From furnishings and fixtures to full refurbishments, we celebrate 50 winning design innovations.
The Swedish firm’s new interior design for the Palace restaurant in Helsinki, atop a 1952 building by Finnish architects Viljo Revell and Keijo Petäjä, exudes a timeless elegance. The brief called for a concept that would honour the modernist style of the building, which the studio successfully achieved by using a soft pink, grey and petrol blue colour palette together with furnishings in teak. In the process it has formed the perfect backdrop for enjoying Finnish delicacies and cocktails delivered on custom-made pink trolleys.
This chair by Danish designer Isabel Ahm elegantly comprises steam-bent ash wood. Three cuts of interconnected timber shape the curves of this smart stackable piece. Seats are in classic wooden cane or upholstered leather and the chair comes in various colour combinations including fig-purple, red and navy blue. “I wanted to explore the colour scheme and make a chair with a quiet, subtle life,” says Ahm.
Turkish architect and designer Neptun Ozis made the 1960s-inspired Moualla table (an inviting piece in solid oak or nut wood) for Walter Knoll. It looks lightweight but it’s sturdy and the tactile tabletop shows off the material’s natural grain beautifully.
Showcased at this year’s Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair, this clever piece was invented to help office workers deal with the darker months in Scandinavia. The solid ash-wood frame has integrated lighting that helps plants grow and also brightens up those gloomy corners (and moments) throughout winter.
Industrial designer Steffen Kehrle’s compact wall shelves are ideal for plants, wallets and other household knick-knacks, while the peg rail ensures that no key sets need ever be lost again. The shelf boards and pegs are inserted into precisely milled dovetail grooves (so no glue and nails are used), while the stained oak and ash make each piece unique.
The PH5 lamp is such a darling of Danish design that it has been featured on a postage stamp. Poul Henningsen developed his characteristic soft, layered shade system in response to his mother’s complaints about glare from her lights. In celebration of the product’s 60 years as a catalogue favourite, Louis Poulsen has released the PH5 in a new range to match last year’s miniature version, allowing for a mix of sizes and colours, from gradations of green to shades of rose.
“I love minimalism but I want my work to look powerful; I want people to go, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’” says Canadian designer Martha Sturdy of her eye-catching stand at this year’s Paris Maison et Objet design fair. Bold resin furniture pieces draw on primary colours and simple shapes, building up from a pure palette in a compelling manner. Formerly a designer of “wearable sculpture”, Sturdy says: “If I make someone slow down and look, I win.”
The Czech Republic’s Soviet heritage is “uncomfortable so people throw everything away”, says Jiri Mrazek, who co-founded this vintage furniture dealership with Adam Karasek. Championing Czech design from the mid- to late-20th century, the pair attend renovations of Cold War-era administrative buildings to save any state-commissioned furnishings. From old embassy chairs to Napako lamps, Nanovo ships internationally.
To cope with growth, luxury fashion retailer Ssense asked Montréal’s Atelier Barda to transform an old textile factory into a stripped-down HQ. Concrete floors, exposed air ducts and white walls echo the building’s industrial history while, inside, Foraine, Atelier Barda’s furniture design studio, focuses on modern craftsmanship: terrazzo-topped coffee tables and chairs in black metal and wicker. “The materials were chosen to contrast the raw space,” says Barda co-founder Antonio Di Bacco.
“It’s not loud but if you feel the products and the finish you realise that it’s not ordinary either,” says Magazyn founder Thomas Haarmann. His sf001 sofa achieves this quiet luxury via a plush, low-profile design and is upholstered in rich, deep grey linen. The cosiest complement to the piece is Magazyn’s bl001 blanket, made of soft merino wool.
A golden era for Scandinavian design appears to be upon us once again with markets in North America and Asia backing brands from the Nordic region. The reason? They make furniture perfect for the smaller homes and flexible office spaces popping up around the world. At the top of many an international buyer’s list is Muuto, which was itself recently bought by US furniture giant Knoll.
What is the process when you are thinking about modern design for your furniture?
The process is that we have a fundamental idea – a new lounge chair, for example. Then we handpick who we believe will be the best designer for the job and work with a detailed brief, going through the many iterations to reach the final outcome. Honestly, the world doesn’t need much more furniture so we are very selective with what areas of the market we need to cover.
