Does Good Design Make You Happy?

I recently wrote a piece for the Financial Times about Danish design and how the Danes passionately believe that good design improves people’s lives. The piece seemed to spark a reaction on Twitter with lots of comments and retweets and Design Hunter wrote the following post on the subject on her rather lovely blog. Do add your comments and let us both know what you think. You can read my piece here and Design Hunter’s is below.

“Over the weekend I tweeted a link to an excellent article that Kate Watson-Smyth from Mad About The House wrote for the FT. It was about the Danish approach to design and asked the question ‘Can good design in the home actually improve your life?’

You can link to the article above and I’d really encourage you to read it.

It’s a question that seemed to strike a chord with many of my twitter followers as lots of people retweeted the link. In her article Kate speaks to a number of designers and creative directors about the Danish approach to design. They cite the benefits of growing up in a country where they are surrounded by good design from an early age and she quotes Mads Johansen of Danish design duo Scaffidi and Johansen  as saying “I think it must be harder for designers in other countries because they do not have the benefit of being around this culture of design”

Is he right?

Here are my thoughts…

Despite the fact that the UK produces some of the best designers in the world, the average British home is filled with furniture that is at best uninspiring and at worst….[insert your own adjective here!!]. The main focal point of the typical British living room (aside from the TV obviously) is often one of those dreadful sofas from a soulless, ring road based out of town retail store. I mention no names but I’m sure you know the kind of place I’m referring to. Unless you happen to live in London (I don’t), the sad fact of the matter is that most people in the UK just don’t have easy access to much good design.

Maybe the problem starts with architecture, and with the type of mock Tudor / Edwardian / Georgian housing estates that seems to comprise most of the new housing stock in this country. The agenda is all about the generation of profit for developers rather than improving quality of life. If you don’t have the opportunity to live in a house that is well designed perhaps you are less likely to develop an appreciation of good design? Maybe our Scandinavian neighbours do have a more intuitive feel for good design than us for this reason.

Stag C range dressing table by John & Sylvia Reid / Coventry chair by Chris Eckersley for Sitting Firm

I’m not advocating that we all rush off to a well known Scandinavian flat-pack loving home superstore. I just wish some of the major British retailers would do more to embrace the idea of making good design that is made to last more widely available…. designs like the Stag C range bedroom furniture designed by John & Sylvia Reid in the 1950s that my grandparents bought when they set up home together and which they kept throughout their lives. It would have been a considerable investment at the time, but it lasted. They didn’t need to go and buy another flat pack a few years later, and indeed I recently bought a chest of drawers from the same range at my local tip shop and recycled it as a testament to their longevity.

So a question, inspired by Kate’s article …. it’s aimed primarily at British readers but I’d love to hear what readers from other countries think too.

When it comes to home design do the Scandinavians do it best?

Before you make up your mind, here are a few more great British designs, past and present, which were both designed and built to last (feel free to add your own favourites in the comments).”

Robert Welch ‘Alveston’ teapot / Ercol studio couch / Glo-ball by Jasper Morrison / ‘Classic Century’ by Eva Zeisel


Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. My experience in the UK and Bermuda (where I live) is that most homes are far too cluttered and the unfortunate focus on the TV doesn’t help. Good design does make your home “feel better” and I suspect the Danish embrace simplicity and quality over “stuff” and that’s a good thing.

    If you don’t have access to good design, and certainly being on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean constrains your choices quite considerably (at least a homeowner can drive to London and trip over well designed pieces), then I suggest stripping your home of half its clutter. Then sit back and enjoy expanse of space that, if nothing else, makes your home seem larger.

    But back to the question. Yes, I believe Scandinavians do do it best. That’s why the flat-pack superstore which shall not be named does so well. The store boxes and sells simple, clean design for the masses.

  2. I’m not sure if Scandinavians do best ,however, I do think we have an inherent understanding of functionality ,design and quality which is why Denmark in particular is responsible for some of the
    best know design classics.

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