For the homepage and slideshows in Paddle8′s Nordic Focus editorial, we photographed a selection of historic artifacts and contemporary design objects from the region.
Through the process, we met Ann Ljungberg of the design and furniture store Just Scandinavian, who started the store of thoughtfully hand-picked objects in 2005. With a background in art history, she brings her knowledge of history and tradition to daily living. We asked Ms. Ljungberg several questions about the aesthetic and the philosophy of Nordic design.
Paddle8: What are some of the names you consider to be iconic in the history of Nordic design or art?
Ann Ljungberg: To me Scandinavian design is a lot about answering the question of how to live, work and entertain at home. The Scandinavian answer is a democratic one. Everyone has a right to have a good life at home, especially the women and children, which was not thought about before the early 1900s. I want to answer your question by referring to Ellen Key and Greger Paulson whose books had a ongoing discourse in the media of their times (they are from different generations) about how a home should look from an ideological point of view with a lot of hands-on advice. Also there is Carl and Karin Larsson, who “sold” some of these ideas to a broader public through their artwork in very popular books.
Three of the most influential figures in furniture design are probably Bruno Mathsson from Sweden, Alvar Aalto from Finland and Arne Jacobsen from Denmark. They all lived and worked during the 1930s to about the 1960s and were influenced by the above mentioned names. Their furniture is still produced in Scandinavia today–we sell Bruno Mathsson chairs, and Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen tabletops in our store. Arne Jacobsen’s “the Ant chair” is one of the biggest sellers of all times in the world.
P8: How would you describe the Nordic aesthetic?
AL: The nordic aesthetic according to me is design that is user-friendly and helps in multitasking. The material used is carefully chosen for these purposes. One example is our tables. We prefer wood to glass, since wood does not scratch so easily, and or if it does, it only adds to its beauty over time. It also sounds nicer to put down a plate on wood than on glass. Another example is washable materials like cotton and linen, which are preferable to mixed man made materials for curtains and pillows, so you don’t have to go to dry cleaners so much.
There is a myth regarding Nordic design being only white and with a clean, sleek expression. Scandinavians like a lot of color and mixed patterns and have done so for centuries back! In our store we try to show a little of what the Scandinavian furnishing ideals and traditions are like and I am very glad you asked that! I can go on and on…
P8: Describe one object that you draw inspiration from.
AL: The Liljevalchs sofa. [See picture in slideshow above] It was designed by Josef Frank in 1934! Imagine how the ordinary living room looked back then! In this sofa you can sit most comfortably if you take off your shoes and curl up, bring your glass of wine or cup of coffee, and have your children or your dog come to hang out! It is made like a bed with no fluffy cushions but very comfortable, and made to last generations. If you take away the cushions you can use it as an extra bed since it has the dimensions of an American full size bed.
P8: Do you have a favorite Nordic proverb or saying?
AL: My favorite quote when it comes to furnishing a home is from the above-mentioned Josef Frank and his colleague Estrid Ericsson: “When you surround yourself with things YOU like, you have a beautiful home.” And that idea has been a Scandinavian tradition for centuries.
See the Armory Show on Paddle8 here, and visit Paddle8′s Nordic Focus editorial to see objects from Just Scandinavia and others. Keep your eye on the Scroll in the next week to see highlights from our other designers!