The New Modern

Why cult Nordic style is at the heart of everywhere we want to be

Design Anthology / Lane Crawford

Sixty years ago, great Scandinavian designers like Hans Wegner and Alvar Aalto were crafting furniture that was streamlined, comfortable and made from natural materials. Now, decades after mass-produced industrial furniture became the norm, these Nordic classics are back in fashion. But why?

It turns out they were well ahead of their time. These days, slow living is the new mantra, a way of being that emphasises well-being, mindfulness, quality and a connection to nature. Modernist design is back in the spotlight and speaks to a desire for simplicity and authenticity — a return to our roots. When it first emerged, modernism stripped away the ornamentation and frills of earlier eras. In a way, minimalism was a reaction to the pressures of modern life. Today, the upheaval of globalisation and the digital revolution have provoked a similar response. It’s a paring away of the inessential in order to find something meaningful.

Ironically enough, this reaction against global sameness has led to a global aesthetic that is being criticised for, well, its sameness. It’s something that writer Kyle Chayka calls AirSpace. ‘It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices and co-live/work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset,’ he writes. ‘Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless.’

What counts, though, is not the aesthetic — it’s the spirit behind it. The look of the Risom Lounge Chair and Eames Shell Chair may be aped by specialty coffee shops and boutique hotels around the world, but they remain classics because they respond well to their users’ needs. They make people feel comfortable and happy. And that, more than any specific style, may be the root of their popularity.

Text / Christopher DeWolf