Minimalissimo Meets Christian Grosen
Finnish is a very special language. It is not only pretty rare and friendly-sounding, it also offers some very specific words with quite an uplifting meaning. One example is muutos, which means new perspective. A perfect word to build a Scandinavian interior brand on. That’s how Muuto came into being. Designer and architect Christian Grosen joined the company as Design Director in 2014. Jana Ahrens of Minimalissimo speaks to him about honesty in design, choosing designers to collaborate with, and how to handle the ever changing flow of trends in interior.
What you see and feel are two overlapping elements that influence one another on a constant basis, so one must consider both when approaching a design.
What was your path from architecture—your original field of studies—to becoming design director of Muuto?
I was trained as an architect and industrial designer in Denmark and the Netherlands. I’ve always worked within furniture and lighting design. First as a designer on my own and then spending about 10 years at Fritz Hansen as Head of Design. Three years ago, I joined Muuto and became Design Director.
What do the Muuto values enduring aesthetics and honest expression mean to you?
To us, enduring aesthetics is a key element of the design—it’s about striking a balance between cool and attractive with a long-lasting character. In order to do so, we need to stay true to our values rather than following any short-lived trend that comes up. Honesty is an integral part of our approach towards design. We want to use the materials we choose in an honest, simple way rather than faking it. We want for our products to have an honest appearance, for example by showing the necessary joins and screws across the designs. We work on transcending these into an aesthetic detail, rather than tucking them away for hiding.
How do you build a sustainable bridge between trends and long lasting design?
It may sound counterintuitive, yet, to avoid falling into short-lived trends, we follow trends. We have a principle of only using materials in an intelligent way that serves a purpose for both the material and the design. Alongside this, Muuto has a strong colour profile that is both attractive over time yet relevant in continuity.
What is your favourite material to work with?
It may seem ordinary, but wood is an amazing material. You can apply so many different finishes to it and it can be engineered in different ways, giving it multiple characters.
Can colours be timeless in interior design?
Colour trends are constantly shifting, making it important to keep an enduring, neutral approach towards colours in design. We need to balance a rather current and eclectic string of colours with long lasting designs.
You once mentioned that everyone, not only designers, knows if a room feels right. What do you think a room that feels right will be like ten years from now?
The same as today. Whether a room feels right or not is highly subjective while also being tied to the given function of the room. When creating a space, one must set the scene for whatever activity or thing should happen in it, whether it be relaxation, dining, sleeping or working and so on.
The brand name Muuto is all about offering new perspectives. Did you discover a new perspective that amazed you recently?
I just read about the Japanese design studio, Nendo, that has redesigned the zipper. It’s an amazing project and prompts you to consider why no one has thought about this before.
How is your in-house design team at Muuto structured?
We have a small design management team that collaborates closely with our external designers. Along with this, a strong team of engineers and project managers ensures that the designs are realised in the best and most appropriate manner.
What is one piece of furniture that was conceived under your guidance at Muuto that you are particularly proud of?
I think that the Workshop Chair by Cecilie Manz is a very special design and I’m confident that it will be around 50 years from now thanks to its archetypical appearance and sophisticated details.
Is a minimalist aesthetic something you set out to achieve with your furniture design?
I think it’s such an integrated part of our mindset that it’s not something we directly think about but rather an element that is present in our underlying approach towards design. We only want for the necessary elements to be present in our designs. Which, I reckon, indirectly prompts minimalist aesthetics.
What is comfort for you personally?
I find that comfort can be physical as well as mental. What you see and feel are two overlapping elements that influence one another on a constant basis, so one must consider both when approaching a design.