Danish company Norm. Architects are huge influencers in the design world with varied projects such as residential architecture, commercial interiors, industrial design, photography, graphics and art direction. I’ve been a huge fan of their work for years and find the minimalistic style so inspiring and design philosophy admirable. Working with companies such as Menu, The Paper Collective, & Tradition, Reform kitchens, ExT and Cofoco, just scratches the surface of the diverse designs that Norm. has created.
“They want their designs to not only be of good materials and good craftsmanship, but to embody beauty, history and, most importantly, outlive fleeting trends…… Like true scandinavians they pride themselves in their culture and history, and hope and aspire to create new norms for nordic design.”
I met with co-founder of Norm. Architects, Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen and asked him a few questions about his work, team, product development, the bathroom industry and geeked out about my birthday dinner at Höst. ha!
Norm Architects have a huge portfolio, there is a great design consideration and consistency across the board. Do you have a particular set of rules/design principles when working on such varied products?
We try to make it a virtue to focus on quality, durability and timelessness in everything we do, whether it is product design, architecture or photography. In spirit with the tradition of Scandinavian simplicity we strive to cut to the bone in our designs. To find the simplest shape for a given task in order to reach a point where there is nothing to add and nothing to take away that can make the product better.
The Scandinavian tradition is rooted in a sincere devotion to the crafts, with a strong focus on using good materials and creating designs that last. Products should not only be durable because of good materials and good craftsmanship – but also aesthetically durable in the sense that you can keep looking at them and find them interesting and beautiful as the years roll by. We take pride in our culture and history, and we hope and aspire to create new norms for Nordic design.
Why did Norm Architects feel the need to enter the bathroom industry and has it been challenging?
Working as architects we constantly have the need to specify products for the bathroom – both in private houses and in commercial interiors like restaurants. The past years there has been an increased focus on the bathroom as a personal and intimate space. The bathrooms have become bigger and people want to use them more like living spaces and not only for hygiene. With inspiration for luxury hotels, the bathrooms are now more open or included in the bedroom and the need to decorate the bathroom has changed.
Interestingly enough few designers have been designing bathtubs, sinks, etc. like it was furniture, but have been more focused on these products as being an integrated part of the architecture. We felt a need in the market for this type of product and therefore the collaboration with Ex.t has been a perfect match. They were in many ways more experimental than many other producers and had an aesthetics that went hand in hand with our Scandinavian approach, even though they are based in Italy.
The Stand and Felt bathroom range are beautifully minimal, can you talk me through the idea behind these designs
The STAND basin and bathtub are inspired by the light and elegant interior elements of the 1920s and 1930s with their cast iron elements, that are found in both Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Victorian interiors. Whereas the basin is inspired by the plant stands used at that time for having beautiful fauna inside, the bathtub is a re-interpretation of the classic lions foot tub.
With references to furniture from the continental European modernist tradition, we have aimed at creating beautiful and sculptural pieces that are light and airy in the bathroom decor that often tends to be dominated by visually heavy items. As part of our design philosophy we have tried to reach the most minimalist version of the traditionally heavily decorated inspirations and reached a point where there is nothing to add and nothing to take away to make the product better.
FELT in Danish means ”Field”, ”Area” or ”Frame” and relates to the spaces in the grid of the shelves. Meant as both a functional small shelving unit for smaller spaces and with room for different functions and accessories, the FELT unit is also a graphic wall piece.
The main idea is that the metal grid in FELT can be used both for shelves but also for hanging all the smaller items like hand cloths, mirrors or other. A Multifunctional and perfectly sized unit for the bathroom.
The Norm team comprising of yourself, Kasper, Frederik (new partner on the design side of things! ) and Linda come across as quite the dream team. Do you each have different strengths as designers? And why do you think you all work so well together?
We share the same taste in design and architecture but have very different approaches to the process. That is what makes us stand out. We constantly push each other’s ideas and performances forward, and as a result, our designs are taken three steps further than if we were working separately.
I went to Höst in Copenhagen for my birthday dinner last year and completely fell in love with the whole concept of New Nordic Cuisine. I was aware that Norm Architects designed the restaurant and a lot of the products inside. I wasn’t expecting such incredible amount of detail in every single aspect of the restaurant, it was stunning. From the lighting, atmosphere, ceramics, glassware, lighting (I could go on), together created a beautiful, warming, rustic and yet minimal setting to a perfect new nordic feast (I’m even collecting the New Norm/menu ceramics now thanks to that experience).
Do you think there’s a correlation between the ideals of new nordic cuisine and the design ethics behind Norm Architects?
It is actually quite complicated. There is definitely a correlation between the material aesthetics and admiration of regional nature between our design approach and New Nordic Cuisine. Especially when it comes to our New Norm Dinnerware and the Höst restaurant that was designed to meet a need in the New Nordic restaurants. But New Nordic design is something completely different and much more inspired by Dutch design with companies like Muuto, Normann Copenhagen and Hay as frontrunners. Like New Nordic chefs experiment with the food, the New Nordic design movement is also much more experimental and colourful, whereas we are very classic or modernist in our approach to design.
The Nepal Project sees Norm Architects and three other design studios create a collection of handmade products for Menu with the help of some incredibly talented craftspeople of Nepal. Could you explain a little more about the project?
The project is a collaboration with Denmark’s development cooperation Danida – an area of activity under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. In Nepal, many girls and young women are being tricked into prostitution, sent to India and later excluded from their families. A way to prevent this issue is to give the girls an opportunity to support themselves and their families from an early age. This can happen by giving the girls a decent job by utilising their immaculate weaving skills and the regions natural resources. The handmade production makes it possible to produce high quality design without compromising the minimalistic, timeless expression.
Has this way of conscious design changed your outlook and/or approach to future projects?
Yes, the experience we have gotten through the Nepal Projects, being close to the actual making of the products and being able to make a difference for people you have actually met, has made a great impact on us and made us want to continue down this path.
Lastly, the minimalist style and aesthetic of your work is inspirational to myself and many others. Which architects, designers or stylist’s do you find inspiring?
We have so many heroes and inspirers they need a full page; from old masters to young colleagues.
There’s SO much more to share about Norm. Architects but I hope that this interview with architect, designer, stylist, photographer and art director, Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen gives a good insight.
images via Normcph.com