A Slender Armchair That’s Part Nordic, Part American

The Oslo chair, by a trio of young designers, imports a streamlined Scandinavian sensibility to Bernhardt Design.

Consider the pressure of legacy on today’s Scandinavian furniture designers. Expectations are formidable in the region that produced the iconic designs of Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobson, and so on, as well as the principles of minimal, hyper-functional but still graceful products that have informed the likes of everyone from global retail behemoth Ikea to American artist Donald Judd.


So for a trio of fledging designers to name a chair for their hometown of Oslo–a chair by a U.S. manufacturer for a U.S. market–says a lot about the piece as a beacon of sensible, elegant design with international appeal.

“This is a typical Scandinavian chair,” says Øyvind Wyller, one-third of Angell, Wyller, & Aarseth. “It’s slim and lightweight. The cushion in the back gives the chair layers and shades for the light to play with. It is clothed in a way. This also gives interior designers possibilities to specify several different fabrics on the same chair.”

The challenge for Wyller and his partners in the collective, Simen Aarseth and Christoffer Angell, was adapting their prototypical Scandinavian design for an American market–a necessary angle, because their vision is being brought to light by North Carolina-based Bernhardt Design. Bernhardt president Jerry Helling met the group at the 2010 London Design Festival’s 100% Norway event. Helling–who keeps an eye out for promising young talent, as seen in other Bernhardt projects like Carrot Concept in El Salvador–gave the trio his business card.

“The choice of materials is typical for the United States,” Wyller says of the walnut wood frame. But the most considerate nod toward American design is in the supremely comfortable cushion, where Wyller says they focused most of their attention. “By hanging it the way we did, the chair gets a characteristic look,” he tells Co.Design of the plush part. “I think people will be surprised when they sit down.”

Still, the Scandinavian design DNA is very much there in the chair’s built-in efficiency: “The open space below the cushion makes it easy to clean,” Wyller says.

The Oslo comes in fabric for $1,600, or in leather for $2,050, through Bernhardt Design.


About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.