All images courtesy Eikund
Here’s a new name to know about in the design world – Norwegian furniture company Eikund, that has just launched for the first time in the UK. Founded by Morten Hippe, Frode Tingbø and Jørgen Tengesdal, Eikund has unearthed a collection of forgotten Norwegian design classics and re-launched them for today’s homes and spaces.
For over a year, the trio rummaged through attics, delved into private archives and sourced original drawings for these lost designs, many from the Fifties and Sixties. Most of the designers have passed away, but they talked to relatives and former partners about the possibility of reproduction. The focus of mid-century design has always been on Denmark but their aim was to cast a spotlight on Norway’s long-lost design history.
The resulting first collection of seven pieces (they have the rights to more than 50 designs) encapsulates everything that is Nordic Modernism – defined by simplicity, functionality and a refined aesthetic.
Reissuing design classics from the archives is something I’ve noticed coming into the fore much more in the Scandinavian design scene (I wrote a blog post about 8 reproductions launched last year here). It’s not quite right to call this a trend, because these pieces are timeless, but there is certainly a nostalgia for the past.
I think this may be for two reasons. One, these design classics were so well considered and crafted that they’re hard to be bettered with contemporary designs today. There’s only so many takes on a wooden chair that you can have. These pieces have endured because they represent quality, simplicity and craft – and that feels as relevant today as 50-70 years ago. They’ve become so much part of the Nordic DNA that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between designs of the past and designs of today. Secondly, I think that people are going back to the handmade. We’ve had mass production, cheap buys and flat pack furniture. Tying in with sustainability and greener living, now consumers are more mindful and conscious of what they are buying and how it is made.
I chatted to one of the founders, Jørgen Tengesdal, to get to know Eikund better and hear why now was the right time to start a new brand.
How did you meet and what made you decide to start Eikund together?
The three of us – Morten, Frode and myself – were thinking about a business plan and how to start this company. The idea was to collect all the original drawings and method productions, and the rights to produce them. We visited families over a period of about a year. That was a real treasure hunt because we had to go down into basements, into the houses, collecting the 1:1 drawings. We needed original drawings or original pieces to bring them back to life today.
When we were going around meeting the children of the designers – just one is still alive – they were so happy with the idea of bringing back these hidden gems that none of them were actually asking about how much money they were going to earn. They just gave us all their drawings, saying ‘please have a look, please start producing them again’.
What is the design ethos behind the brand – what makes Eikund unique?
It’s very much about the craftsmanship – because these kinds of furniture, they really need good quality hand craftsmanship in the production. You could never make these products in a big factory in China, because there’s so many nicer details and finesses that you need to consider. What we think is quite nice and what the customer appreciates is that the finish and all the materials we use are high quality and mostly Scandinavian. Especially when it comes to the leather, textile and wood we use, it’s only the best quality.
Where does the name Eikund come from?
The name comes from an island near to our factory. It’s one of the oldest place names in Norway.The meaning of Eikund is actually the island of oak. ‘Eik’ in Norwegian means oak. And in the old days there was a lot of oak, there is still some, but there was a lot. All the oak here in my country was mainly exported to countries in Europe. Amsterdam for example, is said to be built on oak piles from Norway.
Why do you think people are so drawn to Nordic Modernism?
It’s difficult to say. We think that Scandinavian design boasts style and quality. It’s a very clean style. The designs from the Fifties and Sixties – our golden years – are still the classics. People appreciate the design from that time and those decades as much as they do with the more modern designs of today.
We are also very connected to the nature and even more so now when you have a lot of discussions around sustainability and being green. It’s to do with how people see the world today, because there has been much more effort put in to have a look at production and waste. It’s seeing a product not only as a chair or something to eat from. People want to know where their furniture comes from and how its built, how its produced. I would say we have done that for a long time, but it’s being talked about more now. I think other markets and countries appreciate Scandinavian style because of that.
The way the world is driven away today – it’s been producing, throwing things away, not knowing or not even thinking about what things are made of or how it’s been made, just like with food. People want to know more today than they did even five or ten years ago. I think the time to start this company is more right than ever.
What do you think differentiates Norwegian furniture from designs from the other Scandinavian countries?
There’s not actually much difference. We’re quite the same. For a lot of those designers who lived in the Fifties and Sixties, it was a very small environment. There weren’t too many designers, so I think they were looking at each other. The Danish, of course, were first. Then many were influenced and inspired by one another. It also worked the other way round too, for instance, we have a table designed by a Norwegian designer that was made six years before a very similar Wegner one produced by Carl Hansen today.
All the Scandinavians have the same inspiration. Sweden, Denmark and Norway have also been under the same leadership at some point – Norway was ruled by the Danish king just a couple of hundred years ago, so the people and thinking is most common in those three countries.
What is your favourite design from the collection?
I like the Krysset lounge chair by Fredrik A. Kayser very much. We’re launching the Fluffy chair, also by Fredrik A. Kayser, with long-haired sheep hair. That’s also very comfortable.
We have some nice pieces but still we have some more hidden gems to come. We have around 50 unique pieces that we can produce, so we have really gone through all the archives and just picked whatever we thought was necessary to have in our portfolio. There’s actually many more – we could maybe have a couple of hundred pieces, but when you pick that many there’s small differences between the chairs because a lot of chairs look quite similar. They’re not just similar to each other, they’re very similar to other Danish designs, so we just need to be selective and pick the right pieces, and the ones we most believe in.
Thank you for chatting to me Jørgen!