Get your­self ready for the next Scan­di­na­vian life­style trend

Sunday Times - - Trending - TEXT: JES­SICA DOYLE

First, there was hygge, the Dan­ish term for cosi­ness, well­be­ing and a fuzzy feel­ing of con­tent­ment. Next came lagom, the Swedish word mean­ing “just enough”, which es­poused liv­ing with less, shop­ping mind­fully and dec­o­rat­ing sus­tain­ably. Now there’s a new Scan­di­na­vian life­style trend in town, and its name is umage (pro­nounced “oo-may”), which loosely trans­lates from the Dan­ish as “make a bit more ef­fort”. Not such an ap­peal­ing con­cept on the face of it. Where hygge was about pulling on a pair of cash­mere leg­gings and light­ing a can­dle, and lagom evoked vi­sions of waft­ing el­e­gantly around a clut­ter-free home, umage calls to mind HIIT classes, iron­ing bed linen and work­ing late.

Yet per­haps there’s some­thing to be said for mak­ing a bit more of an ef­fort with your in­te­ri­ors. We all have that part of our home that isn’t quite work­ing for us, whether it’s the cupboard door that won’t shut, a chaotic book­shelf, or the paint colour that hasn’t lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions. By ad­dress­ing these nig­gles, and putting a lit­tle work in, we could end up with a home that helps us to feel more re­laxed.

Dan­ish de­signer Soren Ravn Chris­tensen is so on board with the con­cept that he has changed the name of his fur­ni­ture and light­ing com­pany, for­merly Vita Copen­hagen, to Umage. For him, it’s a key el­e­ment of the Dan­ish char­ac­ter, par­tic­u­larly de­sign.

“It’s in our DNA,” he says. “Den­mark is a small coun­try with few nat­u­ral re­sources, so we’ve al­ways had to go above and be­yond to make things. Grow­ing up as a Dane, you learn that you have to be bet­ter than the rest.”

This, he sug­gests, is what helped to pro­pel Dan­ish fur­ni­ture de­sign to the fore­front of the Scan­di­na­vian mod­ern move­ment from the 1930s on: think of a de­sign clas­sic and it’s likely a chair by


Hans J Weg­ner, Arne Ja­cob­sen or Verner Pan­ton will spring to mind.

Chris­tensen’s take on the con­cept is to make a new col­lec­tion of flat­pack fur­ni­ture — and that, you might think, is the very essence of mak­ing an ef­fort. Yet the pieces are sim­ple and quick to put to­gether, he in­sists, and come with ex­tra de­sign de­tails, for ex­am­ple chairs without vis­i­ble screws. Its unique sell­ing propo­si­tion is that ev­ery­thing is flex­i­ble and mul­ti­func­tional, so the fur­ni­ture it­self works harder for your home, mak­ing the ef­fort on your be­half.

“Our phi­los­o­phy is that if we’re go­ing to make an­other piece of fur­ni­ture, we’ve got to bring a new an­gle, a new func­tion­al­ity to it,” he ex­plains. The col­lec­tion in­cludes a coat hook that dou­bles as a shelf for hold­ing keys and wal­lets; a cof­fee ta­ble with a leather “ham­mock” beneath, into which you can shove stuff when you need to clear the sur­face; and a com­fort­able three-seater sofa with seat cush­ions that can be flipped over to re­veal trays, and ac­ces­sories such as side tables and read­ing lamps that can be clipped on.

Other ideas in­clude side tables with con­cealed charg­ing hubs; a curvy cabi­net with a tam­bour slid­ing door that can re­veal or con­ceal its con­tents; and chairs with in­ter­change­able up­hol­stery so you can change the look when you get bored.

As the Dan­ish prod­uct de­signer Hen­rik Sørig Thom­sen, who ex­hib­ited at 100% De­sign in Lon­don, puts it: “De­sign is suc­cess­ful when the prod­uct con­tin­ues to sur­prise and pro­vide plea­sure long af­ter the pur­chase.”

All of which sug­gests that when thought and care are put into a piece of fur­ni­ture, the re­sults are hard-wear­ing, long-last­ing pieces that add beauty to an in­te­rior. A phi­los­o­phy that, when ex­tended to the de­sign of a whole home, will surely re­sult in a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment that feels good to be in. So maybe it’s worth putting in that ex­tra ef­fort af­ter all.

Our phi­los­o­phy is that if we’re go­ing to make an­other piece of fur­ni­ture, we’ve got to bring a new an­gle

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