Chairs that love you back

Danish furniture is known for conjuring up an intimate sense of peace and tranquility while exuding a warm vibe. Rebecca Lo asks the Nordic interior design brands in Hong Kong how they do it.

A Matin table lamp by Hay represents the brand's signature aesthetic of adding color and character to objects of everyday use. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Hannah Lee may have been born and bred in Hong Kong, but she draws her creative inspiration from colder climes — particularly Denmark, where her mother is from. The interior designer joined forces with husband and architect Clarence Chiang to start Team HC — an architecture plus interior design practice specializing in doing residences.

Lee recalled growing up with her mother's interpretation of hygge — a Danish word suggesting cozy and comfortable spaces. "Denmark is cold," she deadpanned. "People are stuck indoors for so many months that they are more willing to spend money on home improvements and renovations. They will buy long-lasting furniture, which is what makes Danish design sustainable."

"As a socialist country, Denmark's welfare benefits everyone, and people enjoy their daily lives. That comes through in Danish design being clean and simple. Timeless design is also our studio's philosophy," Lee added.

Eddy lamps by Normann Copenhagen are fitted with brass-ball connectors that allow the shades to pivot. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Warm reception

Hygge was the inspiration behind Hyg, a seating series designed by Simon Legald for the furniture brand Normann Copenhagen. Distinguished by a high back that wraps around to cocoon the seated person, Hyg chairs are the furniture equivalent of a bear hug and a favorite of Ken Tam, managing director of the Hong Kong-based interior design services provider Instant Services.

Since becoming a regional partner for Normann Copenhagen, Tam opened the contemporary Danish brand's first Hong Kong showroom in Wan Chai's Queen's Road East — long recognized as the city's furniture alley. The ground-level 186-square-meter store highlights the brand's furnishings and lighting. Tam said he was pleasantly surprised by the aura of anticipation that preceded the store's opening in July.

"People were waiting for months for us to open," he exclaimed. "Many had not experienced the brand in real life."

Minimalism meets modern art in a Princeton bench by BoConcept. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

He draws attention to the abundance of sunlight in the store, which has a corner location. "Light is something that Danish people treasure as it is very dark during the winter months there."

He continued: "About 60 percent of the entire collection is here —it's just that we do not show every configuration. A Hyg desk chair was the first item we sold. For me, Hyg represents Danish lifestyle: comfortable and efficient use of space."

Tam said he believes that minimalism is a large part of the Danish design language, and that its organic forms are inherently timeless. For example, Norm 69 — a pendant lamp designed in the 1960s by Simon Karkov — is still in production. "About half of our furnishings are upholstered in fabric that is durable and easy to clean," he said.

Bowler side tables by Hay. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Tam said using environmentally sensitive materials is important to Normann Copenhagen. "We use a lot of recycled materials, such as upholstery made from repurposed ocean plastic," he said. "Some pieces are made from 100 percent recycled materials. Sustainability is a mission for us, not just a marketing gimmick. It is part of our overall consciousness."

Other Tam favorites from the current Normann Copenhagen collection are the Allez chair and Eddy lamp. Allez has a contemporary look that works equally well in a hip cafe and a stylish home and is only 3.6 kilograms, meaning that it leaves a smaller carbon footprint when shipped packed flat than similar chairs its size. Allez's seat, back and legs are all separately replaceable, which, once again, supports a sustainable-lifestyle practice.

Clean, simple and timeless furniture and sanitary ware are preferred by the interior design firm Team HC, which specializes in residences. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

"Eddy comes in black, gray or white, and each solid Italian piece of marble base has a unique pattern," Tam said. "A brass ball connector allows the shade to pivot. I think the lamp is an art piece."

Lee said, "Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner are two of my favorites," referring to two Danish architects known for their mid-20th-century seating designs. "Both designed chairs that date back to the 1940s, but they still look modern, timeless, and are easy to mix and match."

She recommends using the Danish sanitary-ware brand Vola in bathrooms: "We've used them for the past two decades — they are simple and very functional. Vola also makes a beautiful heated towel rail."

A Matter of Design founder Joanne Chow says lightweight Danish furniture suits Hong Kong lifestyles. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

A growing idea

Ever since launching BoConcept in Hong Kong in 2014, as the furniture brand's exclusive distributor in the city, Joanne Chow has been championing Danish-style interior decor. "Danish design tells a down-to-earth and straightforward story of who we are and what we stand for. It is lighter and more accessible, given the bustle of life here," Chow said. "Its urban design elements fit the needs of Hong Kong and Chinese markets."

The founder of A Matter of Design who happens to be a mother of four understands what it takes for a house to feel like a home: "Hygge reflects the soul of Danish design — it is a state of mind. It is about sharing and appreciating small pleasures."

Danish design is classic, thoughtful and built to last for generations, says Team HC co-founder Hannah Lee. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Since people began spending more time at home than before because of the pandemic, it made sense to establish a comfort level with the furniture one is surrounded by. "Life is unfulfilled when we don't feel at home — not just through the furniture pieces we purchase to fill it but also through our everyday interaction with them," Chow said.

Chow said he feels Chinese buyers are attracted to Danish furniture as the furniture is functional, affordable, and is an excellent investment. "Danish design is renowned for its famous designers, and the Chinese love to find out about the history of the furniture they buy," she said.

Instant Services Managing Director Ken Tam says it is Normann Copenhagen's mission to use recycled materials. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

BoConcept's modular sofas allow unlimited combinations of different corner units, upholstered in leather or fabric, leg and arm options to customize seating to suit the wide range of Hong Kong apartment sizes.

"My favorite products from the latest collections are Porto armchair and the Princeton collection," Chow said. "Porto offers me good support with a wrap-around feel during ‘me time', after a long day at work. Princeton has been my all-time favorite, and its bench and bar stool offer ergonomic design for whenever or wherever we need it — they look great in the kitchen, dining or living room."

Striking a fine balance between comfort and style are a Porto armchair by BoConcept. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

After the success of BoConcept stores in Central, Causeway Bay and Sha Tin, Chow is all set to unveil a fourth BoConcept showroom in Kowloon Tong's Festival Walk this month. "Each location is unique and serves different customer groups with varying needs," she said. "Our Festival Walk store will offer professional interior design services to help customers create their ideal home. We believe that quality furniture is fundamental to that goal."

High-backed sofa by Normann Copenhagen. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Understated chic

Lee, as a fan of minimalism herself, is aware that the understated aesthetic of Danish interiors might not have universal appeal. "It may not be flamboyant enough," she said with a shrug. "Some of our clients prefer well-known designer names from Italy or France."

Hay, represented in Hong Kong by Museum of Modern Art Design Store in K11 Musea, reflects the feel of hygge in best-selling products such as the Palissade outdoor lounge sofa, Bowler side table, Matin table lamp and Marselis floor lamp. All are imbued with the signature aesthetic, created by the brand's founders Mette and Rolf Hay — an attention to detail in everyday objects that help enhance the user's quality of life.

"Danish design is not about fashion — it is very classic, thoughtful and built for generations to come," Lee said.

Princeton bar stools from BoConcept. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)