t want to commit long-term, try experimenting with accessories such as lighting, which can add a touch of drama without overwhelming. The ‘Mr Cooper’ pendant pictured is by Australian designer Kate Stokes for Coco Flip (cocoflip.com.au), but you can find similar designs at John Lewis (johnlewis.com) or Habitat (habitat.co.uk), or splash out on Tom Dixon’s now-classic ‘Copper Shade’ (tomdixon.net).
RETURN TO SPLENDOUR
How one interior designer turned her Berlin apartment into a home that feels classic, contemporary and international
From the moment I stepped inside, I felt this enormous sense of wellbeing,’ says interior designer Vanessa Kress of the Berlin home that she shares with her businessman husband Roman Matthesius and their one-year-old son Aurelius. That’s an understandable emotion when you consider the attractive apartment today, but when Vanessa first viewed the place says interior designer Vanessa Kress of the Berlin home that she shares with her businessman husband Roman Matthesius and their one-year-old son Aurelius. That’s an understandable emotion when you consider the attractive apartment today, but when Vanessa first viewed the place in 2011 it was far from the stylish space it is now.
The property’s 171 square metres had been broken up into two dwellings: ‘A student was living in one half, a punk in the other,’ she says. ‘It was painted pink, orange and blue – some rooms even had carpet on the ceiling.’ Despite this, it was clear to Vanessa that the apartment, which is located in a 19th-century building in the city’s creative Kreuzberg quarter, was something she could work with. The proportions were good, natural light was abundant and the period details had not been destroyed by an unsympathetic renovation.
‘I wanted to return some glamour to the apartment and instinctively knew what changes I should make,’ says Vanessa, who promptly set about reworking the floorplan, constructing wider passages and adding doorways to create flowing lines of sight. The largest room was divided to create the main bedroom and an elegant dressing room. The wooden floor and intricate ceiling stucco were also repaired and traditional-looking skirting boards added throughout.
The restoration is faultless, but this home was never intended to be an ode to a bygone era. ‘I was determined to preserve the historical details, but I also wanted the interior to feel timeless and international,’ Vanessa says. Cue a chic neutral palette and the addition of a few modern indulgences, including streamlined black Modulnova kitchen units with granite worktops and a spa-like bathroom. Adding further wow-factor are two walls of beautiful antique Egyptian tiles, one in the kitchen and one in the guest bathroom. ‘Details like these make a room feel decorated – you only need to add a few signature pieces to complete the look,’ she says.
Much of the furniture was designed by Vanessa and custom-made. These bespoke creations are combined with much-loved items collected over a lifetime, from the antique silk rug in the living room to the Chinese bench in the hallway. ‘Very old elements have such a nice patina,’ says Vanessa. ‘But when placed next to something modern they take on a different feeling – I like to play with this tension.’
The lighting in the house mixes up styles and eras to great effect, too. Vanessa has teamed sleek spotlights with industrial-style designs and opulent vintage pendants. ‘These rooms need the charm of a chandelier, but downlights create the ambience,’ she says. ‘In the evening, the wooden surfaces, the structured wallpaper and the antique tiles are brought to life, like museum pieces.’
DESIGN HERO: ARNE JACOBSEN
The founding father of Danish Modernist design
Who was he? Rumour has it that Arne Jacobsen (1902-71) originally wanted to be a painter, but was persuaded to study architecture at Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts by his father – a turn of events for which we can all be grateful, as it’s hard to imagine the world of design without him. Credited with being one of the first architects to introduce Modernism to Denmark, his landmark buildings include the Bellavista housing development in Klampenborg (completed in 1934), Århus Town Hall (1939-42) and the SAS Royal Hotel Copenhagen (1958-1960). Jacobsen extended his talents to these shores when in 1960 he won the commission to design the now Grade I-listed St Catherine’s College in Oxford. He was first and foremost an architect, but also designed the interiors of his buildings, which resulted in the creation of a number of iconic products, from seating to lighting to cutlery.
What makes him a design hero? It’s impossible to discuss the history of chair design without mentioning Jacobsen. His breakthrough came in 1951 with the three-legged ‘Ant’ chair (so called because of its nipped-in waist), which he evolved into the hourglass-shaped ‘Series 7’ in 1955. Pictured above, both feature spindly legs and a moulded-plywood seat, but it’s the ‘Series 7’ that can lay claim to being the most successful chair ever produced – so what sets them apart? In short, the latter’s brush with scandal. In 1963, photographer Lewis Morley snapped a naked Christine Keeler, the call girl at the centre of the Profumo Affair, astride a ‘Series 7’ (albeit a knock-off) and sales rocketed.
