Denmark Design: Karakter

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In the Tube pendant lamp by DCW éditions; Birdy table lamp by Northern Lighting.

In the Tube pendant lamp by DCW éditions; Birdy table lamp by Northern Lighting.

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Eames lounge chair and ottoman, designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller.

Eames lounge chair and ottoman, designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller.

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Andy Jones, the owner of Auckland’s Karakter, has one eye on the past and another looking to the future.

Novelnyt: Why do you think Scandinavian design has proven to be so popular in New Zealand?

Andy Jones (AJ): Scandinavians design for beauty and strength. They build furniture that’s made to last; detailing is sharp, construction is about form and function. They also know how to build furniture for small spaces, e.g. apartments.

Novelnyt: How would you describe Denmark’s place within the wider ‘Scandinavian’ design scene? How does it differ, what are its strengths, etc?

AJ: Denmark led the way in mid-century design from the late 40s to the 60s, with excellent products made by leading architects and manufacturers. Essentially, it was Denmark’s national industry and it was fiercely protected. The skills – and quality control – have been passed down. Other Scandinavian counties also follow the same guidelines but, ultimately, are led by the Danish.

Novelnyt: Do you think Danish design has influenced local (New Zealand) designers?

AJ: Yes. It is seen in the use of quality materials with precise construction and understated detailing.

Novelnyt: Who/how?

AJ: Backhouse, which produced original Scandinavian design under license in the 1960s. Back then, the quality of production was much higher, and many pieces made then are still in great condition today. And if I could put in a plug for Karakter, I’d say Danish design has greatly influenced our new Kiwi-made bedside tables, which are made in Auckland by a master craftsman to the same type of quality standards maintained by the Danes. We were keen to futureproof them, to produce something with detailing that not only looks current today but also in years to come.

Novelnyt: Are there any specific furniture pieces you think best exemplify that connection between Denmark (or the wider region) and New Zealand?

AJ: The Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chair – there was a time where you couldn’t look at a show home or magazine without seeing a set. And for good reason. Reproductions, on the other hand, are poor and break so easily.

Novelnyt: When talking about furniture many people equate ‘Scandinavian design’ with ‘Mid Century Modern’… are they correct in doing so? What are the differences?

AJ: ‘Mid-century’ generally refers to the late 1940s to the early 1970s. But a lot of good Scandinavian furniture has also arrived before and since that period.

Novelnyt: The region has and continues to influence designers the world over… how has Scandinavian and specifically Danish design changed since that era?

AJ: There are different materials available today. Some – like rosewood – are no longer used in new designs. We also require different items nowadays. For example, media stands have replaced record/TV cabinets. But the most significant changes stem from our growing concern for the planet, which is greatly influencing the ways in which furniture is manufactured and the selection of materials.

Novelnyt: If you had to choose one Danish design item to take to a desert island, what would it be and why?

AJ: A high-back Falcon chair by Sigurd Ressell. That’s as comfortable as it gets.

Find the full selection of articles from our Denmark design series here. For more on Karakter, click here.

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