Subscribe to Insight updates

‘Form Talks’ with Maribel Carlander

Maribel Carlander is an up-and-coming product designer from Copenhagen, with a degree in Industrial Design, and a socially responsible mindset to manufacturing. We got the chance to catch up with Maribel and learn more about her intelligent designs, and here’s what she had to say…

Nice to meet you Maribel, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

“I grew up in Copenhagen and attended a Rudolf Steiner School (a group of schools with a controversial view towards their ‘alternative’ forms of education), so my earlier education was very hands-on and creative. After a failed attempt at being a socialist hippie, I went on to gain a Bachelor and Masters degree in Industrial Design at Kolding School of Design in Denmark, and completed an exchange at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. My time in Eindhoven was particularly rewarding, as it was my first real experience of international design.”

We’re always interested to hear about how designers are inspired to create their best work. Is there a particular thing or person that inspires your work the most?

“I hate to sound clichéd, but this question is nearly impossible to answer because it can really be anything, from a new material to a technical function to the colour of an ice-cream wrapper. Once I do have an idea for a new product, I spend a lot of time researching and developing before I settle on the final outcome.”

You mention materials, are there any particular materials you prefer utilising in your product designs?

“Of course it depends on the brief, but I do have a weakness for materials that change with time.”


When we stumbled across your portfolio, the Nohogany Stool is the first thing that caught our eye, could you tell us a little more about it?

“The point of the project was to explore the use of exotic — yet sustainable and FSC-approved — tropical woods in Scandinavian design and to challenge the idea that using local materials in design is the only sustainable choice.

The project emerged from a trip to Colombia. I went there with the objective of finding inspiration for a new project, with the main focus still undecided when I was leaving Copenhagen. The trip was incredibly experiential and I ended up learning how to surf, more than doing actual work, but the main thing I took from it was how visible deforestation is, the imprint it leaves on the landscape and how it affects the people who live in the jungle, who are forced to abandon this way of living because of it.

Sourcing and shipping wood from the rainforest may not seem like the most environmentally sound idea, however, by creating a demand for the right varieties of wood – lesser known FSC certified species – you increase the value of the rainforest and discourage the use of over-harvested and endangered popular species. By using lesser-known species, a greater economical value is generated for forest owners, whilst simultaneously lessening the over-exploitation of threatened species such as mahogany and teak.”

“The colour palette developed from wanting to draw attention to the wood in different ways. For example, by choosing a tone for the metal that was close to the natural wood colour, it forces you to question the dyed appearance of the wood, whilst making another stand out by choosing a bright and contrasting colour.”

We noticed you’ve also worked with Frama to produce the Fundamental Candleholders. What has your journey in the industry been like so far and are there any other design brands you’d like to collaborate with?

“I was fortunate to have my candleholders selected by Frama for their current collection whilst I was completing my Masters. Frama has an honest approach to form and materials, which is a natural fit for my work. I hope to collaborate with them again in the future, and actually, some new editions of the candleholders will be launched very soon.”

Scandinavian design has been on the radar in the UK for a while now, and shows no signs of slowing down as it expands from interiors inside the home, to the designs within the workplace. As a Danish-Finnish designer, do you feel your work is typically typecast under the broader term of “Scandinavian design” and how do you try to move your own work on from this generalisation?

Read More.
Norwegian Design: The New Era

After hiding in the shadows of Scandinavian design for so long, Norwegian design has now taken centre stage and at Salone del Mobile, had its very own exhibition that housed 26 of Norway’s best designers and craftsmen who showcased everything from products, projects and prototypes.

‘Structure’ was the brainchild of three of Norway’s most forward thinking, creative organisations; designers union Klubben, contemporary craft resource Norwegian Crafts and the globally renowned paint manufacturer Jotun, who worked in collaboration with the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture.

Over the past decade, Scandinavian design has become the descriptive name for a certain set of design characteristics however, although similar Norwegian design should be recognised within its own right due to differencing factors including heritage, natural resources and production facilities. ‘Structure’ captured Norwegian design and presented it as a curated version of products, projects and prototypes that showcased both the pillars of Norwegian design and the theme of structure.

We saw a lot of interesting designs and concepts when we visited ‘Structure’, one of our favourites was the prototype ‘Between’ by Sara Wright Polmar, which cannot be classed as a sofa or armchair, but a seat that invites different ways of sitting. Another favourite was ‘Three Cities: Deconstructed’ by Vera&Kyte, a series of architecturally themed decorative and functional ceramic serving tiles, with colours and contours inspired by the topography of one of three cities; Rome, Tokyo or Los Angeles. ‘Untitled’ by Christina Peel also caught our eye and is defiantly something we would have hanging in our office. This folded porcelain project is an exploration of materiality and geometry and makes use of the effect of light, shadow and reflection.