Many other famous Jacobsen designs were originally conceived as part of his holistic vision for the SAS Copenhagen, a project that yielded the organically shaped ‘Swan’ and ‘Egg’ chairs, the asymmetrical ‘AJ’ light and a frill-free set of cutlery that so caught the imagination of Stanley Kubrick, he featured it in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Jacobsen went on to push the boundaries of tableware design further with the 17-piece ‘Cylinda-Line’ collection (1967), which he spent three years finessing until the proportions were perfect.
Where can I buy his work? Fritz Hansen has been the sole licensed manufacturer of Jacobsen’s furniture designs since 1934. Louis Poulsen continues to produce the ‘AJ’ light, Georg Jensen his cutlery and Stelton the ‘Cylinda-Line’ range. The ‘Mayor’ sofa, which was designed for Søllerød City Hall (1939-1942) but never but never put into production, has just been released by &Tradition.
How one Swedish calligrapher transformed a rural museum into her dream home using clever design tricks and a monochrome palette
Given the opportunity to buy an old museum and transform it into a home, many people would be daunted by the scale of the project. But when designer and calligrapher Ylva Skarp and her husband Daniel, a sales director, were presented with that very prospect in 2003, they jumped at the chance – even though their friends all advised against it.
The couple were living in Stockholm at the time, but didn’t want to raise their son Hugo and daughter Vega, now 16 and 13, in the city. ‘We longed for space, nature and fresh air,’ says Ylva. ‘I dreamt of a home with a studio in the garden and a shop attached, and Daniel wanted to be close to water so that he could go fishing.’
This traditional red log house in Hjortnäs, a village that sits quietly on the shores of Lake Siljan, was perfect in all but one respect: it had never been intended as a home. Built in 1901, it was originally the village schoolhouse before it later became a tin soldier museum. ‘It was not designed to be lived in,’ says Ylva. ‘But when we saw it, and realised its potential, we just had to move in.’
Creating their dream house was a huge project. The entire 310-square-metre property needed to be reconfigured. Bathrooms and bedrooms had to be designed; new heating, electricity and plumbing systems installed. But it wasn’t the renovations that proved the biggest challenge: ‘It was difficult to know how to make the house feel like a home as it’s so spacious and has such high ceilings,’ says Ylva. ‘Our old house was only as big as the living room here, so it took time to adjust to the new scale.’
Ylva and Daniel have created cosy spaces in this grand building by presenting their belongings in clusters – a quartet of matching light shades hangs over the dining table and large groupings of pictures decorate the walls. In some instances, the couple have even paired identikit pieces of furniture to give the impression of one supersized item. In the living room, for example, multiple sections of Ikea’s ‘Söderhamn’ sofa have been combined to create an enormous seating area and two matching coffee tables form a unique L-shaped design.
‘We opted for a neutral, timeless look,’ says Ylva of her monochrome home. ‘It’s easy to adapt if we want to change anything.’ And Ylva is often changing things. ‘The house is a showroom for my art,’ she says. ‘It’s where I try out pieces before adding them to my collection.’ ‘I’m proud of what we have achieved here,’ adds Ylva. ‘People thought we were crazy to take on this project, but the house has allowed us to live in a way that we never thought possible.’
WORK IN PROGRESS
Thanks to the digital age, more and more people are giving up the commute and discovering the benefits of working remotely. But when living space is often at a premium, making room for an office at home can be easier said than done. Here are four ways to make it work
1 Step it up
On of the challenges of working from home is not letting your labours take over your personal life. A delineated work space, therefore, is a must. Raising a section of floor is a clever way to zone off an area without compromising on your home's sense of light and space. Plus, the physical divide will help you mentally switch in and out of work mode. To create a similar look, find a trusted builder via the Federation of Master Builders.
2 Go with the flow When incorporating a work station into a larger space, it's important to think about the bigger picture. Visually, you want it to blend in rather than stand out – that way you can forget it's there when your working day is done. Here, a considered palette of matt black, crisp white and shiny metallic details has been carried through from the cooking zone to the office so that while the two areas remain distinct, aesthetically they work in harmony.
3 Be space savvy Think you don't have enough room for an office? Think again. Even the tiniest nook can be transformed into a workable space with a bit of imagination. All you really need is a dedicated seat, surface and socket - Job done. A bijou set-up like this one does require some discipline, though, as there's little room for creative sprawl. Just imagine you are hot-desking and keep office accoutrements to a minimum.
4 Show off A home office should be filled with the things that inspire you., but it should also feel curated rather thn cluttered. This space is packed with smart (and easy to copy) display ideas. Firstly, there's the wide trestle legs that are perfect for storing favourite books and catalogues. Then there's the glass table top with shelf underneath for material you want on view, but not in the way. Finally, slim shelves are perfect for rotating picture and objects as you wish.