Over the last decade, Danish designer Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen has played a key role in bringing Nordic design to global attention.
His design philosophy is one now synonymous with the region, based on taking existing architectural norms and stripping these down to the most essential elements. In 2008, along with Kasper Rønn, he founded Copenhagen’s Norm Architects, a studio that, despite its name, has an output that intersects the creative fields. Anything from residential properties in Vedbæk (Jonas’ current home town, and coincidentally where we meet him), commercial designs in Milan to an elegant farm house ‘pavilion’ in Suffolk feature within their oeuvre. There are key unifying elements across this multidisciplinary output: simple shapes; natural materials like pale marble or coal-tinted wood; serene palettes, and a celebration of light—the quintessential Nordic touch.
Given his special appreciation for the idea of living with less, it’s no surprise that Jonas’ house on the shore at Vedbæk, a former fishing village north of the capital, seems strikingly simple. Yet, he insists that his home that he shares with his family and whose facade still belies its historic Tyrolean roots, isn’t minimal. “I actually don’t think that my home is that minimal. It is very harmonized, which may make it simple to look at,” he says.
At home in Vedbæk
“I try to own as little as possible. Everything you own takes up space in your head.”
On composing a home:
Aesthetically, I’m much more drawn to modern houses, so I originally didn’t imagine myself living in a house like this. It was quite a task finding contrasts that could make it more contemporary and modern.
Composing a home is a bit like a cosmos where you have to find balance. If I move something from one place to another, it often results in me moving a second and a third thing as well in order to reestablish the balance. I also try to own as little as possible. Everything you own takes up space in your head, which brings a lot of concerns even if it is only a box in your basement.
The moving parts of home and work:
My home is a bit of a playground. All of the prototypes that we are developing at Norm get to stay here, which is a big frustration for the rest of the family. I have to try living with the decisions that I make professionally. It is a good way to see if things work well together.
How historical influences become contemporary designs in their own right:
It’s always a very fine balance. You want to respect the original while also giving it contrast and a new story. I see it as small interventions where you twist certain things to make it more contemporary.
“Our aesthetic is about making what we do as expressive as possible with as little as possible.”
On what unites Norm projects:
It’s true that we work in many different fields, but I think they are all bound by the same aesthetic—an aesthetic that is about making what we do as expressive as possible with as little as possible. We constantly work between taking things off and applying new elements until we have found a place where we can’t add or remove anything else.
How to make design both universally appropriate and timeless:
I believe that when you hit something that is super ordinary, but created out of humans’ love for symmetry and basic shapes, then you’re also hitting something that functions across cultural preferences. When that happens, I believe the design becomes timeless.
Will the momentum of Nordic design continue?
I think everything has its time if you look at the big picture. We are certainly in a special and favorable period in Nordic design at the moment, but it’s always hard to say when you are in it. It’s always easier to look back. You need distance time-wise. Aesthetic preferences are already changing. The ‘New Nordic’ wave is already being replaced by something different that is more sharp and edgy. We will nevertheless continue in the same direction. I think our style was relevant before the Nordic design wave and I still think it is still relevant today.