Why is the US market demanding Scandinavian furniture right now?
Scandinavian design goes up and down in popularity but it’s never disappearing. What we are seeing is a transformation in the office environment, where the need for a more homely feeling is becoming more popular – the cubicle walls are coming down and more comfortable furniture like ours is taking their place.
In designing the Scandia chair in 1959, Norway’s Hans Brattrud pioneered high-frequency lamination, which became a common material production technique. The Scandia Nett lounge chair, in American walnut or oak, is now made by Norway’s Fjordfiesta, which melds continental elegance with Scandinavian simplicity.
Founded four years ago, Stockholm furniture company Hem commissions easily assembled functional products for the modern home. Italian designer Luca Nichetto’s Alphabeta floor lamps are no exception: packing down to a shippable size, they come in eight lampshade silhouettes and various colours.
“We spend half our lives waiting,” says Valencian designer Carlos Tíscar, whose thoughtful modular seating collection Lapse aims to improve the “waiting” in waiting rooms. Designed for Alicante firm Inclass, the Tetris-like furniture compositions are layered with low-slung shelves, arm-rests and dividers, as well as accessories such as usb ports. Tíscar studied human behaviour (and discomfort) in lobbies before creating this functional fixture. “I wanted to turn the frustrations of this lapse in time into a more productive, comfortable moment,” he says.
Tranquil and industrial are not usually words that go together but, at this Lisbon restaurant, Portuguese firm Arkstudio has cracked it. A former factory, the lofty space is today alive with greenery. The studio used existing materials such as marble and steel and added wood, glass and brass to give a luxurious sheen. Some furniture was bespoke, other pieces locally sourced. “We saw a picture of the space before its renovation when the industrial pulley was covered with plants and that was our inspiration,” says Arkstudio founder Margarida Matias. We’re hoping this marks an end to hanging exposed lightbulbs.
Kyoto-based manufacturer Kohseki has worked with Danish designer Lars Vejen to create the Enso lamp series. With no screws or glue, the lamps are constructed in cedar wood and laminated Japanese paper, united by magnets. “I wanted the Japanese craftsmanship to be the ruling factor for my design,” says Vejen. The easily assembled pieces are transported to customers in poster tubes.
This young brand creates durable, functional chairs, tables and stools from ash and oak, drawing on traditional Finnish woodworking methods and working in co-operation with the client and the carpenters. “As a designer, working with the carpenters helps you understand the material and its possibilities,” says co-founder Sebastian Jansson.
The unique structure of Ivy Muse’s hand-welded plant stands means they can be flipped over to hold either a big or small vase. “It’s about longevity,” says Alana Langhan, who co-founded the Melbourne botanical ware shop back in 2014.
Swedese’s co-founder Yngve Ekström left an indelible mark on the design landscape; his Lamino chair is a Swedish national treasure. And the mid-century modernist’s pioneering spirit remains influential for the brand’s creative director.
What drew you to Swedese?
I became creative director at Swedese two years ago and we are looking back into the history of the company, bringing out pieces from the archive. The company was very innovative from the beginning.
How are you bringing the company forward?
We want to present furniture with a human touch and this includes promoting sustainability in design. We’ve worked together with Thomas Sandell, Front and my own studio in a creative workshop to design new products from leftover material from the Swedese factory.
“We put out conversational pieces,” says Daniel de Groot, co-founder of Melbourne furniture studio Tuckbox Design. Its latest outdoor range, the Paper Set, features plated-steel models perfect for small balconies. This perforated table allows rainwater to pass through while adding warmth to what can be a cold-feeling material.
Schramm has been handmaking beds in Germany since 1923. Angela and Felix Schramm are keeping things in the family, bringing the business into the 21st century and, with three of their four children, working on designing a weightless sleeping experience.
What sets a Schramm mattress apart?
Quality and craftsmanship. The way a mattress adapts to the contours of the body, that’s where a premium product differentiates itself from a simple bed. We want to lie in the bed, not on the bed. A good mattress relieves pressure.
How have you innovated the traditional spring mattress?
We’ve created various patents, such as the three-mattress Grand Cru system, which comes close to creating the sensation of being weightless. Of course, we’ll never be able to defy gravity but we’re working on it.
What’s the industry trend?
