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After meeting as students at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Morten Skjærpe Knarrum and Jonas Norheim have gone on to produce cutting-edge furniture and lighting for some of the most celebrated Nordic brands.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the renowned duo about their role as Design Directors at Northern, creating spaces that feel like home and what factors are influencing their designs now.
Since establishing the Morten & jonas studio ten years ago, you have collaborated with a number of leading design brands, but what makes Northern so special?
We have a very special connection to Northern. When founder Ove Rogne asked if we would be interested in collaborating with him; of course we said yes.
Northern does not cater to short lived trends. They make timeless pieces that are built to last. We spent years developing what would go on to become a collection of bold, beautiful and functional lighting, furniture and interior accessories.
To be part of a Norwegian brand, and wider creative team, that is challenging the world’s design scene, while still having Nordic values and characteristics at its heart, is such an incredible honour.
As Northern’s Design Directors, as well as internationally acclaimed independent designers, what does an average day in the studio look like for you?
We start with a cup of coffee and only then do we sit down and plan the day. There are always calls and emails from clients and suppliers to answer, and after that we usually head into meetings or go out on factory visits.
Whether it’s throwing around new ideas together, solving production issues with our technicians or chatting with a manufacturer, we love what we do and are constantly inspired by the world around us.
They can be long days, but they are always worth it. Creating something that you know will make someone else happy is what great design is all about.
How has this last year affected your work and the processes involved in developing and making your products?
Like everyone, over this last year our world has been turned upside down. While we have missed travelling and meeting other people, it hasn’t greatly affected our work. If anything, it has given us both more time to be creative and develop new things.
The crisis has been terrible for many, but what we have seen is that people really can make a difference together. Taking a moment to stop, take stock and reflect on what is important often fuels positive change, bringing with it new hope, new ideas and exciting new opportunities.
As responsible designers, who consciously work both sustainably and ethically, what for you do these values bring to a finished product?
During our own lifetimes there has been a huge shift in thinking around environmental and humanitarian issues. As a result of public debate and consumer action we are really starting to see a different approach to interior design and furniture production.
While the industry still has a lot of learning to do, whether you are a brand, a designer or a consumer, we are all more selective about what we buy, choosing well and more carefully because we understand that the world is not going to be here forever.
You regularly appear on Norway’s popular TV2 show ‘Tid For Hjem’ (Time For Home), a show which renovates real homes within a realistic budget. What would be your top tips for anyone looking to redecorate in a Nordic style?
Nordic homes aren’t just about soft furnishings and impeccably designed furniture. They’re about taking care of what surrounds you. Whenever we design a space, we always start by understanding the needs of the people living there and connecting these with the stand-out qualities of the room.
We then focus on colours, surfaces and materials, balancing their long-lasting merits with trend-focused limitations. Trends come and go, reflecting the times we live in, so will always have an impact on what we create.
One such example is colour, after 20 years we are all starting to want more of it in our lives, so think about using fresh and cool tones for bedrooms and warmer denser tones in a kitchen or living room.
The key thing to remember is not to overload things. Use candles and soft lighting, plants and rugs to create that all-important atmosphere. Ultimately, we want people to feel safe and comfortable, that to us is the essence of home.
As we all start to get excited about the future again, what new Northern products can we look forward to seeing from you both?
While we can’t reveal too much just yet, we are currently developing a number of exciting new products as well as additional pieces for both the Stilk table and Blush lighting series. We are sure Northern customers old and new are going to love them.
Thank you so much to Morten and Jonas for chatting with me. This interview first appeared on the Northern website.
To find out more about Northern and to shop their collection please visit the Northern website.
Like this post? Then why not read my chat with Swedish designer and artist, Johanna Forsberg.
All photography courtesy of Northern.