Read More.
‘Form Talks’ with Schneid Studio

We’ve long admired the Schneid design studio from afar, and so it was a pleasure to finally catch up with founder Niklas Jessen and Julia Mülling about their new space in Lübeck. Niklas, is a trained architect and carpenter, and Julia is the creative behind the beautiful light fittings. Here’s what they had to say when we caught up with them last month….

You’ve both built an amazing space for the new home of Schneid, and it’s almost a holistic space encompassing your office, workshop, warehouse and showroom, all under one roof. We know you’re based in northern Germany, but what made you choose Lübeck’s city center to set down your roots?

“When looking at locations for our new workspace, we always had in mind that we wanted to work in a building that had a story behind it. When we came across this great location in Lübeck’s harbor area, we fell in love with the building and the feeling of old craftsmanship we felt upon entering. We have since found out that Julia’s grandfather once worked in this very building. A visit is worthwhile, because as you can here very quickly understand complete design processes.”


The new space is so full of character, and we particularly enjoy the openness to roam between the different functions of the company, but what is your favourite feature of the building?

“We love the size of this old building. We now have enough space to grow and feel free when we work. We have everything that we need under one roof; our workshop is located next to our kitchen and from the office you can go out to the roof terrace, where we like to sit and relax.”

You both come from super creative backgrounds and we understand that Julia is currently studying at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, so we wondered where your inspiration came from for the design of the interior?

“Inspiration came from the minimalistic, industrial style interior we found when we originally bought the building. We have reused a lot of the furniture and have just used fresh colours to brighten them up a little, so it now has a mixture of industrial and comfortable style. We wanted a big bright room, almost like an artist’s studio, where we can be creative. We also got to use special bright grey ship paint for the floor, which is used in the Lubeck harbor for painting big constructions.”

Read More.
Devorm Presents; POD Sessions

The De Vorm Pod chair is a work of art in itself. Its acoustic properties, comfortable form and the PET felt technology behind its creation make it an interesting piece for a vast range of interiors.

De Vorm have collaborated with What Design Can Do, to introduce ‘POD Sessions’, an interview series where creators and thinkers from different industries discuss what they do and share their thoughts on how their work influences our workspace environment and its culture.


Alex Atala


‘Simple is complex’

Alex Atala is one of the most influential chefs in the world. His restaurant DOM, in Sao Paulo, has been named one of the best in the world and he has a real passion for reshaping Brazilian food with the use of the countries natural resources and help of local producers and indigenous communities. Atala is also responsible for Sao Paulo restaurant Dalva e Dito and Instituto ATA who promote sustainable production and consumption. Here he discusses the art behind his cooking and how he creates food that represents culture.

Duration 12:33

Ole Scheeren


‘What do spaces make you want to do, or not want to do?’

German architect Ole Scheeren is the founder of international architecture firm Buro OS and has recently won the World Building of the Year 2015 for his creation of The Interlace in Singapore, a series of apartment blocks with a unique, unusual aesthetic. Scheeren is also a director and partner of Rem Koolhaas’ Dutch firm OMA. Here he talks about how he builds relationships with the spaces he designs and how the workplace is changing.

Duration 07:41

Read More.
In Detail: Ace Hotel

Flashing back to 1999, in Belltown, Seattle, the Ace Hotel empire began its journey in a former Salvation Army halfway house. Founded by friends Alex Calderwood, Wade Weigel and Doug Herrick, the three visionaries wanted to create a hotel that was affordable and appealing to the creative class, and thus, the ’boutique’ hotel concept was born.

The founders favoured unfussy luxury; an intentional design ethos and the essence of the brand that has underpinned this industry-changing business.  White, institutional décor, loft ceilings, hardwood floors, pieces of exuberant street art and rooms stocked with fancy popcorn. It might sound like a strange disposition, but every detail was considered and crafted, and the hotel fitted right into the quirky Seattle neighbourhood. One of Calderwood’s greatest talents was adapting the style and furnishing of each hotel property to fit holistically into its surrounding area, with an eye towards re-imagining properties that were arguably “challenged”.


Diversification is the perfect word to describe the company, because as they grew, so did the hospitality offering, creating spaces, events, products and experiences and engineering the Ace ‘culture’ along the way. Calderwood learnt from a young age that if you have a point of view you could team up with other talented people to make your idea happen. He fell in love with the concept of collaboration and it’s something that Ace has perfected under the in-house creative agency of Atelier Ace. Successful collaborations with makers and artists include Tokyobike’s Ace City Bike, Sunpocket’s foldable sunglasses inspired by ski bunnies of the 70s, Vans create Era 59 which represented a celebration of the new Ace Hotel in LA and with Hender Scheme to create custom Ace Hotel slippers. Although Ace Hotel operates 1,045 rooms wide, it may come as a surprise to learn that 50% of its revenue comes from other avenues, including the product collaborations in Ace’s online shop!


