Muuto's Peter Bonnén propels a new wave of Danish design

Peter Bonnén (left) and Kristian Byrge are the founders of Scandinavian furniture brand Muuto.

In the lead-up to the Scandinavian brand’s ten-year anniversary, Peter Bonnén, director and cofounder of Muuto, discusses the direction of Danish design – and why we do need ‘another chair’.

You recently exhibited at Northmodern in Copenhagen. Was the goal to show something new?
PETER BONNÉN: We try to show something new at every fair. The issue is that then it becomes only two or three products every time and you lose the big bang that other companies might have. I honestly don’t know what the optimal strategy is.

Which raises the question of how is important is ‘newness’ – being new for the sake of being new?
Exactly. That’s the question you get at all the fairs: what’s new? What about the great things we already had?

There’s this new movement about whether we need another chair. We do need chairs to sit on. I think it’s important that we design great-quality chairs that so that they last for a long time. The design language should be viable enough that you could have the product for 50 years. I’m obviously not against making new products. It’s what we do. We need to furnish our homes. Why not do it with new, interesting things? We buy new art, new music, new clothes. Why should furniture be any different?

Do you consider trends if you want to design something new that will have long-lasting aesthetic appeal?
We try to stay away from trends. We have an advantage with Scandinavian design: it’s based on functionality and longevity. We can be true to our heritage and philosophy, designing products that last for a long time. I like Dutch design, but it’s often very conceptual and after ten years it looks a little old-fashioned or tied to a specific time period.

What about your slightly more experimental products, like the Fiber chair?
Even though it’s a new, more experimental material [a bio-composite that includes 25 per cent wood fibres], it still has old Scandinavian values. In ten years it won’t look old-fashioned. Our cut-out Raw chair is atypical, but it references old Scandinavian carpentry. It was launched seven years ago and still looks modern, even though it’s more conceptual. Of course it doesn’t always work – let’s see in ten years – but at least our ambition is our products still feel modern in 50 years. Classic Scandinavian chairs, like Arne Jacobsen’s 7 series, look as if they could have been made today. So it can be done.

Are younger Danish brands trying to break from tradition?
When we first started there were only traditional brands. We wanted to create the second wave of Scandinavian design. Hay and Normann Copenhagen were new on the scene. At Northmodern, it was positive to see that together our brands have created a belief in new Scandinavian design. Ten years ago it was all about the classics – relaunching them, releasing new colours. A new generation of brands is now emerging.

What is ‘new Scandinavian design’?
Well, I have to say a lot of the brands look a bit too similar. We challenged the old ones and the new ones could have challenged us a little more.

Will the similarity prompt you to change direction?
It made me think that if everybody is coming into our space, we need to do something different. Muuto means new perspective, after all.

Product photos Petra Bindel / Styling Pernille Vest

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