Q&A: Norm Architects

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Founded in 2008, multifaceted design studio Norm Architects unifies thoughtful clean design with deep intuitive concepts. Located in Copenhagen, Denmark, they are guided by their rich cultural heritage and proudly uphold the Modernist principles of restraint and refinement.

Interview with Frederik Werner of Norm Architects

Their work displays an informed understanding of the symmetry between austerity and serenity, and it reflects an uncompromising approach to quality and tradition. Working across multiple disciplines, they are established in industrial design, residential architecture, commercial interiors, photography and art direction.

We sat down with Frederik Werner, senior designer at Norm Architects, for a chat about their collaboration with L.Ercolani, and the studio’s design process around the CANVAS Collection and REPRISE Chair in particular. 

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Q — What inspired your collaboration with L. ERCOLANI?

NA — While reflecting on the origins of L. ERCOLANI, we observed the company’s strong resemblance to Scandinavian furniture heritage. In particular, we valued L. ERCOLANI’s democratic approach and their combined use of honest materials and real craftsmanship, value-engineering furniture that is both affordable and long-lasting. L. ERCOLANI represents a heritage and philosophy that we understand intuitively and we were able to channel this native familiarity into our collaboration.

Q — As a studio with a strong sense of heritage in your design language, how did you approach this collaboration?

NA — We began our collaboration by investigating the commonalities between traditional British and Danish design language. Through this, we were able to craft a narrative bridging the two cultures, sprinkled liberally with references to the American mid-century Modern movement. We investigated how the two cultures respond to the same set of basic needs and how they channelled their similarities into our design pro- cess. By focusing on these details, we were able to create an attractive hybrid of both heritage backgrounds.

“The CANVAS Collection is the perfect example of our common appreciation for detail. In this series, we unite our design language and construction with thoughtfully-crafted details such as dovetails joints, sliding doors and front covers with rhythm.“

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Guided by the body and mind, Norm Architects’ approach to projects in both architecture and design is characterised by an uncompromised devotion to creating durable and tactile design solutions.

Q — Norm Architects and L. ERCOLANI are renowned for their craft and detail. How is this reflected in the collections?

NA — The CANVAS collection is the perfect example of our common appreciation for detail. In this series, we unite our design language and construction with thoughtfully-crafted details such as dovetails joints, sliding doors and front covers with architectural rhythm. While these touches are subtle, their presence signifies a high standard of quality and craftsman- ship. Every aspect of the collection’s design is purposeful, right down to the spacing of the sliding doors. The doors initially appear as two separate pieces but they are bound together as one. The groove dividing the two sides is a handle, blending seamlessly into the design.

Q — How do you approach contemporary and continuously relevant design from a humble mindset, recognising past norms and cultural tradition?

NA — In a world of extreme consumption, our studio aims to refine our practice rather than reinvent it. We strive to meet basic human needs through design that appeals to modern tastes and a diversity of cultures, all while reflecting our own time- less design language. We hope to encourage our customers to cherish their products for a lifetime.

Q — In what ways do the collections/designs reflect this increasing fluidity between the modern home, workspace and hospitality settings?

NA — The way that we work is evolving. People’s work lives are becoming increasingly mobile as a result. We are now able to seamlessly transfer our work—moving between the office and home, cafes and hotel lobbies and wherever else our whims might take us. In recent years, we have watched the lines blur between what was once considered purely residential and purely for contract use. Now we see a demand for “soft contract” furniture: pieces that appeal foremost to our senses while also containing the same practical functionalities. As architects and designers, we strive to understand how the spaces we occupy have a considerable impact on our habits and well-being. Therefore, it is important that we design spaces that serve personal and professional purposes as well as the growing space in-between.

Q — How did you go about referencing L. ERCOLANI’s DNA in the collections?

NA — Our new REPRISE Chair is another great example of our collaboration process. To create this piece, we combined Ercol’s traditional woodturning and steam bending techniques with a classic Danish design from the ‘50s. The chair’s legs are held in place with a singular, steam-bent piece of wood, paying homage to an Ercol tradition stretching back to 1944. The end result is a graceful, well-constructed chair with spindles for the legs and backrest.

Norm Architects’ design process is, in many ways, a study in human contentment. Recognising past norms and traditions, the multi-disciplinary design studio maintains a humble and cohesive design language with nods to Denmark’s rich cabinetmaker’s tradition.

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Designs by Norm Architects

Canvas Tall Cabinet

From £2,800

Designed by Norm Architects, 2020

Reprise Chair with Hide Seat

£2,270

Designed by Norm Architects, 2020

Reprise Chair with Webbed Seat

£1,660

Designed by Norm Architects, 2020