Some years ago – when this blog was just a fledgling – I wrote a piece for The Financial Times about whether good design makes you happy. It was based largely around the Danish interior style of minimal furniture, pared back design and muted colours. The pictures were, as you might expect, largely pale and white with accents of wood. Today, as part of a collaboration with BoConcept, I wanted to tell you how the Danes have now embraced colour which means we probably all will too – if we haven’t already.
Back then I wrote: “Interiors are typically clean and minimalist: white walls and floorboards provide a structural, almost architectural backdrop to simple, utilitarian furniture. The colour palette is monochrome and muted, with perhaps a single splash of colour from a lamp, cushion or chair. The curtains, if indeed there are any, are white and open.” (And, I wrote – because back then it needed explaining – “every house is full of candles – a Danish obsession, which helps provide hygge, the state to which every Danish home aspires”.)
“This distinct approach to interiors dates back to the years following the second world war, when architects and designers promoted the idea that affordable, high-quality furniture would enable the average Dane to live better. That view still holds true today, more than 60 years on, and their simple and uncluttered homes are admired around the world.”
The story was read and approved by the editor. And so I sent over suggestions for pictures. “Haven’t you got anything with more colour?” they asked.
“Well not really,” I said. “That’s kind of the Danish style.”
There was a pause and a small sigh. But the story ran, albeit with lots of slightly off-message colourful images – mostly accessories – to hide the fact that the walls and floors were all very pale, which doesn’t show up well on newsprint and I went on to write a series of pieces about international interior design styles.
Cut to 2018 and my erstwhile editor would have found it much easier to illustrate that story as the Danes appear to have discovered colour at last.
It was during a meeting with BoConcept earlier this year, when we were discussing the possibility of working together, that I realised. Like many of us, I had assumed that the collection was mostly grey, wood and natural materials. I have a clock in the bathroom made from Cararra marble that came from there. It’s minimal, grey and simple in style. Quintessentially Danish you might say.
But, to my surprise, as I walked around the store, which is full of really great pieces by the way as you can see from the images, there seemed to be colour everywhere. Gold velvet and navy cord, green linen and lots of pink. It wasn’t at all what I expected.
I spoke to Christine Thorsteinsson, the company’s head of product, and asked if it was actually true that the Danes don’t use much colour, or if that was just our perception following years of Scandi Noir TV. She said: “It is true and it’s part of our heritage and roots. The restricted colour palette is a huge part of our culture, history and landscape.”
The fashion for grey, she believes, came from the financial crisis. “There was a need for subtle colours that weren’t too edgy.”
But the colourful twenties are coming. “We still have a lot of subtle settings, but we know that colour is going to be a huge story in 2020 and we are starting to think about that while always bearing in mind where we come from and our heritage as a furniture brand.”
And it’s true that not just BoConcept, but all Danish design remains true to its original concept of well-made pieces with clean lines and no extraneous details. As I wrote back in 2012 (so these numbers might be out of date) there are 400 furniture companies in Denmark producing about €1.75bn worth of goods, of which 80 per cent are sold abroad, making homewares the country’s fifth most important export industry.
Much of this furniture is still influenced by those original designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Verner Panton and Poul Henningsen. Their work, also known as Danish Modern, is based on the minimalist principles of the German Bauhaus movement. The lines are simple and every element of every piece is there for a reason. The old adage that “form follows function” is rewritten in Danish design, where the two are of equal importance.
BoConcept, which was founded in 1952, adheres to those same principles and has nearly 300 stores in 60 countries. Their furniture, as you can see from these images, is simple, unfussy and, you’ll have to take my word for this, well made.
This season they have chosen to focus on four main colours – Moody Blue, Home Grown, which features not only lots of forest greens but also accents of plum and gold, Solid Earth – this is the one we’ll all like – terracotta, dusty pink and matt black with brushed brass all with a classic mid-century feel and Icon Brown, which fits with the current high street palette of rich ochre and rustic brown that was also so prevalent in Milan Salone earlier this year.
It goes without saying that all these colours work against a classic grey background but if you hadn’t investigated this Danish company on the basis that it might all just be a little too stark and Scandi for you then maybe it’s time to have a look. And if you’re living in a minimal Danish palette of all the shades of grey then it might be time to consider adopting the latest Nordic look.
Or just take a wander through these rooms and see if they inspire you. And yes that leafy rug is from there too. See what I mean?
This post was sponsored by BoConcept. It’s a company I have liked for many years and I wanted to work with them but, as always, I decided what the story would be based on what I saw from the company and what I thought would be most relevant and interesting to you. I hope you agree with my editorial choices.