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El­lie Ten­nant ex­plores the en­dur­ing ap­peal of Scan­di­na­vian de­sign, along with the key clas­sics that are mak­ing waves at auc­tion

From prac­ti­cal func­tion­al­ity and big-name de­sign­ers to nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and e or­t­less sim­plic­ity, El­lie Ten­nant ex­plores the en­dur­ing ap­peal of Scan­di­na­vian style

Whether it’s ogling the chic in­te­ri­ors we see in ‘ Nordic Noir’ TV dra­mas, or stock­ing up on ! at-pack fur­ni­ture at Ikea, our pas­sion for ‘Scandi style’ seems lim­it­less. Apart from a brief spell in the "#8$s – when there was a gen­er­a­tional back­lash against the ‘Scandi teak look’ – this pared-back style that mar­ries func­tion­al­ity with beauty ap­pears to have global, time­less ap­peal. ‘Qual­ity and in­tegrity al­ways en­dure. For a new gen­er­a­tion look­ing for authen­tic­ity and mean­ing, Scandi de­sign %ts the bill, hence the phe­nom­e­nal re­vival of in­ter­est in re­cent times,’ ex­plains de­sign his­to­rian and au­thor Charlo&e Fiell. ‘[Dan­ish sculp­tor and de­signer] Jens Har­ald Quist­gaard talked about “sim­plic­ity with­out poverty” vis- à-vis his own work, but I think it re­ally sums up what most Scan­di­na­vian de­sign is all about.’

With more peo­ple rent­ing in the UK – for longer – and ur­ban dwellings de­creas­ing in size, the com­pact pro­por­tions and clean lines of Scan­di­na­vian pieces are prov­ing prac­ti­cal fea­tures for those of us who are o'en on the move or live in small spa­ces.

‘Scan­di­na­vian style is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant now be­cause we have such busy life­styles,’ points out Ca­jsa Carlson, Sta ( Ed­i­tor at Houzz Swe­den. ‘ We’re on­line all day, so when we come home we crave a calm­ing, pared- down space – a sim­ple, na­turein­spired en­vi­ron­ment.’

Post-war Creativ­ity

Mod­ern Scan­di­na­vian style emerged in the )#*$s at the same time as the Mod­ernist de­sign move­ment was gain­ing real mo­men­tum in Amer­ica and Europe. In !uenced by short days and win­try light, fash­ion­able Nordic in­te­ri­ors (from Swe­den, Den­mark, Nor­way and Fin­land) be­gan to fea­ture clean lines and airy open-plan spa­ces that were clev­erly de­signed to en­hance well­be­ing. Fur­nish­ings were a (ord­able and func­tional – but beau­ti­ful – and made mostly from warm, tex­tu­ral, nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als such as wood, leather and ce­ram­ics.

‘ Dur­ing the post-war pe­riod, Scan­di­na­vian de­sign o(ered a

much needed aes­thet­i­cally com­fort­able and so­cially pro­gres­sive in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Mod­ernism – youth­ful, cool and ca­sual,’ says Charlo!e.

It might seem un­likely that these re­mote coun­tries with tiny pop­u­la­tions be­came the dom­i­nant forces in the world of de­sign dur­ing the mid- cen­tury era, but their geo­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion was one of the rea­sons that they pro­duced so many lead­ing de­sign­ers.

‘ Be­cause they were iso­lated, Scan­di­na­vians were good at great cra "sman­ship with lim­ited ma­te­ri­als,’ points out Natasja Jozsa, Mer­chan­diser Pur­chaser at Vin­te­rior. ‘ That’s what Mod­ernism was all about – mak­ing qual­ity de­sign ac­ces­si­ble to the masses.’

The in­spir­ing land­scapes and the ex­treme cli­mate of north­ern Europe also had a huge im­pact on the global suc­cess of Scan­di­na­vian

de­sign. An abun­dance of forests en­sured a good sup­ply of wood and in­spired or­ganic, nat­u­ral shapes. While short and dark win­ter days meant that white-painted walls and well- de­signed light­ing be­came essen­tials, as well as clean lines and sim­ple sil­houe!es. As Ca­jsa points out: ‘Or­nate dec­o­ra­tion doesn’t re­ally work when you can’t see the de­tails prop­erly!’

