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The Danish designer behind Noma’s new interiors.

David Thulstrup is coming into his stride. Nine years after opening his eponymous studio in Copenhagen, having previously held positions at Jean Nouvel in Paris and Peter Marino in New York, Thulstrup and his team have gained a reputation for upending the dogmata of Danish design. His latest project—the interior architecture of the recently reopened restaurant Noma—was the perfect collaboration: a designer with his eye on the future joining forces with the pioneers of New Nordic cuisine. Here, Thulstrup reflects on how Danish design lost its colorful flair and explains why he teamed up with Brdr. Krüger, a century-old Danish design house, to produce his new Arv collection of furniture.

Is the way that a project looks ever an indication of how “good” it is?
“Good” definitely goes beyond looks. It’s all about how a space makes you feel. It’s easy to do something that looks pretty, but there has to be functionality and that can be challenging for the eye. I always put the project first, but we do live in a time of social media, and communication about what one does is extremely important. It’s definitely something I think about every time I do a project.

What did you learn from working with Jean Nouvel?
The importance of experiencing design—looking at who is going to live in what I’m doing, and how. Where does the soap go? Do you sleep on the left side of the bed or on the right, for example? Details were something that Jean really pushed, along with working with materiality to do so—leather walls, or marble ceilings.

How do you design your own way of living?
I reflect on my everyday life and look at my habits. Sometimes I’m conflicted because I like it very clean and minimal, but I also love all the things that make a house a home: the textures, the softness, the weirdness.

  • Words:
    John Clifford Burns
  • Photography:
    Cecilie Jegsen

What’s the weirdest object you own?
A clay sculpture of a dead dog. I own a lot of weird things that I can’t seem to throw out or give away. But it’s important to have them to instill a sense of home.

To what extent do you adhere to Danish design principles?
I have a very simple approach to things—a simple language—and look a lot at the past. There’s something that’s been lost to a very generalized way of doing things in Denmark. The use of color was so vivid if you look at some of the houses from the ’40s or ’60s. That’s something that I draw inspiration from.

Is that also why you decided to recently collaborate with Danish heritage brand Brdr. Krüger?
Definitely—the Arv collection is inspired by Danish craftsmanship, and Brdr. Krüger is one of the oldest woodturning companies in the country. We didn’t want to outsource to a large company—we wanted to work with a smaller one that actually had internal production. Brdr. Krüger’s workshop is dedicated to handicraft and had done Wallpaper* Handmade at the Salone del Mobile a few years ago, so it was the perfect fit.

The Arv collection was produced as part of your interiors for Noma—one of the world’s best restaurants. What was the design process like?
We spent a lot of time in the studio looking at chairs with René Redzepi [chef and co-owner of Noma], trying to find the right style. There was always something wrong—the seat was too high, or it was too old, or too iconic. Eventually, I had collected so much knowledge on what was a yes or no from René that designing the chair went really quickly. I think we did it all within two weeks. When we had one week to do the first prototype, Brdr. Krüger was super up for it. The chairs are inspired by some of the old classics but taken into a completely modern context.

It seems paradoxical to make something timeless so quickly.
Sometimes it’s not necessary to dwell but to just do it.

How do you deal with that sort of pressure?
I deal extremely well with pressure. But I don’t deal well with financial pressure. That’s the thing that worries me.

What do you do to forget about work?
I don’t forget. But I have a glass of wine [and] I don’t take work with me home. I can put it away, and not have the urge to take out my computer. I think I know that I need to keep it in the office.

Are you competitive?
I am, definitely. Not in a bad way, but I want to do exciting projects and I want to make sure that my studio is in good health. So I’m competitive on behalf of my team.

Is there anything stopping you from reaching your full potential?
Well, I have an amazing team. I have a good structure and a good overview of all the financial and legal aspects of running a company. But, more time and more money would be nice. I don’t understand where the time goes.

  • Words:
    John Clifford Burns
  • Photography:
    Cecilie Jegsen
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