Designing for longevity
Designing for longevity
Function, aesthetic and tactility. The balance of these three things is what makes a good and long-lasting product, says Norweigan furniture and product designer, Stine Aas. “My aim is to make things that people can enjoy in their everyday lives and feel an emotional connection to. I work with natural materials to ensure that the products I make age well.”
Stine, who grew up in the small coastal city of Bergen in Norway, is fascinated by “everyday rituals.” Whenever she enters a person’s home, she enjoys looking at the objects they have stacked on their shelves, laid out on their coffee tables, or scattered over their countertops because they each “have a story behind them.” Stine predominantly uses wood in her furniture creations. The material is strong and hard, but soft and flexible too. “It’s super shapeable, and it has a tactile quality to it. I think it speaks to people in a very natural, emotional way,” she says. “Wood is also unique. Each piece you hold in your hands is different, and is embedded with a story before you even start using it.”
‘My aim is to make things that people can enjoy in their everyday lives and feel an emotional connection to.’
Stine Aas, 2021
Stine studied furniture and spatial design at the Bergen Academy of Arts and Design from 2010 until 2015 and opened her own studio in Bergen shortly after graduating. In 2019, she spent a year in Berlin “to get out of Bergen for a bit and experience something new.” In her career so far, she’s exhibited internationally in Stockholm, Helsinki, London, Milan, New York and Los Angeles, but she chooses to live in her hometown of Bergen, where the design community is small and close-knit.
Designers are, in some ways, the product of the environments in which they grew up, and Stine is no different. Having lived in a city encircled by mountains and fjords for most of her life, Stine has always revered the natural world. Stepping out of her home in Bergen brings her to the forest within ten minutes: “It’s this closeness to nature that makes me want to protect it,” she says.
For Stine, designers who work with large-scale manufacturers have a responsibility to encourage companies to make better choices for the environment. She herself works with Scandinavian design company Northern, which mass-produces furniture, lighting and accessories. “It’s important for me to think about how I can affect the outcome of mass-production. Even something as small as using a more sustainable textile can help.” Stine is currently working on a number of upcycling projects herself. For example, she recently sourced a pile of leftover ropes that were previously used by the marine industry in Bergen, braiding them together to make doormats.
This idea of “using what you have” to create new products is something that is central to Scandinavian design, says Stine. But it’s also a philosophy shared by the locals in Berlin. In the poor but sexy capital of Germany, it’s normal to walk past a makeshift coffee shop or restaurant made out of wooden pallets or scrap material. And this DIY spirit is reflected in the city’s design community too. “People in Berlin have a lot of initiative and creative drive,” says Stine. “Designers make their own products, which they sell on a small, local scale. This was the opposite of what I was expecting from Germany, where design is often aimed towards industry and mass-production.”
When asked how her time in Berlin shaped her as a designer, Stine pauses to reflect on the question. “It was important to me for both personal and professional reasons to get some new impulses outside of Bergen,” she says. “I love working alone, but I also like getting feedback from other designers and being inspired by other people’s projects. I think being able to do that in a new setting had a lasting effect on me.”
Stine shared a studio with three other designers in Viktoria Park, on the border between Schoneberg and Kreuzberg, and cycled through Tempelhofer Feld every day. The Feld — an old airport that has now been transformed into a park — is, for Stine, the most potent symbol of the German capital. “Berlin is a city of many contrasts. I love how the old mixes with the new, and that things are allowed to coexist,” says Stine. “In Norway, Tempelhof Airport probably would have been built upon, but in Berlin, it’s been left for the people.”
‘Berlin is a city of many contrasts. I love how the old mixes with the new, and that things are allowed to coexist.’
Stine Aas, 2021