Time­less Fur­ni­ture

While it would be amiss to over­look other Scan­di­na­vian na­tions (Swe­den had a plethora of suc­cess­ful de­sign­ers in­clud­ing Bruno Maths­son, while Fin­land boasted the likes of Alvar Aalto…) it’s fair to say that Den­mark be­came the lead­ing light in the realm of fur­ni­ture pro­duc­tion dur­ing the mid- cen­tury years. Dan­ish de­sign schools were hot­houses for tal­ent,

pro­duc­ing a gen­er­a­tion of de­sign­ers who achieved a blend of prac­ti­cal­ity and so­phis­ti­ca­tion un­matched by many of their con­tem­po­raries in other coun­tries.

Flem­ming Moberg, owner of Sim­ply Dan­ish in Mar­gate, spe­cialises in deal­ing vin­tage pieces from Den­mark. ‘ Many of the best Dan­ish de­sign­ers were also ar­chi­tects, so they wanted ev­ery­thing to be struc­turally sound, which is why their fur­ni­ture is so well made,’ he ex­plains. ‘ They would re­build a chair, and re­build a chair, and re­build a chair, un­til it was per­fect in terms of func­tion, form and de­sign. They were per­fec­tion­ists who had a real pas­sion for de­sign and didn’t care about be­com­ing rich.’

De­spite the wealth of tal­ent, Flem­ming feels that two Dan­ish de­sign­ers stand out from the crowd: Hans Weg­ner and Finn Juhl. ‘Hans Weg­ner was the most pro­duc­tive de­signer we’ve ever had in Den­mark,’ he re­veals. ‘ He did such di­verse work. For ex­am­ple, his in­no­va­tive Wish­bone chair has round lines, but he also made clas­sic de­signs that were very square. He de­signed ex­pen­sive things and a !ord­able pieces.’

Finn Juhl would de­sign ev­ery­thing in a house, from the door­knobs to the desks. ‘ His home is "ve miles from the cen­tre of Copen­hagen and well worth a visit,’ adds Flem­ming. ‘It’s a great ex­am­ple of how sim­plic­ity and func­tion­al­ity can be mar­ried in a space.’

Dan­ish de­signs had a huge in #uence on Bri­tish and Amer­i­can mak­ers. In the early 1960s, G Plan pro­duced the Dan­ish Mod­ern range with the help of Dan­ish de­signer Ib Ko­fod-Larsen, which had a huge im­pact on some of the other pieces they de­signed in the fu­ture. ‘An­other Dan­ish de­signer was Jens Har­ald Quist­gaard, who co-founded Dansk De­signs in Amer­ica,’ says Flem­ming.

Colour­ful Fin­ish­ing Touches

Glass ac­ces­sories are o$en used to in­tro­duce colour and in­ter­est

to Scan­di­na­vian in­te­ri­ors. If Den­mark led the way in terms of fur­ni­ture, it was Swe­den who was the mighty force when it came to mid-cen­tury glass. ‘I can think of around 50 big-name Swedish glass­mak­ers, whereas Fin­land only has about four,’ says glass spe­cial­ist Andy McCon­nell of Glass Etc. ‘That re!ects the broader pic­ture.’ A"er the Sec­ond World War, Swe­den was rich, which was a huge cat­a­lyst for the pro­duc­tion of fash­ion­able glass­ware. ‘In a very short pe­riod of time, there were sud­denly 40 signi#cant glass­works in Swe­den and the coun­try a$racted the best de­sign stu­dents,’ says Andy. ‘The Swedes turned out tonnes of glass and ce­ram­ics. They found an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, too. Twenty per cent of Swedish dec­o­ra­tive arts pro­duc­tion was ex­ported to the USA.’

Scan­di­na­vian de­sign­ers in!uenced ev­ery­body else, from the Bri­tish and the Amer­i­cans, to the French and the Bel­gians. ‘Swedish glass be­came an in­ter­na­tional de­sign tem­plate,’ says Andy. For ex­am­ple, in Eng­land, Dart­ing­ton’s fac­tory em­ployed mas­ter Swedish glass­blower Eskil Vil­helms­son and a team of 17 glass­blow­ers to work and to train lo­cal men.

