‘Simplicity with an attitude’ is the phrase Kristina Dam sometimes uses to describe her instantly recognisable style. Ever since founding her eponymous studio in 2012 and launching its first collection (a beautiful range of sculptural illustrations inspired by architectural forms), her aesthetic point of view has been clear.
The thread that runs from those initial framed works via successful accessories, storage and furniture launches to the pieces she is working on today, one decade later, is strong, unbroken and defined by a certain clarity of vision.
Step inside the home that she shares with her husband, Ketil, and the couple’s two children, and the same calm, considered and unfussy approach is apparent in every detail.
Bought back in 2015, the house, which is located on the outskirts of Copenhagen near the sandy stretch of Amager Strandpark, is, she says, ‘a big inspiration’ on her work. ‘If I discover a need, I design a piece that fulfils that requirement,’ she adds, revealing the practicality that underpins much of her output. ‘Before a product is launched, I always test it at home to see how it works in everyday life.’
That is why, dotted throughout her modest century-old property and the light-filled extension she and Ketil added several years ago, Kristina’s own designs are ever-present. Some can be quickly identified – like the ‘Modernist’ sofa in the living room, with its distinctive striped upholstery, or the ‘Dot’ table lamp and ‘Contemporary’ bedspread in the bedroom – but others never made it beyond these four walls.
The dining table, for instance, with its cone-shaped base, is a prototype for a design that wasn’t put into production. Despite that, it’s still Kristina’s favourite item. ‘It’s unique and it’s the first piece that moved in with us,’ she recalls fondly.
The designer’s chosen palette of neutral shades – think beige, grey, white and black – is as strictly adhered to at home as it is in her studio, located in the heart of the Danish capital. Occasionally, a hint of warm terracotta will creep in, but never anything that would unsettle the overall harmony of hues.
Natural colours, Kristina tells us, are key to creating an atmosphere that people can truly unwind in. The approach certainly works for her: ‘The more frantic my life is, the more I long for a tranquil atmosphere at home. My eyes can relax, thanks to the monochrome design of these rooms.’
Her chosen colours are linked to the materials that are also important to her work – wood, leather, steel and stone. ‘They all have a long life and a timeless look,’ she explains of her preference. When producing her designs, she aims to use them honestly, authentically and to ensure they are ‘handled with respect’. ‘The oak is untreated and lightly sanded, the leather soft and unprocessed,’ she adds. ‘My love of good materials is part of my Nordic design legacy.’
Indeed, the likes of Børge Mogensen, Hans J Wegner and Poul Kjærholm all shared Kristina’s dedication to these elements. She takes the heritage of craftsmanship at the heart of the Scandinavian design tradition and adds her own twist, simplifying shapes until she finds a kind of geometric purity.
And it’s not just through form that she moves things forward. She is also committed to a more sustainable approach to design and decoration. Many of the pieces in her home are pre-loved classics (with a great deal of them made by the Danish greats she admires) that she intends to keep forever. ‘Ketil and I like it when pieces show signs of use,’ she says. ‘Good design becomes more beautiful over time, and furniture that is well-used tells a personal story.’
Kristina’s commitment to sustainable design extends into the thinking behind one of her most recent ranges, ‘Collector’. Released last year, it consists of an oak dining table and chair, both of which can be delivered flat-packed – an idea that has been at the forefront of her thinking for some time now.
If the raw materials are responsibly sourced and of the kind of quality that will last, then flat-packed furniture has serious environmental benefits, requiring much less energy to transport than bulky pre-made pieces. It is also a chance for the precision of Kristina’s exactingly minimalist approach to really shine. Perfect curves slot almost effortlessly into right angles with almost no need for screws and other fixings.
When it comes to celebrations for her studio’s 10th anniversary, Kristina is looking forward to ‘3 Days of Design’ (Denmark’s annual design fair), held, this year, from 15-17 June. ‘I have made unique sculptures and paintings for the exhibition,’ she reveals, adding that they will be displayed in the centre of Copenhagen.
There’s surely a lot more to be done throughout this special year, but Kristina’s stress levels aren’t a concern. The designer has the perfect antidote – a daily routine guaranteed to melt away any tension. She sits quietly on the built-in plywood bench that lines the panoramic windows in her dining room, gazing mindfully out at a garden full of mature trees. ‘I love the feeling of the sunlight,’ she says, ‘especially during spring, when the first rays appear after the winter.’ It’s a fittingly simple pleasure for a designer who has spent a decade dedicated to the quiet elegance of minimalism. kristinadam.dk