In 2012, original founders Weigel and Herrick sold their Ace shares. Since inviting investors into fund the more extravagant projects, it could be said that the original ethos of the company and the ‘passion projects’ had been taken over by the investors’ thirst for money.

Calderwood continued to grow the Ace empire and in 2013, opened the first European hotel in Shoreditch, London. Unknown to everyone this was the last of the Ace Hotel launches he would see. Before the Ace boom, Calderwood had started out in Seattle where he began his ever-changing career that involved fashion design, nightclubs, a barbershop chain, a record label, an advertising and marketing agency, publishing an art book and of course, a world-class hotel chain. His interests spanned from vintage clothes, fancy coffee, a relaxed service culture, reclaimed furniture and retro typography. Sadly, on the 14 November 2013, Alex Calderwood was found dead in London’s Shoreditch hotel. (Pictured Right, Alex Calderwood)


Flashing forward, and Ace Hotel is an eight strong collective of destination hotels, each with its own inspired design, paying homage to the building and its city, with the belief that everyone should be welcome to visit their hotels. Atelier Ace’s approach to the hotel environment is to seek out narratives, makers, artists and materials that speak to the building and to the city. Alongside interior designers Roman and Williams (who helped renovate the New York hotel) spaces are crafted to make a lasting impression. Roman and Williams believe that bringing different objects together that work alongside each other creates a musical space; they believe that the communication of objects creates a dreamy, subconscious force that appeals to people in different ways, resulting in an inviting space where people feel welcome. This is the reason that all Ace Hotel lobbies are welcome to anyone to take refuge, a communal area open to the public to grab a coffee, a welcoming space to relax and read a book, or even for use as workplace or to hold larger presentation meetings.


Most recently, in an attempt to wow their customers even more, Ace Hotel enlisted the help of acclaimed fiction writer Journ Alexander Chee and invited 12 writers from around the world to take part in their ‘Dear Reader’ project. Each month, an author is selected to pen a letter to guests, each one is hand-stamped, numbered and given to guests on a surprise date and momentous annual occasions. The letters can be about anything, so if you haven’t already, why not book a night in one of Ace’s hotels, you never know you might be lucky enough to get one!

You can visit an Ace Hotel in New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Downtown LA, London, Paris, New York, Portland, Seattle and Panama.


Read More.
The Unserious Book of Memphis Design

Love it or hate it, there’s no escaping the bizarre and often misunderstood Mephis Design design and architecture movement, which is emerging as a strong interiors trend for 2015.

Founded by Etore Sottsass in 1981, the Memphis Group was a Milan-based collective of young furniture and product designers, who dominated the early 1980s design scene with their post-modernist style. A total rule-breaker, the Memphis movement was characterised by its fun geometric patterns and colourful plastic laminates, which at the time, were influenced by pop art and art deco design.

Within the design world, Memphis was a watershed. According to Bill Moggridge, co-founder of the IDEO industrial design group, “You were either for it, or against it. “All the boring old designers hated it. The rest of us loved it.”

After its debut at the world-renowned Salone del Mobile furniture fair in 1981, the Memphis Group produced and exhibited furniture and design objects such as fabrics, ceramics, glass and metalware, annually until 1988. The group was led by their veteran Ettore Sottsass and also included one of the founding members, Nathalie du Pasquier.



‘Don’t Take These Drawings Seriously’ is the first and definitive compilation of all the unpublished drawings which have been sitting in the drawers of Nathalie’s studio for over 30 years. This beautiful book is full of the fun and quirkiness you would expect from a Memphis designer, organised by the smallest of objects to the biggest and divided into chapters, each with a summary by Nathalie. The book has also been carefully designed and edited by Apartamento Magazine’s co-founder Omar Sosa together with Nathalie Du Pasquier.

A selection of Nathalie du Pasquier’s artwork. Above image courtesy of Trendland.

Natalie du Pasquier’s own website is a treasure trove of information where you can learn more about her life and works.

Read More.
Death Valley comes to Stockholm

After visiting FineFood Kärlek och Mat earlier this year on our annual trip to Sweden’s Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair, we couldn’t believe the transformation that has emerged at the restaurant-cum-coffee shop space. Stockholm-based Note Design Studio recently renovated the interiors using photographs of Death Valley to inform the cool and collected pastel colour scheme.

Located in the developing district of Hammarby Sjöstad to the south of Stockholm, FineFood offers an environment which is a mix of a café, restaurant and bistro in one. The challenge for Note Design Studio was creating a space which works as well serving breakfast in the morning, as it does serving beer in the evening.

Stockholm-based Note Design Studio referenced a photographic series documenting the landscape of the Californian Mojave desert by artist Jordan Sullivan, to inform the interiors which use tones of mint, dark green and turquoise, with a contrasting coral and salmon red.

