Interview with Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen of Norm Architects

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    We see a lot of cool coming out of Copenhagen and for the design zeitgeist, it continues to flow from the office of Norm Architects. Founded by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen and Kasper Rønn in 2008, the Danish architecture and design firm has played a vital role in directing the global appreciation of authentic Nordic design.

    First tasked with small renovations of friends’ homes, Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen has led Norm Architects’ growth across industrial design, residential architecture, commercial interiors, photography and art direction. Taking us to some of the most rugged regions of Northern Europe, the firm are all about creating refined shelter from the elements, while cherishing its untouched beauty. But their name isn’t just engraved on the spaces we covet, it’s objects too — including the familiar Menu Bottle Grinders and Stand Washbasins.

    Their deft touch has stemmed from a focus on balance and being as expressive as possible, with as little as possible. Jonas drives design that heightens the human senses, promoting ‘inner wellbeing’ by pursuing the notion of hygge. He believes by eliminating the irrelevant, the important elements of ‘togetherness’ and ‘atmosphere’ reveal themselves. And it’s this unrivalled approach that has them entirely resistant to time and trend.

    What a pleasure it was to be able to speak with Jonas Bjierre-Poulsen, on ambition, aesthetic and being the man behind the lens for the revered firm. His passion screams through his words, proving we really do have so much to learn from the Danes in design.

    PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of Norm Architects

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    Can you please tell us a bit about how Norm Architects was born and how has it evolved over the past decade?

    Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen: Norm Architects was established in 2008 by Kasper Rønn and myself. In 2013 Linda Korndal joined the studio. In the very beginning we did small scale interior renovations of friend’s houses. Since, we’ve worked in a number of creative disciplines and brought on new talent; from residential architecture to furniture design for a number of international clients. In communicating our design ideas we’ve also worked with photography and art direction for clients and magazines such as Kinfolk and Elle Decoration. 

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    How would you describe the work of your firm — what do you think characterises your approach?

    Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen: We believe in durability, in terms of aesthetics, materiality and craftsmanship. We aim at always arriving at the maximum of expressivity with the minimum of expression, and we believe that’s an eloquent gesture in a time where images, forms and sounds are ever so overwhelming. We want our designs to not only be made of high quality materials by talented craftsmen, but for them to outlive fleeting trends while still embodying beauty and history. 

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    How is the work of Norm Architects attune with Nordic design? How do you tap into concepts such as hygge?

    Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen: We have a strong focus on interiors that promote inner wellbeing. We cultivate hygge in our architecture and design projects through natural materials, organic shapes, lighting, uniting tradition and modernity and emphasising the importance of not only of aesthetics but the overall atmosphere and feeling of the space. Minimal interiors serve as neutral backdrops; to colourful food, colourful people, and all else that goes on in life—like a canvas. In eliminating the irrelevant, there’s more room to emphasise and promote the important things, like togetherness. Our Scandinavian/Nordic heritage is evident throughout our portfolio, but we think this aesthetic can be applied globally while taking roots in Danish design. The focus is on the quality of the material and timeless look.

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    As the man behind Norm Architects’ beautiful photography, what is important when capturing the spaces you have designed?

     Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen: For me photography is very much about framing details and elements. It’s about breaking the whole in to parts (or frames) and understanding all the elements of architecture and how I have used them. The work of creating a space is always very intuitive, but when I photograph it, I suddenly understand it and my choices and become more conscious. 

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    Designing in the current climate, what do you think are essentials to a designer’s tool kit?

     Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen: Due to the harsh and grey weather during winter, there is a strong focus on the interior amongst Danes, simply because we spend so many hours inside. And we see a tendency to bring nature inside; both in how natural light comes in and in the way, we choose materials.

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    We’re always fascinated by where and how designers live; can you describe your own home?

    Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen: My home is an old, historic house overlooking the harbour where my family and I can watch the few fishermen come in with their catch as we eat our breakfast. I feel the atmosphere is in many ways elegant due to all the big spaces, all the ornaments and the old world charm that the interior naturally possess. 

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    What has Norm Architects not achieved yet, that you hope to in the future?

    Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen: I would say our dream is to design a little boutique hotel. 

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    Finally, your quick designer insider guide: 

     Favourite local designers and studios?

    Space Copenhagen, David Thulstrup, GamFratesi, Cecilie Manz

     Favourite galleries or spaces?

    Glyptoteket, Louisiana, Thorvaldsen museum 

     Where do you go to look at great design?

    I find inspiration in many places: museums, parks, design stores, factories, on trips abroad… 

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