In an era when fe­male de­sign­ers were rarely

cel­e­brated in the same way as their male coun­ter­parts, the Swedish glass de­signer Gerda Ström­berg was a pi­o­neer.

‘She was the world’s # rst fa­mous fe­male glass de­signer and she opened the doors to other women. She’s the High Priest­ess of Mod­ernism,’ en­thuses Andy. ‘ You can put her work in any se"ing – on Chip­pen­dale or Eames – and it will look beau­ti­ful. Just give it light and it will work.’

Many of her no-frills glass cre­ations, which Andy calls ‘mono­lithic’, are in­spired by win­try Scandi land­scapes. ‘Her ves­sels are like mighty blocks of ice-blue crys­tal,’ he adds.

Folk In uences

As well as el­e­gant glass­ware, colour­ful tex­tiles are es­sen­tial com­po­nents in Scan­di­na­vian in­te­ri­ors to cre­ate a cosy feel. ‘ Nine­teenth- cen­tury folk de­sign was re­vived in the 20th cen­tury by the likes of Aus­trian-born Josef Frank and Swede Estrid Eric­son, who founded Sven­skt Tenn. They pro­duced beau­ti­ful na­turein­spired fab­rics,’ says Ca­jsa. ‘ To­day, Ikea and Marimekko are in­spired by her­itage but make it rel­e­vant for a mod­ern­day au­di­ence, so they do

some­thing sim­i­lar to a cer­tain ex­tent.’ While Scan­di­na­vian in­te­ri­ors have tra­di­tion­ally in­volved white walls and pale neu­trals, a shi ! has be­gun. ‘ It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing,’ says Natasja. ‘ New colour schemes that in­cor­po­rate the more dra­matic tones of the land­scape – dark blues, for­est greens and quartz pinks – show that Scandi style is still evolv­ing and rel­e­vant.’ It’s also fash­ion­able at the mo­ment to com­bine Scandi style with the eclec­tic ‘ boho’ look, orig­i­nat­ing from Amer­ica and em­bod­ied by brands such as An­thro­polo­gie. It seems Nordic in­te­ri­ors are des­tined to ap­peal for years to come. ‘ The mid- cen­tury Scan­di­na­vians were be"er at de­sign than any­one else,’ says Andy. ‘ They dis­tilled the spirit of the north in a way that some­how touches us all.’

The qui­etly el­e­gant and calm­ing liv­ing room of Finn Juhl’s open-plan house, north of Copen­hagen. The Dan­ish ar­chi­tect de­signed the house (built in 1942) and the fur­ni­ture in it.

Rare mid-cen­tury vin­tage Swedish teak Mod­ernist 1960s desk,

LEFT TO RIGHT Arne Ja­cob­sen’s Egg chair in pro­duc­tion in 1963; the chic in­te­rior of de­signer Finn Juhl’s house epit­o­mises Nordic style; Arne Ja­cob­sen cre­ated the Drop chair in 1958 for the leg­endary SAS Royal Ho­tel in Copen­hagen (also de­signed by him), which was the first de­sign ho­tel ever built.

TOP Drop, Egg and Swan chairs, new 60th an­niver­sary edi­tions – de­sign icons that Arne Ja­cob­sen orig­i­nally cre­ated for the SAS Royal Ho­tel in Copen­hagen in 1958 and made by Fritz Hansen. ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT Dan­ish de­sign­ers Arne Ja­cob­sen, Hans Weg­ner and Børge Mo­gensen.

THIS PAGE FROM LEFT Writ­ing bureau de­signed by Børge Mo­gensen for Born­holm Mobler in the 1960s, on sale at Vin­te­rior for £1,295; iconic vin­tage CH24 Wish­bone chairs by Hans Weg­ner for Carl Hansen & Son; Hunt­ing ta­ble, de­signed by Børge Mo­gensen for an ex­hi­bi­tion in 1950 and made by Carl Hansen & Son.

FROM TOP This 1960s Swedish Shell light costs £450 at El­liott & Tate; Scandi style looks good with eclec­tic ‘boho’ ac­ces­sories from Loom + Kiln for a fresh look. BE­LOW Hal­a­bala lounge chair in Man­hat­tan linen by Josef Frank for Sven­skt Tenn, £1,050, Vin­te­rior; Gerda Ström­berg glasses c1933, £150 each, Glass Etc.

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