smow on tour: Scandinavian Design – Panton, Saarinen and co.

A warm welcome is always guaranteed in Denmark

A warm welcome is always guaranteed in Denmark

We at the (smow)blog aren’t above making advertising form others. If we feel that something passes to our remit, we go with it.

Crazy as we are.

And so it was with great interest that we heard about “Scandinavian Design: Discover form and function” the latest travel guide from Scandline Ferries.

We’ve never actually set foot on a Scandline’s ferry ourselves, but the idea of sailing around Denmark and Sweden while learning a little more about the design tradition and future perspectives in the region sounds like a good way to spend a week in the summer.

Scandinavian design is a bit like Scandinavian pop music – everyone knows the big stars and assumes that everyone else produces the same.

Think about if for a few minutes and it becomes clear, however, that so what cannot be true. And that there must be more to Scandinavian pop than ABBA and more to Danish design than Arne Jacobsen and his Egg Chair or Verner Panton and his Cone Chair.

Conechair by Verner Panton for Vitra

Conechair by Verner Panton for Vitra

And although the Scandline Brochure does repeat a lot of the established stereotypes and openly plays with the familiar “tourist gaze”  – it is after all a tourist brochure – undertaking such a tour also allows one the opportunity to not only learn more about the history of design classics but to explore and, hopefully, discover previously unknown gems.

Designers such as Verner Panton or Arne Jacobsen are rightly held up as defining figures in Danish design;  chairs such as the “Ant”, “Egg”, “Panton Chair” or “Cone Chair” establishing the simple functional design “brand”. This tradition is continued and wonderfully expanded upon by designers such as Kasper Salto, Søren Ulrik Petersen or Thomas Harrit and Nicolai Sørensen creators of the ingenious Knax coat hanger.

And whereas when most people think of Sweden their thoughts turn to flat-pack wardrobes and on-the -second-look-not-so-cheap kitchen accessories Swedish design has a lot more to offer. Designers such as Thomas Bernstrand or Anna Kraitz, for example, produce modern furniture and accessories that pass just as well in a house in London, Amsterdam or Bruxelles as in Stockholm. And is it really so bad when one or the other occasionally works with the big blue and yellow company?

Organic Chair by   for Vitra

Organic Chair by Charles Eames & Eero Saarinen for Vitra

And although the Sacndlines brochure doesn’t cover them, let us not forget Finland and Norway. Without, for example, the genius of Eero Saarinen it is unlikely that we would have the work of Charles and Ray Eames to enjoy. And although smow don’t stock any Norwegian designers, the work of, for example, Johan Ørbeck Aase has always appealed to our mischievous sense of humour.

One of the joys of designer furniture is one never knows everything, one can always learn; be it more about the life and work of a designer such as Verner Panton or Arne Jacobsen or discovering new an exciting designers whose concept of form and functionality either match your own or meet the requirements and demands that a furniture piece must meet. And Scandinavia is always worth a closer, more critical, look.

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