We’re seeing a move away from high box-spring beds towards lighter, more organic beds that suit our shrinking living spaces.
As the sun starts to warm up Italy this spring, Ethimo has rolled out a chic and fresh range of lounge chairs and sunbeds. With frames made of a white mahogany native to Australia, they’re adorned with splash-proof and smart two-tone plastic straps. Alternatively there is a cushioned option in white, offering a comfier place to rest a bikini-clad bottom.
Co-founder of Berlin design studio New Tendency, Manuel Goller, graduated from Weimar’s Bauhaus University. Its influence is evident across the studio’s collection, from the minimalist Meta side table to the Masa table system. “We translate the Bauhaus philosophy into a contemporary context,” says Goller.
Debuting in the US this June via Moma’s Design Store, this modernist-inspired piano is the result of a collaboration between electronic instrument maker Roland and Japanese furniture studio Karimoku. Without its usual black lacquer the piano’s warm oak shines through, forming a compact, minimalist instrument.
Detroit brand Floyd has produced nifty, affordable self-assembly pieces in wood since being founded in 2013. Its round surfaced, three-legged, mid-century-influenced side table comes in two sizes and five colours.
It’s not about bold and brash design at Germany’s foremost furniture fair, held every January. Buyers are looking for craftsmanship and longevity, and Lower Saxony-based Tecta has them in spades. Not that its work isn’t easy on the eye: this year it added a cosy colour palette to its wicker and steel Bauhaus re-editions and launched a folding timber chair by German designer Klemens Grund.
In the design world, perceptions of the “Made in China” tag are shifting. And now one of the industry’s most respected Japanese names, Nendo, is collaborating with Guangzhou’s Zens. “They know a lot about different manufacturing techniques so we were open to work with any kind of material and mix them together,” says Nendo director Oki Sato. The hieroglyphic-inspired shapes of the Picto bent-metal furniture range are the early fruits of this ongoing collaboration.
Designed in 1938 by Le Corbusier associates Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret, this lightweight Alpine refuge never made it to production. Yet Italian furniture brand Cassina has reignited interest in this compact, cosy shelter by constructing one for staff use in its headquarters outside Milan. Though the space is generally used for impromptu meetings, it can host eight campers (helpful in the busy run up to big design fairs). It’s not a bad spot for a kip either, warm woody aromas resonate inside the pine-laden interior, its aluminium exterior making it a striking statement piece in the Cassina HQ.
Arne Jacobsen’s 66-year-old desk design could not be more suited to today’s home. In oak and walnut with brushed-steel trimmings, adjustable lamp and drawers, it’s the first of the modernist master’s pieces from Carl Hansen & Søn.
Spanish maestro Marset’s latest collaboration-rich collection, unveiled at this fair in March, includes the polychromatic Dipping Light by Jordi Canudas and the tower-like High Line by Josep Lluís Xuclà, which bounces light off the wall for an amplifying effect.
Lim & Lu is moving into furniture with its Mass series, a 12-piece collection by Denmark’s New Works, out in May.
Flexibility is a common thread in your furniture.
We get bored quite easily and we don’t like furniture being stagnant, so that’s why we have all of these removable parts.
How did the collaboration with New Works come about?
By chance. We designed the original Mass series for our Hong Kong home as we couldn’t find anything we liked on the market. Its creative director Knut [Bendik Humlevik] emailed us after it was published and we launched together at this year’s Stockholm furniture fair.
Which is the best design fair?
Stockholm has a young-designers programme called Greenhouse. It’s inexpensive and many brands take designs from there.
Inspired by a log-cabin retreat, this smart range includes an armchair with an ottoman, a two to three-seat lounge and the high-backed Cabin Booth, which is popular with corporates because it can be stacked five logs high for privacy.
Furniture showroom Meizai became a sala (living room) for Melbourne Design Week, thanks to German-Colombian brand Ames’ collection by Sebastian Herkner. The plant-laden stand brought a tropical twist to the proceedings.
Galician designer Miguel Leiro wants people to converse more in the public arena. Hewn from Mondariz granite, his two-piece seat design is sturdy but adjustable, allowing users to sit side-by-side or face-to-face. A back shelf can be used as extra seating or for a picnic. “People interact with each piece according to their personality,” says Leiro. “Some eat breakfast on the seats, while others prefer the table-top to share a bottle of wine.”
