Humble and often understated, the works of London-based Norwegian designers Amy Hunting and Oscar Narud provide an antidote to the excess and novelty so often fetishized by the design industry. Featuring furniture and spatial installations, their designs stand out because of the radical purity of their forms, achieved through considered and systematic reduction. “We try to use quite simple geometric shapes and forms so we strip away things that aren’t necessary and we really have to fight for the reasons to keep some elements in a way,” explains Hunting. “It’s about trying to figure out what’s at the core of that form and object, getting to the essence.” The couple’s creative process usually starts from her making freehand sketches to capture the emotion and expression of the form, before putting down the dimensions and starting to work with materials. More advanced drawings and technical sketches fill stacks of notebooks hidden under their desks but it’s these first naive illustrations that line the walls of their studio. Their wavering lines and animate expressions echo in the final pieces, lending their raw Nordic minimalism a gentler, softer edge.
Although the starting point for Hunting & Narud’s projects is often a two-dimensional sketch, the finished objects are highly spatial and work to elevate their surroundings. “We always consider each piece in context when we design them; we don’t just look at an isolated object but think how it will interact with its environment,” says Narud. It’s especially the mirrors — both the smaller wall piece Rise and Shine and the highly sculptural Copper Mirror — that seem to invite interaction and break up the order of the space. “We’re interested in how reflections can dramatically change the whole setting,” adds Hunting, explaining that their mirrors function less as practical pieces for everyday use and more as tools for revealing unexpected dimensions and perspectives, unlocking new angles. “Function can be fluid and dependent on the context. The copper piece functions perfectly well as a mirror surface but for us it’s much more important how it reflects and captures the light and the space.”
Originally from Norway, they both completed design education abroad — Hunting at the prestigious Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK) in Copenhagen and Narud at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London — but the design heritage of their home country remains an important theme in their work. “There’s obviously this romanticized cliché of Scandinavian style but a lot of young designers are now trying to push back,” says Narud when we talk about their aspiration to reinterpret the stereotypical notions of a Nordic aesthetic. “Scandinavian design is redefining itself with our generation. We all struggle with the weight of the heritage but there’s a lot of stuff happening now.” For him, that means approaching Norway’s heritage from a more honest point of view and drawing inspiration from mining industries that are important for the country’s economy and natural resources such as granite and copper.
This integrity in working with both materials and forms — “not trying to hide things because they shouldn’t be there” — is what gives Hunting & Narud’s pieces a timeless quality and longevity that’s often missing from the design industry. We paid a visit to their Stoke Newington studio space to have a closer look at their work (and to meet their lovely daughter, Vega!).
Books about mid-century Scandinavian design are a dime a dozen. Jacobsen chairs, Aalto stools, Juhl sofas — you know the drill. But if you've ever been to a design museum in Stockholm or Helsinki, you probably also know that some of the coolest objects made in the region date back to a more unexpected era: the '80s, when good things weren't just happening in Italy, believe it or not. A few months back, we spotted some examples of said amazingness on the Instagram feed of the Seattle design duo Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, which they'd noted were pulled from a vintage book they'd rediscovered while cleaning house. And so this column was born, a place for people to show off strange, beautiful, and mostly out-of-print volumes that wouldn't otherwise see the light of day. Browse selections from Scandinavian Design Gallery in the slideshow here — complete with caption text plucked from the book and sporadic Ladies & Gentlemen accompanying commentary — then let us know if you have a gem of your own to share.
Partners in both life and work, Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza share a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where they run an art practice together as well as a design company called Chiaozza. Yet the first two things they ever collaborated on belonged to neither of those disciplines: One was a stew they made for dinner soon after they began dating — which took so long to cook that joking about it inspired their eventual website name, eternitystew.com — and the other was the pancakes they made the next morning. “We were fascinated by their topography, so we took some printmaking ink, inked up a pancake, and started making monoprints with them,” Frezza recalls. “That was when it began, this idea of turning our everyday life and domestic play into some kind of product or work.” Two and a half years later, it’s still the motivation underlying many of their colorful projects, which they characterize as existing at the "intersection of imagination and the natural world."
If someone was going to attend the London Design Festival in our place this year — a circumstance that normally fills us with a mix of raging jealousy and resigned disappointment — we're super glad it was Matylda Krzykowski, one of our favorite fellow design bloggers, who on her site Mat and Me manages to nail the same up-close-and-personal vibe we hew to here at Sight Unseen. She captured the perfect overview of the fair for us, even though she only had one day to explore it: Her plane in from Hong Kong landed at 5:40AM this past Saturday, at which point she quickly took a bath, rearranged her suitcase, and bolted back out the door by 9:30AM to begin her reportage. "I had literally had six 6 hours that day to look around before departing to Switzerland the next day for my duties at Depot Basel," she says. "I started off in South Kensington, then hit the Brompton Design District, then Central London, and finally the East End." How's that for dedication? Check out the things she spotted, and the people she said hello to along the way, after the jump.