INTERIORS:Centuries after the Vikings first plundered our shores, Irish homes have been invaded by new generation of Norsemen, and women – Scandinavian furniture designers, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER
But what exactly is it? Scandinavian design is not one brand, says Chrystina Schmidt, the Finnish co-founder and creative director of Skandium, a London retailer of modern Scandinavian furniture, lighting, kitchenware and glassware.
“It is a long, long story,” she says. She lists Sweden, Finland and Denmark as the classic design countries, excluding Norway because “it has been ruined by oil”.
“Each nation has a different style, social structure and set up,” she explains. “They are united by history, tradition and politics. For Finland, design defined a nation freeing itself from the big bear of Russia.”
The godfather of Finnish design is Alvar Aalto, an architect and designer. “[He] visited the Bauhaus school in the 1920s and it blew him away,” she says. “Bauhaus is the precursor of what is now termed Scandinavian design. He spent the next four years trying to bend wood to emulate Bauhaus furniture.”
The story is not confined to designers born in the Nordic countries. Josef Frank, the Austrian-born architect and designer worked for Stockholm-based Swedish Pewter, a company founded by Estrid Ericson. Together they created Swedish modernism.
What is its enduring appeal? “The focus is on quality and craftsmanship,” Schmidt explains. “This is the reason why you still have so many ‘old’ Scandinavian pieces [that seem] very much still alive and kicking. Good craftsmanship lasts longer, gives the person at the workbench a feeling of contributing something worthwhile.
“It gives them self-respect, sustains them and their families, keeps the item relevant for longer, meaning that you’re not over-using natural resources and so are also caring for the environment.”
Many pieces also tell a story. The swivelling and rocking Karuselli armchair was designed by Finnish designer Yrjö Kukkapuro in 1964. According to lore, after he had been drinking vodka Kukkapuro fell down on a pile of snow. He got the idea for the chair from the shape his body created in the snow.
One of the attractions of Scandi chic is that it is affordable. Ikea exemplifies Scandi chic at affordable prices, but there are plenty of others offering value such as Bo Concept, a Danish company celebrating 60 years in business this year.
Its bird sculptures – €29 each – echo the original oak creations made by Kristian Vedel in 1959 and the glass shapes of Finnish brand Iittala. Skovby and Bodum are two more great Danish brands.
Some of the work of Arne Jacobsen, Hans J Wegner, Marimekko, and Verner Panton is overexposed, so if you’d prefer less identifiable pieces from the Scandi canon, consider the collections of Gubi, a Danish brand (pictured above).
Scandinavian design is made for living with not for looking at, says Lenka Teilmann, creative director for the Furninova Group, which includes Soul Lifestyle, a Swedish-based brand. It has 60 outlets worldwide, including one at Beacon South Quarter in Dublin 18.
“We spend a lot of time inside so it has to feel cosy,” says the Slovakian-born creative. The brand’s sheepskin covered Time Out recliner and footstool epitomises this. It is made in Sweden, along with their Woodpoint brand. The rest is manufactured in Poland.