Jonas Herman’s “Nicaraguan manifesto” saluted Central American craftsmanship by using only common tools and machines. Herman Studio’s Miskito lounge chair, produced by Skagerak, pairs these tropical virtues with Scandinavian aesthetics.
This European oak bed has a beautiful headboard formed of fine cane wicker work that connects to the frame via brass bolts. Woodenmind offers custom versions of the bed in ash and Oregon pine, while its knock-down construction is easy to assemble.
Nani Marquina is known for her rug designs but she also seeks out innovative creatives to join her quest to make products focused on craftsmanship and quality. Last year Turkish designer Begum Cana Ozgur was brought into the fold with the Shade collection of handmade flat-weave rugs that stand out for their subtle diffusion of pastel colours. Using a complex technical process, Ozgur creates textiles that are notable for their simplicity and warmth.
While mid-century design thrives, little is known about furniture from this period from behind the Iron Curtain. Polish company Politura fetches lost furniture from the archives and identifies its creators – difficult because few designers were individually celebrated under Communism. Craftsmen in Poznan recreate the best pieces. Across showrooms in Berlin and Poznan, Politura displays a blend of Polish minimalism with a surprising Scandinavian touch.
A rare 1959 Poul Henningsen lamp hung at the stand of Stockholm-based gallery Jacksons at this year’s Tefaf. One of only 15 to 20 made, its blue bulb shows off the fluorescent paint on its metal panels. Exhibiting Scandinavian items from vases to chairs, Jacksons was a highlight of the collectible art fair’s design section.
Italian interiors brand Lema’s art deco-style Alamo table was designed by David Lòpez Quincoces. Its speckled, polished top is made of aluminium and a composite of resin, marble dust, brass and bronze.
Chicago-based Greta de Parry cuts, welds and drills her pieces out of found timber, concrete and steel. “I love emphasising the beauty of the individual tree that began the entire process,” she says.
Lombardy’s Flexform has won a number of Middle East commissions with flagships in Tel Aviv and Beirut. Its latest statement is at the Four Seasons in Kuwait City. Flexform lounge chairs by Antonio Citterio form fine additions to a lobby with a muted colour palette, which looks on to a spiral staircase.
These interpretations of kimono cabinets are made of paulownia wood and are light, breathable and humidity-balancing. There are hidden workings behind the wall-mounted pieces’ sleek exterior.
Haos champions “slow design” and its first lighting collection, reminiscent of the 1960s in colour and form, is handmade in small French workshops.
Former design director of Finnish furniture brand Artek, Ville Kokkonen now lives in Switzerland where, operating independently, he is involved in projects around the globe.
Originally it was a temporary stop for a change of perspective but I found a very vibrant small-scale production industry to support my work.
How do you combine a Swiss and Finnish perspective?
Historical material culture started in both countries as a resourceful approach combined with technical ingenuity. Moving to a rural part of the Swiss Alps has boosted my understanding of this.
Which materials do you use?
I like new material developments but also research archaic forms. I’m interested in both extremes, such as the endurance of stone and the versatility of carbon fibre.
Elegance and simplicity run through the creations of Milan-based French furniture designer Emmanuel Gallina. His streamlined Mathieu desk, for Italian super-brand Poliform, is nostalgic and slender. It’s made from high-end leather, wood and metal, while a discreet drawer helps to keep it clutter free.
To create a new fabric for its Jasper Morrison-designed Riva outdoor furniture, Kettal recruited London firm Doshi Levien. The designers wanted to avoid jarring colours so the weather-resistant Terrain fabric has a natural palette.
This dining set derives its triangular shapes from the leaves of Japan’s ginkgo trees, which live for hundreds of years. Nissin makes each compact piece in its workshop in Takayama, steaming oak and bending it into these fine forms.
This three-legged stool, made with American white oak and wisteria, marries design and function. It’s the result of craftsman Hiroto Arima’s mission to create the ideal ergonomic work chair.
A former red-brick police station in Amsterdam’s hip Jordaan is now home to the first European outpost of Time & Style, a Japanese interior-design company. Its beautifully renovated white interior and arched windows form a pared-down backdrop for handsome handmade furniture, lights, tableware and arts and crafts – all of which fuse Japan’s seemingly simple aesthetic with the requirements of modern-day life.