OOH, MAY I HAVE SOME?
Get yourself ready for the next Scandinavian lifestyle trend
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
SOREN RAVN CHRISTENSEN DESIGNER, UMAGE
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