As a Swedish design studio, Note championed their minimalistic heritage, creating a clean, soft space with a calm, inviting color palette. The flooring of the interior is made of a custom made herringbone floor tile, which represents the rich gray scales of rocks and mountains. The materials are typical Scandinavian such as light ash wood, brass and natural leather, except for the Green Guatemala marble used in some parts of the design.

Taking the environmental concerns into consideration, Note used an eco-friendly silicate paint for the walls and roof, LED spotlights for the interior lighting and produced the bespoke furniture in a local carpentry, just ten minutes away from the cafe.

All images courtesy of Note Design Studio.

Read More.
New Ways of Working

The world is constantly evolving – politically, economically, socially, technologically, and demographically – and the landscape of today’s workplace must adapt and transform to support these changes.

For the first time in the history, five generations are working side by side in the office and companies are faced with managing multi-generational working, each with their own style and requirements for their environment.

When speaking about new working environments, the term Generation Y is one of the latest industry catchwords. Defined as those people born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, Generation Y is the driving force in the on-going development of flexible working. Within the workplace their influence is felt in designs that are more open, relaxed and collaborative. We can expect a transformation of working practices over the next 20 years as Gen Y gain more influence over decision making within organisations and develop into the next generation of managers.

Technology is also redefining our relationship with the idea of ‘space’ as it presents us with an opportunity to design for and manage them better. In the past, an employee might have just used a computer, but now there is the addition of a tablet and a smartphone too. Whether on a break, eating lunch or waiting in a lobby, employees are plugged in and switched on and therefore need to be able to answer a call, check e-mail or browse the Internet at any given moment. A recent study by Manchester Business School found that ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) is on the rise and companies need to ensure they are flexible enough to match this dynamic working style. There are solutions we can apply in the workplace that are based partly on culture and partly on design, with the provision of third spaces, acoustic break out areas and private work that people can move to with their mobile devices.

Whilst technology is having a positive effect on workspaces, it also the workplace environments’ least effectively supported activity in many companies. The physical environment plays a vital role and it falls down to both the design and culture of the workplace to offer an efficient way of working for employees.

A Deloitte report on Global Human Capital Trends surveyed 2,500 organisations from around the world, to provide a broad and comprehensive look at the major challenges facing employers as they seek to attract and retain employees, engage with them their work and organization and enable them to be happy and productive in their work. Results reported that two-thirds of those employees felt ‘overwhelmed’ at work with the need to create time and space to focus.

Read More.
Productivity in the Workplace

We are all living in a workaholic society, logging longer hours than ever before and taking the office home with us. There is also still a huge culture of lunch-break denial in the UK, as many employers think that taking time out from the office is unproductive.

The average employee in the UK spends just 29 minutes eating their food, most often as they work at their desk, so in essence having no break or rest at all. The problem this creates is that our brains are changing in response to the evolution of work patterns and the technological environment around us. We could all benefit form a positive cultural shift in the workplace. A recent report by one of the world’s largest architectural practices, commissioned a survey of 90,000 people to find out what made them most effective at work. Gensler’s report concluded that the most significant factor in workplace effectiveness is staying focused. A further report from CABE, the then Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, found that the ability of employees to carry out their work increases by an average of 38 percent, if they are able to focus on what they are doing.

NASA sleep researchers have found that a power nap of just 26 minutes can boost performance by 34 percent. Another NASA study found that napping significantly increases working memory, the ability to focus attention on one task while holding other tasks in memory, which is critical when performing complex work.

Read More.
Work-Life Balance

The evolution of the office has changed our relationship with the workplace. The current workforce is overwhelmed with challenges that continue to threaten work-life balance. As the twenty-four hour, seven-day working week spirals, the possibility of achieving a work-life balance is proving an elusive goal for us all.

Employees are working more, earning less and have less time for family and activities. But, the workplace is still many things to many people, especially for those for whom the 9 to 5 is no longer the standard. The workplace has become a meeting place, a social space, a source of identity, a source of comfort and a second home for some.

How we work has changed, the places we work in have changed even more. It’s about studio culture, inspiring, informing, living, sharing, breathing, and working all under one roof. It’s about redefining and re-imagining the workspace.

We are all striving for balance. That is why it is so important to understand the culture of a workplace before deciding on its design, the way it is managed and the specification of the products used to help provide this balance.

Some see positive benefits in the blurring boundaries between the office, factory and home life, as new technologies and changes in business structures provide opportunities for greater control over how, when and where our paid work is performed. The struggle is getting employers to see the links between the workplace and the well-being and productivity of the people who work in it and understanding that the relationship between work, rest and play needs to be a focus. The way we use our offices, the way we choose to interact and share with other colleagues and carve out space to focus alone, is pivotal to design trends in the workplace.

Read More.